Tag Archives: Storytelling

World Storytelling Day 2017 – Local plans

World Storytelling Day has been around so long now that it has earned the right to be characterized as a “tradition.”  It began in Sweden in the  early 1990’s and has since spread to nations around the world, a world now connected by Ratatosk, the Scandinavian storytelling web.

A WSD post in 2016 describes more about the history of World Storytelling Day and the local expansion of the living tradition. https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/world-storytelling-day-2016/)  The international theme for the World Storytelling Day 2017, celebrated round the world on May 20, is “Transformation.”

Again this year local storyteller and educator Larry Johnson is heading up plans for World Storytelling Day in this community.  The gathering will explore the ways in which stories transform education.  Four storytellers will share their reflections on the theme at a grand public event on Tuesday, March 21, 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Landmark Center, 75 West 5th Street in downtown St. Paul 

Beverly Cottman, former high school science teacher, will share African and African American Stories that celebrate the rich heritage and culture of the African Diaspora.

Maren Hinderlie has traveled the world as a storyteller for theatrical, educational, religious events and festivals.  She has just returned from telling stories in Vietnam and the Philippines.

Larry Johnson will share his storytelling skills, particularly as they shape his recent publication, Sixty-One, his personal story told as a powerful challenge to embrace peace, end war and face the health concerns of the nation’s veterans.

Kubisa S Muzenence is a respected human rights advocate, founder of Let Africa Live, a nonprofit in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The evening will also showcase the winners of the 2017 Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers Peace Essay Contest for high school juniors and seniors.

There is no charge for the evening; donations will be appreciated by the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers.

Reception and information tables open at 6:00 pm.  The program of storytelling will begin at 7:00 p.m.

Updates and any changes are posted of Facebook.

Water, environment, art, conversation and more merge at the Water Bar

Water water everywhere ~~ And now a place to think……

The Water Bar in Northeast Minneapolis is establishing itself as a gathering place for civil – even enlightened – conversation on a range of environmental, art and social justice issues.   Perhaps because they leased the comfortable setting during early elections the re-opened site is busier than ever in weeks to come. The overflowing agenda features a broad range of topics, formats, presenters and learning options. Something for everyone.

For example, the robust programs include collaborative workshops with the MuseWeb Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution’s Museums on Mainstreet Programs and We Are Water MN. There are coffee talks on Northeast Minneapolis Art Sustainability, a brown bag lunch on Climate + Water, storytelling sessions, and a program on the TC’s climate connections.

The Water Bar also features ongoing art exhibits.  During this winter season the exhibit features the work of Regan Golden whose work, appropriately entitled “Thaw”, is on display through January 8. (http://regangolden.com/home.html)

All of these initiatives and opportunities are spelled out in detail on the Water Bar website. (http://www.water-bar.org) The unique watering hole is located on Central Avenue Northeast, just North of Lowry, in warm, welcoming – and happening — Northeast Minneapolis.

For an earlier Poking post re the Water Bar, click here: https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/05/03/drinking-and-thinking-water-in-northeast-minneapolis/

World Storytelling Day 2016 – Local Update

Globally speaking, World Storytelling Day 2016 was yesterday (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/world-storytelling-day-2016/.The World Storytelling Day website indicates that the global celebration involved storytellers and listeners in over twenty nations around the globe.

Fortunately, the celebration and the spirit live on in Minnesota’s vibrant storytelling community. The stories continue this week, highlighted by a very special event on Tuesday evening, 6:00-9:00 p.m. at the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul. The program, entitled “Strong Women Telling Stories of Strong Women” features Minnesota women sharing stories; the roster of storytellers includes women from a variety of walks of life and heritage. (see earlier post) The schedule includes information about related programs and services – and the evening wraps up with refreshments and a chance to meet and share stories informally. The $10 donation supports the Veterans Resilience Project.

Organizer Larry Johnson advises that time is of the essence – available space is limited. RSVP asap at 612 747 3904 or larryjvp@gmail.com.

World Storytelling Day spotlights strong women & heroines

Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die,

we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.

Sue Monk Kidd,  The Secret Life of Bees

The world awaits the convergence of two joyful events. Sunday, March 20, 2016 marks not only the promise of spring but celebration of the time-honored custom of storytelling. On this special day the people come together to celebrate both the Spring Equinox and World Storytelling Day.

The global theme for World Storytelling Day 2016 is “Strong Women and Heroines.” The vision for World Storytelling Day is that, during those 24 hours, everyone will tell and listen to stories in as many languages and at as many places as possible.  Minnesota’s celebration includes a grand event based on the “Strong Women and Heroines” theme.

As any Prairie Home fan knows, in Minnesota all of the women are strong; a select few of these strong women will share their stories in a very public venue to celebrate World Storytelling Day. The public event is set for Tuesday, March 22, 7:00 p.m. at the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul.  (www.landmarkcenter.org)

As of this writing these “heroines” have agreed to share their stories:

  • Judy Brooks, Director of Community programming at Landmark Center.
  • Peggy Flanagan, State Representative, District 46A (St. Louis Park) and Director of the    Children’s Defense Fund of Minnesota.
  • Catrina Huynh-Weiss, Writer/Producer/Performing Artist; Immigrant to U.S. after the 1975 Fall of Saigon.
  • Rose McGee, Author/Social Justice Activist; Creator of Sweet Potato Comfort Pie Initiative
  • Renee Weeks/Wynn, Augsburg College Student; Kawase Fellow at Hiroshima Peace Institute, August 2015
  • Elaine Wynne, Therapist/Activist; Founder of Veteran Resilience Project
  • Chante Wolf, Persian Gulf Veteran for Peace; Writer/Artist/Activist with Women Veterans

The event will raise support for Veteran Resilience Project (wwwresiliencemn.org) Suggested donation$10.

For more information contact Larry Johnson, 612 737 3904 or larryjvfp@gmail.com



Stories amplify the adventure of open government

“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”Lewis Carroll

As we approach the fifty year anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) we are challenged to balance these parallel forces of “adventure” and “explanation”. We need to consider the possibility that the “dreadful time” spent on legal and journalistic explanations of the Constitution has somehow sapped the “adventure” out of the right of the people to information by and about the government. In truth, the right to know is itself an adventure so bold, so woven into the very fabric of this democracy, that the essence may be obscured in endless explanation.

Proponents who staunchly defend the fine points of FOIA have brilliantly and adamantly fought for open government. Wise defenders of the principle creatively respond – and help to shape – evolving social structures and communication strategies. Advocates collaborate to ward off insidious threats to the people’s right to know. Still, the democratic tenet remains as implicit as it is complex. After a half century of worthy service, FOIA hovers on a precipice reconstructed by fundamental change in politics, the media, economics, technology and the body politic.

When a naïve reporter recently referred to FOIA as “obscure”, advocates wisely shifted from mere explanations to fiery examples of adventures, to stories of how and why FOIA matters – why, after a half century, FOIA is itself an adventure in preserving a democratic principle in an era of cataclysmic change.

The fact is, the right to know is by definition linked to content, complicated by the essential reality that information is implicit, invisible, elusive, built into the genetic structure of the ultimate decision or end product. Information remains inert until and unless sentient beings transform it into knowledge that supports “adventures.” It was neither a politician nor a journalist but Goethe himself who reminded us that “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” The adventure lies in the doing….”

The challenge has always been to trace, to describe, and to realize the value and essence of transparency. The sine qua non is the right of the people to hold government accountable as an authoritative and accessible source of information that ultimately matters “in the doing.” Fifty years after passage of FOIA we may need more adventure to make it real!

In an earlier blog post my emphasis was on “putting a face” on information, https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/open-government-putting-a-face-on-an-implicit-right/  I now favor the energy that “adventure” suggests. Though we need explanations of how to exercise the right to know, as FOIA turns Fifty we need adventure stories in which FOIA is the weapon the hero wields to save the day!

Adventure engages today’s body politic, not as inert consumers but active players in the challenge to sustain this democracy. Participants in the adventure who once relied on established media are overwhelmed, and often misinformed, by the political, economic and technological transformation of the media. Today’s information environment places greater demands on engaged citizens to be independent seekers, learners and interpreters of the facts, of truth.

During the build-up to “FOIA at Fifty” advocates are mounting a major campaign to “Fix FOIA”. The partisan initiative is under Congressional discussion now as members consider recent legislation, action precipitated by a recent congressional report that concluded that the FOI process “is broken and in need of serious change.” (http://www.standard.net/frontpage/2015/02/09/Lawmakers-move-to-strengthen-freedom-of-information-act.html

The challenge now is to add zest to the explanations that politics demand. My humble hope is to collect and share stories that illuminate the adventure – anecdotes that amplify the contributions of individuals who first inspired the mandate, to celebrate those who preserve that same spirit of adventure even as they craft the legal structures that preserve the essence of open government.

Journalist and writer Jon Meacham offers this guidance in the pursuit of the adventure of an informed democracy:

The American Dream may be slipping away. We have overcome such challenges before. To recover the Dream requires knowing where it came from, how it lasted so long and why it matters so much.

In fact, the Dream lasted so long, in part at least, because informed citizens have exercised their right to know. Stories that illustrate FOI at work matter so much because they illustrate the impact of the law. Adventures matter simply because “explanations take such a dreadful time.”


Shared stories shed light on the horrors of Vietnam

Several weeks ago Minnesota leaders of Veterans for Peace began a conversation that continues to engage vets and concerned others in discussions of the power of stories to inform and engage storytellers and listeners alike. (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/vietnam-war-stories/) The discussion continues on Friday, June 5, with an evening of story circles focused on stories being intentionally left out of the current commemoration of the War in Vietnam.

The lively sharing of stories will be at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, June 5, at Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Avenue South. The evening will open with a couple of short stories, one told by Plymouth minister Gary Smith, about the 60’s involvement with Clergy and Laity Concerned. Gary Gilson, journalist, veteran, and former head of the Minnesota News Council, will tell a story and comment on the importance of not omitting parts of the narrative.

Later, small story circles will interact, with each participant deciding whether to share or listen to the stories of others. Planners say that “the intent is to surface and empower many people to tell the stories being left out of the massive PR effort shaped to lead people to conclude that what happened in Vietnam in the 60’s and early 60’s and early 70’s “was a wondrous thing.”

For more information or for a compilation of related resources contact Larry Johnson at www.vfpchapter27.org.








21st Century Storytelling – Digital tools to create a better world

There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but therehave been no societies that did not tell stories. ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

Thinking and writing about storyteller Mattie Clark and World Storytelling Day (March 20) spurs me to wonder how we might harness the ancient power of storytelling to reclaim Americans’ sense that we still have the power to hold our leaders accountable. What I have learned is that a growing number of social activists are taking a lead to explore creative ways to employ digital tools to share the inherent power of stories.

Politicians have always realized the value of narrative, and voters have long responded to the essence of humanity illuminated in a well-crafted yarn. In the digital age technology transforms the technique but never the intent of a good story well told.

Because we are at the dawn of the digital age, explosions of naked data often overwhelm the receiver. My thought is that data rules because it’s easier to gather, manipulate and display data than it is to share a really good story. Jay Geneske writes that, though in some ways human connections are more pervasive than ever, “the noise and ubiquity of this digital world makes it harder to surface and share personal stories of change and impact.”

Caring creatures that we are, most of us still respond to anecdotes in which our fellow human beings play the lead role. Writing in the March 2015 issue of Governing, Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene observe that “simple data – no matter how well it’s communicated – is devoid of the kind of emotional content that sticks in people’s minds.” They quote Jennifer LeFleur, senior editor for data journalism at the Center for Investigative Reporting, who “sees some governments putting up data without context, with no sense of why the data matters or how it affects people directly.”

Digital Storytelling for Social Impact, a major study sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, offers a timely fusion of technology with the power of a well-told tale. (The full report is available online at http://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/blog/digital-storytelling-social-impact) In a follow-up blog post researcher Geneske describes the dilemma: “Long form narrative and conventional journalism now share the stage with messages of 140 characters or fewer and images that disappear seconds after they are opened. While there have never been more ways to reach audiences, it has also never been more difficult to really reach them.” Geneske decries the fact that “the noise and ubiquity of this digital world makes it harder to surface and share personal stories of change and impact.”

The Rockefeller Foundation study reminds social activities of the challenge to government and nonprofits: While private sector leaders have tangible products to offer, “public sector leaders…obtain resources by gaining support and legitimacy from politicians, public opinion and a myriad of other invested institutions each pulling and pushing in their own directions. Then, as the work gets done, it’s difficult to measure the impact it has made because the outcomes often emerge years after initiatives are implemented and working out what caused what is near on impossible. It’s a tough gig.” (quoted in Geneske)

Taking it a step further, my personal observation is that nonprofits and government are often at their best when the desired effect is that nothing happens – though the absence of street crime, food poisoning, fraud, house fires, and sex trafficking make the world a better place, it’s well nigh impossible to measure harm that was averted by the intervention of a social or political force.

Building on the Digital Storytelling for Social Change study, in December 2014 Rockefeller expanded the Foundation’s dive into digital storytelling as a tool for social action with the introduction of Hatch, an online primer, toolkit and community.  Hatch promises the user that the website will serve as “concierge” with a “suite of tools and a growing community to help you leverage the power of narrative to increase reach, resources and impact for your social impact or organization.”

Another strong voice in the movement is the Center for Digital Storytelling (http://storycenter.org/), committed to “the value of story as a means for compassionate community action.” Though digital storytelling is a yet un-tapped tool the philosophy of the Center is underscores that “new media and digital video technology will not in and of themselves make a better world. Developing thoughtful, participatory approaches to how and why these technologies are being used is essential.”

All proponents of digital storytelling stress – and grapple with — the harsh reality that stories harbor a pernicious gene. Agents of misinformation are have mastered the power of well-crafted prevarication to mislead the unwary. Thus Barrett and Green warn that “a good yarn that isn’t representative of what’s happening in the world can lead to bad policies.”

My friend Ruth Myers would emphasize that a priority for truth-tellers must be to “enhance the perceptive paranoia” of message receivers. The universal challenge is to cultivate critical thinking skills that screen out what one critic calls “outliers”, tales the Bard described as “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Another is to delve deep to capture the humanity that lurks beneath the data, to embrace the power of a good story well told – orally or digitally – as a tool for change-making.


World Storytelling Day 2015 – The power of stories shared & stories still untold


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 larryjvfp@gmail.com. Johnson was a founder and early supporter of World Storytelling Day in the U.S.