Our work focuses on individuals and communities telling their own stories in their own ways. We practice community-centered storytelling and radical listening in a variety of ways through community-centered programs and projects:

Elma Lewis Living Stories Project

If you walk down the streets in Roxbury, Dorchester, Boston and surrounding areas, it is impossible not to meet someone who passionately will tell you a story about "what Ms. Elma Lewis taught me." Elma Lewis engaged with artists and political leaders throughout the United States, and the globe. Yet today, unless you are speaking with someone who knew her directly, people do not know who she was. This Living Stories Project intends to bring the impact of Elma Lewis’s work into public memory as a core part of Black history, arts, and education in the Boston area and in the world.

Social Justice Solidarity Circles

Applications now available!
A new, 11-month, stipended opportunity for students to build their practice of social justice solidarity through engagement with community leaders and organizers, reflection and dialogue, community mobilization, and creative expression. Solidarity is a commitment, not a destination.

Seed to Harvest: The Wooden Book

In collaboration with artist-in-residence, Toshi Reagon’s Parable Path Boston, the Traces/Remain ensemble invites you to join them on a Sower’s journey that uses memories as medicine. It will travel throughout the US collecting stories, in the form of memories, that will serve as medicine for its readers.

Creative Community Network

Creative Community Network is a pilot program for high school students who are passionate about social justice and the arts in the Boston area. This program connects with youth across schools and neighborhoods to create a powerful and supportive peer-network. Together students deepen their understanding of social justice and work towards developing unique artistic community action projects.

Youth LEAD

Youth LEAD connects youth leaders to reflect upon their values and beliefs, communicate across differences and act together locally. Youth LEAD is newly headquartered at Emerson College and provides year-long youth leadership programming for high school students grades 9-12 in Sharon, Massachusetts. Youth LEAD has been running youth leadership and training programs since 2004.

Community-Centered Grants

The Elma Lewis Center piloted a Community-Centered Grant for students, staff, faculty and off-campus community members working to support partnerships rooted in authentic relationships and trust especially those that seek to provide material relief while also working to dismantle systems of oppression, leading to sustainable liberatory practices. Among the fourteen applications, the Community-Centered Grant committee awarded $850 each to four projects. Members of these projects, the Elma Lewis Center and the Social Justice Center will also periodically come together as thought and listening partners.

The Last Dream

The Massachusetts TPS Committee, the Boston Experimental Theatre Company, the Boston Neighborhood Network and actors from "The Last Dream" created a theater production and documentary film about U.S. children whose parents risk deportation if TPS (Temporary Protected Status) is ended. They perform this play about it to fight for their parents ability to stay with them in the United States and to inform folks what TPS is and to inspire people to support their cause and act in their defense. They have performed The Last Dream in U.S. schools, churches, before Congress members in Washington D.C., participated in a Journey4Justice bus caravan across the U.S. and they flew to Rome and talked with the Pope.

TPS Zine

If nothing changes, by January 4, 2021, the TPS Program will end and their parents, among 400,000 people in the United States, will be at risk of deportation. Their ultimate goal is for TPS parents and all TPS holders to have U.S. Permanent Residency. There are more than 300,000 children and youth in the United States who are in danger of being separated from their families who have TPS. The Elma Lewis Center is collaborating with the Massachusetts TPS Committee to create a Zine series: TPS Justice: Our Families Are Not Temporary.

TIDE Conference

TIDE is an annual one-day gathering of leaders, artists, and change-makers from Greater Boston and surrounding communities. This event convenes young people who are working to create positive change to share best practices, connect, and deepen relationships.

Universidad Nacional de Colombia

The Universidad Nacional de Colombia, the largest public university in Colombia with campuses in nine cities throughout the country, is dedicated to education accessible to people of all economic, social and educational status. The Medellín campus is one of two universities in the Americas that are also ecological nature reserves. Core to the Universidad Nacional mission is that research, study and publications are intentionally applied with a deep dedication to the possibility of research and community-centered projects to improve the quality of life for people throughout Colombia.

Proyecto Boston Medellín (PBM)

The Elma Lewis Center has ongoing collaborations with the Departamento de Arte y Arquitectura in PBM (Proyecto Boston Medellín), a project in which young emerging artists create community centered art in response to some of our world’s most pressing humanitarian and environmental crises and possible solutions. The ELC is also collaborating in transnational story circles in Colombia with elders and youth in rural and urban areas regarding their local and global knowledge of ancestral lands and practices.

Hidden Figures Syllabus

The concept of a “hidden figure” is compelling because it provides an opportunity to uncover the histories of individuals who have been obscured by history and to complicate the notion of who is “hidden.” The Hidden Figures Syllabus recognizes and celebrates powerful Black women from across the African diaspora, whose work is often erased from history. The syllabus consists of a list of texts, films and audio materials by and about Black women and serves as a living archive for the continued remembrance of those on whose shoulders we stand. The project was researched, designed, and curated by Zoë Gadegbeku, Ghanaian writer with a creative writing MFA from Emerson, and former communications manager on the ELC team. Her work was supported by Judy Pryor Ramirez, former Elma Lewis Scholar-in-Residence at the ELC.


Jumpstart is a national early education organization that places college student Corps Members into early education classrooms in low-income neighborhoods to support teachers and students, with a focus on developing students' language and literacy skills. Jumpstart Corps Members agree to a 200- or 300-hour commitment per academic year—about 12-14 hours per week. Students with Federal Work Study awards also have the opportunity to earn their award while participating in Jumpstart.

For more information about Emerson's Elma Lewis tuition scholarship for incoming students, please contact your undergraduate admissions counselor.

Thumbnail for the Living Stories Project: 
A ballet class at the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts, ca. 1970. Image courtesy of Northeastern University Archives & Special Collections.