Our oral history book series has featured a diversity of voices and issues, including wrongfully convicted Americans, undocumented immigrants, and people living under oppressive regimes in Burma, Zimbabwe and Colombia.

Moving forward, our books will focus on communities impacted by issues of criminal justice and migration & displacement.

Learn more about our oral history book series and how you can apply to develop a project with VOW.

SUSTAIN THE STORIES

The VOW Story Lab is possible thanks to passionate people like you. Will you join us in supporting in-depth, human rights storytelling?

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INCUBATING NOW

Mi Maria

Editor: Ricia Chansky

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane María battered Puerto Rico for over twenty-two hours. The real catastrophe, however, seems to be the ways in which the people of Puerto Rico have been ignored in its aftermath.

Since the hurricane, the abject lack of U.S. government support has left many on the island without electricity, clean drinking water, food, and medical care. Nine months later, the island remains shattered.

Mi María brings together stories of survival and community with an interrogation of the politics of citizenry rooted in the history of Puerto Rico and the United States, and exemplified by the lack of support offered in the aftermath of this disaster.

Ricia Chansky is an Associate Professor of literature at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez. An essential part of this will be training 100 of her students to be conscientious, ethical oral historians who will collect narratives for the project from their home communities.

Read more about the project on our blog.

Proyecto Santuario

Editor: Diana Montaño

Sanctuary cities are in the crosshairs of anti-immigrant activists and politicians, framed as lawless safe havens for criminals. This narrative erases the complex history of sanctuary status, and excludes from public debate the perspectives and experiences of immigrants and refugees most impacted by the “sanctuary city” debate.

Proyecto Santuario is a participatory, community-based project that exploresthe history of San Francisco as a “sanctuary city” through the voices of the city’s Central American immigrants and refugees.

Diana Montaño has a Masters in Journalism from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She has worked in radio, print, and online outlets in both English and Spanish, and her reporting on immigration and Latino issues has won several Society of Professional Journalists awards. A longtime community media educator and former union organizer, she brings pedagogical expertise in curriculum development and workshop facilitation. She is also an immigrant born in Mexico City and raised in New York. 

Read more in our editor Q&A.

Resettled

Editor: Katrina Powell

Refugee stories do not end once they’ve reached a host country. In fact, that is often just the beginning of their journey.

Resettled tells the untold stories of displacement, trauma, and community integration in an area not known for its resettlement efforts: Rural Appalachia.

Between xenophbic rhetoric, decreasing funds for resettlement, and a continued focus on rural Appalachia as a place of poverty and strife, understanding these stories is critically important. This project will place the “refugee narrative” alongside the “Appalachian narrative” to provide a greater understanding of the benefits and challenges of welcoming new neighbors in the region.

Katrina Powell is Professor of Rhetoric at Virginia Tech and is trained in oral history methodology at the Columbia University Oral History Institute. She has conducted several oral history projects in the U.S. and Sri Lanka, and has also published several books and articles using oral history methodology and analysis.

Read more in our editor Q&A.

Solito Solita
Editors: Steven Mayers & Jonathan Freedman

According to the Migration Policy Institute, “The number of unaccompanied children crossing the US-Mexico border increased 90 percent between 2013 and 2014.” The total number that crossed the border in 2014 is estimated at between 60-90,000 children. Many of these youth are held indefinitely within detention centers in the United States and sent back to their home countries, where they often face threat of death by gangs, as well as severe poverty.

During the civil wars, all sides committed atrocities. Thousands of refugees fled from Central America seeking asylum in the United States. In an escalating human tragedy many refugee children, who had witnessed massacres and atrocities, were relocated in gang-infested streets of Los Angeles. They developed fierce gangs of their own—18th Street and Salvatrucha—that terrorized the barrios of LA.  Hundreds of gang members were deported back to Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. In impoverished homelands, the gangs have grown into full-scaled crime organizations that have kidnapped, blackmailed, killed and taken over neighborhoods, towns and cities.

Solito, Solita (Alone, Alone) aims to shed light on the ongoing abuses that tens of thousands of child migrants from Central America—particularly from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras—face every year while attempting to seek refuge from life-threatening conditions in their home countries. From extortion and the dangers they face hopping cargo trains, to their dreams for the future and the realities of their arrivals, we hope to bring to readers the stories of this largely unheard population of young migrants.

Read a Q&A with the editors here.

Jonathan Freedman is a journalist, author, and educator who won the Pulitzer Prize for editorials advocating for justice for undocumented migrants. Steven Mayers is a San Francisco-based educator and researcher who works with migrant communities as an oral historian and English professor.

How We Go Home

Editor: Sara Sinclair

What is it like to be a citizen of a nation within another nation whose dominant social, political, and economic interests are fundamentally at odds with your own?

Native people have been moved off their land, assimilated, and even killed. Meanwhile, narratives in which indigenous peoples are invisible continue to facilitate their displacement. North American historical accounts too often exclude indigenous peoples, treating them as peripheral to the continent’s history. In reality, centuries of policies designed to demolish tribal governments and identities have left Native people throughout the United States and Canada reeling.

The stories in How We Go Home aim to open readers’ eyes to the myriad human rights violations experienced in Indian Country today. Narrators provide insight into reservation life: the connection between people and their ancestral lands; the collective heritage of displacement and forced assimilation carried in the people’s collective memory; and the on-going human rights violations rampant in Indian country. Despite the dire conditions that many Native North Americans live in, these interviews illuminate Native society’s incredible capacity for resistance, for healing, and for survival.

Read a Q&A with the editor here.

Sara Sinclair is an oral historian of Cree-Ojibway, German Jewish, and British descent, and a graduate of Columbia University’s Oral History Master of Arts program.

Holding our Ground

A partnership with IDEX

Food sovereignty is the right to choose what food we eat, where it comes from, and how it is grown. It is an issue of fundamental rights and autonomy, but our current global food system, dominated by corporate-driven agriculture practices, pushes out small-scale farmers and aggravates our shared climate crisis.

Issues of food sovereignty are often framed by focusing on problems related to food production without offering many productive solutions. The story not being told is that men, women, and youth at the local level are creating ways to transform our food systems for the better. Around the world, these individuals are encouraging sustainable and organic food production methods, organizing to sell their products collectively for fair prices, and lowering costs while improving the quality and quantity of their yields.

Holding Our Ground: Voices for Food Sovereignty will explore lives that exemplify ways that swimming against the tide—for example, supplying and demanding healthy and sustainably-grown food—is possible for us all. Narrators include the leaders of grassroots, community-led projects and movements in South Africa and Zimbabwe, particularly women, youth, and indigenous people. They are not only directly impacted, they are the protagonists of the stories themselves, awakening their families and communities to the promise of food sovereignty.

International Development Exchange (IDEX) is a non-profit that has supported more than 500 grassroots, community-led projects in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Annually, IDEX’s partners serve approximately 1.2 million people in impoverished communities, including marginalized women, small farmers, indigenous communities, low-income urban residents, sexual and ethnic minorities, and youth.

 

FOLLOW THE WORK

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If you are interested in supporting a specific project, please contact our executive director Mimi Lok.