Until you experience a storyteller who can take to you to worlds away, bring you back changed, you don’t know the power of Storytelling. Until you listen, totally focused on the words making movies in your head, you don’t understand the need for stories. When you are breathing the same air, in a huge group that is laughing in harmony, you can know the joy created in story. When your thoughts are those of peace, gifted to you in story, you can feel your heart beat with understanding. We all need the power, joy, laughter, harmony and peace given through Stories. Kathleen Mavournin, Smoky Mountain Storytellers Association
In the summer 2014 issue of Yes! Magazine, Editor Sarah Van Gelder asks the question “What’s Your Story?” as an introduction to an issue related to stories and storytelling. “If you want to understand people”, she writes, “ask for their stories. Listen long enough, and you learn not only the events of their lives, but their sources of meaning, what they value, what they most want.”
Van Gelder quotes the iconic George Gerbner, who wrote, “We experience the world through stories. Whoever tells the stories of a culture defines the terms, the agenda, and the common issues we face.” In this unique issue of Yes! the essayists tell stories that remind the reader that “new voices are being heard, and….their stories are transforming our culture” – from a culture based on corporate greed, violence and the partisan impasse to a world in which the voices of the people can make a difference.
Each year, on March 20, the voices of the people and of the ages are heard on World Storytelling Day. The date is set to concur with the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere and the first day of autumn equinox in the southern hemisphere. The idea is for people around the globe to share and listen throughout the 24 hour day to stories in different languages and different settings.
World Storytelling Day has its roots in the Scandinavian nations that reached across borders to share stories in the early 1990’s. Begun in Sweden, the Scandinavian storytelling web network spread to Norway, Denmark, Finland and Estonia. The idea caught on and spread to Canada and other nations around the world so that today World Storytelling Day is indeed a global celebration.
Clearly, the history of storytelling is as old as humankind. Before there was written communication people had to rely on the memory of the storyteller to pass on the experiences, the ideas, the wisdom, the skills of people. Stories were told to explain confusing events, including disasters that shaped a people’s heritage. Stories may be myths, legends, fairy tales, trickster stories, fables, ghost tales, hero stories, adventures – any oral rendition of the common themes that build community and define humanity.
The theme for World Storytelling Day 2015 is “Wishes.” Storytellers will explore the inclusive theme from their own perspectives and with their own listeners. In this community, one collaboration has already come together to share “Seven Stories I Wish They’d Tell about the War in Vietnam.”
The evening features storytellers/musicians, most of whom are veterans: Dick Foley, Gerald Ganann, Catrina Huynh-Weiss, Steve McKeown, Gary Melom, George Mische, and Chante Wolf. The presenters will share the stories that continue to be ignored or intentionally omitted – stories of the Gulf of Tonkin, Kent State, My Lai, draft card burning, Dr. King’s Vietnam speech, the Fulbright hearings, the impact of the war on the Vietnamese people, rape in Vietnam, homeless veterans and the scourge of Agent Orange.
The free and open event is set for World Storytelling Day, March 20, 2015, 7:00 p.m. at Macalester Plymouth United Church, 1658 Lincoln in St. Paul. Sponsors include Macalester Plymouth United Church Peacemakers and Making Meaning of Vietnam; Veterans for Peace Chapter 27 has endorsed the program. Questions: Contact Larry Johnson 612 747 3904 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Johnson was a founder and early supporter of World Storytelling Day in the U.S.