CRT partners with the Peace Education and Action Center and Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center to host regular community meetings, film screenings, educational forums, and workshops. Topics have included peace in the Middle East, community resilience-building, indigenous rights, the experience of Muslims in America, using theater for social change, and healing from trauma.
Building Just, Resilient and Trauma-Informed Communities
In 2018, CRT expanded efforts to address violence, trauma and intolerance in our home community.
Sarasota, Florida, is a small city of about 50,000 in a county of over 380,000. It is known primarily as a wealthy tourist and retirement destination, with natural resources, a vibrant arts community, and excellent higher education. However, Sarasota is not without problems. The city is highly segregated, with the majority of residents of color living in the Newtown area. The Hispanic population is expected to double in the next decade. Schools show a large performance gap between white and minority students, and remain woefully unprepared to support children with high levels of exposure to adversity and trauma. There are disparities in income, job opportunities, housing, health outcomes, and justice. Despite its wealth, in 2017 Sarasota County was tied for the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths in the state. The number of children being placed in foster care is rising, and social services are underfunded and uncoordinated, leaving many without access to services.
Trauma is cumulative. It sets up intergenerational cycles of violence and disempowerment unless “protective factors” are in place. However, people and communities are tremendously resilient, and with support, can overcome even severe and multiple traumatic experiences.
CRT is currently working with Sarasota residents and organizations to develop a “trauma-informed community” addressing social justice as well as healing. We believe that although professional services have a role to play in prevention and healing, the most potent force for developing healthy communities lies in residents themselves. All people have innate wisdom, the capacity for self-healing, and the power to change their lives. Every community has a unique history and assets. It is our job to build on those strengths and assets.
To date, CRT’s efforts have focused on community engagement. A performance of Changing Violet, a one-woman play about child abuse, addiction, suicide and recovery, provided an opportunity for people to share their own experiences with trauma and resilience. A series of trauma healing workshops at the Sarasota Community Bible Church is successfully engaging residents who might not otherwise be involved, and plans are being made to include additional faith communities in 2019. A neighborhood conflict transformation project is testing trauma-informed ways of responding to community conflicts. In partnership with Also Youth, a local group for LGBTQI+ youth and the Senior Friendship Center, plans are being made to work towards a more inclusive and supportive community for gender-nonconforming individuals of all ages.
Elizabeth Schilder Religious Courage Award
This award is given by CRT to an individual who has spoken or acted with courage to promote interfaith understanding, religious tolerance, diversity, and/or social justice. The goals of the award are: 1) to keep alive the memory and spirit of Ms. Elisabeth Schilder and her students; and 2) to bring attention to individuals and groups who represent that spirit in action in today’s world. We sometimes face situations in life when fear or a sense of fear of powerlessness threatens to overwhelm us. Some people rise above such circumstances and take action. regardless of personal consequences. The recipient of this prize is one of those people.
CRT Established this award in honor of Elisabeth Schilder, a German woman who acted courageously in the face of “Kristallnacht” the Night of Breaking Glass. This piece of handcrafted art glass was selected to remind us that like glass, we are sometimes fragile and sometimes incredibly strong. Just as light passing through glass can create transcendent beauty, a spirit of tolerance can ignite the courage to act in ways that alter circumstances and outcomes.