Making a difference using arts to help heal hearts

Making a difference using arts to help heal hearts
Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 6:45 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Shirley Mae Staten Springer’s personality is as colorful as the home she lives in, and her life has led her to what she’s doing now.

She was raised in a segregated community in Moultrie, Georgia, and knows firsthand what it feels like to be divided. Therefore making the work she does now through her nonprofit organization Keys To Life all about bringing people together.

“How do we find that commonality in terms of who we are, to live in a community where we are respecting, valuing and see each other,” she said.

One of those ways was eight years ago through the Lullaby Project, modeled after a program at Carnegie Hall in New York City and eventually brought to Hiland Mountain Correctional Center, the state’s women’s prison.

“The mother writes a letter to her child as if the child will find the letter 20 years from now, and the key question, what are your dreams, hopes and aspirations,” Staten Springer explained.

All the songs, special in their own right, one still stands out to her, even to this day. She went on to sing a snippet of it called, “He Still Calls Me Mom.”

“After all the things we’ve been through, he still calls me mom,” Staten Springer sang.

“She’d been in jail since the kid was six months and he was then 14,” she explained.

The Lullaby Project carried on for four years.

“Those moms opened up their hearts and poured everything they knew into the songs and most of them said, ‘I’m sorry. It’s not your fault and I love you,’” she said.

Keys to Life has several programs connecting community. Registration is now open for its cross-cultural immersion camp.