Just about a year ago, we had the profound experience of leading a workshop for grantees of Susan G. Komen for the Cure - Puget Sound. Despite the caterer going out of business, the electricity going out on the last day, and a myriad of other obstacles---what emerged was an incredible testimony of survivors, and the women who support them. The workshop participants went on to produce more stories with their clients, patients, friends, co-workers. Now they're all online, take a look.
I'm not sure when I first heard the term "culturally appropriate". It's one of those phrases that typically makes me yawn and think of gobbledy gook and grant applications.
But Friday night, when I was sitting in the Chinatown Community Center watching the M.O.V.E. screening--it kind of hit home. Behind me were Minh and Nhu. Minh participated in a digital storytelling workshop about a year ago, where she created a heartbreaking piece about losing her mother to lung cancer while she watched her brothers refuse to quit smoking. She was translating in Vietnamese to Nhu, whose piece "Young Like Me" was premiering that evening. Nhu encouraged the audience to plant their own organic garden and told us how she harvested her veggies at the local P-patch to make healthy meals for herself; her secret to staying seventy years young.
In the back of the room, a gaggle of teenage girls in matching t-shirts came out to support Julie and Diane, the fourteen year old creators of Our Second Home. Julie's little brother who makes a cameo at the end of the story squealed out when he saw himself on the big sreen. Julie and Diane introduced their piece in both English and Cantonese, in deference to their parents who are monolingual, and the group of Angela's line dancers who attended the event and giggled throughout Bridge to Health when they saw themselves dancing away.
Culturally appropriate? I think so. Gobbledy gook? Decidedly not.
- It was amazing to go from not knowing how to do any of this to putting a movie together. I bought a microphone and I’m going to keep making movies!” Miranda Taylor, Good Food Truck Digital Story Producer
- “Awesome! The stories are so inspiring: I look forward to seeing how they create change in the community.” Audience member from the High Point M.O.V.E. Screening
Back in March, when we launched M.O.V.E.’s digital storytelling initiative in the White Center and Delridge Neighborhoods, we expected about eight or nine people to show up to the orientation. We had eighteen that day. So I don’t know why I was surprised when we had to repeatedly pull out additional rows of chairs Tuesday night. Almost fifty people gathered at the High Point neighborhood house that evening-- friends, family, and supporters of the new film-makers. While storytellers all addressed issues of access to healthy food and physical activity, they each did so through the unique vantage point of the storyteller. And the audience-- they were as diverse as the stories themselves.
There was the baby who sat contentedly in his mother’s lap, watching as the screen showed images of his big sister playing in the neighborhood P-patch, listening as his mother explained the need for continued support for Delridge’s green spaces.
There was the young man who introduced his piece by saying that he intended to use it to get access to healthy fruits and vegetables in the community college system. He emailed me the next day to apologize for not getting a chance to say good night explaining he had to had to rush his grandmother from the screening to the Cambodian temple.
There were the gardeners of the Vivian McLean rooftop gardens who offered bags of their extra “zoo doo” to the young woman who created a story about her urban farming collective. They also sent me on my way last week with two budding broccoli plants.
The evening ended as producers responded to questions from the audience. They brainstormed who should see these movies, the kinds of changes they hope these pieces will promote, and participants expressed their interest in training others. As one new director explained “There are so many other stories out there waiting to be told.” We look forward to fostering the production of new stories, and to witnessing the changes these stories help bring about.
Take a look at the stories at www.mappingvoices.org.
M.O.V.E. founders include Creative Narrations, Sea Mar, I.C.H.S. and Entre Hermanos. M.O.V.E. is funded by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and by Public Health-Seattle & King County. Local partners also include King County Food & Fitness Initiative, Delridge Neighborhood Development Association and White Center Community Development Association.
It's not often that we get see the inherent dilemmas between corporate philanthropy, media justice, and free speech quite so explicitly. Leave it to Reel Grrls, a Seattle based youth media program that Creative Narrations has worked with, to tell Comcast off for stifling youth voice. Last week a Reel Grrl tweeted about the ex-FCC commissioner Meredith Baker's new job at Comcast, which led to a direct retraction of Comcast funds for Reel Grrls' summer program. The issue has made national headlines, and you can hear these grrls sass back in Colorlines.