Finding Your Story

How do you identify and frame stories that engage with your community?

About The Speaker(s)

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MODERATOR - Derek Williams is a 21-year-old Project Associate at the Peabody Award-winning production company, Youth Radio, in Oakland California. At Youth Radio, he co-launched a national Youth Advisory Board focused on innovations to address the country’s youth unemployment crisis. Derek has taught journalism at Youth Radio and produced stories for NPR, KQED, and The Huffington Post.
FACILITATOR - Sangita Shresthova is the Research Director of Henry Jenkins’ Media Activism & Participatory Politics (MAPP) project, based at the University of Southern California. Her work focuses on the intersection between popular culture, performance, new media, politics, and globalization.
Erick Huerta is an undocumented immigrant that was granted Deferred Action. He’s currently a journalism student, an advocate for immigrant’s rights, cyclist rights and social media and communications consultant.
Matt Howard served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2001 to 2006 and deployed to Iraq twice where he began to deeply question the wars. He now works on elevating the stories of veterans organizing for their own rights and for the rights of people impacted by U.S. militarism as the Communications Director of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Jason Russell is a co-founder and Chief Creative Officer at Invisible Children. He graduated from University of Southern California's Film School with a degree in Cinema Production, and has gone on to direct over a dozen documentaries.
Carol Zou co-organizes the public fiber arts collective, Yarn Bombing Los Angeles. Best known for their work to cover the Craft and Folk Art Museum in 8,000 crocheted granny squares, Yarn Bombing Los Angeles examines participation in public space through the use of fiber arts.
Monica Mendoza is a 20-year-old poet and proud daughter of immigrant parents. An Oakland native, Monica is currently a second-year college student pursuing her undergraduate degree in women’s studies and was most recently featured in the Off/Page Project's film "Whispers from the Field" and The Bigger Picture project's film "A Taste of Home."

Resources

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Access the collaborative document of key points, insights, questions and resources from this session (open to public comments)

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Articles, Websites, Videos Mentioned

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Key Questions and Comments

  • (04:18) Walk us through a story you've developed that has helped to inform or inspire the work that you do. How did you and your collaborators come up with this story?
  • (08:31) We, as storytellers, have to be aware of those 'inciting incidents'...There's a moment in which you can't back from knowing what you know now. Usually, that's when the story really takes off.
  • (12:30) I took it upon myself--Googling & searching online, trying to find undocumented folks out there and resources--but I couldn't find anything online. So, it put this lightbulb in me to start putting things out there from my own personal experience. Kind of like a 'message in a bottle'...throughout the years, it's been one of the best experiences I've had.
  • (16:23) Our values are situated in allowing folks that are directly impacted to speak to their own experience. Looking at that patchwork of stories really gives a more holistic sense of what people's experiences are (and maybe a very different narrative than what the Dept. of Defense puts out there).
  • (18:31) There are a million ways to communicate your projects' core message. Why choose a story--or a set or stories--that you're betting on having the greatest impact?
  • (20:54) We only really understand empathy and emotion through a narrative--through someone else who's been through what you've gone through.
  • (23:15) When you're talking to somebody and it's a personal experience, face-to-face, all these really broad issues hit home when somebody's telling you "This is what I go through every day"...Trying to make it personal, humanizing it--folks rethink what their process are.
  • (27:05) How did you identify your target audience? How much does audience matter in your creative process?
  • (30:20) I've learned to tailor my story to wherever I'm at...I can always find different ways (e.g. using pop culture references) to lead folks into what I'm trying to say...I'll start sharing my story but relate it to something everybody else can relate to, like the story of comic book heroes like Spider-Man or the X-Men.
  • (33:17) Is there a recipe for a successful story? What features do the most powerful civic stories share?
  • (37:25) Whichever kind of culture or ethnicity you're bringing to the table as the narrator or the storyteller, you will (9 times out of 10) reflect a similar audience.
  • (41:18) How important is it, when you guys are crafting these ideas for stories, that they get to the internet?
  • (44:02) You can have a bunch of facts & figures sitting in front of you, but that doesn't tell you how to relate that to people, or how that impacts people and their very real lives. Stories can help us synthesize that.
  • (48:04) What gives you 'the right' to tell someone else's story versus telling your own story?
  • (50:27) If it was facts alone that we could depend on, there wouldn't be so much doubt on climate change...or this shift around income equality would have happened much earlier. I think it was stories...that created these particular narratives that we're accepting.
  • (52:05) Do you have an example of when storytelling has gone a little awry or where you have lost control?

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