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Wall of paintings

Project Ujima and UWM recognized for work with youth impacted by violence

In July, Project Ujima and the University of Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts (UWM) were recognized for their work providing youth who have experienced a violent injury an opportunity to share their experiences through creativity.

Project Ujima and UWM were one of five hospital-led collaborations in the nation to receive the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) Dick Davidson NOVA Award for improving community health.

Project Ujima was founded more than 20 years ago with the goal of addressing youth and adult violence through individual, family and community intervention and prevention strategies. Project Ujima teamed up with UWM for two projects: a peace banner and the peace paper project.

The peace banner participants created a 3-by-50 foot banner that explored how violence affects our society and what they might do to change its impact. The banner used art, portraits and testimony. Phrases like, “I am better than this” and “My past does not define me” filled the banner.

The peace paper project is part of an international community arts initiative that uses traditional papermaking as a form of trauma therapy, social engagement and community activism. Participants transformed clothing that was meaningful to them into paper. The paper became a backdrop for their portraits and quotes. Those quotes include: “Live, learn, forgive,” “Judgment becomes permanent justice,” “Can’t speak for the future,” and “Smart, kind, faithful, strong.”

Youth who took part in the projects talked about how this creative experience helped them respond to judgments and stereotypes they often encountered when people realized they were victims of violence.