Summer school

School is definitely not out for summer!  This June, Oral History Summer School returns to Hudson, New York (June 13 – July 1).  This program, which is now in its third year, brings together an international group of writers, social workers, radio producers, artists, teachers, and human rights workers with the purpose of helping them employ Oral History in their work.

Picture 1Oral History Summer School 2014 kicks off with an eight-day intensive introduction to Oral History that covers interview techniques, ethics, archives, project design and advocacy.   The week-long intensive will be followed by two production-focused workshops: Oral History and Radio and Oral History Experiments: Project Lab.  This year’s visiting instructors include Eugenie Mukeshimana (Genocide Survivors Support Network), Michael Garofalo (StoryCorps), Sarah Kramer (New York Times, NPR, HBO, PBS) and Jen Karady (Soldiers’ Stories From Iraq and Afghanistan).

To learn more about the program and apply go to www.oralhistorysummerschool.com.

Snowbirds

As the snow and ice from Printthe second big snowstorm of the season slowly melts (and a third storm is rumored to be on the way) the debate on climate change has been rekindled once again.  Whether you agree that global warming is a threat to our planet or not, I think you’ll enjoy Winters Past.

This new audio project  is brought to you by the husband/wife team of Josie Holtzman, a sound artist and former producer on WNPR’s Where We Live, and Isaac Kestenbaum, a writer and audio producer who works at StoryCorps.  Released almost episodically these “soundwalks” are best heard in specific places while walking.  For folks who don’t have access to or interest in venturing out into the icy environs described in the “The River” or “Everywhere,” you can still enjoy these ambient narratives that take you back-and-forth between the past, the present and the future.

The project is supported by Invoking the Pause, an environmental grants program  advancing public awareness about climate change, but again there is something here for even the staunchest climate change denier.  Listening to “The River” I could feel the anticipation and excitement of charging down the Hudson in an ice yacht.  I smiled as I listened to “Everywhere” and imagined rushing naked from a makeshift sauna out onto an icy pond.  Both stories explore the rapidly changing environment but they also hone in on small moments of wonder and anticipation while documenting kinships and traditions that may only blossom in the cold.

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John Sperr, a member of the Hudson River Ice Yacht club, and one of the voices featured in this walk. Photo courtesy John Fasulo

You can see more photos, read more shared reminiscences, and get updates about Winters Past on Facebook and Twitter.  Holtzman and Kestenbaum’s next story, “The Lake” is coming soon.

The Road Home

Eddie Lanier struggled with alcoholism for over 40 years, until his 28th stint in rehab finally led to sobriety. Homeless and hungry, Eddie roamed the streets of his native Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and found a friend in David Wright, a passerby whose frequent donations stood out. Here, the two friends discuss Eddie’s remarkable journey.

“The Road Home” is part of StoryCorps’ first-ever half-hour animated special, Listening Is an Act of Love—encore national broadcast on February 7 on POV. Check your local listings: http://www.pbs.org/pov/storycorps/

 

Military voices

If you searched the web for ways to observe Veterans Day this past Monday you likely found plenty of suggestions and resources on how you can show support for veterans and their families on the actual day and through out the year.  Not surprisingly, many of those suggestions involve the simple acts of acknowledgment and listening.  Two people who know a lot about listening to the military community are Như Tiên Lữ and Noam Bar-Zemer.

Tiên and Noam are coordinators for StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiative (MVI).  An ongoing endeavor to record, preserve, and share the stories of veterans, service members, and military families, MVI celebrates its first year of recordings Thursday, November 14 at the Brooklyn Museum.  So it seemed like a good time to ask the people who make MVI happen about the work they’ve done and the discoveries they’ve made during the exceptional first year of the initiative.

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MVI Coordinators, Như Tiên Lữ and Noam Bar-Zemer

The Recollective:  Before coming to MVI, what connection if any did you have to the post 9/11 military community either personally or professionally?

Noam:  I did not have much of a connection to the post 9/11 military community. That said, my father served in the Israeli military durring the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and later, as a combat photographer and producer in Lebanon for CNN so the military/combat experience more generally is something that informed my upbringing in a big way.

Tiên:  My experiences as an Air Force girlfriend and then spouse, for a total of 9 years, informed much of how I have come to understand the military community. My partner enlisted in the Air Force a year after we graduated from college, much to my chagrin; since I had many preconceived notions of the military, I worried that he would change into someone I could no longer relate to. Over the years and across several states, as I met more servicemembers and their families, as our own community became the military community, my understanding of the military became much more complicated.

The Recollective:  What have been the most challenging aspects of the initiative?
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Noam:  Convincing potential partner organizations that, unlike traditional media outlets, we are there to provide a service to participants, not to gather content for our own purposes.
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The Recollective:  How has the military community responded to MVI?
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Noam: Overall I think the response has been quite positive.
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Tiên:  The military community has been incredibly receptive to MVI, so much so that we exceeded our interview goals 5 months ahead of schedule.  Some of the most memorable feedback I’ve heard include veterans or servicemembers who shared stories their families had never previously heard; it’s gratifying to think that MVI was able to provide the space for those connections to happen.

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The Recollective: MVI is being extended for another year.  Do you have any hopes for MVI as it starts its second year?  What would you like to see happen?

Tiên:  I’d love to see MVI strengthen long-term relationships with our community partners, so that we can continue to collaborate with the tremendous work that our partners are doing with veterans and their families. I’m also fascinated by how art can be used as a form of expression and connection, and I hope that MVI can collaborate with local organizations to explore ways that we can create community projects combining visual, written, and audio forms of storytelling. My main hope for MVI, though, is that it ultimately encourages the military community to share their experiences, for civilians to listen, and for that conversation to extend beyond the MVI space and into the rest of our lives.

The Recollective: Can you describe who you think are the ultimate beneficiaries of these shared stories?
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Noam: I definitely feel like my focus and the focus of the project is the participants and not the public. I certainly think that what we do is educational and forces the public to engage to a certain degree but when I think of our net impact I think mostly of the military community.
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Tiên:  I feel that both civilian and military communities benefit from the sharing of MVI stories. As a predominantly civilian society, where servicemembers make up less than 1% and veterans less than 8% of the population, we can often be very removed from the experiences of the military community. StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiative attempts to bridge that divide by offering a storytelling space for the military community.
 

Military Voices Initiative will host a talkback at the Brooklyn Museum November 14 from 7pm to 9pm.  The talkback is in conjunction with the museum’s current exhibition WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath.  Như Tiên Lữ and Noam Bar-Zemer will be on hand to answer questions along with  war photographers, Ron Haviv and Nina Berman, and MVI participants Drew Pham, Williams Stein, and Helen Shor.  To RSVP to this event email mvi@storycorps.org.

High Rise Stories

Another cool event is taking place at 80 Hanson Place in Fort Greene, Brooklyn!  StoryCorps, one of the organizations that calls 80 Hanson home, has invited writer Audrey Petty to talk about High Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing. The book, a collection of oral histories compiled and edited by Petty, is published by Voice of Witness, a non-profit organization founded by author David Eggers and physician/ human rights scholar Lola Vollen.

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In the book, former residents of Chicago’s iconic housing projects describe life in the now demolished high rises.  They share stories of community, displacement, and poverty in the wake of gentrification.  Ms. Petty will share details on the making of the book and answer your questions about these local narratives that resonate far beyond Chicago.

The event tales place Friday, November 8 at 11am on the 4th floor of 80 Hanson Place.  To attend please RSVP to jlee@storycorps.org.  Your name will also be entered in a raffle for the book!

Stories from the first ten years

Just attended the release party for StoryCorps’ fourth and newest book, Ties That Bind: Stories of Love and Gratitude from the First Ten Years of StoryCorps.  Founder Dave Isay  and co-author Lizzie Jacobs presented stories from the book and invited featured storytellers to talk about their StoryCorps experience.DSC00210The event, hosted by Brooklyn’s very own Greenlight Bookstore, took place at St. Joseph’s College and kicked off the national book tour.  Look out for upcoming appearances by Isay in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.  Pick up a copy of Ties That Bind at your local bookstore or order online today!

StoryCorps @ your library

IMG_0847Step off the Long Island Railroad platform in Bellmore, New York and you’ll be greeted by a sign that says “Bellmore Village: A Stroll Down Memory Lane.”  That motto refers to a revitalization movement in the 1990’s which focused on the preservation and renewal of Bellmore’s small town charm.  This summer, residents of Bellmore will be asked to take a stroll down memory lane in a more literal sense when the local public library begins recording their stories as part of the StoryCorps @ your library (SCL) program.

Bellmore Memorial Library is one of ten sites selected to participate in the national program which is designed to encourage multi-format public programming on broad themes of oral narrative, and local history.  Bellmore residents will be asked to talk about the rich local history as well as recent events like Hurricane Sandy which had a huge impact on the community.

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StoryCorps’ Elaine Kamlley working with Library Director Maureen Garvey.

I had the opportunity to observe the recent training session at Bellmore Memorial Library and spoke with SCL Coordinator, Elizabeth Pérez about the program.

The Recollective: What made  Bellmore Memorial Library’s SCL application stand out?

Elizabeth: Bellmore Memorial’s StoryCorps @ your library grant application exemplified how libraries are pillars of the community. Martha DiVittorio, our point of contact at Bellmore, wrote an extremely well organized and thought out application – from their program theme to how the stories will be used upon collection. Every question was answered with precision and assured us that if this library were to be chosen, it would not only greatly benefit the library itself but more importantly, the patrons and people it serves.
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The Recollective: What makes Bellmore Memorial Library such a great fit for StoryCorps @ your library?
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Elizabeth: At our training, I was able to see how closely connected the volunteer Facilitators were to the library.  Many were librarians themselves but also have lived in Bellmore, NY for about 10+ years.  It was clear that Bellmore Memorial was a great fit for this program because of the relationships they have with each other, local businesses, schools and the community at large. They knew everything!
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The Recollective:  You’ve done two training sessions with Bellmore Memorial Library’s staff and volunteers.  What was most surprising about those trainings for you?
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Elizabeth: Their interactions with each other and the institution are constant and personal, making their profile particularly special as it relates to their understanding of the community at-large.
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StoryCorps staff pose with staff and volunteers from Bellmore Memorial Library

StoryCorps staff pose with staff and volunteers from Bellmore Memorial Library.

To learn more about the participating libraries go to www.ala.org.
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