Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. . . . Want to make a point or raise an issue? Tell a story. —Janet Litherland (1991)
In his keynote speech for the 2014 Imagining America National Conference, Doug Shipman, founding Chief Executive Officer of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, GA, argued that engaged storytelling has the power to activate the emotional and intellectual curiosity of an audience, and has radical potential for scholars, artists, and activists engaged with issues of social justice.
This article, a collection of vignettes written by members of the 2014–2015 Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) program, recounts our uses of engaged storytelling within our respective academic, artistic, spiritual, and activist communities. Our definition of engaged storytelling is drawn from Shipman's keynote address, in which he asserted that engaged storytelling, alongside techniques for inviting communities to connect with those outside our own place or time, can activate radical praxis for collective memory, contemplation of civil and human rights, and attempts at reconciliation. Engaged storytelling has the capacity to illuminate history, time, and experience through narratives that invite listeners to find their respective places within these stories, and to actively move beyond them. In many regards, it is through storytelling that we come to know ourselves and begin to interact with the world around us.
Engaged storytelling has a vibrant history beyond and within the academy, and often gestures back to practices of oral history and communal genealogy. Indigenous communities and communities of color within the United States have had to rely heavily on oral tradition and engaged community-based storytelling in order to speak and write themselves into American history. Activists and scholars within the academy have built upon and contributed to these traditions, further complicating the relationships between researchers and the objects/subjects they study (Tuhiwai Smith 1999; Ngai 2004; Taylor 2003), as well as inserting particular bodies and experiences into previously exclusive fields and literatures (Reed 1998; Lonetree 2012). It is important to ground both Shipman's practice, as well as our own, within these historical legacies, in order to demonstrate the potential of storytelling toward political activism efforts, as well as revisionist history projects (Du Bois  1998; Anzaldua 1997; Piatote 2013). For Shipman and ourselves, our personal experiences are political, and the stories we tell sometimes work against the grain of social, cultural, political, and historical narratives. Furthermore, our efforts to practice collective storytelling in this piece are not entirely unique. As literary scholar Deborah Brandt postulates, "We need to have many, many different kinds of persons naming and working on the issues of public interest" (Brandt et al. 2001, 43). Thus, we take up Shipman's call to action and Brandt's assertion regarding exemplary practice, in order to meditate on the medium and methods of storytelling, and their impact on our pedagogies and creative and scholarly processes.
This article emerged from our collective desire to focus on storytelling as a methodology and vital practice; it draws on weeks of collective dialogue and telling stories of our own that reflect the central concerns, successes, and debates of those conversations. Shipman's keynote continues to inspire and compel us to think through the possibilities of storytelling as a communal and educational resource, and to reflect on how our own experiences and practices can be mobilized to achieve positive change. The vignettes that follow explore each collaborator's unique experience with and practices around engaged storytelling.
Like many who teach required courses in the humanities, I often find myself asking the same question Shipman recounted at the beginning of his keynote: "How do I get them to care about these stories?"
The success of a course, or even an individual class period, almost always hinges on whether the students care enough about the material—or what is at stake within it—to weigh in on the subject. As an academic, I see the value in every text we discuss, but often, just getting the students to read the assigned texts is a struggle. Hence, I have been working to refocus my pedagogical efforts toward immersing students in the material, so they have an investment in it. I believe that there are great possibilities for enhancing the experiences of both students and teachers in general education courses, such as composition and literature, by developing and nurturing the natural progression from reading and writing to doing and reflecting.
Currently, my first-year composition students are involved in cultural artifact and ancestry research for their final papers. In order to prepare them for such personal, in-depth work, we began the semester with discussions of names, namesakes, and identity, by reading narratives by Booker T. Washington, Maya Angelou, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Sherman Alexie, and Firoozeh Dumas, among others. Next, we practiced observation and observational writing, wherein the students had to put themselves outside of their cultural comfort zones—either as detached spectators or participant observers—and reflect on what they witnessed and/or experienced. The reflective nature of both the narrative and observational essays prepared the students for the cultural work necessary for the final research paper, in which they have to navigate and negotiate their roles in the stories they are telling. This is a difficult task for many, let alone students who are newly self-identifying as adults, and yet they have astounded me with the creativity and gravity of the subjects they have chosen to write about. One student is researching her great grandfather, who was one of the two officers that arrested Rosa Parks on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama; another student is researching his purported ancestor, Samuel L. Mudd, the doctor imprisoned for conspiring with John Wilkes Booth in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln; and another is researching antique gin bottles his father found in a river in Africa, and their relation to the Dutch slave trade. These students are finding out about themselves—along with aspects of local, national, and world histories—by researching the stories behind their stories, even though some of the things they unearth may be difficult to process.
Nevertheless, many of the students working on these cultural artifact and ancestry projects are excited to learn where they (or the objects they are studying) fall in the great scheme of history. Addressing the unfinished and/or ongoing nature of their own stories in first-year writing—especially through archival research, where they can dig into a subject that is personal, but that still has an overarching cultural significance and/or contemporary relevance—will aid them in grasping the importance of material in subsequent courses. Additionally, challenging first-year students with composition and research assignments in which they are personally invested not only implies that their individual stories matter, but suggests that they themselves are capable of doing and learning more than they imagined in courses outside of their respective majors.
My observations and students' feedback give me confidence that those doing this type of historical research early in their college careers will be well equipped to listen to and appreciate the storied histories of others, since they have already been encouraged to find their own roots, explore family and regional folklore, and explain how and why their stories are our stories. In literature courses, we encourage students to think about why historical texts are still relevant, and how they relate to or inform the students' twenty-first-century lives. Using Marshall Ganz's "Telling Your Public Story: Self, Us, Now" (2007) as a guideline for this practice, instructors can design first-year writing assignments that encourage students to tell a sustained story of selfhood. Then, in literature and other courses—especially those within the arts and humanities—students will be more likely recognize the "story of us" when reading significant primary and secondary critical texts, when studying a piece of art, or viewing artistic and/or theatrical performances. And finally, stressing that these narratives are ongoing, and encouraging students to apply what they are learning about the past to "speak into existence an ideal future," as Shipman put it, positions them to understand both as the unfinished stories (and histories) of then and now.
Developing visual literacy is a central goal within my classroom at the University of Southern California (Los Angeles). When teaching difficult content in courses like Race & Class in the US, Introduction to the African Diaspora, and Black Social Movements in the US, the stories we as educators tell are imperative for student engagement with particular historical legacies for which they have been preconditioned for apathy, if not complete refusal. As a visual studies scholar, I recognize images within a media driven culture as rich and textured sites for reimagining and telling engaged stories. Photographs specifically shape and inform our collective memories while constructing our very immediate futures through social media, popular culture, news, and even educational materials.
Doug Shipman discussed the importance of both the dramatic and the non-iconic within his own practice, both of which pose interesting challenges and possibilities in developing and conveying visual literacies within our storytelling. For example, Shipman urges storytellers to not shy away from the dramatic aspects of civil rights struggles in our nation's past. When encountering images from this past, both the dramatic and the more mundane aspects of daily struggle are captured and framed not only for their documentary potential, but also, through repetition and representation, to either hold up or refute our collective memories. Where oral traditions run the risk of being less dynamic when non-iconic figures are centralized, something entirely different happens within photographic storytelling repertoires. Moving away from the iconic images of American history allows visual storytellers and their audiences an opportunity to create new sites of meaning and collective memory rooted in the daily struggles around civil and human rights.
Last week I transformed my Black Social Movements lecture into an interactive media lab, where students were asked to formally decode and contextually analyze clusters of visual material around the central themes and debates of our course, thus far. I asked them, in effect, to mine photographic images for the stories they reveal and the past and/or present they account for. Providing students with a visual language to discuss composition, such as frame, setting, and vantage point, allowed for more complex stories to be read from the images they selected. This vocabulary, alongside an understanding of visual elements and photographic terminology, such as representation, space, repetition, theme, and focus, enabled students to move away from their initial reactions to each set of photos toward a more nuanced comprehension of the image as form, evidence, and expression.
Through their developing visual literacies, my USC undergraduates were able to draw on visual materials from the ever-growing Black Twitter and Tumblr Movements, such as those found at #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, #DangerousBlackKids, #WeAreTrayvonMartin, and #APHeadlines. Other students provided formal and contextual readings of the expanding online digital archive Digital Diaspora Family Reunion: A New Kind of Genealogy, which emerged as a repository for images collected for the film Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People (2014).
The result of this exercise was quite stunning. A class of predominantly white and Asian international students, from mostly middle-to-upper-class backgrounds, narrated almost poetically, the richness and depth of such online visual archives. The stories they relayed were both formally rich and contextually moving as they found themselves confronted with histories they had been following in the past, alive and well in their present. Using the sociological definition of a social movement and the components for identification known as WUNC Displays (Worthiness, Unity, Numbers, and Commitments), these undergraduates were able to locate the stories of their present on the continuum of our past. They located images as an integral part of collective memory and as translations of embedded stories through visual literacies.
Thus, storytelling is not simply a method available to those with a particular experience or expertise, but can and should be accessible to those still writing themselves into our national histories and collective memories moving forward. These privileged young thinkers were able to share in and communicate stories of the oppressed, the enraged, the broken, and the dead through developing visual literacy skills. As an educator invested in the power of engaged storytelling, I hope that these students will approach visual objects differently, especially those treating black and brown bodies. Beyond the histories and these images, I hope lessons in critical and dynamic thinking will move off the screen and out of interactive media lectures to affect change within the daily interactions and lived experiences of my students and those with whom they engage.
As an educator in art museums, collective memory and engaged storytelling are the strategies I use in order to engage the public in connecting past and present. Every tactic in a museum educator's toolkit—such as asking open-ended questions, cocreating a visual analysis of an object with visitors, incorporating visitors' personal experiences and ideas, and weaving objects and stories into larger narratives—boils down to expanding collective memory and facilitating engaged storytelling. Using these strategies and a little creative thinking, even the most abstract artwork or unconventional artifact on display at a museum can be activated toward connecting the historical and the contemporary. For instance, I have used a Félix González-Torres candy spill in order to initiate conversations about child labor, queer portraiture, and white privilege; a collection of mid-century American Christmas cards has provided a starting point for discussing gender norms, childhood, and epistolary practices.
But I want my museum education practice to extend beyond connecting the historical and the contemporary — I want to use collective memory and engaged storytelling to collectively envision and enact a future of social justice. While cocreating curriculum and co-facilitating tours for the Love and Labor: Domestic Workers as Community Docents program at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, I came close to this goal of museum education as social justice practice. Love and Labor was a collaboration between the museum and the Chicago Coalition of Household Workers, in which Chicago domestic worker-organizers and museum educators co-facilitated tours and dialogues about historical and contemporary domestic work and labor activism.
My favorite moment of co-facilitating Love and Labor tours was often the "step forward" activity. The co-facilitators and visitors would stand in a circle, and would step forward if they agreed with or embodied each statement as it was read:
|Step forward if you participate in childcare, cooking, cleaning, yard work, pet care, or other paid work at someone else's home or your workplace.|
|Step forward if when you do this paid work, you consider it an act of labor. Step forward if when you do this paid work, you consider it an act of love.|
|Step forward if you feel appreciated for the paid work you do.||Step forward if you participate in childcare, cooking, cleaning, yard work, pet care, or other unwaged work at home.|
|Step forward if you participate in this unpaid work for a family member. Step forward if when you do this unpaid work, you consider it an act of labor.|
|Step forward if when you do this unpaid work, you consider it an act of love.|
|Step forward if you feel appreciated for the unpaid work you do.|
This activity was often punctuated with chatter and laughter, as individuals comically wavered over whether to step forward or when the inner and outer circles split along lines of gender or age. We would always follow this activity up with a free-form debrief for participants in order to share their reactions, make observations or connections, or ask questions.
There is much I like about this activity. Its use of embodied pedagogy—using movement instead of words—allows everyone to participate as equals and to be "heard," including those who might not be comfortable speaking to a group. It allows participants to activate their own personal memories and experiences as part of a larger narrative. It is a way for us to tell a story together about one group of individuals, in one space, in one moment in time, about our own experiences and values and ways of knowing. It allows us to acknowledge the work of historical and contemporary domestic workers whose stories we will never know. It allows us to consider how inequities in wages, power, and respect indicate how different types of work are valued. It allows us to explore how domestic work tends to be unwaged, not understood as labor, and conducted primarily by women, people of color, and immigrants. It allows us to see how domestic work can be invisible, and that this invisibility leads to low wages, the pervasiveness of a "second shift" of unpaid work at home, and the undervaluing of work executed by women, people of color, and immigrants (Radke 2013a; Radke 2013b). As this activity indicates, museum educators can use collective memory and engaged storytelling in order to imagine ways of moving forward in the fight for social justice.
Historians tell stories for a living. Sometimes, my students fight me on this statement. They do not want to see the process of accounting for the past as a fallible, subjective, and narrative project that is often just as reflective of contemporary concerns as it is a record of events in the past. Thinking about history this way is scary, because it means there is rarely a "right" answer. Historians are called on to reconcile competing and often contradictory accounts of a single event, to read sources with sensitivity and nuance in order to tell a coherent and compelling story about the past. Like other kinds of storytelling, this is a creative project that requires historians to know how to draw readers into the stories we tell, and authoritatively offer an account of life in a sometimes-distant time and place. But in a classroom, we must also find ways to signal that any particular history is always an inchoate narrative that privileges the experiences of some historical actors over others.
Like Shipman's notion of engaged storytelling, active learning techniques are particularly useful for getting people excited about a historical event or phenomenon outside their current range of interests. While this kind of engagement is often the most satisfying aspect of teaching for me, I seek ways to integrate these two modes—sparking interest through the use of sensory learning techniques and making apparent the subjective nature of historical analysis.
In order to get students thinking about the material conditions of life for historical actors, I stress that being a historian requires students to think outside their own historical context. I structure my classes around active learning techniques, asking my students to practice different ways of engaging with primary source materials, ranging from texts to images to artifacts. Drawing on techniques from archaeology, performance studies, art history, and critical ethnic studies, I encourage my students to approach historical sources with their own bodies.
Active learning techniques became central to my teaching in a class that focused on the production and consumption of American consumer goods. The students learned to sew by hand when we read about the introduction of the sewing machine, because they needed to understand what a revolutionary piece of technology this machine really was. As they sat in class trying to thread their needles without drawing blood, I heard yelps of frustration and more than a couple comments about how hard the process was on their eyes. After the students attempted to sew a straight running stitch about two inches long, we examined all of the finished products and talked about the ways that the sewing machine could standardize the products of garment workers labor and speed up the manufacturing process. My students reflected on how much they would have to practice to become competent at sewing, and what kind of activities in their own lives they might have to give up in order to gain such a skill.
Regardless of how closely they follow my instructions, students struggling with a simple running stitch cannot really understand what it was like to be a young immigrant woman doing piecework in a tenement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the first years of the twentieth century. Our classroom is bright and has a projector and relatively comfortable chairs. Moreover, few of these students had even touched a sewing needle before this lesson. The danger in this method is that such a technique can sometimes suggest too much of a sense of ownership over a historical event. If students walk away from such an activity thinking that they now understand what life was like for turn-of -the-century sweatshop workers, then I have not situated the lesson in a rich enough historical context that bespeaks how such experiences, and thus records of these experiences, are always shaped by the intersectional identity of the storyteller.
Still, I use active learning techniques because they are a way to get students to pay attention, and to realize that there are ways of being in the world that exceed their own experiences. I see these moments in class as affective hooks. In the setting of my classroom, sensory experiences such as this can activate otherwise dormant excitement about the past in students with no experience in studying the period or events in question. Unexpected challenges, such as learning how to sew in a history class, trouble my students' orientation towards the past and invite further questions. Such a technique can also, as historian Leora Auslander has argued (Auslander et al. 2009), make more advanced students better readers, because they have a new attunement to the ways that the physical experience of sewing appears in primary source texts.
In order to work through the problem of sensory experience prompting a false sense of understanding, I encourage students to recognize their personal distance from the subject positions of historical actors. I ask students to consider historical events from the subject position of multiple actors—i.e., how a single Irish mother in search of work, a black male postal worker with four children, and a wealthy white matron with six children might have responded to the strike of black laundresses in Atlanta in 1881. These discussions are framed within clear historiographical bounds; in this case, students read passages from Tera Hunter's To 'Joy My Freedom (1997) and a selection of primary source documents that helped them elucidate these positions. Exercises like this generally result in students having a better grasp of the historical event in question, and also the awareness that written histories are a synthesis of many different kinds of evidence, each of which was produced from a historically contingent subject position.
I ask my students to use their bodies in historical lessons in order to understand how to be good allies for historically oppressed groups that fall outside their own subject positions, both past and present. Active learning helps students become better storytellers, offering them an additional linguistic repertoire through which to describe historical experience, and a different orientation to the past. Experiential learning techniques must, however, be framed within conversations around the limits of simulatory experiences. Spending class time in open conversation about what experiential learning obscures is crucial for helping students develop into scholars who can approach historical narratives with excitement, without succumbing to the tempting notion that they are reading the definitive account of any particular event. Historical narratives necessarily privilege certain subjectivities over others. When students recognize how these narratives are constructed, they are also able to see how the stories they tell can greatly impact the construction of a more just, civil society today.
As a performer and movement workshop facilitator, I am continually exploring the expression of ideas/ideologies beyond words. The body has incredible potential for relaying stories and cultivating collectivity through vulnerability. Shipman speaks to the work that can be done through engaged storytelling, and acknowledges how intimacy among group members is vital for this process to be successful. My experiences have shown that we can reach these areas of exploration and generative understanding through embodiment and physical forms of empathy.
In my Theater of the Oppressed workshops (see Boal 1985), I emphasize using the body to express personal/social concepts amongst a group of participants. In Image Theater, members position each other within their individual perspective, each having the opportunity to take on that role/desire/ideology/emotion (kinesthetic empathy through human sculpting). Someone else's very physical interpretation of a situation becomes another participant's reality, and a story is passed on from mind to body. Following the image making, the discussion goes from the emotional/psychological/political content of the moment to how each member interpreted their actions in a broader social context — a single word or phrase can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to embody and examine.
For example, a woman may sculpt a man within her interpretation of gender inequality. This, in turn, could create a foundational empathetic awareness through the senses of touch, sight, and proprioception that can easily prompt a dialogue about how it feels to physically take on another gender's perspective on the issue. Based on what each participant offers through embodiment, the exercise elucidates each person's own role in the historically charged themes that permeate the workshop. An energetic connection amongst the participants is forged when that sensuous barrier is breached, communicating a necessary intimacy. I believe this is what drives members to eventually think critically about their perspectives and their stake in the lives of other individuals, simply through the influence of touch and the very intentional transgression of privacy. When we are forced to be moved, quite literally, by another, we cannot tune out their voice or pretend they do not exist. We have to take on their affects, which makes us entirely vulnerable and much more open to creating invaluable connections that extend beyond words into actions.
These sessions are reimaginings of the self through the other. Placing my own body and agency literally in the hands of a stranger is an act of surrender that explores how I may take on a form unfamiliar to myself and actually become something I wasn't or hadn't ever thought I would become. Through embodiment practices or words, the stories we tell have this potential, by lending themselves to the rest of the audience, to actively engage with the content and to structure it as it aligns with their experiences. As artists and educators, incorporating practices of effective storytelling may not be the most convenient way of presenting material, because it may take more time, energy, focus, preparation, and acceptance of unknown outcomes in the classroom/studio. But it allows others to represent themselves and affect the outcome of the circumstances through small shifts in perspectives via methods like kinesthetic empathy.
Theater of the Oppressed has given me a way to connect with others via a transmission of movement and intention, which ultimately reveals histories and contributes to a process of community formation, even if only in that moment. The conversations sparked by the workshops can forever change the way participants engage with others and themselves, because of the shared intimacy on the part of the storyteller. Ultimately, this contributes to a larger tapestry of lives that are inextricably interwoven by collective memory. This may seem obvious. But how we communicate this incredibly energetic pattern may be the difference between repeating what happened and allowing a new design to become woven into the cloth.
In addition to providing the keynote, Doug Shipman provided IA conference attendees with access to the Center for Civil and Human Rights, of which he is CEO. There, several PAGE fellows encountered the story of Claudette Colvin for the first time. Colvin was arrested nine months prior to Rosa Parks, for refusing to concede her seat while in the "white" section of a Montgomery, Alabama bus. Despite standing trial and catalyzing an end to bus segregation, Colvin slipped into obscurity for years. This invisibility has been attributed to the fact that despite her bravery, Colvin was young and unwed and became pregnant shortly after her arrest, causing civil rights leaders to select Parks instead as a "respectable" face of the civil rights movement. Like other PAGE fellows, I felt uneasy reading Colvin's story. I understand that the decision to focus on Parks was strategic, but as a result, most of us have never heard of Claudette Colvin. Because she was not perceived as the best representative of the movement, Colvin's story was overlooked, and essentially replaced, with a narrative that indulged the prejudices of those in power.
As civically engaged educators and practitioners, we employ similar strategies when we choose whose stories are represented in our work. I study service-learning in higher education, which typically focuses on student and institutional outcomes. Few service-learning studies explore effects on community partners, even though service-learning is presented as reciprocal and mutually beneficial. Many scholars have noted inconsistencies with who is represented in service-learning narratives (Bortolin 2011; Blouin and Perry 2009; Dostilio et al. 2012; Sandy and Holland 2006), but it can be difficult to address when audiences for such narratives consist primarily of academics. When I describe my own research, I nearly always frame it in terms of how a service-learning project is perceived by the department, instructor, and students, leaving out the community partners, even though I am aware that this representation is problematic. I do this because I feel it is what is expected and I am not sure how to interrupt this expectation. I also feel that since I am approaching these narratives from an academic perspective, I don't have the right to tell any other story.
When we take on the role of storyteller, we are in a position of power. In speaking to a particular constituency, it makes sense to represent their interests, but in doing so, we risk overlooking the interests of others. So how do we work towards a greater good, as Shipman suggested in his keynote, without further marginalizing individuals or groups who are already underrepresented?
A starting point might be making space for multiple perspectives, from the beginning of an idea, practice, or project, all the way through to its conclusion. Rather than omitting someone's story altogether, as happened with Colvin, or telling someone else's story for him or her, we can invite others to help shape and reflect on our practice as we go along. In "The Politics of the Personal: Storytelling Our Lives against the Grain" (Brandt et al. 2001), Deborah Brandt argues for inclusiveness when we use personal stories, including our own, in research that affects the public. With Claudette Colvin's story in mind, I read inclusiveness as considering which individuals or groups have a vested interest in the outcomes of our practice or play a role in whether or not that practice is successful. We must consider how well these people are represented throughout the project, even if they are not well represented in the constituency to whom we present the outcomes. If we strive to include multiple perspectives in our work, then we need to work towards making space for those perspectives to influence our research and practice.
My work within and across congregations and faith communities provides a plethora of examples of strategic information sharing which, in my experience, comprises the foundation for critical practice. Critical practice, in the vocation of ministry, involves both claiming the community in which I work as my own, as well as discerning how the work of ministry can have unintended effects in the lives and communities of people. This process serves to help me minister with and to persons in my church and community more effectively—specifically in the practice of preaching.
The keynote was an inspiring point of departure, as Shipman elicited support and developed new relationships based on his practice of strategic information sharing within his storytelling. Instead of highlighting his elite education or position in corporate America, Shipman approached African American community members with stories about his upbringing as the son of a Pentecostal pastor. As I listened, I reflected on the practice of preaching. The process of sermon preparation involves much strategic information sharing for the purpose of engaged storytelling. While the message of every sermon may be different, the chief aim in every case is to inspire spiritual reflection in listeners, to promote agency, and to change hearts and minds. One of my colleagues approached the pulpit one Sunday morning in a new congregation. He shared that he was a "white, male Republican." Then, my colleague proceeded to speak the message he had written. In that moment, many people stopped listening and engaging the story my colleague shared because my colleague failed to utilize strategic information sharing for the purpose of inviting listeners into the narrative. In that moment, engaged storytelling failed to happen. Conversely, I listened to another colleague speak on another Sunday morning. This colleague knew the collective history and stories of the congregation and community, had established authentic, solid relationships with the people, and had claimed the community as his own. As I listened to this colleague speak, I noticed he had crafted his message so as to captivate the congregants and invite them into the narrative. He strategically shared stories of himself, as well as the history of the congregation and community for the purpose of engaging hearts and minds in the narrative.
The critical practice of engaged storytelling and strategic information sharing is vital for us to perfect as scholars, artists, educators, spiritual leaders, and practitioners. If we fail to do this, we fail to motivate agency in those in the communities in which we live, work, and teach for transformative change.
We end with a gesture toward the potential for collaboration within this specific toolset. Collective memory is inherently collaborative; as we participate in the stories of others, we find our places in our shared histories. As publicly active graduate students, we find ourselves between many stories. At times, we are responsible for serving as the connective tissue between our students and their history books, our congregations and those holding prejudiced beliefs and actions, or our art and those who are watching and listening. We share these vignettes in order to bear witness to the power of storytelling, as Doug Shipman bore witness through his powerful address.
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