New Oral History in Practice Event Series Highlights Community-Based Storytelling Projects

What does oral history look like in practice? What goes into community-rooted storytelling projects and what are the outcomes? Voice of Witness is hosting an event series of “fireside chat” conversations with practitioners who have developed community-based oral history projects. 

We’ll explore the connections between storytelling and community building, representation, ethics, advocacy, narrative change, and more. Sharing reflections and challenges, VOW staff and guest speakers will offer insights into planning and conducting an oral history project and its impact.

Event #1: Stories of Family Separation

Join us for a conversation between Voice of Witness editorial director Dao X. Tran and Fanny Julissa García about her oral history project Separated: Stories of Injustice and Solidarity.

The project documents the Trump administration’s infamous Zero Tolerance policy of 2017 and 2018, in which border authorities forcibly separated unprecedented numbers of migrant parents and children arriving at the US-Mexico border. The oral histories with separated families record a historic human rights violation, and they have been used to advocate for a public apology, restitution, and permanent status for the families that were separated.

We’ll explore topics and themes including:

  • How oral history connects to advocacy and narrative change
  • Accountability to narrators during and post-project
  • Ethical considerations, trauma-informed practices, and narrator compensation

Date: February 28th at 2pm PT / 5pm ET

Event #2: Asian American Stories on Self Evident
Photo credit: Cindy Trinh 

Join us for a conversation between Voice of Witness community partnership manager Ela Banerjee and Rochelle Hoi-Yiu Kwan about Self-Evident, a podcast that aims to improve Asian American representation in public radio and empower local communities to share stories.

We’ll also dive into Rochelle’s work with Think!Chinatown, where she leads storytelling and neighborhood engagement projects, and Self Evident, a podcast that aims to improve Asian American representation in public radio. At Self Evident, she is the Community Producer and she leads their oral history training and archiving program. Self Evident works to build a home for the full range of Asian American perspectives so often erased from the national discourse. It offers a space to engage with reported stories, personal histories, and participatory local events — all by and about Asian Americans.

Through this conversation, we’ll explore topics and themes including:

  • “We are all storytellers”: Democratizing and sharing the tools of oral history work
  • Building relationships, healing, and community celebration through oral history and music
  • The value of nuanced self-representation

Date: Thursday, March 14 at 2pm PT/5pm ET

Event #3: Storytelling with Country Queers

Join us for a conversation between Voice of Witness editorial director Dao X. Tran and Rae Garringer about Country Queers, a multimedia community-based oral history project documenting rural and small-town LGBTQIA2S+ experiences. 

Country Queers, founded by Rae in 2013, was created out of frustration with the lack of easily accessible rural queer stories. The project seeks to preserve rural LGBTQIA2S+ histories and ​​push back against the narrative that queer people can only thrive in metropolitan spaces, as well as foster connections across geographical distance to withstand isolation and to build rural queer community. Since the project began, it has grown to include a collection of over 90 oral history interviews, a traveling gallery exhibit featuring images and oral histories, and a podcast. 

Rae was also a fellow in VOW’s Storyteller Initiative pilot, a new program that aims to support editors from marginalized communities with their oral history projects through training, editorial guidance, financial support, and networking opportunities. Through the fellowship, Rae drafted an impactful book proposal and production plan featuring the stories in the ongoing Country Queers project, which has since been accepted for publication by Haymarket Books.

In this conversation, we’ll explore themes and questions including:

  • Presenting and amplifying oral histories in different multimedia formats
  • Building community and connection through storytelling 
  • Pushing back against monolithic representations of communities and geographic regions

Date: April 17th at 2pm PT / 5pm ET

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