Welcome to the Transforming Narratives of Gun Violence Initiative!
About our Initiative
Through collaborative storytelling that brings together a leading media and communication college with those closest to the problem of gun violence in Boston, we seek to inspire solutions and interrupt cycles of violence.
The Engagement Lab at Emerson College has partnered with the Gun Violence Prevention Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in a three-year initiative to transform narratives of gun violence.
Through this collaboration, students and faculty at Emerson are coming alongside individuals and organizations deeply connected to the issue of gun violence locally, to explore together the impact of dominant narratives and to co-create story-based solutions through arts, media, and communications.
How We’re Doing This
Social Impact Studios
Multi-disciplinary studio classes at Emerson College work alongside community partners to understand the roots and impacts of gun violence narratives in media and co-create interventions through place-based media art, participatory documentary, storytelling, performing arts, and journalism. Through a collaborative design approach, this initiative centers those most impacted by the effects of gun violence in the exploration and creation of narrative interventions to restore urgency, dignity, and humanity to this pervasive issue. While students gain a deeper understanding from those directly impacted by the issue, community participants have the opportunity to gain new skills, have their stories heard, and ultimately co-create media which will be theirs to use that is personally meaningful and useful to their goals.
We host community conversations to bridge the knowledge-learning gap between communities and the college. These conversations take on many different forms, including film screenings with facilitated discussions, community-based focus groups, and project showcases for the community to interact with created media. These conversations are critical to anchor the learning and impact outside of the institution—to further our collective understanding of the impact of dominant narratives in local communities, to identify opportunities for narrative intervention, and to expand the use of media artifacts created in the studios.
The initiative is directed by a multi-sector group of leaders with a stake in the outcomes of the studios. In addition to Emerson administration and faculty, representatives from Mass General Hospital, The Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, the Center for Teen Empowerment, and other community groups are central to decision-making about new studios and related efforts.
From its inception and throughout history, gun violence has been used in the United States to eliminate, control, and oppress Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and to promote white supremacy. Still today we see racial disparities in gun-related homicide and police brutality, indicating that BIPOC individuals and communities are still disproportionately impacted by gun violence. Furthermore, stories about gun violence often perpetuate negative stereotypes of BIPOC individuals and communities. It is impossible to address the issue of gun violence and transform harmful narratives without recognizing the historical and on-going effects of racism. We commit to careful, collaborative examination of racism as a root cause of gun violence. We commit to working alongside BIPOC individuals and communities to promote anti-racist narratives, and to create media and art that is anti-racist.
De-politicization & Re-humanization
Like many issues today, narratives about gun violence are often framed to promote certain political ideals and further political objectives. The politicization of gun violence is often at the expense of those directly impacted. We commit to re-centering human experience and aim to avoid politicization.
Co-creation & Co-design
We commit to create and design with those who are most impacted by gun violence. This usually means that community participants work directly alongside students in a shared learning and creating space. We value the time, expertise, and agency of individuals closely impacted by gun violence and commit to creating spaces that uplift and empower.
Asset framing is about defining people by their assets and aspirations before noting their challenges and deficits. We commit to asset-framing as a model for our co-creation work with Boston communities, focusing on what individuals and communities have, not only what they lack.