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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.

Holding The Stories of Justice for the Uncertain Times Ahead - By Andrea Spagat

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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Social Justice Blog Series: An Interview with Becca Garcia, Creator of, “I Am Enough”

Ary Smith

It wasn’t until the Project SURVIVE storytelling workshop at StoryCenter that I was able to openly and honestly talk about what had happened. I feel that there are a lot of people who have experienced something similar to what I went gone through, and I just couldn’t be silent anymore. I didn’t want this to have power over my life any longer!

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Storyteller Reflection: Young Women Participants From Our Community College Initiative Project

Ary Smith

I witnessed my own evolution, from the insecure photographer to the confident one. I saw how the chains from within were holding me back, and when other doors opened, I walked right in. I have a story, and it is being told. I really hope all women can hear it. I hope they will be braver to be what they want to be.

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Finding My Identity as an Afghan-American

Ary Smith

When I was in kindergarten, I remember befriending other first or second-generation American children, who like me, were silently confused. Imagine being surrounded by kids your age and a teacher who doesn’t speak your language and doesn’t know your culture. Some days, I came home in tears, grieving for the challenge my parents had presented to me– an American birth and an Afghan background.

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How a Restaurant in Kabul Empowers Survivors of Violence Against Women

Ary Smith

Bost Restaurant is a social enterprise owned and managed by Afghan women. The woman who founded it, Mary Akrami, is a longtime advocate for women’s rights, and the wait staff are survivors of gender-based violence. 

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My Mother Makes Me Proud to Be an Afghan Woman

Ary Smith

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, I’ve been thinking a lot about the women who inspire and empower me. The one woman who has always made me proud to be an Afghan woman is my mother, and this childhood memory illustrates exactly why.

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Project News: Putting the “Public” Back into Public Health Through Our Work With the Rocky Mountain Public Health Training Center

Ary Smith

A story provides a connecting point. Data and statistics are an important part of public health, but so is storytelling. One of the elements that has been exciting about our work with StoryCenter is the opportunity to provide public health professionals with additional tools for the public education and health promotion work they do.

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Project News: Celebrating Immigrant Youth Stories of Resistance

Ary Smith

Last April, StoryCenter collaborated with the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM) and the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco on a digital storytelling workshop with a group of immigrant and refugee youth attending Mission High School in San Francisco. These young people had been organizing an all high school youth-led social justice leadership project over a period of 12 months with support from their adult allies. 

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Storyteller Reflection: The Story Never Ends

Ary Smith

I went to my first StoryCenter digital storytelling workshop in August of 2014, at the old Lighthouse Writers Building in Denver. It was a summer I will not soon forget. I’d just learned of my sister’s diagnosis of stage four lung cancer, the same disease that had claimed my mother’s life barely a year before. 

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"Gathering Strength" Digital Stories: Immigrant & Refugee Communities Ending Violence

Ary Smith

For four years, the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence (API-GBV) has been leading the Gathering Strength project (GS), which holds an overarching theme of storytelling as it supports California’s API immigrant and refugee communities in ending violence. In August of 2016, project advisors and participants came together for 2.5 days, to strengthen and expand the GS community, honor and celebrate individual and collective accomplishments, and co-create a bold vision for the next phase of this work.

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Afghan Women Create Powerful Videos with StoryCenter’s Silence Speaks

Ary Smith

As an Afghan woman myself, in these stories I find bits and pieces of my own life and the lives of women I have lived and worked with. Spoken in plain language, the authenticity of these stories is like a breath of fresh air in a world where the diversity of Afghan women’s own voices is often missing from conversations that others have about us.

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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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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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Critical Conversations: An Interview with Stephanie Perron and Bárbara DaSilva with Sunny Hills Services’ Our Space Program for LGBTQ Youth

Ary Smith

"The young people we worked with were open, raw, honest, self-reflective, and intentional throughout the digital story making process. They showed such kindness and fierce love towards one another as they learned technical video making skills and supported each other in processing feelings related to their stories."

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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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