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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.

Four Little Girls: All Together Now Civil and Human Rights – by Arlene Goldbard

Root Barrett

“Four little girls were killed in Birmingham yesterday. A mad, remorseful, worried community asks, ‘Who did it, who threw that bomb?’ The answer should be ‘We all did it.’ Every last one of us is condemned for that crime and the bombing before it and the ones last month, last year, a decade ago. We all did it.”

This past Sunday marked the fiftieth anniversary of another bloody and tragic Sunday, one that inspired civil rights lawyer Charles Morgan to make the speech that starts with these powerful lines. On September 15, 1963, just a couple of weeks after the massive March on Washington for Jobs and Justice, a member of the Ku Klux Klan bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young girls: three 14 year-olds—Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley—and 11 year-old Denise McNair. The bomber was initially convicted only of possessing dynamite, receiving a six-month sentence and a $100 fine. It took 14 years to bring him to justice: the case was reopened in 1971, and he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1977.

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StoryCenter Partners with WeVideo and Takes Digital Storytelling to the Cloud

Root Barrett

Berkeley, CA (September 16, 2013) – Center for Digital Storytelling (StoryCenter) is sharing its expertise in powerful personal storytelling with video editors and content developers across the WeVideo user spectrum.

"The world is moving to the cloud, and so is Digital Storytelling with the enormously innovative online tool WeVideo," says Joe Lambert, Founder and Director of the Center for Digital Storytelling. "The cross platform, affordable, and easy-to-use editor has the potential to revolutionize the practices of Digital Storytelling in countless contexts. We can see teachers creating collaborative projects in international educational exchanges, small companies encouraging storytelling about their engagement with customers with the customers themselves, social service and human rights advocates working in new partnerships with local communities via the web, and many, many more uses. We are more than pleased to join forces with WeVideo."  

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Standing Up in Elizabeth City: All Together Now Civil and Human Rights – by Arlene Goldbard

Root Barrett

"We get caught up in ignoring what happened in the past. I even have people in my own family who don't like to talk about the civil rights movement because it was a very difficult time for them. It's tough for them to speak on it," said Montravias King, a senior at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina. "But it's important that my generation know, that we be reminded of the struggles of our grandparents, our great-grandparents. That will make us more appreciative of the freedoms that we have now. And in return, when things come up that threaten our voting rights, we'll react more swiftly and say, ‘Hey! We recognize this. We've seen this before. We may not have been through it, but we recognize this, so we're not going to allow our right to vote to be taken back, to be suppressed.’"

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Crossing Borders: All Together Now Civil and Human Rights – by Arlene Goldbard

Root Barrett

"It was very obvious, it was really very visceral and very upfront what people's prejudices and stereotypes were when I was a kid growing up," Alberto Olivas told us, describing his early childhood in rural Georgia in the seventies. Alberto directs the Center for Civic Participation for the Maricopa Community College District in Phoenix, Arizona. Next month, we'll be offering one of our very special series of free Storied Session workshops across the U.S. at the Urban League in Phoenix, and Alberto was explaining why he supports this project. All Together Now: Intergenerational Stories of Civil and Human Rights is aiming to bridge the generation gap and honor a legacy by engaging elders and young people in sharing stories of standing up for hard-won rights.

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Renewing A Legacy, Connecting Generations: All Together Now Civil and Human Rights – by Arlene Goldbard

Root Barrett

Dr. Eugenia Gardner, an oral historian and digital storytelling facilitator-in-training, attended the 50th Anniversary March on Washington this past Saturday. She joined thousands in honoring the civil rights pioneers who gathered fifty years ago today, on August 28, 1963, for the original March on Washington for Jobs and Justice. She has been helping StoryCenter to organize and lead a very special series of free Storied Session workshops across the U.S. All Together Now: Intergenerational Stories of Civil and Human Rights is aiming to bridge the generation gap and honor a legacy by engaging elders and young people in sharing stories of standing up for hard-won rights. . .

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Remembering – by Zoe Jacobson

Root Barrett

Being on the administrative team at the Center for Digital Storytelling, my storytelling skills are rarely called upon. My creativity and relatability are spent on website maintenance and email exchange – tasks which aren't storytelling as much as they are conveying information. 

Of course, my initial introduction to and love for the Center for Digital Storytelling was based on storytelling – not necessarily because I consider myself a great storyteller, but because I am a listener and an appreciator of story. In fact, for a long time I considered myself to be not a great storyteller at all. I stutter my way through sentences; I forget punchlines and other important details; I crack myself up thinking about the funny parts before I get to actually telling them. . .

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Grandpa – by Holly McClelland

Root Barrett

When I took the 3-day workshop at Stonebridge Farm, outside of Boulder, CO, in June of 2011, I thought, “Well, yes!” My good friend, Cyns Nelson, had given me her spot. Or told me about a spot that had opened up. I can’t remember which. But I was in.

I asked if my partner at the time, Annie, could come take the workshop, too. Yes was the answer.

Around the story circle, I had decided I’d tell the story about my grandpa, who was 89 at the time. And I’d write and tell about how he’d learned to fly airplanes at the age of 73. Ah, how easy that story would be. How safe. I’d always admired and loved him, and felt honored to tell a part of his story.

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All Together Now: Generations Sharing Stories of Civil and Human Rights

Root Barrett

For those who cherish civil and human rights, this is a year of many anniversaries. One is very much on our minds right now: the epochal events of August 28, 1963, when 250,000 Americans joined the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." StoryCenter is planning a series of free All Together Now Storied Sessions as our gift to communities across the nation this fall. If you like the idea, we'd love to hear how you can help. We'll announce the schedule in coming weeks, so please watch this blog for information on how to take part. 

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What listening to a story does to our brains...

Root Barrett

In another case of science sort of proving what we’ve known for a long time, the following article contains powerful, useful, and practical information. The article’s only flaw might be that it wasn’t written as a story itself.

It’s always a good thing to confirm and even harmonize brain science and knowledge of mind, in this case: What we feel is true about stories and what that actually looks like brain activity wise. Because a brain is a strange thing, and one we aren’t near understanding. It’s tricky because we’re using our brains to try to figure out our brains, which sort of seems doomed at the outset, like trying to see your eyes with your eyes, or to touch the tip of your finger with the very same tip of your finger. But, I think, it is important to try to know, and we can use all the help we can get. That’s what I really liked about this article; it’s so straightforward, relative to the work that I’m interested in, and it comes with directions at the end...

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BackStory: Guru McDonald – by Brooke Hessler

Emily Paulos

I was driving fast through the Ozarks when I saw Ronald McDonald sitting like a yogi on the side of the highway. I was in a hurry: I had a frequent guest discount at Deb’s Motel in Paragould, Arkansas and wanted to get there before dark. My Chevy Sprint had no air conditioner so I drove with all the windows down, blasting Depeche Mode and New Order. I was 21, working as a sales rep on straight commission covering Oklahoma, Arkansas, and northern Louisiana for a novelty show room in Dallas...

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Backstory – Ronald

Emily Paulos

His name was Ronald. Not Ron. He made certain everyone knew that. He worked at an independent coffee shop I occasionally visited. While I admit I found Ronald cute, we had never done more than exchange small talk. That changed one hot Sunday afternoon during an open-mic poetry reading the coffee shop was hosting. I arrived late, just after he had finished serving a long line of readers and listeners. The first poet was adjusting the mic, and rather than make her compete with the whirr of the blender, I simply grabbed a bottled water out of the cooler. Ronald didn’t say a word as he rang up my drink and took my money...

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BackStory: Call for Submissions

Emily Paulos

What's the BackStory? You write it.

Here's how BackStory works:

Someone submits a photo, and we ask our readers to write and submit their 250-300 word BackStory – what they think the story behind the photo is... everything you can't see in the picture.

The owner of the photo, Brooke Hessler, will pick her favorite BackStory submission, and we'll post it, along with the real BackStory!

Send us your version by Monday, July 15th to: blog@storycenter.org.

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Better Than a T-Shirt – by Teresa Barch

Emily Paulos

When I decided to create a digital story about a recent Intro-to-Facilitation Training Workshop – while I was attending it – I already knew what the first and last lines would be. In fact, I had written them down in my notebook on the plane. I was that sure. The middle, though, was still a mystery. My plan was to soak up those details in between, to pay close attention to the chemical reaction that would begin the moment all sixteen of us came together.

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Strangers in a Strange Land… No More – by Allison Myers

Emily Paulos

“I told myself then, 'Never forget this day,'" Mohammed Alyaqubi tells me while I eat dinner with him and his mother, Khalida, my friends who are refugees from Iraq. "I came home from school – I remember what I was wearing. I threw my bag down and the phone rang. ‘Congratulations – on June 11 you have a flight to the U.S.’ We started dancing, turned on the radio, Mom cried."

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Fight the Flat: Open the Floodgates with Emotional Stories – by Aspen Baker

Emily Paulos

“We are wary of listening to stories that we think are being told to manipulate our emotions or push us to believe a certain way,” said Francesca Polletta, author of It Was Like a Fever: Storytelling in Protest and Politics in a phone call with me last year. “On the other hand,” she says, “ambivalent stories, stories with no clear moral agenda, invite the listener to imagine themselves in the story. True engagement happens when the listener can see multiple outcomes for a story and is able to come to their own conclusions.”

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BackStory: Otto – by Daniel Weinshenker

Emily Paulos

I don’t have any bumperstickers on my car.

I noticed this a few years ago. Nothing… and justified it by saying that I didn’t need to share my views with anyone.

But I didn’t have any. Truth.

It was probably my dad, leaning against the oxidized green Volvo sedan, who took it. It can’t imagine it had been anyone else.

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Elizabeth's Story – by Amy Hill

Emily Paulos

“With the creation of a narrative, a fragmented present tense becomes a coherent past tense. To narrate one’s life is to have agency. To know and feel this agency is important for everyone, especially for those who have been victimized.” – Michelle Citron, 1999

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