I want my story to give hope, motivate people, make women resilient, and have an impact on our society. I would love for every woman out there to recognise my story and feel that relief of, “Yes I am a woman, and I am proud.”Read More
We are pleased to present posts by StoryCenter staff, storytellers, colleagues from partnering organizations, and thought leaders in Storywork and related fields.
Editor’s Note: This week, as we kick off our annual giving campaign, we’re pleased to feature StoryCenter staff and board member Andrea Spagat’s short interview with fellow board member Walt Jacobs, Dean of the College of Social Sciences at San Jose state University. We’re spotlighting social justice themes, in the campaign, and Walt has long been a champion for the role that digital storytelling can play, in and outside of the classroom, in supporting equity, learning, and action.
Andrea: Can you share with our readers how you were originally introduced to digital storytelling?
Walt: In early spring of 2008, I took a class on making short films. Halfway through the class, the instructor noted that my interests were more in line with digital storytelling than with traditional film making and suggested that I check out the Center for Digital Storytelling, as StoryCenter was then known. I explored the website, and decided to take a three-day workshop as a 40th birthday present to myself. That’s when I met you and Joe! [Joe Lambert, StoryCenter’s Executive Director.] I loved it from day one, and produced a digital story called “Letter to My Mother,” which thanked my mother for watching over me ever since she passed away just before my 10th birthday. Two years later I took a five-day intensive facilitator workshop, and a few years after that completed a one-day iPhone/iPad workshop. You and Joe were also the facilitators in the five-day intensive facilitator workshop, which was a wonderful experience. The one-day iPhone/iPad workshop also rocked!
Andrea: How have you integrated digital storytelling methods into your academic work?
Walt: When I took the three-day workshop in May of 2008, I was a department chair at the University of Minnesota. After returning to Minneapolis, I contacted the instructor of the short film class, who was a graduate student at the University of Minnesota. I said that we should co-teach a class on digital storytelling ASAP, and as a department chair, I could easily put it on the schedule. She agreed, and that fall we taught “Digital Storytelling in and with Communities of Color.” Along with another graduate student who was a student in the class, in 2010 we published an article about our experiences, “The Pedagogy of Digital Storytelling in the College Classroom.” In the spring of 2011, I co-taught the class again, but this time with a student who had been an undergraduate student in the 2008 class. She and I recently co-published an article about our experiences in the two classes, and beyond, “Learning and Teaching Digital Storytelling: A Student’s Journey into “Bravery Spaces.”
Andrea: What led you to come on as a member of our board?
Walt: In 2012, Joe interviewed me and three others for the “Digital Storytelling in Higher Education” chapter in the 4th edition of his book, Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community. The following year, 2013, I became a college dean, and the president of the university encouraged senior administrators to join boards of directors. I called Joe and volunteered my services to StoryCenter, since I was passionate about its work ever since my first exposure five years earlier, but he politely declined since I lived 1,800 miles away, and would rarely be able to attend meetings. In the summer of 2015, I moved to San José. I again contacted Joe, and reminded him that I was ready to join the board of directors, and this time he could not say no since I was just an hour away. In January of 2016 I moved even closer—to Oakland, which is next door to Berkeley.
Andrea: In the current political era, how do you see StoryCenter playing a role in championing stories of social justice?
Walt: StoryCenter has a crucial role to play in an era of heightened fear and paranoia. Exposure to real people’s real stories of social justice reminds us of the important voices that are increasingly being silenced as governments around the world pander to the most conservative aspects of society. Personal stories tell us that there are alternatives to a zero-sum analysis that divides the world into winner and losers. Additionally, StoryCenter’s community-based work fosters collective action by physically bringing together diverse casts of people to share stories and learn from each other.
Andrea: Anything else you'd like to add?
Walt: Two things. First, you should organize a reunion of my intensive facilitator workshop class, Andrea. Many of us are now Facebook friends. That’s nice, but an in-person gathering would be amazing. Second, for those readers who don’t know it, in the spring of 2018 StoryCenter will celebrate its 25th anniversary. I look forward to StoryCenter’s next 25 years!
I was fed a steady diet of stories as a child, and I became them. Many were about my mother’s childhood. She emigrated from Liverpool, England in the sixties and married an American, so daughter of an immigrant has always been one of the ways I defined myself. Like her, I talked funny, held a fork differently, and felt like a stranger.Read More
Why do people tell stories? My most immediate response would be that stories connect us to each other. A good story lets a listener dive into another place and time. A good story also links a teller and a listener together by inviting that listener to imagine. The great thing about stories is that they don’t live in a vacuum. Listeners are able to imagine because they pull from their own memories and histories. This is why stories are so meaningful, because the voices of storytellers recounting a lived experience remind us all that our paths through time are the threads that weave the complex tapestry called history.Read More
We sat around a table, shared our stories, comforted each other, and got it out in the open. We talked about our own naked truth -- stuff that some people in society could care less about, until it happens to them. The best part is, I met people like me who have hepatitis B or knew someone who had it.Read More
Anxiety about technology has a long-documented history. Plato thought the act of writing was a step backward for truth. Martin Luther decried the first bound books. Leo Tolstoy criticized the printing press. The New York Times claimed that the telephone would turn us into transparent heaps of jelly. The radio was a menace; the cinema was a fad; the computer had no market; and the television was nothing more than a plywood box. The backlash is persistent.Read More
During the workshop, participants were able to use the space to talk about complex issues, and through that process, they felt heard and connected to one another. Likewise, during the community story screening, the storytellers showed a strong sense of pride in their videos and participated with other community members in enthusiastic discussions about actions and next steps in climate and health activism.Read More
Challenging Stigma Online: The Impact of Being Forever Known for Your Private Tale – by Aspen Baker, Founder & Executive Director, Exhale
We don't always want to be known for the most vulnerable or emotional story of our lives. New York Times best-selling author of How to Be Black, Baratunde Thurston, once asked his live audience not to tweet or record his telling of a personal story at a public venue because he's "not interested in that story blowing up and getting lots of YouTube hits. I'm not interested in being KNOWN for it...the idea of people streaming and live-tweeting and uploading this personal, intimate tale felt like a violation."Read More
Human rights are, at their core, about caring—caring about other human beings, caring enough to mitigate and account for suffering, and caring enough to create legal remedies to cruelties that too commonly occur.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
Colorado’s Medicaid Buy-In provides healthcare to 6,000 working, tax-paying adults. If the American Health Care Act is passed, the state’s Medicaid program will lose $340 million in the first year, and my friends and neighbors may be forced to move away from the communities they’ve built and into nursing homes, in order to receive the support they need.Read More
My friend and art therapist, Dr. Paige Asawa, asked me to speak about my family’s immigration story because it represents the "little traumas," or little t’s, that can add up to big T’s, called cumulative trauma. She suggested that my family’s experience was an example of what trauma can look like over a long period time. The goal was for her students to hear the story so that they can better treat immigrant families in the future.Read More
Critical Conversations: An Interview with Stephanie Perron and Bárbara DaSilva with Sunny Hills Services’ Our Space Program for LGBTQ Youth
"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."Read More
The earliest memory I have is of music: I remember drifting off to sleep on my mother’s back, my ear pressed between her shoulder blades while she softly hummed an old Korean lullaby. I will never forget that feeling of warmth, safety, and love, wrapped in a simple melody.Read More
Storytelling moves people to do great things. Our campaigns have allowed women and girls to speak up (both anonymously and with their names), when previously many women and girls have been afraid to do so in public. They feared social ostracism and resisted being labeled as victims. Our work has also allowed men to speak up about their views on FGC.Read More
Working With Student Stories to Challenge Oppression on Campus: An Interview with Deandra Cadet, Director of InterAction
I still remember the feelings of inspiration and challenge I had, sitting in the audience of Show Some Skin: The Race Monologues my freshman year at Notre Dame. I was blown away by real, vulnerable, and diverse experiences of students at my own university on race, exclusion, and invisibility. Those stories challenged my own preconceived notions about how racism affects the way we move throughout the world.Read More
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.Read More
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!Read More