Power of Storytelling
Welcome. Everyone thank you so much for spending your afternoon with. This incredible, panel my, name is DJ price Dennis and I'm a faculty member here, I have, the great privilege and honour to be the moderator of this panel I couldn't. Say no even after I saw the first name and then when I saw all of the names I was like oh my gosh thank you so much, so. Great, great deeply. Grateful I want, to give you a quick overview before. We kick things off, what's. Gonna happen with our panel today is each panelist, will have ten minutes to share some information with you about how, they enter the world of story how, they define story how. They. Use the different modalities to, tell stories, through. Different. Lenses and perspectives. And then, we're gonna have maybe, two rounds of questions the, first one focuses on inspiration, the, second round focuses, on social change and then, we'll end with some words of wisdom there. Are some times peppered, throughout that, we will invite you to ask questions they, may relate to one of those themes inspiration. Or social change or there may be something else on your heart and mind that you'd like to ask the panelists, and we are open to that as well so, without further adieu we'll go ahead and start with each panelist, giving you a peek inside the world of storytelling, that pushes their work. So. Yeah we talked as, we kind of got to know each other via email, and talked about how. One, defines story. And. It's. Challenging because. I think especially. Because I think you don't want to kind of pigeonhole, a specific. Definition because I think we all in our work want to be open to and, not judgmental, about what a story, actually is so. What I think about is, more, kind, of how you can define a story that has social impact, and and. I've been thinking about that a lot in the last many, years several, years and developing, my show and performing. My show and. I came up with this mantra, that is always, kind of constantly, there in my mind this if I want to have an impact I need to have these three elements, present. All the time, which are truth. Justice. And love. But. Truth first, right. You start by telling the truth and by truth I really mean kind of the, historical. Context, and those non dominant. Narratives. The ones that we haven't heard and haven't been told. And. You take that truth you take that exploration, of truth and then, you, seek justice based, on that truth once we start really revealing, those stories that we haven't heard in the history we haven't heard how, do we then take that information and. Really, push for a change and the, beautiful thing is that that is what love looks like. So I don't need somebody to hug me I need. I need you to pursue, truth I needed to tell truth, and pursue justice based on that truth and that is what, it looks like. And. So a little more on truth-telling. I really. Wanted to make sure when I was developing my show that. That. There was this historical, context. There because I know that that's a way to kind of make, it universal, to the audience, so one of the elements I use in the show is the are, the racial, categories, on the US census, does. Anybody know the first year of the u.s. census the, very first year it. Was, 1790. And anyone. Want to guess how many racial, categories, there were on that first u.s. census. There. Were actually three well yes actually two to really, that are you know kind of very clearly, mapped out so, that was free. White male free. White female, so both racially. White and slave, and so. I start, the top of every, single show no matter where we are in the country by, telling, the audience we're now in 1790. So turn off your devices, they don't exist and, and. Then I go around and I point to the audience and I tell them which, of those categories. They fit into it's. A very uncomfortable way to start, a show I don't recommend it to anyone but, it is to make the point that from, 1790. Until. 1970. A census. Taker would, go around and, look at you and determine. Your race and choose, what your race was and so we, didn't even have our own agency, to determine what our race was. But. By way of example. About how important, kind of historical, context, is to me I brought, some family, members here with me I didn't ask permission oh this is okay but I brought, my Jamaican grandmother, and my white mother and my, Pan Africanist.
Father. No. Granddaughter. Me, have a favor to ask of, you no no. No come, now sit. Down here like you used to when you was a little girl and make me braid oh no air Shh. That's right, okay. Now. Before. Me begin me. Remember, you is real real, tender, edit, for. The white people tender-headed, means it hurts when people braid your hair okay, he, is real real tender, edit but, for me to continue, braiding oh no air oh no Effie be strong. Can. You be strong all. Right now. Here's. The first thing they want you to do they, want you to call your mama and your daddy and ask them, for me what. In God's name is a fan, ssin. Me. Never could say that name is why me just call you my granddad, huh. Why. Him give you that name oh, hi. Everyone hi oh my goodness hello oh you're all so beautiful nice to meet you well, I'm a mama Trudy I am fences mother and well, now I heard her call me white did you hear that she said I'm white but um actually I, sure, as hell don't feel what okay. Now now I am Blackfoot, Indian and Cherokee, and Danish, no. I know I know I know that some census, worker would take one look at me and mark me down his white but I sure as hell don't feel it I do not know, now anyway no offense an invention honey, now, your father and I met at the University of Oregon, now. He was getting his PhD and I was his TA for American, politics, and it was the late 60s and we were reading lots of revolutionary. Stuff doing. Analysis, on Marxism, and Mao you, know oh and, we used to go to these meetings oh oh oh oh and one time we won a trip to r2 to Alabama, to visit a family of black pampers we did no, no it was a drawing out of a hat in one of my most leftist, groups the, one where we did embroidery, for the Vietcong. Okay. Now so anyway now now your father and I are reading the book fashion, together, and we are really close, the. Closest, we ever were. Okay. Now. You. See you see back in those times I, was very interested in the socialist. Revolution. Especially. In the form of a village, program, I wanted, to find a place to raise you kids to, be competent. Self-respecting. And socially. Conscious. Citizens. A place. Where racial, and class, oppression, was, absent, you see so. I do some research on, how how, different countries go about doing that and then I saw that book fan, Shen, in the, bookstore, back in Eugene, and I was.
So Taken up with it that I, decided. To name you after it. Little. Bit of this important, historical, context, now, right, in my context. Now in my life I I. Kind. Of towards the end of the show I, identify. Myself as a culturally. Mixed woman. Searching. For racial answers right, but, I didn't, just come to that notion today, right, I didn't even just come to that notion in, 1970. When I was born, what. Was going on just before I was born in those years, that that were happening just, but you know during that period the historical, events that were happening that, influenced. My parents, to give me that name that's. What's important, for us all to uncover, our narratives, are not just in this contemporary, bubble, that we think they're in they're, all connected. Deeply, to the past to. The truth and to, justice, and love, so, thank you. But. Actually the themes are the same and, I've. Included some of my own history. Presentation. I. Don't. Have a very loud voice I, think I'll. Try and speak up just do this if you can't hear me just, don't hold up a number quite yet. So. I think like, French, and I write. Stories, to. Survive, the truth and. In. This existential, moment in human history when, many scientists. Are concerned that our, children, might become endings. And this. Might be our species last, century. It. Could be argued that the, greatest advancement. Human. Beings could make in the 21st, century is, to ensure the survival of their children, and. It is that that I think, drives. Me. So. It is with, that in mind that I've. Been working on a matter analysis, of Family Literacy projects. And initiatives in. UN, member states so. Far I found family literacy, initiatives, focusing, on local needs that, reflect, the UN sustainable. Development, goals, and, the recovery of families from armed conflict, and their, participation, in, in, peace, building, in a hundred and forty countries and, and. I'll end this this, presentation, with, a summary, of that analysis, if I get there if I don't all, of my papers, are in the Commons on Danny Taylor comm so. So. All of that is. There for you if you if you want to go in and have, a look and you can cut paste do what you like with it I do not feel ownership of it, so. My responses. Researcher, is based on three. Foundational. Principles. They. Could be the same but, but they're, written a little differently, the. First is that the family is the primary, organizational. Structure, of all human, societies. And, we lose that we forget it or at least politicians. Do, second. Is that language is central, to all human, experience, we. Have just had a demonstration. And. Third. Is, that. Story, is the interpretive. Force for. Better or worse, in. All human societies, and that includes, in both physical, and social sciences, stories. Are never neutral. I propose. The use of stories, in scientific. Research as, I was pulling this paper together, I found, this quotes in my work so I'm going to share it each. Conceptual. Metaphor, I work with conceptual, metaphors, most of the time each. Conceptual. Metaphor, could be thought of as, a story. Like. A cautionary, tale you. Might imagine that, each metaphor, is a journey, through the natural and human world crossing. Fields of study disciplines. And paradigms, and there are travels, takers, from the scientific, to, the public sectors, of human. Societies. And so, my purpose, this afternoon, is to immerse us in the idea, about. Story, and you actually immersed us in story, which I think is much better but. The. Living and radical, forms, of language, to. Create opportunities. For us to reimagine our, engagement. With, one another in, the natural and human worlds and, to encourage us to do everything we can to push, down the risks, for. Human societies, and for our kids, so. The rest of my talk is in three more three more parts. The, first is the role of story. In my own life and the role of story. In my family literacy research, and then, the role of story, in. Family. Literacy projects. That. Are going on through, the UN I. Probably. Won't get to the end but if I don't you, have, a resource. At, your. Pleasure. Hopefully, that. You will, be able to visit and look at especially the work that's going on through. The year the Rianne the, UN, so reflecting. Now for. My participation on. The practice panel, on, story, it's, clear to me and I think this is for all of us I think of your own lives in these three parts, your the, the life you live the work you do and then this larger, framework that.
Has Become so, complicated. And. Disturbing, that. We're all trying to make to make sense of the relationships. Between. Between. The three so. So, I it's clear, to me that my own life my, family. And my family literacy, research the projects, and initiatives and, the. Projects, initiatives, that have spread throughout the world are all interrelated, I, can, see. Connections. Between them, sometimes, they're. Not difficult, to unravel, and sometimes. They the. Relationships. Are in, complicated, knots that. Take a great, deal of concentration to, to, try to. Undo. What. Is critical, here is that stories, are not, linear. Where. As we teach them to children in school they. Do not always have a defined, beginning, an identifiable. Middle, and a, resolution, clearly. Defined, at the end I, have. Five minutes I. Pulled. Together and. I, will make this paper. Available. I. Pulled. Together. Experiences. From my, own life especially. As a very small child my, parents, being part of a diaspora. 500,000, people left whales between, 1935. And 1955. Because. There was no work for minors. And we. Are dispersed, displaced. And, and. Still so I still, feel displaced. And, I'm not quite sure, New. York is the only place that I see, at this point. My. Father left we, left Wales after the second world war because there was no work he, worked the. Furnaces, in dunlop. Factory, in, in. Birmingham. Which is where I was born and then. He joined the RSPCA. So. There are stories, running, through, my. Life and, then the lives of people I've worked with, who. Are. Displaced. Either, by war. Conflict. Or by. Some catastrophic event, or if, not displaced. Their. Families, are shattered, by some events. Such as Sandy. Hook so. My. Work really, focuses, on the. Catastrophic. And how, is we can support people and, make, sure that their stories, are. Told. I, had. Actually a magical, childhood, my, mother and father told stories, one. Of the first stories I ever heard was a Patton Mike my grandfather, who was illiterate, used. To tell me stories of Pat and Mike who were two brothers who came from Ireland to South, Wales. Because. Of the famine in Ireland this, is now in the nineteenth century and. I I spent my first years any. Time I was with my grandfather he would tell me about Pat. And Mike the. Thing that is so important, about those stories is that they were always about helping. And. My grandfather, went that when the. Miner. In the next cottage. Was, killed he. Paid the rent for, two years for. The mother and her children and, when, her eldest, son was old enough he, took the child child. 10:11, down, the mines. So. That they could once again pay the rent and, so. That that caring, is is. Indelible. To me, and in, the way in. Which we live so. So that's one of the stories that in, this paper I pull threads, through, to. The work that is going on. Literally. Around the world in, Family Literacy we, think of Family Literacy as teaching kids. To read or, helping. Families, to read mothers, to read and that's very a part of it but a lot of it is focusing, on local problems. And. That's the piece of it that to me it's the most important. Is, that, while. Countries, are. At. War. And/or. In silos. Because. Family. Is universal. Because, language, is the. Central, essential, of all human, existence and because, all societies. Tell stories, that, work is going on and, it's not recognized. And. So so, my agenda, at this point in time which is complete. Focus is on. Trying to. Shine. A light at the UN, on some. Of the work that is going on across. Countries. That, is not recognized, as, as peace building and also, as. Working. To, fulfill, the. SDGs. So. I'm kind. Of making my way, surreptitiously. Through. Those. Corridors, and, trying to do as. Much as I can to. To. Make sure if, they're, more. Attention, is given to what, local families, are doing, in. So. Many countries of around.
The World and, I you know I haven't, even started my paper. So. If you could just stay till 6 o'clock. I'm. In a unique position in. That I write. To because. I have a compulsion to write and at. The same time, I'm a, blogger for the world Parkinson's, Coalition. And so I'm a reader, in the field of Parkinson's, for. People. With Parkinson's so. They come to my site all the time so I'm writing for myself and I'm writing for a, wider. Audience, so. I'm. Juggling, two balls at least and this. Is this is how, it works. One. Of the one of the things about having Parkinson's, is, that it changes, your the, chemistry of your brain and so. You get anxiety really, easily so, this. Is what, I did, to combat. And anxiety. By writing poetry, so. First. It's for me and then it's for you. Problem. It's the holiday, season I live in a town with steep hills it. Just snowed this, wouldn't bother most people, but my Parkinson's anxiety. Works non-stop so, I'm quivering in my boots what. To do solution, I channel, my unease, by writing the following sonnet. Here, we go and look out, so. Winter. Holidays season comes to Ossining the. Dazed grow, dim the nights are cold it's, time to bundle up and dread the snow that falls and causes, me to curse the car that stalls ahead. Up some steep hill commits. The crime of slipping, backwards, down the icy slope and, horrors, never, once regaining, traction, smashes. My car starts, a chain reaction, cars. Smash cars, collapsing. Telescope, in my. Backseat gaily, wrapped our gifts for friends and family, they're, still, okay my, car still drives I'll probably downplay. The dents the vicious snow the shifting. Drifts, I live. On never-ending, tribulations. East by friend and family celebrations. And. It's. All a lie. So. Three points about this problem I have not been in an accident but we live on a steep hill and I see this kind of situation, often, there's, a line of cars driving up the hill but, the one in front. Doesn't have snow tires or four-wheel-drive and wheels, spinning, wildly it slides and slithers backwards, into the cars behind it it's it's an amazing thing to watch and it happens, again and again. Even. Though I haven't been in an accident in my anxiety. I envision, it happening, to me it's, one of a hundred hundred worries, that went. Through my mind at any given, moment, one hundred worries okay maybe that's an exaggeration but, that's part of the problem. The. Poem is structured, so that the final lines end on an upbeat note which, is typical, of how, most of them my worries end up that, is in spite of initial, feelings of fear and stress I often, have positive, experiences which prove me wrong, additionally. Writing, the poem is a fun challenge for me and when I finish the poem I feel good. That's. It. I. Haven't, been loud enough so someone. Tell my family. I. Am, looking at the I'd, love to talk with you today about what I'm looking at for my doctoral, work and that's the, childhood. The geographies, of children and their personal geographies, and how they story them but to do that I have to go back a few years, because every story. Always. Starts way back and I think we're going to see that theme there's nothing that lives in isolation so I'm gonna just hold this up, all. Right. Hello. I. Was. A classroom teacher for a very long time actually fashioned, and I know, each other from a long time ago because we taught at East LA college many. Moons ago. But, I want to talk about teaching, elementary. School students, and there. Was one day a rainy Saturday. DC and I went to the, National, Building Museum and you're gonna see this theme of place and buildings, and structures throughout everything I say and I, wandered, in and there was this exhibit by high school kids in the Shaw district in DC and, the Shaw district is a historically, black neighborhood, in DC that was going under severe. And violent gentrification, at the time and there, was a program with the live with the museum and kids were able to story, their experiences. With what was going on and it, wasn't just when we hear story a lot of times and kids writing their story it tends to be in written, narrative. Form but, what they had done is they had created soundtracks. They had done videos they had looked at soundscapes, they, had photos sketches. And it was all placed along a map of the community, and the. Kids were able to respond and I kind of just. Took. It in and these were high school students, and I worked with 3rd graders but, I came home a changed teacher that summer and I knew we, had to be out in the community you, know and I were I was lucky enough Arlington. Virginia is an amazing, district they gave us a lot of power as teachers, and freedom and everyone, in my school had signed a permission slip to walk, a mile for.
Walking, Field trips anytime we wanted, unannounced. This is unheard of they still get to do it I checked as of this week but. Nobody was really doing this because although. We were a well resourced district. There. Were tests there were standards, there, were things that constantly, kept coming but I was like we've, got to break down these walls between the school and the community and, go out and talk to people and that's, exactly what we did so slowly. By the end of the year I didn't know it was called place-based curriculum, at the time he's before my doctoral work but, we went out in the community, we talked with community, leaders we talked with activists, we talked with residents. Who had been in the community 50 years we talked with residents, who had just moved and our community, is still, is undergoing gentrification, as well not quite as violent, as the Shaw district, but, it's happening very slowly and the kids were able to see this and there are third-grade voices, they would say things like all, the, new places are English, and all the places that are closing are not English words and that. Was their way of identifying. It and some, communities, in our community have still, maintain, their historical, status and some haven't so we went out and as we talked to people and I'm thinking now affection, truth, justice, and love, I didn't. Start with number one with the kids and I. This, is what I'm hoping to rectify with my dissertation. We started with number two justice, we, went out and as you can see the kids started researching what they thought the challenges, were in the community we. Looked at the assets of the community, but the assets were always in service of the challenges, so the. Kids would work on these community, campaigns, they would present them before the county board they, would you know show their strategies. And I will say a lot, of their strategies, are still being enforced so a lack of green space in the community, was something that kids felt and, they. Suggested, that all businesses, could put plants, and they could hang plants and windows and it would create a more peaceful, green, environment, that's, still going on they did a campaign to protect family owned businesses, so there's a festival now just, for family owned businesses, and. A tasting, fest and a lot of the restaurants still have held what.
I We, didn't do and where I'm getting to with my dissertation now, is we, didn't do enough of the kids own stories, in the community, we didn't start with truth what their truth was and I think it's a very adult. Thing to do with kids you know we shared their favorite places and they sketched and they photographed. But we didn't really dig deep into those stories and how those stories lived in context, beyond one or two times and that's. What I'm really looking forward to do now with the childhood geographies, is. To. Really, think about how, the place lives within the kids in the same way they live within, the community. So. We, get to do that now this is the great part about a doctor I can go back and I'm actually working with all my former, students, who are now in grades 7 through 10 so it's really lovely to see the way this. Community work has like been in ER woven through what, they're doing and because, I want to stop. Talking with myself and bring them into the room a little bit I. Want. To share just, from two, or three students depending on the time and something all of you have echoed is the context, with which our stories, live, I kept. Trying to say okay let's look at the personal stories and the place kept coming, back right the, context, and the history kept coming back so this is from one of my student, he. Is thinking about the pseudonym chase so we're gonna go with chase for today. But. Chase took a picture of Green Valley pharmacy. And he wanted to document his walk home and Green. Valley pharmacy, is the, oldest black pharmacy, in Virginia, and one of the oldest in the countries and Doc Meuse was one of the people we interviewed for oral histories, and he. Was the pharmacist, there from the 50s until 2017. When he died and his, granddaughter, is now the pharmacist, but it wasn't just a pharmacy. It was a community, place there was a, fountain, where people used to go sit and Doc Muse give people advice and, even through all the trouble in Arlington. Everything. That its face the community, racism, poverty. That came later in the community doc Muse was always there to give people advice, and, to support them and it's now historical, marker. But chase that I don't want to put the historical, marker in there because that'd take that makes it official and I want to focus on how this place is important to people, unofficially. And Chase, is a fourth-generation Arlington. Ian which is very rare in, Arlington, it's a transitional. Space their military, bases their, State Department, there's DC, but. His family came up from the south during the Great Migration and, this history, is part of him so, I'll, let you all eat Reed, Chase's words, but. We decided to put the background of this picture and it's transparent on purpose, and Friedman's, village behind it, is then it was the original name of the community where Chase's family lives and it was established as a community, for, slaves who had been freed and. People. Were able to own homes people were able to start businesses, and Freedmen's village was always in constant conflict. With the US government, a lot, of Friedman's village was taken to create Arlington National Cemetery when, it needed to expand, but, it's a community that's still there today so. Chase a story about. What it's like to walk home from school and, I. Won't. Share all of it until he's, comfortable with it but middle. School is a tougher place in elementary, school was but. The strength he gets from his walk home comes. From doc muse and the work that he did and comes from everyone. Who settled Friedman's village and built it so, his personal, story of middle-school. Angst is cut. Is laid on top. Of the. Story of a whole community and the story of a whole nation so, we get to see these stories in that constant, weaving between everything that. Happens. May. Have moved things by accident. All. Right I think some things are moved but. That's. Okay I was just I'll tell. You one more she's, not I don't, know it is I, have, another student. Whose. Family, comes. From many places and she was feeling a sense of angst about the elementary, school we were at being, moved it's no longer going to be there as of, September, and she was feeling a real sense of loss and this is something I've seen come through the research a lot is the sense of nostalgia and, a, lot of people were like 7th. Through 10th graders what kind of nostalgia, are they feeling there that's. Our adult perspective, right children, are the most marginalized, of marginalized groups we don't even give them the same right.
To Have the feelings that we have how dare a seventh, grader have nostalgia, but. We're allowed to have nostalgia, and. She was feeling this sense of loss over what, was going to happen with the elementary school and how she wanted to bring her family there when we dug into it she started placing pictures on top she. Laid a picture of rural Pakistan where her dad was from and were her mom's, grandparents. Were from and then, she put the north of England because that's where her mom was born and raised because, they left Pakistan to go to the north of England Colliers also, and then, she laid Arlington. On top and she took a picture from when she was a third grader in Arlington, and placed it on top because it looks different now and then, she put her story of loss on top and she said I just want my, kids to go to the school where I went to because no one in my family's been able to do that before we've all gone to different school than our parents. So. Her, personal. Story of losing. This school wasn't just about my childhood, memories it was about generation, after generation who. Was displaced and. Had. To leave and she. Was feeling this loss for her children, that she wasn't even sure she wanted to have yet. And. These are the stories I'm excited, for kids to get to share personal stories, that are inner woven with places, that they're in now and also. What that place used to be what their hopes for the future of that place and for all the places that their families have come from thank, you. So. You see why I was excited when they asked if I would sit here and moderate I'm like yes. May. I please have the clicker we're, gonna move into part, two of the, panel which, is a time for the panelists, to jump in and. Answer a couple questions so. We'll start with the first one that's based on inspiration, and the, question to the panelists is where do the stories you tell come from and what inspires, the medium you choose to share them with an audience, after. Some, of the panelists, maybe all of them feel like this question speaks to them and responds, you are welcome to jump in with questions as well if it's related to inspiration, that's fine if it's something different that's perfectly fine but there'll be another round so if you don't get your question and, this time you'll have another opportunity so, I'll turn it over to the panelists, in any of you or welcome to. Have. These scrapbooks. These. Scrapbooks, at home and I just went through them all the time as a little girl and and you. Know knew that that was something I wanted to be able to continue, that storytelling. So it's a big piece of it. Wunst. One, story that I've, told or, I've, written that. Comes from my childhood is the up in the hills behind where. My. Parents lived there were lots of mine shafts, and. The. Kills that my mother thought were, really. Green hills were actually shale coming, slag, coming, out of the mines in the 19th century and she. Played up there and there. Were mine. Shafts. In. The hills and one, of the things she did as a child was, they would put. Their heads over the mine shaft and, drop. Stone stone, and. This. Is fascinating to me I did, the same when I was a child I would play up in the hills with the local children, and, we would drop drop, stones down and count and wait until, we heard the plunk at the bottom as the. Stone hit water and my mother would say it's. A it's a accident. Or a tragedy waiting, to happen and. Nobody. Ever fell down that, mine shaft as, far as I know although I do know, somewhat. Grimly that dogs were thrown down there old dogs that wood had died and there were there, were stories but. I I spent a lot of time with you with local, children with my head over that, over. That mineshaft and one, of the books I've written roses, umbrella, has. Stories. That set in Boston and it said in in Wales and, so. That becomes, one of the stories, and that. In, fact the whole book eventually, it started, out with stories, that I wrote for my mother and then, I. Expanded. It into it into a book and the book, revolves.
Around The South the, idea that a child actually did go down the mine and, so. It's metaphoric, in many ways but, many. Of the stories. That. Inspire, me, and, nearly, all of my books whether they're fictional, they were the, stories, that inspire. Around. Often. Around human, tragedy, and I. Think that's because there, was there, were mine disasters. I've stood stood, with mothers, and their children as a child waiting. To find out who's been it was killed. In the mind and, so. This whole idea and I'm I don't, want you to think that I'm an unhappy, person because, because. That's not the case but, my, fascination. And the inspiration, of. Working. On. Issues. Around, tragedy. And human suffering I think. Come from this deep place of the suffering, of the mine the, miners and their families. Both. My grandparents. And my and my and my parents. I, think I think we find inspiration. In things that happen to us when we're kids and those things marvelous. Things happened when I was a kid I, had wonderful parents but, there was tried to do it was always, part of life. That's. Probably too much. Interesting. To me that we. Share them there's so many connections among here but I just think when you were talking I just had to say my grandfather, was a miner and so, sitting besides, you and hearing these stories in the play and I would be playing in the hills of West Virginia as a little kid I'm sure over mine shafts that I didn't know about so, just even hearing you talk about this right now is you know so nostalgic, for me and really, brings up a lot of memories as well so thank you for sharing that. I'd. Like to show some, slides. Again so what do I do I. Want. To talk about not in spirit my inspiration. But the inspiration. One. More thank. You I, teach. Poetry. At, my charter. School in the Bronx and the, Charter School is 98%. African. American and, actually, some, of them are really African, American because they come from West Africa, and the, rest come, from Jamaica and they're. All. There. Reduced. Lunch, or free lunch and. They. Live in a section of the Bronx which is not the best place to live and, we, teach poetry and, I want. To look at what some, of the poems are that they vote and. When. I teach writing whether, it's two children or two graduate, students, I say. The most important, thing is that you write about what's important, to you. And we. Study a lot of poems and then, we say now you've seen some now go write and we have certain, lessons. That we do on certain aspects, of poetry, but, let's look at these three here, so the, first one is my love my young life about chicken, I, feel. Free when I eat chicken. When. I ate my first bite, of chicken I was 4 years old, I liked. It so much it felt like the chicken was massaging, my mouth and bid. And the juice was running down my chin, I, felt. Protected I. Ordered. More so I could eat the chicken over and over again the. Chicken whispered, to me eat, me Jaden eat. Us all. So. There's. Inspiration for, you that, comes from his life we didn't tell them to write about your favorite food or, you write about, spring. Or, whatever we said write about what's important to you, and. These, are all pretty, much first drafts there there, may have been one or two things we we fixed the. Next poem is homeless. One. Cold dark day one. Cigarette, or cigar, causes. One big disaster. Lights. A lot of lights it, all came like a shock of lightning to me. Firefighters. Rushed up the hill people. Crying a lot of crying but. Not me oh not. Me I was brave I lost, so many things but I had to stay strong and that. Is the day I became, homeless. And actually. The, the teacher who I I didn't, wasn't in the classroom for this I trained the teacher and how we teach, poetry and she, she, went in and she tried it and she brought it to me and she said what do I do with it I said. You don't do anything. This. This, was written after, we did a lesson. With. The third graders on line. Breaks we had them look at a variety, of poems, that had different kinds of line breaks in some and punctuation, some, didn't and he. Wrote, this at the end of the lesson, Nigeria. It has 36, states and one capital, if you live in a village you can go outside without asking, the rivers flood and rainy seasons, causing. Crops to grow destroying. Homes and killing people the. Niger River is good for fishing too. And. To. Me that's just an amazing poem because, it just flows and, the, way it comes down. To. The word and, then. Again. We. Didn't teach him that that's, just his own inspiration. So. This. Is what I like about teaching it at my school and I should we can look at some more poems later but I should add that we put these poems in an anthology and. We. Mix them in with poems by, Robert. Frost, Emily. Dickinson, and so forth so they through. The pages and they see we. Are on par, with these. Famous poets, and, they. They, they, spend. Hours just reading, the poems. Oh.
Thank. You. I'm. Gonna go, back to family as well so I grew, up in Egypt since I was in third grade and my family, is from, Cairo but like most families in Cairo no one's really from Cairo as my dad would say it's a new city it's only a thousand years old. So. All, four of my grandparents, are from different places and I grew up with my grandparents, as well as my parents on this idea of story and like. Every culture you know a lot of times people's like I'm from this culture so poetry is important to us so I'm pretty, sure story is important, to everybody, but. I grew up with my grandma, who wanted, to major in literature but you know 1938. And in Egypt and they're like we need more girls in science so. Sound familiar but, so, she majored in astronomy because she thought it was the most romantic and, storytelling, of all the sciences, and she, would constantly share, stories, and my grandpa, who is from a nomadic, tribe that, came through the desert escaping, an overdrive so, his stories were a little different they're a little more adventurous but it was this idea of constant, storytelling. Of silliness. And they bought me a journal and I was in first grade in Egypt I remember, what it looks like and, he. Was like this very, washed out eighties, acid-washed. Jeans cover and I was so excited and I came home and I just I started, writing and I remember. My first 10 entries because they said I woke up I took a shower I put on my clothes I eat a butter and jam sandwich, and, my mom was like well this is lovely but do you want to highlight, anything, else and I was like no I want. To write my routine, and she couldn't we laughed later cuz like mom what is this is like almost, like someone's. Gonna you know be a neurotic human being later on, and. She, said I wanted you to go back and read it and realize those everyday moments are super, important, and that we don't treasure, them enough, and she said you're gonna love one day that he were this really orderly, person who ate a butter and jam sandwich, every day and that, really set the tone for me a teacher and I are part of a group of teachers called the National, writing project and this idea that as, teachers we are writers before, we teach writing we become writers and that, for me put, in my mind a long time ago that the ordinary. Is extraordinary and. Those everyday small, moments, are worth noting, down and, that, stories, don't have to be just the great adventures, the tragic, that emotional, this that there's room for all of that alongside the ordinary like Danny was saying there's play alongside the sadness so, that's. Really my inspiration especially, with kids to honor that place and because I come from a family where half of it were nomadic tribes and half, of them migrated, from other areas the sense of place as you can tell is very important, to me and how, we even, the authors I loved in high school Kate Chopin and Zora Neale Hurston are authors for whom place, is a character, it's, not just a background it, is one of the characters and it's intricately, woven in, and I think this comes from my family, background of being from Oliver and then all of them picking up and coming to the u.s. to the west coast and then East and. This is what I hope to explore. With kids is this these, everyday moments that often get passed by and unmarked, and how we interact with that beautiful, setting, that we're in. Are. There any questions from audience, members. It's. More of a couple, of comments I wanted to first of all thank you all for your storytelling, because. It. Really just connects. Us all because, there's something very universal, you hit on the universal, with your particulars, I wanted. To also just note that in the 27, years I've known fan Jim has, been that long oh my god. She's. Always been committed to truth so there's she's, absolutely. Honest that truth, is the first aspect, of her storytelling, from like, day one and we've, had many discussions on the, necessity, of truth sometimes, it painful, cost and, for, professor Taylor I wanted to say I know, that we're on a time limit but.
There Is something that is so rapturous, about your, stories, there's. Nothing, familiar in my life about a shaft, and, the dog. And all of that and yet I was completely. Enthralled by, it and I really, lamented, that you had to stop. So. For all of you guys is bringing, out the stories, and as, teachers one, of the things that I've learned in teaching, is. That when I tell my story, of struggle, it allows, my students. To, struggle, and then to grow and one, of the people, that I have learned to tell, stories from his pension so, I would just want to thank you all for being part of her, community so because vicariously. He became part of my community in my village and helping me. Thank. You are there other questions, comments. Thank. You so much um I'm a senior. At Columbia College I'm an undergraduate really, appreciate, being here and hearing, all these amazing stories and, I. Think, one thing that's so amazing is you, know this this opportunity, which I'm hearing all of you speak but. Then also the kind of mixed, you know like written things on the projection so I was wondering if you could speak to kind of reconciling. The profound, oral. Spoken, history of storytelling, with, you know the narrative. Discursive, context. Of you know writing. Down those stories and kind of the different. Reasons. For that I love, the concept of collage, not, just the the, paper and paste I love that too but I love it as a stance in, inquiry. And in life if you see my clothing even on my house and it's this idea of bringing things that come from other places that, not. Necessarily, in a very, organized. Way but these overlaps, on top of each other and one, of the things I'm working on with the kids and because not, everything is cleared, yet to show is how, do we mix modalities, because we experience, life you know some things depending. On our senses, we experience, them in different ways and how do you honor oral, history in a written format. And. Even when the kids were third graders when we did oral histories, we listened to them we had a transcription. Because I taught students who are deaf and hard of hearing so. We wanted to include everyone, in but, you always want to honor the way. In which it's captured, so, some of the projects the kids are working on have you know video, without, sound with. Voice overlaying, it and then, sometimes, quotes and because we were, in an inclusive community they're. Always aware of how to include as many people as possible so, it was making sure it's available to everybody while. Still honoring the. Way and I think this is a beautiful moment we live, because. The technology allows, a lot more entry, points, and a, lot more ways to honor. The way we experience, something that we're struggling with so if anyone has an idea is how, do you capture those visceral, feelings in your body so one of the kids was talking about there, was a crack on the sidewalk, in front of Thais square and it was a familiar crack, in the sidewalk that all of us were used to and they, fixed the sidewalk, and it's freaked a lot of people out because.
It It was a sign of, the. The, flattening, of the community, and that. You, know. Sterilization. And I you know I was talking with the kids on the phone and via text I was like okay now my husband I ate there last weekend and it I started, tearing up over, the. Way that sidewalk, had been fixed and how do we capture that this was the to our conversation. This weekend with the kids how do you capture the feeling, of sidewalk under your feet or the smells, as, you walk down the community, because we know smell is the, sense most connected. To memory and. You. Know the smells in a community, where you have eight. Different, nationalities, represented. Within, two blocks how, do you capture that smell and convey that to an audience we could take a picture it, doesn't do the same thing in your body so, we're. Still working on that, but. Mixed, modalities, now and we're you know is is, easier. To do you, can have it but how do you do it in a way also that's. Intentionally. Messy versus, like clutter. Thrown on a page that doesn't. Honor the individuality, of each piece so, I got, a little excited sorry. I'm. So I'll tell an anecdote in, in. The second grade class we taught, Shakespeare's. Song. Of the witches doubled, does, anyone know that by heart. Boil. And trouble. Well. Our. Students, read it and they became. Enamored, of it and then even learned it by heart and then. Six months later, the. Second. Grade teacher came to me she said you should see what in xub a vote in his journal. Because they have. 20 minutes every day where they can write anything, they want in the journal and the. Teacher doesn't necessarily. Correct, so, he vote aqui, gloppy, slimy things, chicken. Legs and banana soup aqui, gloppy slimy, goo, lizard. Tails and little little, snails juicy. Eyeballs, and dirty feet with, some ants and spiders too. Angry. Witches, a wizard to cast. A spell and make good soup. That's. That's carrying, on the tradition. Something. He memorized, and had orally, in his head and then he made it has made, a new version. See. I would think of that as hacking so I loved that I. Had. I had a minute or two to think I, up. On an oral stories because I didn't. Have any books but the, thing that that I. Think, is relevant, here is that there are many stories you never tell and. I. Saw, I've been thinking about the places I've been where I'm. Allowed to go and I listen but I don't write and, people. Tell stories. Including. NACA. Alcoholics. Anonymous when. I'm working, with people I, would. The. Person I'm working with I'm thinking of one person in particular we. Take me in and say say, Deniz with me is it okay if she said soon she's. A researcher, but she's promised she won't write anything down and, then. The stories, in. Areas. Where there's armed conflict, where people. Tell you their stories and you can't tell them because if you tell them then then. Dial. Things could, happen and. Stories, with people who have experienced. A. Katrina. For instance, so it's. The there. Are stories you don't tell but there were also taught stories, you, don't ask people, to tell, that. You, can, inadvertently. Reach. Rama tires and, so, this whole idea of, oral, and written and, the. Negotiations. That go on are extraordinarily. Complicated. And. So. Those, were some of the things I was thinking about, also. The, after. Sandy, Hook we. Went up to, Newtown. And. There. Was such an outpouring of, poems. And. Prayers. And. Stories. And teddy, bears and, flowers. And, candles, and, the, whole of the center of Newtown, was was, filled and, so. It was a moment, when, people. Needed, to come out and express. Their. Grief and. Interpret. And. That. Was a time when written stories, became, such. An important, part. Of. People. From all over the world. Responding. To. Into. Newtown all of, that became. Sacred soil they took everything away and and, we. Went we, spent one day very quietly. Photographing. Every, piece of a, print, that was, there and the teddy bears and the balloons and, I spent, about a year analyzing. Writing. About what it was that people were we're, saying it says it's another piece of this or all written, stories. You tell stories, you want to make sure are not, lost I, mean. That was for me that was the big thing is is that we needed to make. Sure that. There was some kind of record. Of those. Stories, so as you go through through, your there's, lots of ways in which you can present. Present. Your position, in relationship, to story.
That, Perhaps is. Not expected, and, I, hope you have opportunities. To do that. Yeah. I am on purpose, made, one. Drop a multimedia. Show I. Actually. For, my thesis I originally, pitched that I was going to make a documentary film, kind, of exploring, the same themes. And story and but. My MFA, was in acting, and performance, and so my adviser said did we need to see you doing some performance, also it. Was really glad because I had already started collecting footage, of my family, and so, at the end the show so throughout the show I use, the, the projections. And screen to situate. The audience, and it's a really nice kind of shorthand way to not have to always tell. Where we are at this moment but you get a map right. But. At the end of the show I play. Some. Clips from my, actual. Family telling. Their story and that was really important, to me to, show that when, I'm you, know. Performing. When, you see my grandmother speaking, that's. My interpretation. Of what my grandmother, would say and, do right but then at the end I give my family this agency, to tell the story and their own in their own words and their own ways and and so I think there are so many opportunities to use all kinds. Of media, right to get, your story told and and, as teachers we know right each audience, member is going to take it in a different different way and so you want to make it accessible to, as many people as you can so I think it's I always, just say push it all the way think about all the different ways that you can represent your, story. So. What we're gonna do, thank. You, for. I, think. Is. Moved to words, of wisdom from, each of the panelists, and if there is time after, they share words of wisdom then we can take a couple of questions. Where. We, have about ten minutes left before the panel is over so. Maybe, a couple minutes per person. All. Right well I want to echo something good Danny had said about you. Know we were taught if you go into any elementary, school classroom, I kind of cringed at the like beginning middle and then the traditional story arc and that's, not really how life goes you, know life is more like this collection, of little pieces and again mosaic. Collage and, all that and what story allows us to do is pull. Together these, to help explain, ourselves to, ourselves first. And foremost and then help explain ourselves to others and help others understand, us and for, me that's the big part of story what, I hope to do when I'm working with the kids with a personal geography's is not just document. We are the question that's guiding all our work with the kids is what. Does it mean to be me in this place and, instead. Of documenting we're, really looking at it as constructing. Because as we pull together memories, as we pull together photos. And videos and sounds, capes and I will tell you please, watch recordings, if you decide to do soundscapes, because I was listening to one and it sounds, like a.
Because. The microphone, is really close, and, I was like a, 90s. Horror movie. But. Even that he's like I was breathing hard because I was so excited so, when we pull together all of these pieces. They're. Constructing. The meaning of what their story is it isn't just documenting. Something that already exists but we're constantly creating. And recreating and, to me that's the beautiful part of story. Not that it's something that sets and already there, but, that we get to create. And we get to pull together modalities. And moments, and layers and time because it's not linear and go, back and forth so that, would be if you do work especially with kids to just break, apart this notion of beginning. Middle end, and to pick up the idea of vignettes. That late again, and this idea that we can take these pieces and construct, something new and break, that and construct something new again thank, you. I'd. Like to show one more slide. That's. Not it that's. Not it this is it I'm. I'm gonna let two of my students, speak for this part. Death, is a cruel, thing death. Is a cruel thing like. Men killing today also. When my cousin's grandmother, died it was a tragedy, on that day like flowers, dyin with no water or crises. In the Bronx, I never. Liked death and I never will and I hate sad songs they remind me of bad memories I don't, like them one bit and if, death had human features, I would spit, on him I'd spit, I miss, my grandma, so much I wonder. If death is death, itself can die and if it did my friend I would, be the one who caused it. And. This. Is another one that was a fourth-grader and this is a third-grader, life and death, life. And death that's what happened to my father he. Had dark brown eyes just, like me black. Hair and never stopped loving me one, sunny morning someone. Shot him two years from - June, - he. Died when he was 37, and my anger, still rises, to this day forward. So. Those. Are words of wisdom and, they're. All in the. Podium. Over there are. Are. The, anthology instead, of our, students poems, so. For. You to take home this to this one that. Wrote. And this is one that kindergarten, kids wrote so, taking both. What. To say. My. My work at this point is it's kind, of global and. I'm. Spending as much time as I can. Infiltrating. The. UN. I don't have a role I just go and. And. Network can find ways to to. Spend, time. One. Of the the. Words that's used most is, silo, that we. Are in silos. And. If. You listen to the president, of the UN General Assembly, they're. Talking, constantly. About, that, there's no no, room for complacency, that. Too there are too many local, and regional conflicts. And, that. Conflicts. Within in between countries, are. At. A point where. There. Is serious, concern not. Only about about. Climate. Change and, the. Fact we're in the middle of the sixth.
Extinction. But. Also that. As these, as climate. Change becomes more. Of a problem then. Conflicts. Going, creasing and, there. So this serious concern. And one of the things that. He. Said at a meeting was that we don't have mechanisms for, dealing with them and so, when you are in at the UN and they are saying they don't they have no idea how. To do to, deal, with it I mean the thing that to me is the, most important. Is what's happened in this room this afternoon and, that, local communities, have. The capacity. To come together and, share, their stories, and that, work is going on around. The, world and, we, have to find a way to, privilege. The local, and. To. Make, sure that. When. People come, together they, have the, kind of experience, that you've created the, Sultan but, both of you all of you have, created that this, afternoon, so. So, for, me the thing that I've. Forgotten what the question is by the way. The. Wisdom is, that, even. Though it seems a very futile, kind of thing as individuals. For us to do we, have to do this we. Have to keep sharing. Our stories, making. Story, the center of everything, that's going on in school get, rid of all the crappy, tests, excuse. Me get. Rid of all of the commercial, stuff and get, back to what is essential, a. Family. Language. Story. And building. Community, and I, think that I, think. It's going on the way the thing that we have to do is is keep, trying to make sure that people, who can make a difference because they have power and privilege can. Can, actually pick up on. That. It's. The local people, that we have to cherish. And pen and make opportunities. For them to share those stories and, come together. Thank. You Danny thank you all this has been so inspiring, and, wonderful. Love. Is actionable. It's an action, and you, can display. It to everyone, by telling the truth and pursuing, justice. So do that I. Was. Gonna say we it looks like we do have a three minutes so we have time for one. Final question, for the panel. My. Teacher voice. Thank. You all first and foremost. Being. A teacher who has done some similar things I'm, wondering the. Students that you worked with who created this poetry. The collages, and throughout, your your time. Have. You also noticed that once they've been able to create, in these very creative, ways, these various ways that, the rest of the academic, skills. Are, honed, in as well and they, have they has. Been evidence. Of, their, other. Classes. And subjects, also increasing. As a result. And. In, general ours our students do very well we, outperform. The, district, schools this city, schools and the state schools so, it's not just this, set we're doing but we're doing other things with them for, literacy. And for mathematics, and. Resume. In mathematics. And we do very well in literacy, so this. Is. 120. Teachers, over. A thousand, kids, and. The. Positionality, of the teacher is very much as we've, been talking today. And. So we worked for about four or five years with, children all around story, around. Problem. Solving and. Skills. Were always part, of what happened but they were in context, of what, it was that the child needed at a particular time, it. Was called the biographic, literacy for. Literacy. Profiles. Project. The. Thing that I would say. As far as the. Evidence is. Concerned, is that in. The schools that tracked their children, for through the grade, school. Into. Middle, and high, one. Of the schools reached a point where, in. Any year there were no more than two children dropping. Out of the high school so. They literally, almost, did. Away with with, the with, children dropping out and, because they were engaged, for themselves. They had they had their learning, was, valued, and, it. Just infused. Everything. That was happening in school and. It was the teachers the teachers were absolutely, extraordinary, in, their documenting. And working. From the, position, of the child. And. We worked with some children who were, really, challenged. In. In, very serious ways, and. We just came together over every week we would meet and go, over what the child, was doing and if a child was not doing it we could not write it down, it's the ethnographic thing, if you see something, and a child is, engaged, it. You can document you, can build on it but, there was no that, the child didn't have blends which was one, of the things as a psychologist.
Said It was always, what. The child was doing and. If a. Psychologist. Had came. In and said, that there was some problem then, we were observing. Videoing. Analyzing. And coming back to the next meeting and saying well, on your test the child was not but, here are the context in which the child was and we, reached a point in several of those schools where the psychologist, would come in and say, so, what have you learned from your data it. Was a few years in the in the making but, to. Me that's what it's it's really all about. Sorry. It, was New Hampshire. And. There were schools across new the. Poverty, was extraordinary. I think they spent about three, to five thousand, a year on, each. Child, and. It. Was it. Was actually a lot of fun we had, it. There's. It's. Written in a book if you give me your address, I'll, send you a copy I. Would. Say yes. I had, to take a minute to think about it but it was a byproduct, of other stuff, so going. Into it you know we did the community work with the kids and the inquiry it wasn't so much about like you, know I did take every single standard, and the, community, became the curriculum, essentially, and everything was able to be, filtered, through it. But I think our my, goal was two things for the kids that you have a strong sense of self and really know who you are at this moment knowing, that's going to change and that's okay and that, you feel your role in the larger community and how, do you bring that self, and you fit in because I always think there's this balance between a, community. That it doesn't take, over the individuals, in it but that we are strong individuals. Unique in, a community, so. I would say yes, I saw that because I we. Still have our house where I taught two blocks from my house so this was my home my community, in many ways not just my school community so, I'm still in touch with a lot of the kids obviously they're in my dissertation and. The. Reason, those skills came through wasn't. Just because of the learning but because of that sense of self and being, able to advocate so I did have, a nightmare with the fourth grade teachers, the first year cuz they would come to me the first week of school they're like what is up with your kids I'm like what's wrong they're like one of them came up to me and said I prefer dim lighting can you do that because that's how I learn best or. And. I always taught them to ask like, I would. Say if I don't explain to you the purpose of what we're doing ask me because, I've just forgotten so why so they would ask their teachers can you explain to me why we're doing this assignment so. For me that sense of self and advocacy. And so, the, first year I'll say the fourth grade teachers hated my guts the, man but then they'd realize oh these kids are. So. For me that sense of self that when we get to under stand ourselves, as learners and how we are in the community and they advocated, for each other a lot and they're still doing that in middle school in high school I think, that feeling has to come first before you feel, comfortable. Enough. To learn and we know especially. Inclusive. Educators side you have the effect of filter that goes up when you feel discomfort, in a classroom if we can reduce that effective. Filter and feel comfortable in, our bodies in, a, school setting we, can learn and for me that was the biggest part that allowed that learning to happen yeah, this.
I'd Love to just if I can yeah. I think I, don't have kind of quantitative, data around, using it especially because my classrooms, weren't so story, centered, and yet we'd, spend the first week just, getting to know each other right my sharing, stories with them and them, sharing, stories with me and it made all the difference in terms of trust, in the classroom, it also, gave me all kinds of thoughts each time I would make a lesson plan now. I could bring in their particular stories, into those lesson, plans and and. That yeah we came to kind of really trust, each other because, we, knew that it was okay to tell these stories and and then they became even more vulnerable, right. And kind of deep, digging, even deeper into, the truth and the other thing is that in all the content, areas there's a history, right. There's a history, of who really. Invented math for, example and, every. Classroom can benefit, from digging. In and talking about what is the history you were told about this content, area and what, are you know who are the voices that we weren't told about so you, can just incorporate, it all the time and it makes a huge difference. By. Everyone, to give this panel another hand so, informative. That's. Incredible, I. Think. That that, there are so many ties that that. Binds you together but the fact that you so authentically, and beautifully, value, humanity, and that shows up in every single one of your stories today has. Just been inspiring so thank you so much and thank you all for joining.