A letter from Co-Founder, Julia Alvarez:
The Scheherazade Project takes its model and inspiration from the storyteller and activist, Scheherazade of The Arabian Nights. For those not acquainted with this classic from the Arab world, The 1001 Nights collects the stories told by a young woman who is living in a kingdom ruled by a cruel and misogynist sultan. Every night a girl is brought to him and put to death at dawn.
Scheherazade hides out in her father’s library, reading his many books, learning all the stories. Not satisfied with her own safety and privilege, Scheherazade volunteers to go into the sultan's quarters. She takes her sister Dunyazad along. That first night, Dunyazad requests that Scheherazade tell the sultan one of her wonderful tales. The sultan is delighted by the story and asks for another one. As the sun is coming up, Scheherazade is still mid- tale. The sultan spares her so she can finish her story the next night.
And so it goes, each night, Scheherazade finishes one tale and begins another. After 1001 nights, the sultan is smitten with love and repents his evil ways. Scheherazade has succeeded in saving, not just herself, but all the women in her kingdom as well as transforming the sultan into a good man and enlightened ruler, through her storytelling.
We, the women artists-activists of the Scheherazade Project, have volunteered to tell a story in any form (words, dance, music). Originally, these were meant to be live performances in front of the White House, but because of the pandemic the project is now an online, nightly event. Each night, beginning on July 25th, an artist activist will tell a story. (Online storytellers and gatherings in other communities are also welcomed to join us each night!) For 101 American Nights, until November 2, the eve of election day, we will use our arts to playfully, fiercely, creatively, lovingly call attention to the dire situation in our kingdom, its violence toward women, people of color, the undocumented, Mother Earth, weaker nations unable to protect themselves against the rampage and raping of their resources and people. We are inspired by the Civil Rights movement, the climate movements, the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements. We have no hopes of transforming this president’s heart, but our performances are not for him but for us: we, the people.
As we approach the next election, we must not sit back, ensconced in whatever safe and privileged version of our “father’s library' we have. We must mobilize and think outside the box (this project as one example) so that we protect, love and therefore save our kingdom and affirm the values we hold dear. We must not be deterred by the strong currents of the status quo, the worn ruts of divisive rhetoric and thinking. Together we can create a groundswell of creative expression to carry us forward, ever closer to the beloved community we must become if we are to survive in this hurting nation and ravaged planet.