Stories for All Festival in Lawrence aims to amplify voices of marginalized people

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An upcoming three-day festival in Lawrence will highlight storytelling projects dedicated to gathering marginalized and suppressed histories, interconnecting them and amplifying them through digital media.

The festival is part of the Stories for All Digital Storytelling Project. The Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas is hosting the festival with the theme of “Sharing Community Stories in a Digital World.” It will feature interactive presentations, exhibitions, film screenings and more.

The festival will start with a keynote panel from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 18 at the Carnegie Building, 200 W. Ninth St. The panel will include “Kelly Baker Josephs, editor of The Digital Black Atlantic (2021); Natchee Blu Barnd, author of “Native Space: Geographic Strategies to Unsettle Settler Colonialism” (2017); Eric Gonzaba, project director of Mapping the Gay Guides and Wearing Gay History; and Alex Ketchum, director of the Just Feminist Tech + Scholarship Lab, discussing the ethics and practice of digitally based social justice storytelling,” according to a KU news release about the event.

It will continue Friday, April 19 with “interactive presentations from Stories for All project partners; a funders’ forum, highlighting insights from both national and regional funders of digital storytelling projects; and a digital exhibition of Stories for All projects” at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St., according to the release.

There will be a screening of the film projects from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Friday at Ready for Good, 708 Connecticut St.

Events continue with more presentations, exhibits, performances and more starting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 20 at the library.

See a full program and lineup of all festival events at this link.

The events are free to attend and open to the public; however, organizers request that attendees register at this link. Those who are interested should register for receptions no later than Monday, April 15 to reserve a spot.

Here is just a small sampling of the more than 40 digital projects that are part of Stories for All and some information from their descriptions on the website:

• Untold Stories: Former Enslaved Americans Who Sought Freedom in Lawrence, KS with Marla Arna Jackson: “The purpose of this project is to raise awareness of the African-American incredibly complex nuance in the experiences of enslaved Americans, as well as shine a light on the realities of post-civil living for newly ‘free’ Black citizens in Lawrence, Kansas. We achieve this by sharing the stories of Maria Rodgers Martin and Elizebeth Lawton.” (More; more from the Times)

• Survivors Speak: Centering Survivor Autonomy in Digital Storytelling with Stephanie Krehbiel, Jay Yoder and Erin Bergen: “Sexualized violence survivors are often considered socially suspect voices in the accounting of their own experiences, and given undersized roles in shaping the narrative that makes sense of what justice looks like after acts of sexualized violence. In a reflection of existing social inequities, a survivor’s account of their own experience is only as authoritative as their social power, and the social power of those who believe them, allow/s.” (More)

• “Unsettled Lawrence”: Challenging Collective Memory of Settlement Through the Oral and Public Histories of Unhoused Populations in Lawrence with Rachel Schwaller: “The project is two pronged: first, it will seek to tell a new history of Lawrence as dis-settlement rather than settlement, recognizing the ways ‘unsettled’ populations have created Lawrence history. This will involve a deep historical examination of Lawrence documents, looking for often hidden mentions of unsettled populations. Second, this project will engage current unhoused populations in a participatory oral history, seeking to provide a space for people to tell their own stories of living in Lawrence.” (More)

Schwaller will be on a panel, “Claiming Rights in Kansas: Engaging BIPOC Communities Through Oral Histories and More,” from 10:30 a.m. to noon Friday in Meeting Room B at the library.

• Pa k’u’x / Desde el centro / From the Center with Ignacio Carvajal, Nela Tahay, Willy Barreno and Vianna González: “The first aim of the project is to create a digital repository dedicated to Maya K’iche’ language learning. K’iche’ is the most widely spoken Mayan language in Guatemala. By creating language materials centering on the life of K’iche’ instructor Manuela Tahay Tzaj, from Nahualá Sololá, who teaches language using stories of Maya culture, we hope both to share her story and provide materials for language learning to a wider community, both in Guatemala and the diaspora. The second goal is to create a digital repository that features interdisciplinary approaches to studying Central America and the Central American Diaspora.” (More)

• Who Gets To Parent? with Pere DeRoy and Timmia Hearn DeRoy: “The first ten episodes laid bare the barriers and systemic inequities Queer, trans and racialized people face during pregnancy (the problem). The coming four episodes seek to provide stories of the resilience and innovation of Queer, trans and racialized birth workers (part of the solution), providing hope and highlighting how we can move forward.” (More; more from the Times)

This project will be screened along with others from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Friday at Ready for Good.

• Queer Voices with Courtney Farr and Shania Lopez-Cabrera: “Queer Voices gathers local LGBTQ+ members together for evenings of story telling from our community. Speakers share true stories from their lives that run the gamut from historic protests, bad first dates, to the dangers and joys of existing in Kansas as a queer person.” (More)

• History of Black Writing (HBW) with Ayesha Hardison: “As part of Stories for All, HBW will inventory its collection of audio cassettes, 8mm film, umatics, and VHS tapes (totaling over 300 artifacts), and then it will utilize this media archive to curate a digital exhibit about Black writers and their fiction. In addition to promoting Black storytelling, the Digital Black Storytellers exhibit will also explore how HBW’s efforts for literary recovery and public engagement through various technologies — which has evolved from print to audio cassette to BBIP’s searchable online database — helps preserve, document, and excavate the meaning of human stories for Black lives, literature, and culture.”

Hardison will be part of a panel on digital archive projects from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Friday in Meeting Room B at the library. (More; more from the Times)

• Untold Stories with Sarah Jen, Olivia Sabal, Kamri Wolverton and Tobi Barta: “The purpose of this storytelling is to cultivate a space for older adults to share aspects of the aging experience that are not typically discussed in legible spaces and terms, so that we all might be better informed, prepared, and inspired for our own aging futures.” (More)

• Voices of Dementia with Amy Berkley: “These stories explore the unique relationships between aging mothers and their adult daughters, and how those relationships change with the onset of dementia. These stories and analyses will be collected into an online archive accessible to families undergoing similar experiences.” (More)

The project was funded through a three-year Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant.

As the grant comes to an end, “we are excited to share all the incredible work our partners have been doing over the past three years with the Lawrence community,” Giselle Anatol, principal investigator and director of the Hall Center, said in the news release. “I’m looking forward to an energizing exchange of ideas between scholars, artists, activists, nonprofit leaders and the public.”

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