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Heart Work – by Lisa Nelson-Haynes


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

Heart Work – by Lisa Nelson-Haynes

Emily Paulos

Lisa Nelson-Haynes and her husband, Eugene, make their home in Lansdowne, PA, with their two children, Olivia and Yannick. Lisa is the Associate Director of the Painted Bride Art Center, and in addition to bringing world-class art and artists to Philadelphia from around the region, nation and world, Lisa enjoys developing engagement activities that take the artist beyond the performance stage to further engage audiences in the creative process. Lisa has been facilitating digital storytelling workshops with the Center for Digital Storytelling for almost four years and often refers to her role in workshops as a midwife, assisting workshop participants through the birthing process of creating their digital story.

My work with the Center for Digital Storytelling is what I often refer to as my heart work. . . the work closest to my heart. . . work that isn’t work at all, but vital in keeping my head and spirit straight as I navigate, along with my husband, the raising of a young son and teen daughter, and managing the uncertainties of working in the non-profit arts sector. 

About eighteen months ago, Stefani Sese, CDS’s East Coast Regional Director, asked if I was available to co-facilitate a digital storytelling workshop with participants from the National Park Service (NPS) and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) “Digital Storytelling Ambassadors” program. This year is especially poignant as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and CDS, NPS, and ASALH are intent in collecting both the memories of elders who participated in the March, as well as reflections and thoughts of a generation who recently voted to re-elect the country’s first African American president.

I was caught completely off-guard by the emotions that washed over me as we began the introductions on the first day of the workshop. Participants included fellow Historically Black College & University (HBCU) undergraduate and graduate students and doctoral candidates, and NPS employees. This was my first opportunity to facilitate a workshop populated solely by African Americans – and culturally, storytelling in our African American community is usually an oral tradition.  Capturing our stories in a multimedia medium is another driving force in my commitment to doing this heart work.

William Douglass Kinard Ph.D, Grand Teton National Park He joined the National Park Service in1962, and listened from the mountains by radio to the 1963 March on Washington.
William Douglass Kinard Ph.D, Grand Teton National Park He joined the National Park Service in1962, and listened from the mountains by radio to the 1963 March on Washington.

Hearing in the Story Circle, and later watching in the workshop screening Tazwell Franklin’s story of learning his personal connection to the great historian and author Carter G. Woodson after only months of being immersed in the work and teachings of Mr. Woodson while digitizing his archives at the NPS; and Joy Kinard's story of following in the footsteps of her uncle, William Douglass Kinard, Ph.D, who integrated NPS as a ranger in 1962, I was reminded that absolutely nothing happens by happenstance and how fortunate we are to sometimes actually witness the connecting of the dots of our divine legacies.