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Friday, October 25, 2019

Of Music and Protest | by Harold Messinger

The Interfaith Music Project of Philadelphia (IMPP) is an answer to a question posed nearly three years ago:  The question, asked by James Pollard Jr, ( bassist and musician extraordinaire at Zion Baptist Church in Ardmore) and myself, Harold Messinger, (Cantor at Beth Am Israel in Penn Valley) was simple: How can we best respond to the hate-filled rhetoric coming from the White House, but do so in a way that brings people together rather than further dividing them.

It started with one song, "We Rise", written by Batya Levine, after she witnessed the protest at Standing Rock. Her song inspired James and me to record our own version of her song and create a video with our partner Sam Zolten, taking images from the historic Women's Marches and subsequent protests.  James and I have collaborated for many years and in 2010 had completed a project called, "These Songs of Freedom", songs of the Jewish Passover tradition alongside new and Traditional Gospel Music. For IMPP, we wanted to expand beyond our two Houses of Worship, and so, with the help of Abby Stamelman Hocky of Interfaith Philadelphia, we connected with Muslim, Mormon and Christian singers who were interested in our work. Recording commenced and in 2018, we released our second project, "Of Love and Protest". 

Our group continues to morph, expand, contract and grow. We are excited to feature young women as our principal singers and spiritual leaders, as they are an inspiration and a source of hope for a better future. Hearing and seeing people of different faith come together in song is powerful in and of itself. We are grateful to God for providing the opportunity to make space for these connections to flourish and grow, and look forward to performing on Nov 2nd at the Sisterhood Saalam  Shalom Jewish Muslim Women's Conference and later this year at Mount Saint Josepsh Academy. Our Music can be heard on Spotify:

Thursday, October 10, 2019

What Creativity Can Teach Us | by Chelsea Jackson

Many of you know me as the Community Partnerships Manager at Interfaith Philadelphia. In addition to this Im also a published poet, movie quote encyclopedia, and lover of all things creative. Today I get to talk a bit about the latter. 

I believe art and creativity are part of what makes us human. I live with the understanding that while not everyone considers themselves an artist, everyone has the capacity to be creative. Creativity is not a one-size-fits-all type of thing, and instead it takes many shapes and forms, permeating almost every aspect of our lives, from the music we hear in the supermarket, to the architecture that makes and remakes our cities, to the culinary masterpieces people post on Instagram.

I have been fascinated with creativity's power to stir something within us for a long time, and channeled this interest into my education. I studied Music Therapy in college and then moved to New Orleans to intern at a psychiatric hospital. My internship was a difficult, beautiful, stretching time, and I was fortunate enough to work with a Creative Arts Therapy team, learning from colleagues who led music, art, recreation, and psychodrama therapy sessions. It deepened my appreciation for creativitys power to comfort individuals even as it challenges them to grow, critically think, and heal. 

In graduate school, this appreciation expanded to include the role art and creativity play on the macro level, as it impacts whole societies, religions, and cultures. In fact, one of my final research papers on Art and Social Change used Mural Arts as a case study. Little did I know then that I'd be working the Mural Arts team on our Dare to Understand Mural! (It really is a small world!)

I use all of my past studies and experience in both my role at Interfaith Philadelphia and my own poetry, always striving to use creativity with intention and purpose, and stay open possibilities it offers for collaboration and learning. For me, creativity is about feeling the freedom to think outside the box and move beyond boundaries, and offers the opportunity to ask questions, problem solve, and wonder what we can make and remake together-- and thats how art and interfaith intersect for me, in these spaces of wonder and courage. 

If we approach art with a sense of wonder, then we make space to respect, understand, and appreciate both the art and the artist. Similarly, interfaith work invites people of diverse traditions, beliefs, and practices to respect, appreciate, and better understand one another. Whether it be art or interfaith engagement, this work takes courage. It takes an openness to be vulnerable, and navigate the vulnerability of others with care and respect. In this way the arts provide a unique space for Interfaith Philadelphia to do our work, offering individuals and communities opportunities to express and explore their religious/cultural identity even as they express and explore the identity of others.

Not only do I hope you'll join us for the interfaith art experiences we offer at Interfaith Philadelphia, but I hope that all of us always see ourselves as the creative people we are, and that we dive into both creativity and interfaith experiences with courage and wonder.