Local activist aims to support youth through story telling at RVA Public Library 4/10
“I didn’t want people to feel bad for me; I just wanted people to see that I had finally gotten to a place to embrace all aspects of myself,” said Chaz Barracks, a University of Richmond grad student and the founder of IAMMYLIFE.com.
He’s on a life-long mission to help RVA’s artistic youth.
After starring in a production of Rent at U of R, Barracks found that he needed to record his life in the same way that the play did for its characters. This led to the birth of IAMMYLIFE, which originally just served as Barracks’ personal blog.
Since those early days, the site has evolved into a play, and now an outreach project that caters to Richmond’s artistically creative youth, offering storytelling, art, and movement workshops.
Barracks’ story deals with his own coming out, his troubles with bullying growing up, and his experiences with parental incarceration. He had a difficult time being vulnerable with his story at first, due to how raw it was and how unsure he was at how it would be received.
“That is still the goal; telling my story to connect it something that reaches an audience and inspires them to get through their own adversity and be a positive story for someone else going through similar struggle,” said Barracks
According to Barracks, his IAMMYLIFE project is about “teaching, promoting, and inspiring inclusive education through the power of sharing your story. IAMMYLIFE helps them transform adversity into positive, creative material for personal growth.”
His goal with IAMMYLIFE is to make Richmond City smaller by promoting judgment-free conversations through storytelling. His project strives to remove stigma and negativity from adversity, and as he says it, “on an intrapersonal level, this work is transformative. On an interpersonal level, it builds a bridge of understanding between populations who may discover common ground, even among their differences.”
Barracks’ IAMMYLIFE project is hosting a youth-oriented storytelling and writing workshop on April 10th at the Richmond Public Library, where students will have the opportunity to join Chaz and local writers and artists to learn how to bring out their life stories.
The following day, the library will host an event where the kids will be free to actually write their full life stories, which will be bound and featured in a book that will be a part of the library’s permanent People’s Library collection.
The book cover will be designed by young Richmond artists with the help of local teen-oriented art collective Art180.
To culminate the day’s events, everyone will collaborate to paint an enlarged version of the book cover on a banner, which will be unveiled along with the book on at a First Fridays event in May.
Barracks hopes this three-part program will be a pilot model that will be replicated for other youth serving organizations throughout the city.
“Those who have dealt with or are currently dealing with adversity will come away with creative tools for connecting their experience to something positive,” said Barracks. “Those who have not necessarily experienced trauma will gain tools to support inclusivity in their relationships and communities. Everyone has a story, and the more platforms we have for sharing, the more integrated we become.”
Rodrigo Arriaza is a cool dude who loves bees and Bolivia.
While we are all different, there are parts of our identities, our shared experiences, that make us all the same.September 21, 2016
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