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STORYCENTER Blog

We are pleased to present posts by StoryCenter staff, storytellers, colleagues from partnering organizations, and thought leaders in Storywork and related fields.

Grassroot Soccer

Ary Smith

Traditional and cultural norms in South Africa, coupled with the legacy of the systemic, state-sanctioned violence of Apartheid over generations, has fueled a society with one of the world’s highest rates of sexual and gender-based violence against adolescent girls and young women. The nature of patriarchy is long-standing and profoundly embedded in the country, and women’s stories are often forgotten and untold.

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Holding The Stories of Justice for the Uncertain Times Ahead

Ary Smith

I remember where I was when I heard the news about our current President-elect making comments about his ability to grab women's crotches without consequence. I remember it because, like so many other women, I’ve experienced this kind of groping, at the hands of an entitled male. For me, it was when I was 12. I'm still wondering how to talk about all of this with my feisty eight-year old daughter.

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The (somewhat uncomfortable) Process of Digital Storytelling, and Teachable Moments

Ary Smith

No big deal, I thought. As a historian, I pretty much write and tell stories for a living.

But then the story specialists at StoryCenter taught the other institute participants and I *how* to write a script for digital storytelling, and I began eyeing the door. Not because it was too big or difficult, but because it was so small and succinct. How was I going to tell a full story worth hearing in fewer than 250 words? I've probably written longer sentences than that!

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StoryCenter and Marie Stopes International: Stories of Sexual Health from Ghana

Ary Smith

In June 2014, the Marie Stopes International Ghana No Yawa project collaborated with the Center for Digital Storytelling’s Silence Speaks program to organize the first-ever digital storytelling workshop in Ghana. The workshop brought nine young people from regions around the country together to share stories about their sexual and reproductive health. 

Stories created during the five-day workshop were recorded in seven different local languages- a record number of different languages in a single workshop, in the 21-year history of the Center for Digital Storytelling. The young people who participated told personal stories of surviving and thriving in the aftermath of economic hardship, difficult relationships, teenage pregnancy, sexual assault, and sexually transmitted infections. Their powerful stories took shape as short films. The stories offer youth-friendly information, open up sensitive topics, and illustrate the need for improvements in adolescent sexual health services.

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Sowing Equity: An Interview with the Backyard Gardeners' Network

Ary Smith

"Honestly, that's the essence of Food Sovereignty: when you're growing your own food, you're controlling the production of your food, you're controlling everything about it.  To me, that also ties in to land ownership.

The Lower Nine once had the highest Black home ownership rate in the entire city and one of the highest around the country, over sixty-five percent. I think the tragedy is that so many people lost not just their homes, but their property, their land. If you have land, you can build a house on it, you can grow food on it. It's yours and no one can tell you to leave.

I think we play sort of a small part in the larger picture of the food justice efforts.  For me, it's very important for our community to honor positive, cultural values and the idea of self-reliance, the idea of health and close-knit community. During our programming, we've never really called out issues of Food Justice, or even really used that terminology, except with our youth interns.  But it is there.  

I led a training this past season that was specifically about Food Justice so the kids could understand the concepts. I feel like we're teaching the essence of Food Justice through influencing or reintegrating this idea of valuing quality food as a cultural tradition."

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Sowing Equity: Mandela Marketplace Takes Root in West Oakland, CA

Ary Smith

"In the 90's there was a discerned effort to figure out why communities, like West Oakland, were having specific elevated health issues – with assumptions food access, nutrition education, diet were correlated to ill health. So researches would come through, do these surveys and say, "Hey, you’re sick. You don't have access to healthy food." Community would be really bothered because they were like, "Obviously we know that. We live that every day" . . . After more thorough findings, there was a group of residents that asked, "Okay. This is more thorough information, but we're still talking about the problem. What are possible solutions?" This led to a planning grant to do some thinking with residents, some local agencies and other Community Based Organizations (CBO). This effort became the foundation of our work now. Our core question was, “How do we increase access to healthy food in our community, but do it in a way that also builds local economy?"

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Sowing Equity: Food Justice and Climate Change

Ary Smith

"Industrialized, globalized agriculture is a recipe for eating oil. Oil is used for the chemical fertilizers that go to pollute the soil and water. Oil is used to displace small farmers with giant tractors and combine harvesters. Oil is used to industrially process food. Oil is used for the plastic in packaging. And finally, more and more oil is used to transport food farther and father away from where it is produced.”

-Vandana Shiva, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis  

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Sowing Equity: Stories of Food Justice in the US

Ary Smith

As part of launching our Indiegogo campaign, we wanted to interview community partners about their program and perspectives on the Food Justice movement, as well ask them about to share stories of how this movement is transforming individuals within their community.  

Our first interview is with Catherine “Cat” Jaffee, the Director of Communications and Public Affairs for Re:Vision International in Denver Colorado. Catherine spent her first 25 years living in Ecuador, Japan, Australia, France, the US, and Eastern Turkey. She was a National Geographic Young Explorer, a Fulbright Scholar, a Luce Fellow, and the Founder of Balyolu: the Honey Road, in Turkey’s Northeast.  She worked in many countries with Ashoka, before joining Re:Vision.  You can view the digital story Cat created with StoryCenter online.

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And So the Story Continues... the Center for Digital Storytelling Becomes StoryCenter

Emily Paulos

The digital storytelling movement emerged from the odd cross section of community-based arts making, avant garde aesthetics, and digital media. The notion of story, and a very, very specific idea about the democratization of voice in the digital era, informed all aspects of the effort. Practitioners would use the educational process of media technology training to create a mechanism for enabling people whose stories were not being heard to make those stories visible. 
That movement, having grown to thousands and thousands of supporters around the planet, gathers again next week in Massachusetts, at the Voices of Change conference. We will celebrate the enormous growth and diversity of this work with presentations from nearly 160 practitioners, researchers, organizers, and creatives, from 20 countries.

That movement, having grown to thousands and thousands of practitioners around the planet, gathers again next week in Massachusetts at the Voices of Change conference, and we will celebrate the enormous growth and diversity of this work with presentations of nearly 160 practitioners, researchers, organizers, and creatives from 20 countries.  

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From the Vanderbilt Reporter: VUSN video workshop helps teens cope with type 1 diabetes

Emily Paulos

A group of adolescents gathered at the downtown Nashville Public Library last week for a three-day Digital Storytelling Workshop to learn how to write, edit and produce a video about managing their type 1 diabetes.

The project is part of research by Shelagh Mulvaney, Ph.D., associate professor of Nursing, and her team into the design, development and testing of a Web and mobile phone-based self-care support system for this population.

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Updates from StoryCenter's Public Health Programs - Summer 2015

Emily Paulos

New Public Health Webinar Series
For many years, the StoryCenter has been supporting researchers and community practitioners as they explore how storytelling can enhance public health promotion. This year, we share some of our best public health strategies through a series of new, two-hour webinars.

Stories for Food Justice
We at StoryCenter are excited to share a beautiful set of academic and community stories about paths to food justice, created through a collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture-funded Food Dignity project.

Seeding New Conversations about Sexual and Reproductive Health … in the United States and Abroad
Have you wondered when young people’s stories and voices will be taken seriously, when it comes to public conversations about sexual and reproductive health?

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Your Voice is Your Creativity: Building Safe Spaces for Creative Expression

Ary Smith

When I was seven years old, I was learning to draw by copying masterpieces. I had such confidence that I truly believed my drawings were superior. I look back on those drawings today and think “What naiveté”… and then I think, “How can I get that back?” How can I reclaim that belief in my ability to be stronger than my fear of how I might appear through others’ eyes?

Fast forward many years, and I’m sitting at my friend’s marathon poetry open mic, listening for five hours straight and never once participating. The entire time, an internal debate about whether I could or couldn’t write poetry ran through my head. I went home that night so frustrated that I chose to settle the argument by writing my first poem. The poem started like this: “You, yes You. Sitting there, just sitting there. I used to be you.” And from that moment on, the debate was over: I would not sit on the sidelines anymore; I would actively participate and learn to express my creativity. This was the start of my journey to what I call “reclaiming creative confidence.”

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Like Roosters - History and Hope at Stonebridge Farm

Ary Smith

“I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up.”                      
--Thoreau, Walden

On a trip to Cuba a decade ago to research sustainable agriculture, I arrived too late at the guest hostel in the southern, rural part of the island to see much of the hills surrounding us with palm trees in a small valley. I got my chance early the next morning when I was awoken by not one, not two, but what sounded like hundreds of roosters crowing all around me. I dressed quickly and went outside to find that roosters roamed freely in this village, strutting as lustily as Thoreau’s chanticleer. Roosters are undoubtedly more intent on alerting other roosters to their territory than on signaling transformation, but in El Valle del Gallo, as I called this place, I witnessed the power of roosters crowing in unintentional symphony at the dawn of another day.

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StoryCenter and Marie Stopes International: Stories of Sexual Health from Ghana

Ary Smith

Stories created during the five-day workshop were recorded in seven different local languages- a record number of different languages in a single workshop, in the 21-year history of the Center for Digital Storytelling. The young people who participated told personal stories of surviving and thriving in the aftermath of economic hardship, difficult relationships, teenage pregnancy, sexual assault, and sexually transmitted infections. Their powerful stories took shape as short films. The stories offer youth-friendly information, open up sensitive topics, and illustrate the need for improvements in adolescent sexual health services.

For many of the participants, the workshop represented the first time they had ever held a camera. After the group shared their stories, one participant, a No Yawa peer educator, said that even though she was sad to hear what others had spoken of, she was also moved to action. Another said “I am so humbled by all these stories. I always thought I went through the most terrible experience as a young boy until I heard others speak during the workshop. I feel so relieved after sharing my story, and I am happy I have shared it to help other young people.” 

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Sexual Assault Awareness Month: "See That Woman Over There"

Ary Smith

"Ruthie Jordan shares her survivor of sexual assault experience through this compelling short film. She continues to stand for justice on a collective scale for all women – especially for Jini Barnum, a woman who is no longer present to stand and see her own justice transpire. Often times Deaf women are not aware of their rights when such assault occurs. Ruthie has produced this film to ignite hope and inspire courage within her community to stop allowing power play coercion acts to occur and advocate for yourself – YOU are worth it!"

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Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Personal Stories and Policy Education in Nepal

Ary Smith

From the moment I met Bandana Rana in 2008, I sensed that we would work together. She runs SAATHI Nepal, which has for nearly twenty years been challenging violence and injustice against women at all levels of Nepalese society. We talked about the importance of bringing stories told by survivors into human rights dialogues, about the power of visual media, about the possibilities for storytelling in Nepal. It took time, but three years later the vision became a reality, when I traveled this past October to Kathmandu to begin a SAATHI – Silence Speaks Digital Storytelling partnership on the Voices for Justice project.

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Sexual Assault Awareness Month: "Listening . . . And Telling," a story by Elizabeth Ross

Ary Smith

In 2005 I was part of a group who produced stories about the impact of child sexual assault through StoryCenter’s Silence Speaks Initiative. Initially after viewing the stories at the end of the workshop, I felt curiosity and surprise at the immediacy of impact: I felt proud, visible, and necessary – quite different from how I had walked into the Berkeley lab feeling on the first day. What has become clear was that this process of internal re-structuring has continued to this day. Making Listening and Telling was the beginning.

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