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Mar 14 | Say It Forward: Art and Social Justice

  • Columbia University New York, NY, 10027 United States (map)
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When: Thursday, March 14 2019, 6:10- 7:30pm

Where:  509 Knox Hall

One of the ways oral histories are projected into the future is by using them to create social change. What are the creative possibilities and ethical considerations in “amplifying unheard voices” for social change? In this interactive presentation, we will focus on the oral history methodology contained in Say It Forward: A Guide to Social Justice Storytelling, from Voice of Witness and Haymarket Books. We will highlight short selections from the book, detail one of the book’s oral history “field reports” (Resilience: Elders in East Harlem, by Lauren Taylor), and explore the possibilities and challenges of combining literary art and social justice. We’ll share strategies that connect listening and empathy to engagement, movement building, and advocacy. The session will culminate with an activity and discussion that allows presenters and participants to interrogate approaches to oral history that consider how equity, inclusion, and craft impact the journey from interview to public sharing. The presentation ultimately makes space to grapple with what’s at stake when personal stories become platforms for social change.  

Cliff Mayotte currently serves as Education Program Director for Voice of Witness. Cliff compiled and edited The Power of the Story: The Voice of Witness Teacher’s Guide to Oral History, and co-wrote and edited Say It Forward: A Guide to Social Justice Storytelling. He is also a recipient of the Beverly Kees Educator Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Lauren Taylor, oral historian and psychiatric social worker, is an adjunct professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work and an OHMA alum. Lauren has been on staff since 1994 at the Service Program for Older People, a mental health clinic for older adults, and has a private practice. As an oral historian, she has conducted dozens of life history interviews, both in the United States and abroad, and is studying the subjective experience of aging through the medium of narrative in a cross-cultural context. Lauren has lectured and published on the therapeutic use of narrative.

Dao X. Tran oversees the Voice of Witness book series as managing editor. Before coming on staff at Voice of Witness, Dao was senior editor at Haymarket Books and a freelance book editor. She’s an old-school lefty who is passionate about social justice and democratizing the kinds of stories being heard and finds a curiosity about our world essential.

Click here to watch this talk!

Blog posts by OHMA students about this talk:

What's Your Name's Hidden Meaning?

Intersections Between a Clinical Encounter and an Oral History Interview: Skilled Listening and Narrative Understanding