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Vestal Social Justice Night & Storytelling Project

Social Justice Night Expands in Scope and Impact

As one of eleven recipients of Metro’s Community Placemaking grant this year, Montavilla Jazz helped Vestal Elementary expanded their annual Social Justice Night in partnership with PSU’s Artist as Citizen Initiative. The community-wide celebration featured collaborative artistic works – by both students and professionals – focused on two of Vestal’s five pillars of social justice: community diversity and family identity.  On this special evening Vestal invited one of Portland’s most culturally, linguistically, and ethnically diverse neighborhoods to come together in celebration of social justice, art, food, music, and community.

Here We Grow Mural photo by Neil Mattson

Vestal Elementary has boldly stepped into its role as a community hub, galvanizing the Montavilla neighborhood with its Social Justice Night, generating positive values and neighborly goodwill. This year’s Social Justice Night featured student-led social justice projects and exhibits created in response to stories centered on the topics of community diversity and family identity gathered in interviews with fellow students and community members. The Artist as Citizen Initiative led PSU Capstone students and Vestal 4th graders who built skills in storytelling, interviewing, and creativity through the work of creating artistic responses.

Raising Awareness for Local Artists

The project raises awareness for local artists through their work with Vestal partners, and their artistic contributions to the event. Montavilla Jazz resident artists, stars of Portland’s jazz scene who have a history of working with Vestal students over previous years, performed World Premieres of music crafted as a compliment to the students’ and community members’ stories. In the spirit of collaboration, many featured, creative works reflected the experience of celebrating community, identity, and social justice.

Mary-Sue Tobin and her ensemble rehearsing and recording photo by Neil Mattson

Feeding the Community and Supporting BIPOC Businesses

A welcoming dinner took place before the Social Justice Night performances at The Yard food carts, located directly across from the school. Three hundred seventeen complimentary meals (procured through grant funding) were served by participating food carts and coordinated with support from Samira Mohamed owner of Mira’s East African Cuisine. In this way Vestal and its partners supported the BIPOC-owned food carts at The Yard directly through payments for food for the event, and by raising awareness and visibility for their unique businesses and their immigrant stories.

Students Build Skills in Storytelling and Creativity

PSU students, working with Erica Thomas, founder of Works Progress Agency, are producing a multipart podcast documentary featuring themes from the event. The podcast about Vestal Social Justice Night 2022 will utilize field recordings captured during the project phases and live event with recordings managed by PSU’s Sonic Arts and Music Production (SAMP) students and Friends of Noise. The podcast will be hosted on montavillajazz.org, in addition to premieres on local radio stations.

Vestal Social Justice Night Poster

2022 Featured Jazz Artists

Denzel Mendoza – GRAMMY winning trombonist, improviser (Haley Heynderickx, American DREAMers; Vestal featured artist 2021)

Machado Mijiga – Multi-instrumentalist, producer, and educator (Djungol Jim, DoubleDash; Vestal guest artist 2020 & featured artist 2021)

Mary-Sue Tobin – Saxophonist, bandleader, and educator, (Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, Quadraphonnes; Vestal resident artist 2018 – 2021)

Featured Food Cart

Samira Mohamed owner of Mira’s East African Cuisine supported Vestal Social Justice Night by coordinating participation by nine food carts located at The Yard.