Two Urban Bush Women Jana La Sorte and Pia Murray visited the booth this past month and spoke about their early inspirations as dancers and the philosophies that compel their work. Urban Bush Women is a dance company that seeks to bring the untold and under-told histories and stories of disenfranchised people to light through dance.
“Here in New York people seem to be afraid to unlock themselves. You can see it in people. People outside of dance, don’t seem to understand how simple it is. If you move your body it moves the rest of you”, says La Sorte.
“For myself as a dancer and a mover, I strongly believe if you can walk you can dance. I think that we all have natural and innate rhythm within us. But because we have this world of “being a dancer” for most people who are not in that world, they think that dance is completely inaccessible to them, that it’s something they can only watch from afar and not participate in. I think that dancing and being comfortable really unlocks something inside of you. I’m constantly moving and I’m comfortable doing that” says Murray.
Mickey Stewart came to the San Francisco StoryCorps booth on August 15, as part of a community partnership with Friends of Negro Spirituals, an Oakland-based group that continues and holds the tradition and heritage of spiritual songs.
Mickey came with stories rich with culture and history. He talked about San Francisco’s North Beach during its heyday of the “Beat” era and also when the Fillmore District, once known as “Harlem of the West,” was a lively and thriving black-owned jazz mecca before the city’s redevelopment plan targeted some 60 square blocks and forced the removal of 200 black-owned businesses. The plan affected more than 13,000 Fillmore residents, mostly African American. After redevelopment, block after block had nothing but large empty lots where buildings had been razed.
Mickey recalled some of the happiest times of his youth spent near old Fillmore, street like the Chicago Barbershop, Red Shoe shop, and Kansas City Bar-be-cue.
It’s not very often that homeless men and women are given a stage to tell their own stories. But that’s exactly what happened when artist/teacher Polly Garcia approached Atlanta Outreach Project’s about creating Life Without Walls.
Atlanta Outreach Project provides innovative solutions to ending homelessness in collaboration with other agencies. Life Without Walls project was a 10-week writing and theater workshop designed to teach and improve writing and artistic skills. In the workshops, individuals who are or have been homeless were guided through an artistic process in which they created poems and scenes based on their own stories. As part of the process, they used a StoryKit to interview each other and tell their stories. (more…)
In our last week in La Crosse, Wisconsin Public Radio hosted a Listening Event and reception at the Pump House, to celebrate everyone who came and shared their stories with StoryCorps. It was a wonderful event that gave us all a chance to connect with others in the community over tasty treats graciously provided by the People’s Food Co-Op.
John Gaddo of WPR played a few locally edited excerpts from interviews highlighting the range of stories in the La Crosse community. Over the past month we heard from teachers, nuns, veterans, soldiers, activists, new parents, grandparents, immigrants, Peace Corps volunteers, doctors, and more. People shared their stories of trips, journeys, and discovery; leaving home and finding home; growing up on the farm and growing up in the city; first meetings, first loves, and first partners; finding strength in family and friends in difficult times, and their hopes for the future.
During the event it became clear that the conversations started in the StoryCorps MobileBooth didn’t stop when the recording ended. Participants spoke about sharing their CD and starting new conversations with their loved ones about one another. Library Director Kelly Kreig-Sigman also announced that the La Crosse Public Library will be receiving a full archive of all the stories recorded in La Crosse in the coming months so residents will be able to listen to each others stories whenever they want to.
While StoryCorps’ new team of Facilitators and Site Supervisors were training in our Brooklyn Office, our two Mobile Booths were preparing for their next stops in Fort Wayne, IN (East Booth) and La Crosse, WI (West Booth). Working with the Mobile East Team in Fort Wayne during their first week of recordings, I facilitated a conversation between business and life partners Harriet Miller and Monica Wehrle who talked about organizing an exhibition game with the former players of the Fort Wayne Daisies in their efforts to promote equality for women through the Fort Wayne Women’s Bureau.
A week later I joined our West Booth Team, new Site Supervisor Eloise Mezler and new Facilitator Jackie Sojico, for Opening Day in La Crosse, where we are partnering with WLSU Wisconsin Public Radio and the La Crosse Public Library in downtown.
During the month of August, my co-facilitator Naomi Greene and I visited the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Tampa, FL. MOSI won the National Medal Award, awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to the ten best libraries and museums around the country.
MOSI’s core ideology is to make a difference in people’s lives by making science real for people of all ages and backgrounds. During our visit to MOSI, we recorded interviews with people that share their love and passion for science with all the museum’s visitors.
Julie Fooshee (L) and Hadley Andersen (R) took time out of their very busy day to sit down and discuss their research and work at MOSI. They have amazing jobs. Known throughout the MOSI organization as “interactors,” Julie and Hadley spend a lot of their time in and around the museum’s 450 exhibits. Julie describes an interactor as “…a little bit of everything. They play, they teach…they are tour guides. Everything.” Interactors are the people that make the exhibits and the information come alive for the patrons.
In May, StoryCorps traveled to the offices of the Dolores Huerta Foundation in Bakersfield, CA, to facilitate a conversation with Dolores Huerta and two of her daughters, Camila Chavez and Lori de Leon.
Huerta is the co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union. She now heads her own foundation. In 1965, she and the late UFW president Cesar Chavez directed the great grape boycott, bringing the plight of the farm workers in California to the attention of the consumer. It was so successful that in its final days, it brought the California grape industry to its knees and grape growers signed a collective bargaining agreement with the UFW in 1970.
During her conversation with StoryCorps, this courageous labor leader recounted stories over her 80-year life. She remembered leaving the relative security of Salinas to organize in Delano and the shift in the mindset of her children when she did that.
Last year the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) bestowed the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal (CMC) with the National Medal Award. It is one of 10 institutions to receive the honor in 2009 and the prize included three StoryCorps recording days. My co-Facilitator Matt Herman and I visited Cincinnati, OH, from July 14-16th to record stories from the CMC’s donors, patrons, staff, founders, community and board members.
All of the days’ participants glowed with praise for CMC’s programs, historical institutions, and OMNIMAX Theater. They were also particularly proud of the Museum’s ongoing, costly, and crucial preservation of Cincinnati’s Union Terminal, an Art Deco train station built in 1931.
The building is crucial to the city’s identity; it carries an impressive aura of historical grandeur. Its significance is exemplified in photographs of legions of World War II servicemen filtering through its front doors, welcomed home by crowds of loved ones, draping its portico and filling its rotunda. Each participant shared an important memory minted in the building. This is where several generations of greater-Cincinnatians have consistently reunited.
Read about a pair of our participants at CMC in Matt Herman’s post, “I never grew out of the phase of knowing all the dinosaur names.”