Stories of How We Change
Updated: Nov 10, 2021
Our stories are sacred. Our stories are powerful.
Our stories, like ourselves, are part of a longer arc that we have inherited and will pass on to our children’s grandchildren.
Our stories are our choice and our responsibility.
Sadly, and harmfully, we often walk around in someone else’s story, in stories that don’t honor us or our communities. There are many ways we do this. One is the “damage narrative” that Indigenous educator Eve Tuck (Unangax̂/Aleut) wrote so powerfully about in their 2009 “letter to communities”, where they called on Black, Indigenous, communities of color to resist portrayals of us as “damaged”, portrayals in which “oppression singularly defines a community” and “historical exploitation, domination, and colonization” is presented “to explain contemporary brokenness.” What, asked Tuck, are “the long-term repercussions of thinking of ourselves as broken?”
Like Tuck and so many others, I seek to practice conscious storytelling where we embrace our responsibility to future generations. Instead of being sucked into explaining brokenness, we tell the truth -- and support truth telling -- of our experiences, with an eye to generating healing, recognizing invisibilized strength, and rediscovering forms of generative power that we’ve been cut off from. We can tell the truth about hard things while telling a fuller truth about what we have, are, and will make possible.
This truth telling was on my heart and mind when I co-founded Untold Stories of Liberation & Love, seeking to build community around truth and possibility, and get (the hell) out of a dominant local (white liberal) narrative around helping broken communities. In the words of Untold Stories poet and leader Yodit Mesfin Johnson, “Our story did not begin with pain.”
Truth telling was on my heart and mind when I stopped using the term “marginalized communities” and now speak of communities that have the most wisdom and skill in creating resourceful alternatives to exploitative and unsustainable systems.
Truth telling was on my heart and mind when me, Jason Walker, and Elon Geffrard of Birth Detroit wrote our proposal (fingers crossed) to fund a video story about Black midwifery in Detroit, past, present, and future.
Truth telling was on my heart and mind when I interviewed dozens of leaders in the birth center/birth justice field this summer, to gather their perspectives on the movement to establish and grow birth centers in BIPOC communities. In these interviews I heard deep concern about the ways that trauma and fear based messages about birth, particularly Black birth, reinforce racist stereotypes and undermine community leadership and resource generation. The words of author/influencer Kimberly Sears Allers echo what many people said: “There’s lots of dangerous narrative that makes people hopeless and afraid.”
A few years ago I set a goal to write my first short story. I wrote essays and articles all the time, and found expression in poetry, but I’d never attempted an actual story. A thousand words in, I found myself utterly lost, and reached out to my sister, who I count on for advice on everything from cooking to politics.
My question felt embarrassingly basic.
“What is a story?” I asked her, as I stared down at my rivers of words.
Her answer was simple. “It’s when someone changes.”
To this day, my sister’s definition of story remains my favorite. I’ve since learned other useful definitions (the telling of a conflict that is resolved) and heard many that feel superficial (a beginning, middle, and end), but my sister’s still feels the most compelling and practical.
Every day, Black, Indigenous communities of color are birthing stories of how we change, how we grow, how we discover, how we learn. We must be doulas for these community stories to make sure that our children’s grandchildren get to hear them.
New Moon is proud to launch our Community Stories Fund, through which we will provide our video storytelling services to communities at reduced cost. To support the New Moon Community Stories Fund, please click here to donate to Movement Strategy Center’s #GivingTuesday campaign which is resourcing the roots-up, transformative work of the entire Movement Strategy Network. A portion of all funds will go to the New Moon Community Stories Fund.
And click here if you’d like to see that first story I wrote and published (:
Photo: Co-Founders of Untold Stories of Liberation & Love (Desiraé Simmons, Catalina Rios, Julie Quiroz, Tanya Reza, and Maria Ibarra-Frayre) at our 2019 anthology release event. (Photographer: Brian Greminger)