The Power of Storytelling

Photo credit courtesy of Barbara Dios

Our stories embed the fabric of our beings. Stories, told to us as we are about to enter dream spaces. Stories, shared through witty speech and sharp reprimand. Stories, echoed from family to family to invite new-fold members into the collective memory. Stories, iterated to give voice to the otherwise undecipherable emotions. Our stories ground us, center us, and shape the way we view ourselves and others.

In Dr. Sarah Federman’s article, Narrative Approaches to Understanding and Responding to Conflict she observes that “without acknowledging how stories circulate, who controls their circulation and who remains excluded in these stories?”

Finding Your Story

We are all on a quest for our stories or narratives during this Black History Month. Whether through personal discoveries, family conversations, classroom discussions, or communal spaces for social or political action, we all seek to understand the narratives that make up our lives. These stories can be accurate or misconstrued but they all shape our access, mobility, and agency in the present and future societies. By understanding our narratives, we can conjure personal and collective meaning and decipher areas where the re-telling and re-framing of our histories and stories is necessary.

Federman continues, that it is through narrative approaches that we can “provide a way to understand how stories function in communities and how to intervene when destructive stories circulate.”

Dominant Narratives vs Diaspora Narratives

It is not new news that, particularly as Black people living across the diaspora, the dominant narrative, which centers the white gaze, improperly tells our stories. However, as we reflect on the power of our individual and collective stories, we find strength in the ones who shift the narrative through their gifts.

We celebrate Author Edwidge Danticat’s advancements, the Haitian-American best-selling novelist whose latest piece “Everything Inside” vividly tells stories of family, love, and community. We revel in awe of Kehinde Wiley’s paintings and arts, which visually portray notable Black figures. We ponder in reflection over Alice Walker’s poetry and inclusionary focus on the advancement of Black women. Fela Kuti’s music and Pan-Africanism politics inspire generation after generation to move to his music’s rhythm.

Storytelling is Scholarship

Intertwining the intersection of History, Justice, and Race, Dr. Charles Chavis, the Director of the John Mitchell, Jr. Program at George Mason University’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, uplifts narrative and the storytelling of Black people through scholarship.

Believing that our stories matter, Dr. Eddie Glaude, Jr., during the John Mitchell, Jr. Program Monday’s in June Event, shared that “we have to introduce a new language that is robust and moral, a way of thinking that works alongside social transformation, such a language can seed new ways of describing how we exist in community with each other and what we value as a society.”

May we reflect upon, revel in, and re-write our stories through our voice.

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