Another Way West

By Jane Stenson

 

Story Summary:

 At age 16, in 1855, Jane’s great-grandfather sailed from Long Island, N.Y. around the Horn to San Francisco where he was stranded! He took a job with Wells Fargo as a treasure agent in the Sacramento-Shasta Mining District…the home of the Shasta Indian Nation. In 1860 he rode the first leg east for the Pony Express. He was also a member of San Francisco’s Vigilance Committee, a group of 6000 men, committed to establishing “law and order.” How do we seek understanding of both the pride and the discomfort our ancestor’s stories?  (more…)

Brush the Dirt from My Heart

By Connie Regan-Blake

 

Story Summary:

 Storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, was invited to come to Uganda by “Bead For Life”(www.beadforlife.org), an NGO helping women lift themselves out of extreme poverty. Many of them are displaced people from the horrors and atrocities of civil war in northern Uganda and are dealing with the ravages of AIDS. Connie was welcomed into their homes and hearts as if she was family and she listened to their profound and transformative stories. This is Namakasa Rose’s story.  (more…)

I Wanted To Be an Indian

By Jo Radner

 

Story Summary:

 Stories about our ancestors help us understand who we are. Encountering troubling revelations about her forebears and their Indian neighbors in colonial New England, Jo asks what it means to tell – and live with – her whole, complex history.   (more…)

Passing for WASP

By Carol Birch

 

Story Summary:

 Carol believes this statement: “To build a bridge from one culture into another and make pluralism a cause for celebration, we have to have one foot firmly planted in who we are.” However, in exploring her Polish and Scottish roots, Carol wonders if she’s really been living what she teaches. (more…)

Sudden Story

By Laura Simms

 

Story Summary:

 This is the true story of storyteller, Laura Simms, telling a deeply traumatized boy – an ex- child soldier from Sierra Leone, West Africa – a story in a taxicab in New York City. The story within this story relieves his misery and, in the process, Laura discovers the power of the tale and the boy’s innate and potent resilience. (more…)

The Bridge Collapse

By Kevin Kling

 

Story Summary:

 A bridge collapses in Minneapolis and the media is there. Suddenly, watching the stories of all the heroes from that day, Kevin is aware of the great diversity in his city. Citizens of every color and creed were there to rescue and help people in the midst
of this tragedy. Another friend of Kevin’s tells him how upset he was when people from other countries showed up to work in a local factory. Then, this same friend hears his grandmother being interviewed on the radio as a “first generation” American and realizes that we are all immigrants. (more…)

The Spirit Survives

By Dovie Thomason

Part One: Gertrude Bonnin

 

Part Two: Grandpa

 

Story Summary:

 The “Indian Experiment” in education, the government boarding schools, is unknown to many Americans, yet affects us all. Following forty years of study of these stories, Dovie knew she had to share what she’d learned that would be essential to her daughter, and all of us. She weaves history, biography, autobiography and personal reflection in this story that she never “wanted” to tell. But there are some stories that need to be told…  (more…)

Who is a Friend? German-Jewish Reconciliation After the Holocaust

By Gail Rosen

 

Story Summary:

 Who is my friend and who is my enemy? Gail Rosen, a Jewish storyteller, goes to Germany and makes a surprising connection to a German man who lived through WWII.  (more…)

MUSLIMS TELL STORIES TOO

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Are there any Muslim storytellers out there ?
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1
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The Stories of Storyteller Arif Choudhury

In a recent magazine article, storyteller Arif Choudhury wrote :
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“Are there any other Mulsim storytellers out there ? We should start a club with funny hats and monogrammed shirts.  All kidding aside, since 9/11, people have been curious about Muslims.

As an American-born Muslim of Bangladeshi descent living in Chicago’s predominantly Caucasian northern suburbs, I am asked lots of questions. What do Muslims believe ?  What are their traditions and customs?

Do Muslims tell stories ?”  (more…)

What’s a Mexican?

By Olga Loya


Story Summary:

For years, Olga emphasized the American part of her Mexican-American identity. Then, in college, she heard Cesar Chavez talk and was inspired to go to Mexico. There she discovered the many accomplishments of her ancestors and that Mexicans came in every shape and color. She then stressed the Mexican part of her Mexican-American identity. Later, she was introduced to her Indian heritage and began to identify herself as Chicano. Today Olga embraces all aspects of her identity. The richness of her cultures gives her strength and pride.  (more…)

FROM MOON COOKIES TO MARTIN AND ME

By Lyn Ford

 

Story Summary:

Empathy grows from sharing stories; this story was shared to encourage others to know, to understand, and to remember. This is a personal journey tale from Lyn’s childhood living next door to a Holocaust survivor and, then, her adolescent small but mature steps into the greater Civil Rights Movement.  (more…)

ALEGRIA: WE ARE ONE

By Leeny Del Seamonds

Story Summary:

Alegria is Spanish for “happiness” and “joy.” Listen as Leeny Del Seamons sings of what happens when we respect everyone in spite of our differences. In this original song, Leeny reminds us that we are all connected and equal. Together, we are one voice working towards peace to build a better world.

(more…)

I Deserve to Be Here

By Emily Hooper Lansana

Story Summary:

From voluntary busing to being called an “Oreo”, Emily navigated the color lines of her elementary and high schools until she finally landed with the “theatre kids” who moved more easily between different groups.   Attending Yale University, Emily studied African American Intellectuals with Cornell West and she came more fully into herself, finally accepting that she, like everyone, deserves the best.   (more…)

Next Town

By Storyteller Diane Ferlatte

 

Story Summary:

 As a child, each summer Diane’s family drove from California to Louisiana to visit family. Diane remembers her father responding with increasing frustration whenever her brother asked if they could stop to get something to eat, each time promising “next town.”

Finally, the family stopped at a restaurant. Just as she is about to open the restaurant door, her father stops her. There is a “whites only” sign above the door. Diane’s family must go around back to eat in the kitchen. Diane learned about prejudice that day but also about how her family kept their spirits high no matter what they faced. (more…)

Penny for Your Thoughts

By Diane Ferlatte

 

Story Summary:

While sitting alone in a restaurant having lunch, Ferlatte notices an older white man also eating alone and looking sad and worried. When she tries to be friendly, the man responds with a grunt. Ferlatte starts labeling him in her mind as a “mean old white man.” Later, she corrects her own thinking by reminding herself that she doesn’t know anything about the man. Later, as he leaves the restaurant, the man pours out his story, sharing that his wife of 61 years has recently died. The two end up having a brief conversation, and Ferlatte realizes the importance of reaching across barriers of race, culture, and generations in order focus on the person right in front of you. (more…)

Bartholomew

By MayGay Ducey

 

Story Summary:

 Bartholomew, an African American man who is the church custodian is a familiar figure to the congregation at Mary Gay’s church. However, when it’s rumored that African Americans are coming to their church and will be asked to be seated, suddenly the pleasant veneer of acceptance is exposed.  (more…)

Between Worlds

By Olga Loya

 

Story Summary:

At school Olga was taught to be American first and not to speak Spanish. If she did, she risked being punished. At the same time, Olga’s Japanese-American friends went to an after school program to learn the Japanese language and to study Japanese culture. Olga wondered why she didn’t have something like that and how she could straddle multiple worlds.  (more…)

Onara

By Alton Chung

 

Story Summary:

This is a true story written by Mako Nakagawa and told by Alton with her permission. A young girl wonders about the difference between “hakujin” (white people) and “nihonjin” (Japanese people) while in an internment camp in WWII. She speculates as to why hakujin do not onara (a euphemism for “passing gas”). (more…)

Reflections on Minidoka

by Alton Chung

Story Summary:

The true story of Alton’s journey to the Minidoka Relocation Camp site at Hunt, Idaho and of his encounter there with an 89 year old former internee. She was 23 when she left this Japanese American incarceration camp and this was her first visit back to the site after 66 years. She tells Alton about a boy she knew, who went to fight in Europe over 60 years ago, and who never came back.  (more…)

Looking for Papito

By Storyteller Antonio Sacre

 

Story Summary:

 As a Cuban and Irish American child, Antonio deals with being “too ethnic” or “not ethnic enough”. By trial and error and with the support of his family, Antonio reclaims all of his ethnic heritage and his Spanish language. (more…)

Faster Than Sooner

by Storyteller Antonio Sacre

 

Story Summary:

 While studying to become an actor, Sacre happened into storytelling through a class at Northwestern University. Because he found that he was often excluded from acting jobs because he was seen as either “too ethnic” or “not ethnic enough,” he took on storytelling performances to pay the bills. He started to understand the power of his bilingual storytelling and remembers an encounter with a grade school bully where learning the other boy’s story made all the difference.  (more…)

A Twice Saved Life

by Alton Chung

 

Story Summary:

Solly Ganor, a Lithuanian Jew, was a boy when Germany invaded his country in1940. He was eventually sent to Dachau and was rescued by members of the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, the all-Japanese American unit. Fifty years later he once again meets the man who saved him.  (more…)

Remembering Lisa Derman

By Jim May

Story Summary

Lisa Derman, the late president of the Illinois Holocaust Memorial Foundation and Holocaust Survivor, died at the Illinois Storytelling Festival (July 2002) while telling her story of survival of the Nazi atrocities in Poland when she was a young girl (http://bit.ly/LisaDerman). She had told this story thousands of times to schoolchildren and other groups all over the country and abroad.

Her words to the audience that day,  “I might not be here much longer but the story must continue on to the next generation; the time will come that you will have to answer the call, and stand up to do the right thing were uttered moments before her sudden fatal heart attack. Lisa died in mid-story, telling the story that had defined her contributions to the fight against anti-Semitism, as well as against genocide the world over. (more…)

Changing Neighborhoods

by Storyteller Susan O’Halloran

 

Story Summary:

 Sue grew up hearing about “them” – the people who would come and take her and her neighbors’ homes in their all-white neighborhood. When her family watched the Friday night fights, it was made clear who was “the other” and who was “us.”  (more…)

Rosa

By Linda Gorham

Story Summary:

 Rosa Parks is best known for her refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus in 1955. Her action galvanized the growing Civil Rights Movement and led to the successful Montgomery bus boycott. But even before her defiant act and the resulting boycott, Ms. Parks was dedicated to racial justice and equality. Linda Gorham tells the story of those times through the eyes of three people: Claudette Colvin (a 15-year-old who refused to give up her seat nine months before Rosa Parks), James Blake (the bus driver), and Rosa Parks herself. (more…)

Bittersweet: Mom’s Story

by Nancy Wang

Story Summary:

 Many of us have ambivalent relationships with our mothers. In this story, Nancy dives into that ambivalence trying to understand what has been so difficult about it and why.  Her journey is colored by the differences between Chinese and Western values and behaviors making it even more difficult to understand. But in the end, there is a final discovery that brings peace, love and reconciliation with her Chinese mom.  (more…)

Immigrant Story

By Storyteller Nancy Wang

 

Story Summary:

 This story follows the journey of Nancy Wang’s ancestors who arrived in California on a junk boat in 1850 and started the fishing industry of the Monterey Peninsula. However, both legal and illegal violence ensued against them for generations. This story reveals how a group of immigrants rallied with resilience and ingenuity so that the 7th generation of Chinese Americans thrives today.  (more…)

Grandpa’s Story

By Storyteller Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo

 

Story Summary:

 An American family gathers for a reunion with laughter, memories, and good ol’ corn beef and cabbage. Suddenly, the father kneels before his family and sobs apologetically, “Your country has betrayed you.” With the launch of Executive Order 9066, the unconstitutional mass incarceration of over 110,00 citizens of Japanese ancestry begins. Now this American family, deemed the “enemy race”, must ask, “What will happen next?”  (more…)

Looking at My Yearbooks

by Shanta Nurullah

Story Summary:

Looking at high school yearbooks, Shanta reflects on the “change” in her neighborhood from mostly white to all black. As a child, Shanta could not understand when the adults told her “the white people are running away from us”. Even as an adult with a larger understanding of the times – blockbusting and other societal and economic pressures – the sting of being “the other” remains.  (more…)

Aunt Helen

by Storyteller Syd Lieberman

Story Summary:

In this story a Jewish girl and her friend sneak away from the forced walk of the Nazis toward… they don’t really know. They hide in a haystack and a farmer helps them until the drums toll.  In the face of this innocence, what motivates the Nazi soldier? What compels the farmer to help? What does this story say about the capacity of human beings for good and evil?  (more…)

Remembering and Celebrating Cuba

By Storyteller Antonio Sacre

For a print friendly version of the transcript, click here:  Remembering and Celebrating Cuba

Discussion Questions:

Resources:

Themes:

  •  Latino/Hispanic American

Full Transcript:

When I was younger I would ask my Cuban father what it was like in Cuba. What was it like there? Why did he leave? What does he miss about it? And every question I had about Cuba was met by silence.

And my Father’s family- huge celebrations in Miami around the table with food piled high. I would listen to them tell stories about each other and tell stories about Miami and how they built it from the swamp and what it was like when I was a baby. And every now and then I would pull one of my uncles or aunts to the side and try to ask them about Cuba and any question- any query about Cuba was met with silence. I soon learned to know that any question would bring the conversation, the laughter to a halt. So I stopped asking about Cuba- at all.

When I got older I became a storyteller. I began to tell stories in English and in Spanish. And I mostly worked with a lot of people from Mexico, so I began to learn everything I could about Mexico. And this took me down to Mexico where I traveled all through Mexico. And I ended up one time at the Yucatan right at a travel agency where there were flights to Cuba- $79. And I realized that I’d spent all this time learning about the land and culture and food in Mexico, but I’d done none of that in Cuba where my father’s family was from.

Here it was, a bilingual storyteller with a wealth of information about Mexico but nothing about Cuba. So I got one of those phone cards and I called my dad from a payphone on the street in front of that travel agency. “Yo Puerto era Kuba I viie” I told my dad I wanted to go to Cuba, I wanted to go to the places where he lived and worked. The beaches at Cojimar, where he studied and went to school. Where he played baseball. And he said “Mijo, you’re a man and your profession is storytelling. If you want to go to Cuba you can do it. It’s my dream is to take you to Cuba someday by myself.” never heard that my dad had that dream for me and I almost cried there in the corner. He said “Well when we can go mijo, we can’t go until Castro is gone. You know I never want to go back there with him and all he did, you know” but I remember my grandmother telling me that Castro would outlive everybody and now his brother’s in power and who knows when that is going to end. For my dad Raul and Fidel are the same and so I don’t know when I’ll ever go with my dad. Maybe someday. Maybe.

A few months ago, I got called by National Public Radio to write a story about celebrations tied to the land and Latino cultures and they specifically wanted a Cuban perspective. And on the phone as I was talking with them I said, “Well actually you know I’ve got a really great lot of stories about Mexico-”

“No no no, we already have Mexico covered. We’d love to get Cuba.”

And I sort of stammered and hemmed and hawed and said “Well you know…”

They said, “Well could you try?”

I said, “I could ask my dad.”

They said, “That’s great- perfect. We’ll talk to you soon.”

I didn’t tell them that every attempt to ask about Cuba from my dad in all the years prior amounted to silence so I called my dad and told him that it was for my work and we made an appointment to talk about it. My dad’s a very busy man and so at 9am on Tuesday morning a week later, I called my dad. He said “Demon, tell me what do you want to know?”

I said “Pa- tell me about the celebrations tied to the land in Cuba.” And he thought for a second and he said, “Oh yeah Mijo, there’s the cutting down of the sugar cane. You know that all the men would come and have a great big festival.” I couldn’t believe it. A celebration tied to the land in Cuba. I said “Pa! Did you ever go to one?”

“No Mijo, that was for the campesinos. I was a city boy and I lived in Havana, you know?”

“Was there anything else?”

“No Mijo, a lot of those things are tied to the Indians in Cuba, you know? But the Spaniards killed all of them, you know? So they couldn’t survive, you know? Not like in Mexico and South America where they could hide in the mountains, you know? In Cuba all the Indians were gone, you know”

And we had this uncomfortable silence. I know my dad wanted to help me and I wanted to hear something, but we didn’t have anything and so we’re about ready to hang up. It seemed until he said. “Mijo, wait a minute you know we had the big religious festivals, you know? We had the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. You know? We had the San Juan de los Lagos. We had a La Noche Buena.”

“Papa slow down! What are you saying?”

“Mijo- sometimes we would have the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. You know there’s a great procession that leaves the church- you know- and it would be the whole church- you know? The men would be carrying the statue of the Virgin; four strong men carrying this huge statue. You know? Walking through the streets- you know? And I was too small, so I would be on the porch and with a Virgin Mary walking along with these four men carrying it and my mother- tu Abuela, would put her hand on my head and say the prayers- you know? As the Virgin walked by.”

And I could hear that laughter in his voice and I knew the crinkle in his eye when he smiled, I touched my eyes- it was the same crinkle that my dad had.

He said, “Mijo! Then, we had the summer celebrations of San Juan- eh, how you call him? Eh, John the Baptist, you know? And the fisherman who had fished for the pargo como si pero- a snapper. That’s not for the snapper fish we will go down to the beaches- the fishermen were there with their nets- you know? We’d have a great big party or a big bonfire, you know. We’d be praying for the fish to come and the fish came we went ‘Oooh!’ and if the fish didn’t come we’d still have a big party, you know? It’s just an excuse for a party, you know? But we loved it, you know?

Oh yeah! And the best festival was the La Noche Buena- Christmas Eve.”

I said, “Pa, what was the Christmas Eve festival like?”

“Ah Mijo! Your Uncle TT- no my uncle TT- your great-uncle TT.  He’s in Cuba. Anyway anyway. Uncle TT would raise the pig all year long, you know? And then, the women, your grandmother, your aunties and my primas. They would all make the adobo de marinade. You know- and we pour the marinade on the pig, you know and then it came to kill the pig. This was a big macho thing, you know the men’s would do it- you know? The kill the pig- the blood everywhere I know it sounds a little disgusting, but Mimi would say, your grandmother, would say that ‘You Americans don’t see the animals before you kill them. That’s why you have less respect for the land and the animals’. Anyway we’d have the pig, we cooked a pig, you know, there’d be a huge celebration- the pig on the table. You know, sometimes your uncle would take it – say  ‘Oh yeah how are you doing?’ you know? And we would have this huge toast and Aublea would take it and she’d say ‘I’d like to give a toast to all those who have died and all those who are alive. And we missed the ones that have died and we love the ones that are here and we are so happy that Jesus will be born this Christmas Eve and we’re so sad that he will die in Easter, and we are very happy that he will raise up afterwards and we are thankful for the laughter and thankful for the food.’ And we would pick mangoes from the trees and eat them right there on the table. And then the meal would be finished and it would be the best party of the year. We’d go to La Mesa del Gallo, the rooster midnight mass and the mass would go on for hours and afterwards, more dancing and celebrating and eating the leftovers and we’d sleep all through Christmas.”

And my dad stopped, and I said, “Pa, did you ever do those celebrations here in the United States?”

“Mijo no. That ended in Cuba, you know, you know, before Cuba, before Batista- it was a great party in Cuba. Then Batista’s government came and wrecked Cuba and then Castro came and promised different but then he wrecked Cuba even worse and we came here with nothing- so we didn’t have any money or language or ways to buy pigs, we barely had food and clothes, you know? We didn’t have the language, you know, so that I don’t end up in Cuba and I hate to be reminded of this, but I love you- I hope you do very well on the radio thing- whatever it is. You know? And if you need anything else, call me. Okay? Bye bye.”

And that moment came, and someday maybe my dad and I will go to Cuba, maybe with my young son. And maybe we’ll watch the fisherman pull the snappers in and have a big party. Maybe we’ll watch the huge Christmas Eve celebration. Maybe we’ll watch the Virgin Mary process through the streets of Havana near where my father used to live, and my father will put his hand on my young son’s head and bless him as the Virgin Mary goes by.

Maybe.

Maybe.

 

If Only You Were Mexican

By Antonio Sacre

 

Story Summary:

 A director tells Antonio that he would produce his play if only he was Mexican. This makes Antonio reflect on the importance of listening to stories outside our own ethnic groups. Antonio travels to Mexico and learns Mexican folktales to share with the community.  (more…)

MEXICANS IN CHURCH

By Storyteller Antonio Sacre

 

Story Summary:

Occasionally, Antonio brings his friends and family to Catholic mass, not always with the results he hoped for. However, in Los Angeles, he goes to church with Mexican-American families where he finds people who are deeply into the ritual and their passion for their religion makes him proud.  (more…)

The Oberlin Rescue of 1858

By Storyteller Susan O’Halloran

 

Story Summary:

 John Price escapes from the Kentucky plantation where he had been enslaved. He plans to go to Canada but when he arrives in Oberlin, Ohio and sees Black shopkeepers and Black students going to college, he decides to stay. However, he doesn’t know that a slave catcher under the protection of the Fugitive Slave Act is coming for him.  (more…)

The Other 9/11 Story

By Susan O’Halloran

 

Story Summary:

 After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, demonstrations against Muslims arose in different parts of Chicago. One group of Chicagoans on the southwest side of the city decided to support their Muslim neighbors. This support grew into a massive rally and teach-in at Chicago’s Navy Pier. Sue witnessed people willing to learn from and about each other and how much taking a stand could mean. (more…)

Dr. King Came to Town

by Storyteller Susan O’Halloran

Story Summary:

Dr. Martin Luther King marches through Sue’s southwest side neighborhood in Chicago in 1966. Her family’s and neighbor’s reaction plus her own conflicted feelings rise just as the KKK makes its appearance.  (more…)

Vindication

By Storyteller Michael McCarty

 

Story Summary:

While in high school, Michael and some classmates make demands of his school to include more Black History in the curricula. The students hold a walkout and Michael is expelled. Decades later as an adult, Michael is brought back to the school to receive his high school diploma and the school’s gratitude. (more…)

Why Am I a Jew?

By Gerald Fierst

 

Story Summary:

 Gerry Fierst is someone who would describe himself as “spiritual”, but he also says: “I also love the ritual of religion which connects us to all who have gone before and all who will come long after we are gone.” Especially as Gerry got older, he realized der pintele yid lived inside of him as he could hear the words of his ancestors and pass the tradition of the blowing of the shofar on to his children.  (more…)

Albuquerque

By Storyteller Jerry Fierst

 

Story Summary:

Growing up in New York City, Gerry never understood that Jews were such a small percentage of the world’s population. In his neighborhood, one could go for blocks and blocks and never meet anyone who wasn’t Jewish. But when Gerry went to visit cousins who had retired to Albuquerque, he discovered that “we all look alike when we are the other.”  (more…)

Where Are You From?

By Storyteller Arif Choudhury

 

Story Summary:

 Bangladeshi-American Muslim storyteller, Arif Choudhury, shares stories about growing up as the only “brown-skinned boy” in the neighborhood and how 9-11 changed how others might perceive him and his family.  (more…)

Evacuation

By Storyteller Anne Shimojima

 

Story Summary:

What if the U.S. went to war with your country of origin? Anne Shimojima tells of the difficult days following the attack on Pearl Harbor, when her Japanese-American family were forced to evacuate their home. Could it happen to you? (more…)

More Alike Than Not

Featuring Arif Choudhury, Gerald Fierst and Susan O’Halloran

Story Summary:

Through exploring misconceptions and common threads such as immigration and disagreements within their own religions, these three tellers bring alive their distinct histories and our common humanity to illuminate the experience of being an American in a time of religious tension, change and possibility.  (more…)