Gun Violence Prevention


The Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists Collective is professional artists and urban youth ages 15-24, working together to create social change. The Collective collects local stories, reframes and retells them through art, writing and performance to promote understanding, civic pride, intergenerational relationships and literacy. Story Stitchers are artists-in-residence at Kranzberg Arts Foundation in vibrant Grand Center and run a Storefront Studio at 616 N Skinker Blvd. in the Loop District.

Projects create a platform for community engagement through an artistic lens and with it the Saint Louis Story Stitchers work to shift perceptions and realities and bring hope to the Saint Louis community.

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Saint Louis Story Stitchers is working collaboratively to create a 4-pronged approach to youth gun violence prevention. Story Stitchers bring the arts and humanities to the forefront through a unique form of “urban storytelling,” attracting attention, building excitement, and communicating key concepts from public safety and health professionals to the target demographic.

DEMOGRAPHIC: The target demographic is African American youth, ages 15-24 years old, in the city of St. Louis. 

NEED: KSDK News December 10, 2017 – “There have been at least 197 homicides in St. Louis so far this year. The mayor says that’s the worst we’ve seen since 1995.

”The St. Louis Circuit Attorney reports there were 2,092 shootings in St. Louis in 2015 and half involved youth age 25 or under. Lt. Col. Ronnie Robinson, Deputy Chief of St. Louis Metropolitan Police told Stitchers, “Criminal activity amongst teenagers in the city is at a very high rate and they do have access to illegal weapons. We need intervention and outreach along with enforcement in order to solve the ills that we are suffering from in our city relative to violent crime involving teens.”

Youth in the target demographic are concerned with gun violence in the city and have reported to Story Stitchers adults their strong interest in positive, safe activities, a desire to hear music with a good message, and a need for strong and stable mentorship. Youth report high incidence of difficult experiences including loss of family and/or friends due to gun violence, hunger, poverty, parental imprisonment, and lack of access to transportation, lack of working phones, disciplinary issues at school, low grades, or family obligations such as caring for younger siblings. Youth report a strong interest in friends, safe activities, the arts, leadership opportunities, and earning money.

Story Stitchers GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION PROGRAM: 4-PRONGED APPROACH

  1. VOCATIONAL TRAINING/SAFE HOUSE: Stitchers Storefront Studio: Hands-on youth activity with professional artists and mentors for a core group of leading creative or business focused youth. This group of youth form the core group to present peer to peer messaging.
  2. COMMUNITY BUILDING: Pick the City UP tour is designed to take peer to peer messaging into the neighborhoods where youth live, creating a spark for locally-driven community building. Programs are held at City of St. Louis Department of Health PIER Health Fairs where health care providers are invited to set up resource tables and interact with community members.
  3. SCHOOL and COMMUNITY CENTER PROGRAMS: Not Another One! A Play 4 Peace is designed to bring facts and awareness on gun safety and police/youth relationships into public schools through a curriculum-connected program that sparks respectful discussion and builds relationships.
  4. PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS: Not Another One! will be designed in collaboration with the City of St. Louis Department of Health and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. The PSA campaign will bring messaging home to youth on platforms youth in the target demographic frequent including Snapchat, Instagram, radio and YouTube. Youth have identified peer to peer messaging, adult male leader messaging, and facts related to gun violence as important to the PSA Campaign.
Buzz Spector, professor of art, leads teens and artists from Story Stitchers in creating one of his trademark book installation at the Story Stitchers Storefront Studio at 616 N. Skinker. (Photo: Danny Reise/WUSTL Photos)
(Photo: Danny Reise/WUSTL Photos)

Project leaders include Susan Colangelo, MFA, ‘83, president of the Stitchers with 30+ years of community arts experience and work with 5 school districts; Jamie K.P. Dennis, Stitchers artist in residence is lead musician and director of the Save Our Sons, Urban League of St. Louis, with over 22 years of professional music recording and performance experience and 7 years as a teaching artist.

For information and bookings email storystitchers@gmail.com.

The following are excerpts of recent work on gun violence prevention.                                                  _____________________________________________________________

Saint Louis Story Stitchers held the 2016 youth-led videotaped discussion on gun violence called, It’s Not OK! on November 10th in Kranzberg Arts Center’s Black Box Theater. The program created a platform for a lively youth-led discussion with local community leaders to identify problems and solutions and to create an action plan for peace for youth and families affected by gun violence. Stitchers Teen Council Co-Chairs Aniya and Toryon led the discussion.

In this sequel to the 2015 discussion, Not Another One!, youth and adult guests re-opened communication to identify commonality, greater understanding and ways to cooperate and collaborate to heal America’s racial disparities. Teenagers, police and leaders searched for solutions to relevant topics including ways to curb youth gun crime, best practices for police-minority youth interaction, and the no snitching phenomenon.

Stitchers Teen Council’s  Taron and Toryon aka T&T, star in the new music video for the song by Story Stitchers artist in residence Jarmel Reece, titled, It’s Not OK!, addressing for peers and younger kids the dangers of guns. The piece is the title song of the 2016 youth-led gun violence discussion on gun violence prevention.

This program was sponsored by the Regional Arts Commission, Kranzberg Arts Foundation, Kranzberg Arts Center, the Institute for Public Health’s Gun Violence Initiative at Washington University in St. Louis, the Steward Family Foundation, the Yvette and John Dubinsky Family Foundation, and Risa Zwerling and Mark S. Wrighton, Ph.D.

Blog about the 2016 discussion

This program may be quoted and/or shown in educational settings with permission via email at storystitchers@gmail.com. The program may not be reproduced for commercial use or edited in part or in whole without permission from the Saint Louis Story Stitchers.

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NOT ANOTHER ONE!

NpreviewOT ANOTHER ONE! A Play for Peace

February 25, 2017

.ZACK3224 Locust

Topics such as trauma, legal rights, and police shootings were explored in an open and respectful manner. Sponsored by Kranzberg Arts Foundation, Regional Arts Commission, Steward Family Foundation, Freedman Family Fund, Yvette and John Dubinsky Family Foundation, Susan Block at The Designing Block, Susie and Gordon Philpott, Alison and John Ferring, Mr. and Mrs. B.A. Bridgewater, and Susan Sauer at Rome West Realty LLC.

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-6-22-44-pm

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Teen: How much of the gun violence problem is caused by teenagers?

Carl Filler from Mayor Slay’s Office:

“We don’t know exactly how much because we don’t always know who commits a crime in the city of St. Louis unfortunately, however a large number of crimes, almost half of them, are committed by individuals under the age of 25, not all of those are teenagers but we do know unfortunately that young people in the city of St. Louis do have access to guns and that is a significant problem.”

Lt. Col. Ronnie Robinson, Deputy Chief of Police, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department:

“Criminal activity amongst teenagers in the city is at a very high rate and unfortunately they do have access to illegal weapons.

…Enforcement is not the answer to all our problems and incarceration is definitely not the answer. We need intervention and outreach along with enforcement in order to solve the ills that we are suffering from in our city of St. Louis relative to violent crime involving teens.”

The purpose of the videotaped discussion is to open communication and to identify commonality, greater understanding and ways to cooperate and collaborate between city police and teen age youth as both work to lower St. Louis’s high rates of gun violence.

The video is utilized by teachers, parents, researchers and exhibited in galleries and community centers to generate additional discussion. A transcription of the discussion will be published in book form by the Collective in 2016.

Police And Teens: Finding Ways To Work Together To Combat Gun Violence

SPONSORED BY — Institute for Public Health, Washington University in St. Louis Gun Violence Initiative

Saint Louis Story Stitchers programming is sponsored in part by the Regional Arts Commission

INSPIRATION — St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Gun Violence Prevention Site

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The public was invited to visit the Storefront Studio at 616 N Skinker Blvd. in the Loop District on Thursday, June 2, 2016 from 11:00a to 3:00p to mark National Gun Violence Awareness Day.  Stitchers Teens tweeted out #wearorange portraits, visitors stepped into the audio recording booth and shared why they care about gun violence prevention. This program is presented in collaboration with Everytown for Gun Safety’s wearorange.org and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Free gun locks were provided by Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice. Thank you!

Story Stitchers partnered with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, St. Louis and Everytown for Gun Safety to draw attention to National Gun Violence Awareness day on June 2nd, 2015. This video shows Stitchers visit to a Moms Demand Action meeting and a photo shoot as Stitchers prepared for #wearorange on June 2nd.

Story Stitchers are Turning Orange for National Gun Violence Awareness Day, June 2nd. Photo Susan Colangelo
Story Stitchers are Turning Orange for National Gun Violence Awareness Day, June 2nd.

On June 2nd, Stitchers and artist Buzz Spector created one of Buzz’s signature book installation. Buzz called it “Not One More”. Opening and community engagement took place as people visited and had their #wearorange portraits tweeted out to the world from the Stitchers Storefront Studio.

Buzz Spector, professor of art, leads teens and artists from Story Stitchers in creating one of his trademark book installation at the Story Stitchers Storefront Studio at 616 N. Skinker. (Photo: Danny Reise/WUSTL Photos)
(Photo: Danny Reise/WUSTL Photos)

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Mario Miles-Turnage at The Weight of Words Concert, Perception Isn't Always Reality 02/28/15
Mario Miles-Turnage

Story Stitchers brought local voices to the table through a soulful tribute to those fallen due to gun violence by Collective member and violinist Mario Miles-Turnage. Stitchers Teen Council performed beautifully and bravely sent out their message of unity and a call to action through their music. Audience members said that they were adorable, powerful, brave, inspiring and amazing and felt the importance of not only giving youth a voice but also the wisdom of listening to what they are saying.

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StoryStitchers_Gunshots-01K.P. Dennis dedicated the song to Jacobi Taylor, his young nephew, who was lost to senseless gun violence at age 21 just this past summer.

The brilliant third verse of K.P.’s song, Gunshots!! describes in rap the 10 things we can all do to combat gun violence, as recommended by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce on her website: www.stlouisguncrime.com/

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Secure ya legal weapon tell others to do the same!

Don’t carry nothing if it ain’t registered in your name!

Record the make, model, serial number information!

If it come up missing then you can find the location.

Call 911 whenever you hear some gunshots!

Tell the police if you witness a crime on your block!

If an organization improves life of the youth,

Donate or volunteer your time and give’em a boost!

Help a struggling parent…. Whose burdens weigh a ton!

Become a mentor “earn and learn” hire the young!

They say I am the one! I guess I’m on the list,

Clean up my neighborhood participate in ownership!…

Make it a model gotta look out for each other,

If we get to know our neighbors we could fix it like sisters and brothers!

I can’t trust ya. How can we ever begin?

To build peace!  I keep, losing my friends when they…

Hangout… gunshots!

Stay inside… gunshots!

Non stop… gunshots!

Day light there’s gunshots!

Nighttime more gunshots!

Around the clock… the young drop!

Wave your hands high if you’re tired of hearing gunshots!

Copyright Saint Louis Story Stitchers, 2015

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STLSS_CoverArt_NotAnotherOne-01Story Stitchers artists and Teen Council members created Not Another One! as part of a focus on gun violence prevention.

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Trevor, who is 16 years old, describes feelings of frustration and hope in his lyrics for the teens’ gun violence prevention song, Not Another ONE!

I don’t want people to know the Lou,

As a place where people shoot,

Or a place where people loot,

Or a place where cops are brutes!

Show Me State let’s show them then,

That disputes don’t have to end!

With a life that has to end.

These streets they can be cleansed.

It starts with just me and you,

With this power it can all be through.

This world sick it has the flu,

Let’s make a change starting with the Lou!

Copyright Saint Louis Story Stitchers, 2015

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