Storytelling Toxicity

“As writers, what we do is remember. And to remember this world is to create it.”

Toni Morrison, Mouth Full of Blood

To be effective as scholars – to effect change in the world – is to recognize the potential of scholarship to shift what we see as real and what we imagine is possible. Radical scholarship emerges through this interplay between politics and poetics.

How do we narrate the devastations of racial capitalism, while attuned to the complexities of lived experience?

How do we tell stories that offer a clearer understanding of the conditions that harm life, even as we enable alternate futures?

Environmental justice is a mode of storytelling utilized by organizers, movements and scholars to communicate what living in injurious environments is like, and to challenge the master narratives that produce unhealthy environments. Drawing inspiration from the artistic traditions of social justice movements, I produce creative work alongside scholarly writing in support of grassroots organizing. I also facilitate arts-based research methods workshops for organizing, such as the ones below.

Storytelling as Method

Our Bodies, Our Stories: Intergenerational Workshop for Movement-Building (2015)

Workshop for environmental justice community members and advocates co-facilitated with Marie Garlock at the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network’s Annual Summit. We shared performance, movement, and storytelling activities for participants to take back to their communities, combining Marie’s experience as an InterPlay trainer and dancer, and my training in popular education techniques and movement practices. Centering bodily knowledge and experience, we introduced storytelling as a tool for environmental justice activism , and for building solidarity and holding space for difficult conversations.

Performance Ethnography: An Action Research Tool for Community-Building (2013)

A day-long workshop in Hartford, Connecticut, for the Connecticut Artists Initiative, in collaboration with the Sustained Participatory Action Research Collaborative (SPARC) at UNC, Chapel Hill (invited by the late Dr. Dottie Holland). Drawing on Theater of the Oppressed techniques and Critical Performance Ethnography principles, I developed a workshop for young people to practice conducting interviews, writing and presenting ethnographic data. Subsequently, youth in the program interviewed their elders and worked with local artists to develop a mural envisioning a hopeful future for their community.