And Still We Rise coming to UCC January 9

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As part of their commitment to social justice, the congregations of the United Church of Christ and First Parish Unitarian Universalist Churches are sponsoring the theatre company And Still We Rise (ASWR) as the actors present the opening performance of their 11th season. The company writes and performs original dramas that explore the effect that incarceration has on individuals and families. The Canton performance will take place on Saturday, January 9, at 6:30 p.m. in the hall at the United Church of Christ.

The members of And Still We Rise change each season, but include people who have served time in prison, had family members who went to prison, or been impacted by crime in other ways. The group came together in 2005 as a post-incarceration program for former prisoners and took its name from the Maya Angelou poem “Still I Rise.”

“At the Unitarian Universalist, we believe in spreading knowledge and understanding of peoples’ real lives,” said Reverend Beverly Boke of First Parish UU. “And Still We Rise offers information in a dramatic and engaging way.”

Larry Cotton, a member of the UU congregation, has volunteered with the Department of Corrections at MCI-Norfolk on Tuesday evenings. For the last seven years, he has worked with groups of incarcerated men as they identify their emotional needs, work on keeping agreements and promises, and clear up tensions, all with the support of the full circle. Boston University offers college courses on the same evenings and one night Cotton met the director of ASWR.

“I went to one of the performances,” Cotton said. “I thought it was very powerful, especially for me getting to know people who are incarcerated. It touches on a variety of topics: crime, time in prison, ands the challenges afterward.”

Cotton and another congregant suggested the idea of bringing ASWR to Canton to Boke, who quickly agreed.

“These folks have an engaging way of telling the story to folks who may not understand what happens in the judicial system in this country,” she said. “We’re trying to find out what people of faith can do.”

Boke noted that the UU community is exploring the issue of mass incarceration in the United States. She added that the UU is also interested in helping people cope with the challenges and difficulties of having a family member who is incarcerated.

“We believe there’s an underserved population who may have a family member in prison,” she said. “People may feel uncomfortable about approaching the subject.”

She hopes that those who attend ASWR may find it easier to talk with families in that situation.

Members of the UCC and UU congregations, as well as the Bank of Canton, are providing some of the funding for the January performance of ASWR. Tickets are $15. Audience members may give more if they choose. Boke said that people will not be turned away if they can only pay a portion of the ticket cost. Tickets are available at both churches and on the night of the performance. The United Church of Christ, where ASWR will perform, is located at 1541 Washington Street. First Parish Unitarian Universalist is across the street at 1508 Washington Street.

Boke is pleased to join with the UCC for the presentation. “Our two churches were the church in the 1700s,” she said. “Our congregations are sister congregations. I’m delighted to be able to serve with them in the name of social justice. We walk the same path.”

And Still We Rise Productions is a collaborative theater project dedicated to healing, public awareness and social change through empowering the voices of formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones. For more information, go to andstillwerise.org.

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