People urged to relate experiences Sunday

The State of the Union is being re-imagined as something more personal, more local, more community-oriented by a Marietta artist organizing an event coming Sunday.

Based on a project called The People’s State of the Union, the event — called Social Justice Sunday — will invite local residents to tell their stories, any stories of their lives in the Mid-Ohio River Valley, in a setting inspired by the Native American story circle.

Jane Tumas-Serna, the artist organizer, said Social Justice Sunday is a natural outcome of work the Unitarian Universalist Church in Marietta has been doing for some time along with her work as an artist.

“I’ve gotten interested in arts as social justice activism,” she said.

Participants, she said, will be offered the opportunity to speak without being interrupted, in a climate of respectful listening.

“It’s an atmosphere in which people can speak up, an equal opportunity and encouragement to talk. Nothing negative, there will be procedures to follow, and prompts. Everybody has a chance to speak, without being contradicted. It’s about listening as well as speaking, a chance to hear the experiences, the state of the community.”

Tumas-Serna said the experiences given voice at the event will be recorded and entered as part of a national project organized by the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, which despite its name is an independent nonprofit, not a government agency. The goal is to offer a more grassroots State of the Union portrait, about ordinary people rather than vast and impersonal forces.

“There will be a facilitator and a scribe,” she said. “We will talk around the topics of the people who arrive, so it depends on who comes.”

Topics could range from the environment and the status of women to public education and nonviolent activism, she said. The stories recorded by the scribe will be uploaded to the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, she said.

“Everyone is welcome. Everybody gets to have a voice in a safe space,” Tumas-Serna said.

Children can attend, she said. Those old enough to tell their own stories and keep quiet while others are talking can participate, and there will be child care available for younger children.

The event will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, 232 Third St. in the basement through the side entrance.

To indicate participation, sign up on the event Facebook page or email Tumas-Serna at jtumas-serna@hollis.edu. Anyone requiring child care must register in advance.

If you go

¯ What: Social Justice Sunday.

¯ When: 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday.

¯ Where: First Unitarian Universalist Church, 232 Third St. downstairs through the side access door.

¯ Information: facebook.com/FUUSM, see The People’s State of the Union event notice, or email Jane Tumas-Serna, jtumas-serna@hollins.edu