This episode of The Table Underground is a little different than most. It’s a compilation of 12 short stories I gathered from amazing people across the state of CT. These stories touch on the topics of community, racism, justice, and education, and were recorded in 2018 as part of an interactive mixed media exhibit called StoryScape. This exhibit was created to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund. I was part of a small team of artist activists including Hanifa Nayo Washington, and Suri Seymour who worked with the Fund to create 6 events around the state to both celebrate people for their hard work on the ground, and invite them to share stories they thought it was important for other people to hear.
At the regional events people were welcomed to share their stories in many formats including video, audio, poetry, and writing. I held down the audio recordings, and turned any little space I could find (like a closet, a basement stair landing, and little rooms in libraries) into pop-up recording studios. It was an honor and joy to sit with mostly strangers, and get intimate real quick, as people shared not just their work, but also the emotional side of what it takes to deal with racism, to work for systemic change, and to create joyous life and community. The final StoryScape exhibit had 41 audio stories and photo portraits, numerous videos, poetry, and 40+ beautifully collaged written stories.
There are gems of wisdom throughout each story in this episode; ways that people are manifesting their life learnings in the world, that no doubt will speak to each of us differently. I hold deep love for each of these people from this process of sitting with them, and then playing their stories over and over in my headphones as I did the editing.
Some of the things that stand out to me in this collection of twelve stories, are the vulnerability people offered up by people such as Jamal Jimerson, speaking about the personal impacts of being a black man leading undoing racism work with white non-profit boards, or Dee Goodrich and Betsy Morgan owning up to their learnings as white people about how white supremacy and racism shows up in their work and lives, and how they are working to shift that. Jamillah Prince Stewart speaks beautifully about the ways that she does organizing work that supports individuals in faith congregations in finding their power, as well as on the privilege of knowing and using social justice language. Ingrid Canady speaks about the work she does with mostly white teachers to help them see their own identities and biases, and understand what is problematic about the “color blind” mindset. Teen Ben Saldana shares on the importance of the arts group Creative Youth Productions which helped him find confidence and a path in life, and Jeremy Cajigas shares about racism in schools and the power of undoing racism education and focusing on ending systemic oppression. Another important theme can be heard in the stories of Precious Price, Beverly Lawrence, and Diana Martinez, as well as Megan Parrott who all speak to the transformative experience of building close relationships with other Black and Brown people as foundational to their work for liberation.
I hope you are impacted by what these people have to say, and that it helps you to feel a sense of connection with someone new, or have an insight into their experiences or ways of working that are meaningful for you.
To hear the full audio playlist of all 41 stories, click on the SoundCloud box at the bottom of this page.
One technical note:
In some of these stories people mention The Graustein Fund, or initiatives they supported such as Child First, The Discovery Initiative, or local organizing work to end racism and poverty. I am not airing these stories to promote the work of The Memorial Fund, they are being aired because of the value of hearing people’s stories and learnings directly from them and in their own words.
The 12 People’s Stories in Today’s Episode
The Full Storyscape playlist on soundcloud
Many thanks to the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund for permission to air these stories, and for supporting story sharing as an important tool for liberation.
Some of the story shorts you heard today were edited by the talented Teresa Tate and Ben James, all stories were engineered by James Cookson, and produced by me, Tagan Engel.
Thanks as always to the Passion HiFi for our theme music, and for the extra track for today’s show called What We Came to do.