Sharing Stories Saves the World

A lot of the work I’ve been doing lately centres on helping others tell stories, and telling my own story.

Recently, I started working at my university; I am the program coordinator for Queeries, an LGBTQ2 speakers bureau organised through the Queer Resource Centre here on campus. Queeries brings panels of folks with various orientations, genders, and intersectional identities to speak about their lives and experiences in college classrooms and the community. I just held the first training session for panelists, which focuses on orienting them to the program and helping them think about how to tell their stories in a time-limited but compelling way.

I also joined the Vanport Multimedia Project, collecting stories from survivors and family members of those who went through the 1948 flood of Vanport, Oregon, for a digital multimedia archive. Vanport was a war-time housing project for shipyard workers and their families. It was the second-largest city in Oregon, until it was obliterated by flooding on Memorial Day in 1948, and many of the residents scrambled to find housing in the aftermath. Some were also survivors of Japanese internment who had already lost all of their belongings, some were recent immigrants facing the difficulty of navigating a new place, and some were African Americans heavily impacted by redlining. We are performing video interviews, editing the videos, and then creating a video and transcript archive that will be freely available, so these stories can be shared instead of being lost.

I was accepted into the Black Girl Dangerous Editor-in-Training program, where we are learning to be editors for online publications, helping authors who submit refine their pieces for an internet audience. We are learning to be better writers ourselves, and will learn what makes an effective piece for online reading: what length to shoot for, what kinds of titles to use, how to shape pieces for BGD’s audience, and so on.

And now I’m in a group performance project about intersectional identities: 4 weeks of workshops ending in a performance where we will each share a personal story about our intersections and journeys. We’ve picked stories we want to tell, and have started generating important details to shape the narrative into an interesting, entertaining stage piece.

I’ve always believed in the power of storytelling: I’ve been participating in speaker’s bureaus for the last decade, and I’ve seen the understanding and interest that can be built through talking about our own identities. Recently, it’s become the focus of a lot of my life. This may be a natural extension of my work as a writer, but it’s the first time almost all of my work has focused on one thing, and it’s a pretty novel experience. I’m so excited for all of it, even if my workaholic tendencies are leaving me a bit frazzled.

I’ve seen over and over folks who have been told they’re uninteresting or unimportant gaining release and healing from sharing their stories and having them validated and affirmed by listeners. Especially for those of us from marginalised communities, who’ve often been made to feel pushed aside or ignored by oppressive systems, it is important to have spaces for this. These stories matter.

So here’s a question for you: what story do you want to tell, need to tell? What story is weighing down your heart? What story is resting like a stone in your belly? What story is buzzing in your brain, sticking in your throat? What story is filming over your eyes?

Whatever that story is, it’s important. I encourage you to tell it.

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