AN ANNUAL CIVIC RITUAL AND PARTICIPATORY ART PROJECT

The 2018 People's State of the Union was held from January 25-February 4, 2018.

In January of most years, the President delivers a State of the Union Address highlighting the past year and suggesting priorities for the coming year. It’s a broadcast from one to many. But democracy is a conversation, not a monologue. Understanding the state of our union takes We the People reflecting in our own communities on our challenges and opportunities locally, nationally, and globally.

Since 2015, the USDAC has hosted the People’s State of the Union as an invitation to supplement the President’s stories by coming together in our own homes, schools, houses of worship, and community organizations to share our own take on the state of our union. Thousands of people in more than 350 communities have taken part over the last three years.

The People’s State of the Union has two main parts: Story Circles across the nation, and a collaboratively composed Poetic Address to the Nation. The USDAC offers toolkits and online trainings to support anyone hosting a Story Circle, bringing people together to share stories from their own experience. Stories are uploaded to an online story portal where they can be shared and browsed. Then—inspired by these stories—an invited group of writers collaboratively composes the Poetic Address to the Nation, performed and broadcast live.

For #PSOTU 2018, Story Circle participants shared their own take on the state of our union by reflecting on any of the following prompts (or creating their own):

  • Share a story about an experience that gave you insight into the state of our union. 
  • Share a story about a time you felt a sense of belonging—or the opposite—to this nation or your community. 
  • Share a story of an experience that gave you hope in the past year. 

Poetic Address to the Nation

We celebrated The 2018 Poetic Address to the Nation in partnership with the the Public Forum. In this culmination of the People’s State of the Union, an amazing line-up of playwrights, poets, and musicians created an evening of performances drawn from two weeks of Story Circles across the country. Featured contributing artists included Hakim Bellamy, MJ Kaufman, Jiréh Breon Holder, Bob Holman, Diana Oh, Sofia Rei, Luis Rodriguez, and Sara Serba. Performers included Oscar Cabrera, Izzy Castaldi, Erin Margaret Pettigrew, and Aneesh Sheth.


DOWNLOAD THE #PSOTU18 TOOLKIT

  • STEP 1: Download the 2018 Toolkit for instructions on how to host a Story Circle and all the information you need to pull off a successful event.
  • STEP 2: Put your #PSOTU18 Event on the Map.
  • STEP 3: Host your event and upload stories to the Story Portal
  • STEP 4: Stay posted for information on how to watch the Poetic Address to the Nation (and consider creating your own local Poetic Address!).

Whether you're hosting a few folks in your own home, a dozen simultaneous circles in a community center, or inviting members of your organization or network to host their own circles, the Toolkit explains absolutely everything you need to know to organize, promote, and pull off your event.


STORY CIRCLE TRAINING

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The USDAC offers free training sessions for Story Circle facilitators and scribes. Each training session combines presentations with interactive conversation. You’ll learn how to welcome people, manage time and space within the event. By the end of your training, you will be prepared to facilitate a Story Circle!

    Story Circles are often understood as deriving from indigenous traditions. There are many variations. We give special thanks and credit to John O’Neal of Junebug Productions (and formerly Free Southern Theater) and to Roadside Theater who have been central in developing the practice for use in creating original performance and in community telling and listening projects.

    Participatory training sessions for #PSOTU2018 are concluded, but you can learn all you need by watching a recording here: https://vimeo.com/251738744

    Enter this password: PSOTU!2018!Stories!


    DOWNLOADABLE ART & POSTERS

    What do We The People want, need, or demand? As part of #PSOTU2018, we partnered with artists to create downloadable signs that you can print, customize, and post in your Story Circle or anywhere in your community. Try printing out copies of the posters, asking people to fill in the blanks, and taking photos holding them to post on social media. 

    Download the PSOTU2018 toolkit above to access high-resolution copies of these images as well as sample social media images.


    PSOTU ARCHIVES & VIDEOS

    Last year, Story Circles took place nationwide from January 27-February 5, 2017. The Poetic Address took place at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and was livestreamed on the USDAC Facebook page.

    In 2016, Story Circles took place nationwide from January 23-31. The Poetic Address to the Nation was performed and broadcast from The Painted Bride in Philadelphia. Watch the video for excerpts from Story Circles and the Poetic Address. The full broadcast is available here.

    The Inaugural People's State of the Union took place from January 23-30, 2015. The Poetic Address to the Nation was performed and broadcast from the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City. Watch the video for excerpts from Story Circles and the Poetic Address.


    The People’s State of the Union is just one of many USDAC National Actions intended to spark community dialogue and creativity in the service of justice and democracy. To learn about future actions, please enlist as a Citizen Artist.