WHEN THE Liberian Women's Chorus for Change performed for soldiers involved in that country's civil war, Philadelphia Folklore Project Director of Programs Toni Shapiro-Phim said that some in the audience were so moved that they handed their guns to the performers as a sign of peace.
The artists from the same group performed in different communities with people of varied ethnic backgrounds as a model for reconciliation in the country, Shapiro-Phim said.
Shapiro-Phim said these are perfect examples of what the PFP's event tomorrow, "Peacebuilding and Traditional Arts: A Forum," will discuss - how traditional arts and social-justice work can combine to create positive change in communities. The event, which will feature a performance by the Liberian Women's Chorus for Change, will run from 2:30 to 5 p.m., at The Performance Garage.
Forum panelists include musicians Yared Portillo and Ximena Violante, advocates for Latin-American immigrant rights, and tap dancer and vocal improviser Germaine Ingram. Each panelist will perform at the forum.
PFP is a 27-year-old independent folklife agency that supports folk art and culture in the city.
While the intersection of arts and social change isn't a new topic for PFP, Shapiro-Phim said that this is the first time that a forum hosted by the group will offer both a local and global view on that relationship.
"This is to start a conversation, and to start opening Philadelphia eyes to the rich possibilities right here to try to change the world for the better," Shapiro-Phim said.
In addition to the discussions and performances, Cynthia Cohen, of Brandeis University's Peacebuilding and the Arts Initiative, will present the documentary "Acting Together on the World Stage." The film is about artistic endeavors in regions of conflict, and how these efforts can help communities heal after tragedies like mass violence.
Shapiro-Phim said that admission to the forum is free for a reason.
"We believe there's so much possibility when meaningful conversation is started, and we'd love the audience to be as broad and diverse as possible so that the conversation is that much more rich," Shapiro-Phim said. "We didn't want to limit it in any way."
Philadelphia Folk Project's goal here is that participants leave feeling inspired to enact change in their own neighborhoods.
"I would love audience members to walk away being able to imagine possibilities for themselves to engage with both traditional arts or social-justice work in their own communities," Shapiro-Phim said.