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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.

Filtering by Tag: civil rights

Black History Month: Stories and Storyteller Reflections

Root Barrett

February is Black History Month, and we couldn't imagine a better way to celebrate and honor it than by sharing some incredible stories from our All Together Now project on civil and human rights. With great admiration and appreciation for all the stories and storytellers in the project, we have selected a few stories to share with you here. 

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All Together Now: Featured on Upworthy

Root Barrett

Today is Martin Luther King Day. Fifty years ago, the Civil Rights Movement changed laws and minds, securing basic rights for many, through the actions of people who did what they knew to be right. At StoryCenter, we’ve been running a project called All Together Now, collecting intergenerational stories of civil and human rights from around the country.  Dr. King dreamed about a day when we would recognize each other by “the content of our character,” and storytelling allows us to do this – stories help us find out who we really are.

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I Too Dream an American Dream – by Eugenia Gardner

Root Barrett

My family’s history and active involvement in the Civil Rights movement began four generations ago in Selma, Alabama where my great-grandparents and their children tended cotton fields. As a child, I heard their intergenerational stories about sharecropping, Jim Crowism, and “Daddy King” around the dinner table. My grandmother, who recently turned 92, participated in the Bloody Sunday March with John Lewis and Dr. King. In the 1970s, when Shirley Chisholm ran for president, years before there was Hilary Clinton, my mother and Ms. Shirley took me with them to voter registration events every Saturday. I don’t think I knew what voting was, but I knew Dr. King had given up his life for my right to vote. I also knew that Dr. King and his fight for black civil rights would, in many ways, define me.

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To Stand Now Is to Tell Our Stories – by Tommy Orange

Root Barrett

I’ve been so excited about the good work being done through the All Together Now workshops across the country. Thinking back, I can’t really say I’ve had an opportunity – or I haven’t seen it ­– to take a stand, and to engage in the necessary civil disobedience required to go against the American grain. Even if it’s “only” telling our stories. If telling our stories is subversive to an ultimately damaging master narrative, then let our voices be like a march, and let them be heard by as many people as possible.

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Breaking Down Walls: All Together Now Civil and Human Rights – by Arlene Goldbard

Root Barrett

“I got very emotional when I read my story aloud in the first story circle before the recording. Probably it’s because November was the month when Esther passed away; this is the fifth anniversary of her death. When I said that line about the anniversary of her death, I just broke. I felt so vulnerable because I was embarrassed and then Mr. Westmoreland said, ‘Just breathe.’ That was when I was able to actually sit up and continue to read the rest of what I had written. Then when I actually did the recording, I didn’t cry. I started to get choked up toward the end, and I got choked up when Eugenia played it back. But when I actually recorded it, I didn’t cry. I’ll never forget that, when Mr. Westmoreland just said, ‘Breathe.’"

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The Point of Storytelling : All Together Now Civil and Human Rights – by Arlene Goldbard

Root Barrett

“When I told my story in our small breakout session, I got the whole point of storytelling. It’s a way to initiate conversation. That’s when other folks were asking me, ‘How is your brother a U.S. citizen, but you’re undocumented? How come your parents didn’t do it this way or that way?’ That’s when you actually sit down and have the conversation about this is how our legal system works. For example, my mother had her work sponsorship from 2001, and it wasn’t until like last year that her appeal for residency was even taken into consideration. That’s when you can talk about the 10-year backlog in our current immigration system. You can talk about what it’s like to be a youth living through that with no control of the matter. But it’s that initial storytelling that opens up that conversation.”

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A Southern Boy: All Together Now Civil and Human Rights – by Arlene Goldbard

Root Barrett

“I'm a Southern boy. I was born in Alabama. My dad was from Mississippi. This was in the Twenties and Thirties, and I grew up in an extremely segregated society. I ended up clearly outside—far beyond—the racial rage I was raised in as a child. I gave that up. There was something obscene about it.”

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The Artists’ Side: All Together Now Civil and Human Rights – by Arlene Goldbard

Root Barrett

“The March on Washington: I remember my parents being very afraid for me to go. You know, thinking something was going to happen. I was kind of afraid too, but I knew that I had to do this, that it didn't matter whether I lived or died. I was going to go peaceably. I wasn't trying to fight. I wasn't going to get arrested, but I wanted to be there.”

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Meet Them Where They Are: All Together Now Civil and Human Rights – by Arlene Goldbard

Root Barrett

Our All Together Now series of free civil and human rights Storied Session workshops is about bringing generations together to learn from each other what it means to stand for our rights. But it can be a challenge to make that learning reciprocal: how do you ensure that each generation feels equally welcome to listen deeply and speak truly? How can elders learn from youngers and vice versa?

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Nobody Ever Asked: All Together Now Civil and Human Rights – by Arlene Goldbard

Root Barrett

Philadelphia is a long way from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, but Lisa Haynes was thrilled to make the trip this past weekend to co-facilitate the very first half-day Storied Session in our free All Together Now series of civil and human rights workshops.

To the contrary, Lisa knows how important it is to bring the generations together for these groundbreaking conversations. “The stories that were around that table,” said Lisa, “we could have been there for four days getting very significant, rich stories about their experience in Elizabeth City dealing with racism and the civil rights movement. There is such a need to talk and have exchanges. It's just so unbelievable to me how deep the well is. The older people were like, ‘Oh, I can't wait to give this website to my grandchild so they can see.’ That's what they all wanted. The younger people left that workshop that much more empowered, understanding the history of this, that this is not the first time these challenges have happened. You can't discount that sort of exchange.”

 

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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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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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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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