Arts & Culture

Learning to Thrive

A new zine uses its pages to empower and heal.

You might have seen FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture’s Monument Quilt installation in Washington, D.C., or on its tour around the country, but the newest project from the local art-activism nonprofit brings their work back to Baltimore—and into the palm of your hand.

It all started with a monthly event called Thrive, launched by FORCE’s Gather Together survivor collective in February 2017 as a skill-share series for those affected by sexual and domestic violence. Each month, survivors can attend a workshop to learn a healing art, craft, or other self-care activity from local artists and advocates.

At May’s event at local performance space WombWork Productions, artistic director Mama Kay used healing theater techniques to show attendees the power of sharing one’s story and helping others tell their own.

Thrive, distills the teachings from each skill-share workshop into exercises and actions that readers can use on their own time. “This is something that people can keep around as a reminder to allow space for grounding, for healing, for whatever it is we need at any given time,” says Hannah Brancato, co-founder of FORCE.

Past skill shares have included writing self-affirmations, reiki healing, and rethinking the sex talk. After Shawna Murray-Browne, owner of integrative healing practice Kindred Wellness, facilitated a workshop on QiGong, the healing cousin of martial art tai chi, she included guidelines for a breathing technique followers could practice at home.

“Folks who are survivors of sexual violence, as well as domestic violence, oftentimes are having conversations about trauma, but not so much about how unresolved or unspoken or unexplored pain might be stored in the body,” says Murray-Browne. “I had the privilege of supporting and helping to create a toolbox of resources for survivors to not only master themselves, but to support one another.”

The first volume of Thrive is out now, and Gather Together’s second round of monthly Thrive events is well underway, this year hosted at either the FORCE studio at Motor House or in the facilitators’ own spaces. The end result will be a second volume that not only brings another year of skill shares and wellness activities to a wider audience, but also acts as a directory of people and places to turn to for healing resources throughout the city.

Until then, Thrive can be purchased or downloaded as a free PDF. “It’s not like right after a crisis you just get over it—it’s something we’re all dealing with for the rest of our lives,” Brancato says. “Part of healing for survivors is being together in a community. We’re creating an opportunity to talk about it.”