Common Threads

Connecting Ages, Changing Ageism Conference January 6

What do you want to share with someone of a different age engaged in progressive work?

What do you want to ask?


When: Saturday January 6, 2018

Time: 10 am to 3:30 pm. Arrive 9:30 to start on time.

Where: Northampton Quaker Meetinghouse, 43 Center Street, second floor, near bus stops on Route 9, center of town.

Cost: free with donations accepted.

CONVENORS: Larkin Christie, Youth Rise Together, and Sarah Pirtle, Common Threads Director.

CHILDCARE: If we are notified by Friday December 29th, free child care on site for ages 3 and up is available. Please indicate on the Registration From.

Younger people are welcome to be full participants in the conference and also can take breaks in the activity room and opt out of sections of the day.

REGISTRATION: We encourage everyone attending to register in advance, and people walking in last minute are also welcome. If the event needs to be postponed due to a snow storm, we will contact people who have registered.

Registration Form

QUESTIONS:  Email Larkin Christie at or phone Sarah Pirtle at (413) 625-2355.

How do I get a Free Copy of the Dialogue Booklet created for the Women’s March?

The 30-page booklet — KEEPERS OF THE FIRE: Dialogue to Change Sexism and Foster Gender Reconciliation — can be downloaded here.

Written by Common Threads director Sarah Pirtle, anecdotes, insights and information about the organizations that address gender justice are provided.

We are grateful to the Markam-Nathan Foundation for Social Justice for making possible the printing and free distribution of this booklet.

What is Common Threads-Peace Net?

We are an active network providing dialogue opportunities that develop strong connections between people. We work in solidarity to change all the spokes in the wheel of oppression with an emphasis on face to face conversation.

The Common Threads Program began in 2013 under the name Peace Net for Girls and Women. The name was changed to Common Threads in 2016 when we produced a multi-age conference. A new name was needed to support gender expansion, and address all the interlocking oppressions including sexism, racism, ageism, Islamophobia, anti-semitism.

We gather together people of all ages in Franklin, Hampshire and Hamden County who want to help build a respectful world. We value being together in community, sharing creative expression, and fostering mentoring and leadership.

Continuing work in 2018

Our first teen Interfaith dialogue was held at the Islamic Society of West Springfield in 2017. In 2018 dialogue will continue. This series was initiated with Tahirah Amatul-Wadu, Muslim lawyer from West Springfield who specializes in civil rights and domestic relations law. She was a White House invitee December 2015 attending a ceremony entitled, Celebrating and Protecting America’s Tradition of Religious Pluralism where the community program ‘Know Your Neighbor’ was launched.

Dialogues for Schools: Sarah Pirtle is available to lead free dialogue programs on addressing and challenging the interlocking facets of oppression.

Listening Project: Respect For Women And Girls

Solidarity finds ways to respect all genders and also acknowledge and address sexism.

“Here are just a few reasons why we all need feminism:

  • Because it’s more dangerous to be a woman than it is to be a soldier in a modern conflict.
  • Because girls and women are told to be careful not to get raped, instead of teaching men not to rape.
  • Because we want our bodies to be simply left alone, and not a constant target of discussion, disrespect and objectification.” — Article by Serenity, age 14

* From “What About Feminism?” in New Moon Magazine for Girls February 2016

Following the success of the Common Threads conference, we are organizing dialogue sessions to bring all ages together to share stories and insights about sexism and articulate how interactions can be different. Please contact us if you’d like to arrange for a free program by emailing

What kind of dialogue?

This is the type of conversation we foster. Email to learn about specific programs for schools.
We create a conversation setting with respect for everyone.

  • Many ages: Generations join together to talk about social change and how we each play a part. We visualize that we join a long line of people from history.
  • Solidarity: Meeting at the crossroads, we deepen understanding. We look squarely at how racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, ableism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and the other interlocking oppressions disengage people from making common cause together. 
  • The personal is political: Our belief is that unless you grow at an interpersonal level, structural level change won’t be deep and abiding. More than identity politics alone, issues and structural analysis are part of the mix. When dialogue includes lived experience, people are more able to stay through the hard places of conversation.
  • Aware communication: We are inspired by Audre Lorde who said, “The Master’s tools can’t dismantle the Master’s house.” Instead of “calling each other out” in ways that shut people out, we call each other into growth and dialogue. We ask people to be willing to be changed by the dialogue and be open to hear from one another.
  • Inspiration through honest talk and activist art: It’s a meeting place for addressing social injustice sparked by slam poetry, music and social healing. When we include the expressive arts, we gain new insights and develop compassion.
  • Unique individuals inter-connect: Feeling a renewed support of community, it becomes more possible to find one’s own places of contribution within the larger mosaic.

ARCHIVE of the Common Threads Conference and Speaker Series

Common Threads Conference  January 23, 2016

From across the generations, we came together and claimed ourselves as part of the long line of people who want to be part of social change. We heard slam poetry by Jasmin Roberts and Arjuna Greist. We met in small multi-age conversations, attended workshops, and spoke about hopes for the future and our work for social change.

The nine workshops included:

  1. Tools for Change: Envisioning Consent Culture — We discussed sexual violence in our world, exploring consent within a activist framework, and envisioning a violence-free future.
  2.  Changing Everyday Disrespect Toward Women — We exchanged stories of things that have happened to us, our friends, our children and in the world. By listening closely and envisioning a world where this is different, we formed ideas of what a Fourth Wave of Feminism could look that includes all genders.
  3. Bridges: Finding What Connects Us — This was an opportunity for hearing LGBTQ voices, and changing gender stereotypes.
  4. Addressing Oppression – Dialogue about Racism and White Privilege  — We focused on the many ways that white privilege and racism affect our relationships with each other.
  5. Living in an Unjust Society: Facing structural inequality — This participatory discussion had a positive focus on women, our actions within community and  “another world is possible.” After looking together at hard realities, participants learned and offered examples of important sources of information.

Comments about the conference:

“I found the multi-generational aspect extremely valuable. To share ideas and stories and issues amongst all ages was truly special.”

“I was struck by the truth-telling of Jasmin’s poetry especially regarding racism….I like the topic of feminism and supporting women.”

“I liked the music, thought-provoking questions, poetry and the Roots Groups for grounding. I wanted it longer than one day.”

Regular Peace Net Programs

Constellations: We are in the midst of a nine-month program for teenage girls ages 14 to 18 to give support and inspiration. Inquire for more information.
Dialogue Series: Let us know if you’d like to host or be part of a Peace Net dialogue for the Listening Project.


We will develop a booklet of anecdotes, quotes, and insights learned from our LISTENING PROJECT. Here are the kinds of quotes we’ll be including:

* From “What About Feminism?” in New Moon Magazine for Girls February 2016

Here are just a few reasons why we all need feminism:

  • Because it’s more dangerous to be a woman than it is to be a soldier in a modern conflict.
  • Because girls and women are told to be careful not to get raped, instead of teaching men not to rape.
  • Because we want our bodies to be simply left alone, and not a constant target of discussion, disrespect and objectification.  — Article by Serenity, age 14

From Feminism is for Everybody, p. 1 by bell hooks

Simply put feminism is a movement to end sexism…. It is a definition which implies that all sexist thinking and action is the problem, whether those who perpetuate it are female or male, child or adult. It is also broad enough to include an understanding of systemic institutionalized sexism.

Examples of Past Programs in our Speaker Series

February Peace Net Program

Date: February 28th, Saturday 2015

Location: McCusker’s Market, Shelburne Falls

Time: 1:30 – 3:30

Focus: Singing Songs of Freedom – The Spirituals: Healing Racism Through Music.

Led by: Gloria De,Layne Matock: performer, educator, dancer, poet, and playwright, Gloria De,Layne Matlock grew up singing gospel and spirituals with The Robinson Singers, directed by her mother—songs that had been passed down from her great great grandmother. In the early ‘90s she began HARMONY, a singing group in the same tradition. She has presented her workshops using music to heal racism at libraries, churches, public and private schools, universities, and other groups in the U.S. and Europe..

Women and men, young and old are welcome.

Examples of Past Programs: Peace Net April 2014

peace-net-circleStrong Oak and the Visioning Bear Inter-tribal Drum Circle celebrated women and girl’s voices and the power of music to spark social change. Peace Net met at the Brick House in Turners Falls.

Strong Oak had recently returned from meeting in council with the Thirteen Grandmothers and spoke about what she learned. Peace Net also honored the Pocumtuck people who originally lived on this land and recognized that a few blocks away from where we met is the falls where women and children were attacked during salmon fishing. The Peskeompscut massacre took place on May 19, 1676, during King Philip’s War. We heard from two women who have been part of recognizing and healing this history.


Maria Luisa Arroyo led the circle in creating a group poem, “I Believe,” as part of a Peace Net event called “Naming Our Power,” held at Valley Women’s Martial Arts: Institute for Healing and Violence Prevention Strategies in Easthampton.

How to Take Part

Voices Rising Series

Monthly gatherings six months of the year help this active network develop strong connections between girls and women. The monthly gatherings feature a presenter who is a woman of color and who uses the arts to promote social justice. Gatherings also feature the voices of young women ages 12-17 through spoken word, songwriting, or martial arts combined with poetry.

ingrid-askewThe monthly series began October 2013 with a presentation by Ingrid Askew, director of Crossing the Waters. Ingrid lived for ten years in post apartheid South Africa where she still resides part-time working with local artists and activists creating cultural exchange programs that focus on social justice, and cultural sharing. Askew directed the Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage which was featured in the award winning PBS documentary This Far by Faith: African Americans Spiritual Journeys. Ingrid is on the Peace Net Board.

María Luisa Arroyo, a 2014 presenter pictured above, is the author of Gathering Words: Recogiendo Palabras. She is an award-winning multilingual Puerto Rican poet and educator. Her poems have been published in many journals, including in the anthology, Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence.  María Luisa has performed widely, including in Chicago, DC, and Puerto Rico

The “Voices Rising Series” runs from October to December and from February through April. We travel to a different location each time so that people in the widespread geography can find a gathering near them.

Each year one of the six gatherings is a song swap of songs by and about women and girls. Another is a four-hour event called “Girls Voices Rising” for girls to speak on issues of gender violence and ask anonymous questions and receive mentoring by women.

Participants describe the monthly gatherings:

“At each Peace Net meeting, I feel the momentum growing. Connections keep increasing, and people are eager to meet again and bring their friends.”
“We were hungry for an experience like this.”
 “Nothing moves me so deeply as people speaking their truths like happened here.”
“So many wonderful heart opening experiences in a short period of time. Fantastic energy in the room that keep building during our time together.”
“My ten year old daughter arrived very tired due to a big day at school, but she loved her time –the performances of songs and poems by the young women, Janet Aalf’s movement pieces and was very interested in what Ingrid Askew had to say which led to a really good discussion.”
“All of you created an atmosphere where everyone felt welcome.”


These presentations are available for schools and community groups.

  • Courage Stories of Girls and Women
  • Girls Voices Help Everyone
  • Women’s Heritage — Music and Storytelling


The first booklet in the Conversation Starter series has been published.

“Changing Violence Together — How to be an Ally” by Sarah Pirtle
(available now for $3)
The first presentation took place at the Franklin County Interfaith Council.
Peace Net provides facilitation for community groups and houses of worship to discuss how to change and respond to the widespread problem of interpersonal violence against women.

For More Information on Peace Net and the Constellations Program

Contact Sarah Pirtle, director:

Phone(413) 625-2355

Let us know if your organization or locale wants to host the next gathering.



I was not put on this earth to be invisible.

I was not born to be denied.

I was not given life only to belong to someone else.

I belong to me.

I have a voice and I will use it.

I have dreams unforgettable.

I have a name and it is not anonymous or insignificant or unworthy or waiting any more to be called.

Some day they will say this is the moment when the world got out of my way.

This is the moment I was allowed to be astonishing.

This is the moment when my rising no longer scares you.

This is the moment when being a girl became my strength and not my pain.

This is the moment that the world sees that although I am held back by every problem, I am the key.

I am the key to all solutions.

This is the moment when a girl and a girl and a girl and a girl and a girl and a girl and 250 million other girls say with voices loud that this our moment.

This is my moment.

At the first teen leadership weekend of Journey Camp this poem was written collaboratively by Meg Cook, Molly Lieberman, Sarah Pirtle, Melanie Meier, Maria Douglas, Isolina Leiva- Bowes, Sarah Brown-Anson, Jody Massa, Jessie Owens, and Miriam Lefler.

Imagine a girl who believes that it is right and good she is a girl,
A girl who feels comfortable in her own skin.

Imagine a girl who writes her own lyrics, but opens her ears to other’s music,
A girl who speaks her true voice.

Imagine a girl who takes risks and pushes her limits,
A girl who isn’t afraid to conquer her fears.

Imagine a girl who sees all points of the spectrum
Even if she disagrees.

Imagine a girl who meets conflict with compassion,
A girl with the ability to forgive others.

Imagine a girl who changes how she’s treated other girls
Because she feels safe enough to change.

Imagine a girl who doesn’t have to fear other girls, who can talk about what she wants, who doesn’t have to be afraid of not being liked.

Imagine a girl who recognizes potential within herself and others,
Who follows her passions to find her gifts.

Imagine a girl who feels connected to the strong line of women
who have come before,  a girl who knows her heritage.

Imagine a girl who runs into the future with an open mind,
Who isn’t afraid of its bitter-sweetness.

Imagine a girl who loves the whole thing of life,
Who doesn’t look for perfection. A girl who embraces all that life has to offer.

Imagine yourself as this girl.