Rae Garringer – Country Queers

Storyteller Initiative


The VOW Storyteller Initiative is a new program from Voice of Witness that aims to support editors from marginalized communities, regardless of their level of experience, who may be struggling to find mentorship or afford the time commitment that the work of oral history requires. VOW will assist community storytellers to plan, develop, execute, or share an oral history project of their choosing.

The initiative will provide institutional support to a cohort of queer, trans, and BIPOC narrative changemakers to uplift stories from their own communities. Community-rooted editors are impacted by and have deep insight into the issues facing their communities—and yet, they often struggle to carry out projects due to lack of funding, support, and resources. This program aims to provide this support; counter disinformation and harmful stereotypes; and expand and democratize the kinds of stories that are being told.
The Storyteller Initiative will provide oral history training, editorial guidance, financial support, and networking opportunities for a cohort of fellows to work on their own projects. VOW will share our years of experience conducting ethics-driven oral history, documentary, and storytelling work, and leverage our resources and contacts to amplify their work. Having developed over twenty in-depth human rights oral history collections, VOW brings insights about project development, relationship building, holistic and trauma- informed interviewing, narrative editing, and more.


Narrative change is the strategy of shifting the patterns, ideas, and themes embedded within the stories we tell. The Storyteller Initiative aims to transform the harmful patterns in dominant stories shared about marginalized communities by recentering storytelling from those communities themselves. In doing so, the initiative will bring complexity and nuance to our collective understanding of the issues that confront us and create documentary reporting that supports community building, representation, and education.


Applications will open in late 2024 with fellowships beginning in 2025. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on social media to stay updated on dates and details.

Pilot Case Studies

In preparation to launch the full Storyteller Initiative, VOW has piloted two fellowships in scaled-down iterations. Both collaborations demonstrated the effectiveness of the initiative and the potential impact of future expanded versions.

Rae Garringer – Country Queers

Country Queers

Voice of Witness worked with Country Queers, a multimedia community-based oral history project documenting rural and small-town LGBTQIA2S+ experiences. We supported founder Rae Garringer in drafting an impactful book proposal and production plan featuring the stories collected by the ongoing project. With VOW’s support, Rae produced a book proposal, mapped out its development and production, and was successfully accepted for publication by Haymarket Books.

NYC Trans Oral History Project

VOW worked with Aviva Silverman of the New York City Trans Oral History Project, a community archive devoted to the collection, preservation, and sharing of trans stories. VOW provided mentorship, editorial guidance, and support for a book proposal and educational resource, which will combat the erasure of trans lives and serve as social and political tools.

NYC Trans Oral History Project

Hear from the Pilot Fellows

I can’t quite explain how grateful I am to have the support of Voice of Witness. In addition to supporting me in the practical steps of drafting and submitting a book proposal, this pilot Storyteller Initiative also connected me to experienced oral historians and editors with whom I share ethical and political approaches to the work.

Rae Garringer, founder of country queers

The mentorship of VOW, and the subsequent book proposal we develop, will enable our collective to create a substantive historical and educational resource on trans life in the voices of trans people that currently does not exist. Our partnership draws together the powerful mission to not only preserve the stories of those marginalized but make an actionable social and political tool for fighting the ongoing erasure of trans life.

Aviva Silverman, NYC Trans oral history collective

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