lisasockassociates, Author at StoryCorps

“I believe in StoryCorps” – A letter from Jason Reynolds

One of my first “real” jobs out of college was facilitating StoryCorps conversations, and over the years I helped shepherd more than 300 stories into the StoryCorps archives. More than a decade later, I’m still moved by the stories that I witnessed—including one that ended with an emotional marriage proposal.

What I learned in my time working at StoryCorps was that we always have another chance: another chance to grow, to learn, to change, to connect. I believe that everyone has a story, and that our stories help us understand and connect to one another. The passion for storytelling I discovered while working at StoryCorps is why I started writing novels for young adults. 

I believe in the power of stories to bring us together and I believe in StoryCorps. 

The way StoryCorps has expanded its model of collecting, archiving, and sharing stories from across the country is groundbreaking. And it’s critical to show kids especially that they have a place in the world. I was lucky to learn that from an early age—and, today, I support StoryCorps so kids like I once was can feel seen, represented, and empowered through stories.

If you too believe in the power of stories, please make a tax-deductible to StoryCorps.

Warmly,

Jason Reynolds
Bestselling Author
Board Member and Former StoryCorps Facilitator

Photo Credit: Adedayo “Dayo” Kosoko

Give with Confidence

Since our founding in 2003, we’ve preserved stories from more than 600,000 people–moments and experiences that have meaningfully shaped the lives of individual storytellers and, with deep listening, encourage us to view one another with greater empathy and compassion. Our lives may look different, but our humanity connects us all. 

When you give to StoryCorps, you can give with confidence knowing that we take stewardship of your gift seriously.

StoryCorps has earned the highest possible rating, four stars, from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent evaluator of nonprofit organizations, and the highest score for transparency from Guidestar/Candid, a Platinum Seal. These ratings demonstrate fiscal excellence and a commitment to accountability and transparency. Explore ways to give that make sense for you.

“What could we have to talk about?”

By Laura Greenberg, StoryCorps participant

I have long been a fan of StoryCorps, but in 2010 when my daughter Rebecca suggested we visit the StoryCorps booth in Atlanta, Georgia, I was hesitant. “What could we have to talk about?” I thought. “I wasn’t in a war or part of anything important. This is silly.” 

“Just do it,” she said, and so I started talking about growing up with my no-boundaries parents and the chaotic fun that upbringing instilled in my life. Recording was a blast—but what really blew me away was how much our conversation resonated with people all over. Listeners laughed alongside our antics and saw themselves in our family’s love for each other and our unconventional ways of expressing it. Our little slice of life became so much more.

Listen to our conversation here.

After that story was broadcast on NPR and took off, StoryCorps Founder Dave Isay told me they were hoping for more funny stories like it. And that’s what made me want to get more involved: because we all need more funny stories! Everybody has something to share, even if it turns out to be a silly moment about a father conducting a record player symphony from his lounge chair.

The joy of my story isn’t just in the telling; every time it gets re-aired, animated, or otherwise starts making the rounds again, I am gratified all over again by the response. And I get to remember my own parents and share them with the world.

Your gift makes it possible to produce more stories for more listeners—please make a gift today.

Your support makes it possible for StoryCorps, an independently funded nonprofit, to collect, archive, and share the stories of people from all backgrounds because everyone’s stories deserve to be heard.

Donate

Taking Pride in our stories

By Jeffrey Perri, StoryCorps participant

Having a role model means everything to a kid coming out of the closet. When it was my turn, I had a unique role model: my grandfather, Tony Perri. Though he’d cared for my Grandma Shirley and loved being a dad, Papa came out to his family not long after the 1969 Stonewall uprising and the nation’s first Pride Parade in 1970. His coming out was an incredibly brave act.

Today, I like to tell people how Papa and his decision to, as he says, “live honestly,” paved the way for me and other queer kids. Thanks to StoryCorps, his journey and mine are now archived in the Library of Congress, a snapshot of history that others will be able to access for generations.  

Listen to our conversation here.

The experience of telling our story together in 2009—at Pride, no less!—was warm and meaningful, but the response we’ve received has been truly incredible. People across the country have left comments and sent emails, telling both of us how our story resonated with them. When StoryCorps chose to animate it earlier this year, the video brought our story to life for a whole new audience, long after we thought it was “done.”

Stories matter, and so does passing them down from one generation to the next. The unique slices of life that StoryCorps preserves and shares come from raw and real places, with lessons for all of us, and there’s nowhere else that offers such a broad, beautiful collection of experiences.

Help StoryCorps make this work possible by making a gift today.

Your support makes it possible for StoryCorps, an independently funded nonprofit, to collect, archive, and share the stories of people from all backgrounds because everyone’s stories deserve to be heard.

Donate

My holiday tradition with my father

By Dane E. Holmes, StoryCorps board chair

As part of our annual holiday tradition, my father, Jonas, and I sat down to listen to our StoryCorps interview from 2013. Our conversation touches on the experiences of several generations of Black men in my family, from the Deep South to Chicago, and in it, you’ll hear the warmth and laughter that are a part of any chat I have with my dad. Our story is rich and real—it’s become part of our holiday tradition because it reminds our family of the history and humor that brought us to the present moment. 

Listen to our conversation here.

I love my dad’s interview. I am so grateful to have these memories preserved, and I know they will only become more valuable as time passes. My story is about the power of love in the face of 20th century racism, how to handle naysayers with wit and confidence, and how to lead by example. And it’s thanks to StoryCorps that our story has been recorded, archived, and made available to anyone who wants to listen.

Over the last 19 years, StoryCorps has been opening us to new perspectives, one conversation at a time. I currently serve as StoryCorps’ board chair, but I’ve been part of the organization for a decade and since then, it has been my privilege to hear and share hundreds of stories from people just like—and completely unlike—my dad. Together, we preserve and share stories that illuminate our shared humanity, build mutual empathy, and create a culture of understanding and hope. 

Our work is by and for the public, and it will always be free to experience. But it’s not free to create, and we need supporters and storytellers like you to keep making StoryCorps possible. Please donate today!

We remain grateful for the listeners, supporters, participants, and friends who sustain StoryCorps, and we are excited for everything that lies ahead.

Your support makes it possible for StoryCorps, an independently funded nonprofit, to collect, archive, and share the stories of people from all backgrounds because everyone’s stories deserve to be heard.

Donate

Recent Study Shows Power of One Small Step Conversations

More in Common, a nonpartisan organization focused on strengthening resilience against the forces of division, just completed a study of One Small Step “Audio Cards,” short video excerpts of One Small Step conversations that are shareable on social media and demonstrate that it’s possible to have conversations across the political divide.

In 2018, More in Common launched a year-long groundbreaking project that explores the nuances in the way we identify politically in America. It turns out we’re not just Republicans, Democrats, and Independents—the American electorate is actually comprised of what More in Common has identified as seven Hidden Tribes. Learn more about this research here. The Hidden Tribes project found that 9 in 10 Americans say they are exhausted by the political division in this country. The research also showed that most Americans value empathy, believe in the power of listening and engaging with others who have different views and experiences, and are looking for a way out of the divisive place we find ourselves in today. Additionally, the findings suggest that almost all Americans think that people need to listen to each other better and agree that sharing stories helps us understand each other.

For the StoryCorps study, More in Common gathered a panel of Americans from different political backgrounds and shared eight Audio Cards that feature excerpts of real One Small Step conversations. Afterward, panelists were given a set of questions to capture  their opinions.

Results showed that participants of all political persuasions were powerfully affected by these excerpts. The panelists’ strong positive responses confirm our initial hypothesis that seeing others take part in One Small Step conversations can make Americans feel it is possible to engage others with different political beliefs and that doing so might help us overcome our divisions. One of the most common responses to each Audio Card was the word “hope.” In particular, many participants said they felt inspired by the evidence that Americans from different backgrounds can talk respectfully and want to take part in a similar conversation.

“The One Small Step conversations are a ray of light at a time when Americans feel blanketed in pessimism, with no way forward beyond our deep divisions,” said More in Common Co-founder Tim Dixon. “In a time when most Americans no longer trust politicians, talking heads or even celebrities, it’s the authentic voices of Americans just like them that are more powerful than anything else.”

For One Small Step to achieve its true potential—of impact at scale—we need to test and learn whose voices resonate most strongly, and what reaches those Americans who most need to hear the positive message that comes from these conversations,” added Dixon.

Experience these Audio Cards for yourself—and if you like what you hear, we invite you to share them on your social media channels.

How Richmond, VA is Embracing One Small Step

Baseball games, a church, a library, the offices of the largest newspaper in Richmond, and a museum of history and culture. All of these places were stops earlier this summer in our outreach and engagement efforts in Richmond, VA, one of our One Small Step Anchor Communities. 

“There continues to be a great amount of interest in One Small Step in Richmond,” said One Small Step Field Manager Sonia Mehrmand. “Organizations are eager to partner with StoryCorps to help bring this initiative to more people throughout their community and we’re excited to support them.” 

On June 9, Sonia threw out the first pitch at a Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball game and over the course of two games, spoke with numerous attendees about One Small Step, why Richmond is a focus for this work, and how they can get involved. She and StoryCorps’ Founder and President Dave Isay also spoke with community members at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, who are eager to learn more about the initiative. Dave also gave a Creative Mornings talk and shared why StoryCorps is focusing its One Small Step work in Richmond.

Watch Dave’s talk:

Sonia rounded out her time in Richmond at K95 Countryfest, a two-day country music festival, speaking to attendees about One Small Step and encouraging them to apply to be matched for a conversation. 

Finally, Sonia and Dave met with Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney about his interest in One Small Step, and welcomed his ideas and enthusiasm for how it can help his community. 

Over the course of one week, Sonia and Dave were able to make hundreds of connections with people throughout Richmond and are eager to see how One Small Step continues to build momentum throughout the community. 

Sign up to take One Small Step.

Reaching Audiences in Fresno and the Central Valley

Fresno/Central Valley, CA is one of three Anchor Communities (along with Richmond, VA; and Wichita, KS) where StoryCorps is focusing its One Small Step efforts. Each community is distinctly different, and each is partnering with StoryCorps to implement One Small Step in its own way. If One Small Step can succeed in the Anchor Communities, we believe the effort can be scaled nationwide.

StoryCorps’ Founder and President Dave Isay was recently interviewed by the conservative radio station KMJ 580 and their host, Christopher Gabriel, to discuss One Small Step and how the program aims to overcome toxic polarization. Listen to their conversation. KMJ is also running public service announcements about One Small Step.

On Sunday Morning Matters, hosted by Alexan Balekian on the local NBC affiliate station, Dave talks about the initiative and why StoryCorps is prioritizing the Central Valley. Watch their discussion. Dave and One Small Step were also featured in the Fresno Bee (pay wall).

For Darren Rose, who helped organize Dave’s visit and whose public relations firm, Rose Strategic Communications, partners with StoryCorps to spread the word, One Small Step is personal. Darren used to work in politics and said he feels that the desire to work across the political aisle has eroded. “We used to all work together, no matter our party affiliation. Now, we never work together,” he said. “All of my colleagues in their late 40s and early 50s recognize that things are broken. Working on One Small Step is one way we can help overcome this divide,” Darren continued.

For Darren, the best part of Dave’s visit was seeing how people reacted to the idea of One Small Step. “People are very receptive to the message that we need to overcome toxic polarization,” he said. “I’m grateful Fresno and the Central Valley is one of StoryCorps’ Anchor Communities to help facilitate necessary conversations in our community.”

Sign up to take One Small Step.

Public Radio Stations in Chattanooga, TN and Five Other Cities Named One Small Step Radio Station Hubs

Each year, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, StoryCorps partners with public radio stations, known as One Small Step Radio Station Hubs, to develop their own One Small Step program in their communities. In addition to five other cities, we’re excited to partner with WUTC in Chattanooga, TN. Read the press release (pdf).

”Chattanooga is becoming bigger and denser every day and every effort is being made to make it a more tolerant and inclusive city,” Will Davis, Faculty and Outreach Manager at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga said. “One Small Step embodies our community’s goals.”

Davis continued, “With One Small Step, we want to make new friends and make a difference. We’re going to abandon our egos, listen to each other, and care. We want to be part of an empathy revolution.”

WUTC is based at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where students are very interested in One Small Step, according to Davis. “Today’s student population is more diverse than ever and they really want to get the respect thing right,” he said. “I’m looking forward to leading the charge to make our One Small Step efforts student-centered, as well as community-based.” 

This year, we’re also excited to bring One Small Step to WDET, in Detroit, MI; KSUT, in Ignacio, CO; Georgia Public Broadcasting radio stations across the state of Georgia; WHQR, in Wilmington, NC; and WTIP, in Grand Marais, MN. Our partnership with each station includes training and production assistance to help expand the impact of One Small Step in these communities. 

Trained station staff members will facilitate and record conversations between community residents of differing political persuasions, and selected interviews will be shared across each station’s media platforms. Stations will also team up with a variety of community organizations to spread the word, and will collaborate with StoryCorps to match participants and record conversations through the end of the year. The project also includes a series of public listening events, streamed online. 

Learn more about the recording dates and locations in these communities.

In Wichita, One Small Step Takes Hold

Located in south-central Kansas, Wichita is a mid-sized city with an active business community. When StoryCorps first proposed making Wichita an Anchor Community for One Small Step, we were fortunate to connect with Damon Young, Chief Business Officer at the Kansas Leadership Center and the 2022 Wichita Chamber of Commerce Board Chair.

Young first met StoryCorps Founder and President Dave Isay at a Rotary Club meeting. He immediately saw the potential for One Small Step to help bridge divisions in the local community and the potential role businesses could play to help elevate this work.

Young invited Isay to speak at the Chamber luncheon to share more about StoryCorps, the power of listening to one another’s stories, and to discuss One Small Step and why it’s important for the business community to be involved in this effort.

At the March Chamber luncheon, Young remarked, “Toxic polarization and isolation grow when they’re ignored, and they feed off of each other.” He sees clearly the role of debate in today’s society to help overcome toxic polarization. “Reasonable voices running away from debate only elevate unreasonable ones.” Young believes that leaning into each other’s stories can help us find common ground.

Grounded in contact theory, ​​which suggests that strangers from different social and cultural groups can come to like and accept one another when they have repeated opportunities to interact, One Small Step helps bring people together for one-on-one conversations.

According to Lisa Gale, StoryCorps’ Chief Program Officer, “Wichita’s enthusiasm to participate in One Small Step was off the charts.” She said, “there is real pride that their city was chosen to do this work and they’re embracing it, thinking of ideas on how to spread the word and get more people involved.”

The efforts in Wichita are providing StoryCorps with on-the-ground insight about how best to bring One Small Step to other communities. “The ground game is incredibly important to our success,” Gale said. “Our community outreach efforts are not ‘cookie cutter.’ Each community is different. Wichita is an incredibly dynamic small city, oriented in a particular way to do this work. We have champions like Damon in this effort, and we can leverage the lessons from our outreach in Wichita to expand One Small Step efforts in other cities.”

In addition to Wichita, Oklahoma City, OK; Richmond, VA; and Fresno/Central Valley, CA are Anchor Communities for One Small Step in 2022. For each city, StoryCorps engages a local public relations firm to secure media coverage and connect us with the community, creates a Community Advisory Group, implements localized advertising and promotional campaigns, engages with partner organizations and individuals, and brings the community together with special events.

Stay tuned for more news from our One Small Step Anchor Communities.

 

Photos from Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce by Milt Mounts / Essential Images Photography