News & Updates
April 26, 2016
Mandela: An Audio History is an audio documentary on the struggle against apartheid through the intimate accounts of Nelson Mandela, as well as those who fought with him, and against him. The series weaves together first person interviews from the people on the front lines of history and dozens of rare archival recordings.
These audio artifacts bring us into the courtroom on the day Mandela was sentenced to life in prison in 1964 and take us inside Robben Island during a Mandela family visit, a secret recording saved for more than two decades by a prison guard. Government propaganda films and pirate radio broadcasts from the ANC help to recreate the time and place that saw this extraordinary history unfold.
This 3-part series is recognized as one of the most comprehensive oral histories of apartheid ever broadcast and is narrated by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
Follow the links to listen to or download the full podcast.
March 29, 2016
The pair, who live in Station Road, Henley, were in South Africa to renew their vows when they were introduced to Desmond Tutu, the 85-year-old retired Anglican bishop and human rights campaigner, while making arrangements for the ceremony.
The men first met at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on March 6, 1995, so they returned to celebrate.
Steve, 59, says: “We explained in an email what we wanted to do.”
“We met in the cathedral in 1995 and obviously life has moved on a great deal since then. Who would have thought we could marry each other?”
“We went down to the cafe to meet the dean and there was Desmond Tutu, who needs no introduction.”
“I’m fairly mouthy at the best of times but I was thunderstruck because I couldn’t believe I was being introduced to this elder statesman.”
“Who would believe two guys from Henley would get to meet someone like that? We sat down and had a chat, which was mind-blowing. We talked about the fact Geoffrey and I had met in the cathedral 21 years before and we told him about where we lived and what we wanted to do and he said all that sounded fine by him.”
“His daughter married her female partner in Amsterdam not too long ago.”
“He said ‘unfortunately, I’m away, otherwise I’d come along!’ I think he understood how we felt, what we wanted to do and why St George’s is such a special place to us. You don’t usually expect to find a husband in a cathedral! He said ‘the cathedral is about bringing people together’.”
“I’ve never, ever met anyone like that. People say ‘did you have a good holiday?’ and we reply ‘we’ve only got the one photo’ and when they say ‘what a shame’ we show it to them and they say ‘oh, wow’.”
The couple had a civil ceremony at Henley Registry Office in 2009 and last year were married there.
Source: Henley Standard
November 11, 2015
“All the white people in the room, raise your hand.” As I sat in a classroom on Valencia College campus, I looked around as I and the other caucasians or predominantly caucasian people timidly raised their hand, fearing what was going to come out of the mouth Niso Tutu, the teenaged granddaughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. “You all have ‘white privilege’. This isn’t a bad thing, you need to use it to make this world a better place.” Read More
November 5, 2014
My husband Kevin Brooks and I met on a dark Tuesday night in the basement of a used bookstore. We were both attending a storytelling event. I remember the first story I heard him tell, the way it made me feel and the click when we talked afterwards. He remembered the same things about me. I can’t say it was love at first sight, but it was certainly like and, a few years later when it became love, I don’t think anyone was really surprised.
We were together for 15 years of laughter, love and story. We told each other the story of a long life together and a comfortable, crotchety old age. That’s not the way our story worked out. In March 2014 my beloved husband died at 55 from pancreatic cancer. I suppose everyone who has lost someone they love says, “It wasn’t supposed to end this way.”
I find myself in a new story, one where I am learning to live in a world without his ongoing presence. It’s indescribably hard. I don’t think anyone is really surprised by that either.
As I struggle to understand this new life, friends and family surround me. I couldn’t craft this new life without them but sometimes my story scares someone and they say the wrong thing. There isn’t really a right thing to say to someone who is grieving deeply, because nothing can bring their loved one back, but there are painful things said with the best of intentions. Each time this happens I remind myself that the mistake was made out of love. Each time this happens I wish there was a manual the bereaved could hand out so maybe these mistakes would happen less often.
Here are a few things to remember the next time you are with someone who has lost a loved one and is grieving. While this is written from my point of view, I expect these tips would be useful for others, too.
- You don’t know how I feel. Comparisons aren’t useful.
Every grief is different. Losing a spouse is different from losing a parent is different from losing a child, a sibling, a friend, a pet, a community, a job. While each grief has some similarities in emotion and expression, everyone copes with it differently and needs permission to do so. Listen. Be honest. Be present. Be patient.
- My grief is not about you.
While sincere and well-intended, it is often difficult when people tell me how much they miss Kevin. I know he was wonderful, I was married to him. I know you miss him too but trust me, we are grieving differently and I may not have the energy to console you. Please don’t expect the person who is grieving to comfort you; they need your comfort. Please don’t tell the mourner how much their loss frightens you. I’ve had countless people tell me they think they would die if their spouse died, then ask how can I survive it. This doesn’t comfort me, it isolates me.
- Platitudes rarely help.
“He’s with God now.”
“God needed another angel.”
“It was his time.”
“Don’t worry, you’ll meet someone new.”
I’m pretty angry at God these days so talking with me about His plan doesn’t help. What’s more, you and I may not share the same beliefs. Losing my loved one was my worst nightmare and it has come true. Telling me it’s for the best, that he can be replaced or that my timetable of grief isn’t aligned with yours does not help. No matter how much you may want to fix my grief, you can’t; to live is to grieve. You can be present with me as I experience it.
There are so many ways you can help, but they all come down to these two:
- Listening never hurts.
I need to talk about Kevin, his life and his death. By listening without interruption or judgment you assure me that whatever I am feeling is okay. That you accompany me on my journey. Let me tell you my story because really I am telling it to myself.
- Presence matters.
It helps when I know you are there and can reach to you. It helps more when you decide to call me instead of waiting for me to pick up the phone. Your presence, support and love mean more than I can ever tell you, even if I may not seem grateful in the moment. When you accept me as I am, grieving or not, when you listen to my story and honor it, I remember that my life still has value and meaning, even if the one I loved most is gone.
Grief is a basic part of the human experience. Our oldest recorded story, Gilgamesh, has the loss of a friend as a pivotal point in the story. As long as humans have loved, we have grieved and sought ways to understand the loss.
As a storyteller I’m lucky. It is second nature for me to tell Kevin’s story, to write and speak about my own experiences as one who has walked my beloved to his death. Here’s the secret. We all are storytellers and listeners. We all can remember those who have gone before us. We all can listen to each other as we mourn and celebrate the lives we have loved. None of us need walk this path alone.
May 31, 2014
Storytelling is a natural part of being human. This creative, compelling way to communicate ideas, ethical beliefs, spiritual foundations, and cultural history might manifest as graphic artistry, spoken words, sign language, or be written.
Festivals celebrating the art of storytelling, primarily in the oral tradition, are found around the globe and can be one of the best ways to experience different cultures.
In Part 2 of Storytelling—How every culture expresses “Ubuntu—I am because we are,” we introduce you to Linda Goodman, a Master Storyteller who will be a Teller In Residence performing September 16-20 at the 42nd annual, world-renowned International Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. We asked Linda if, in her experience, she sees a benefit in teaching diplomats and others at the top levels of government to use the Art of Storytelling as a tool to break deadlocks during peace talks and other negotiations? Can a great storyteller craft stories that enlighten listeners enough for some to permanently change their minds even about long-held beliefs that stand in the way of coming to agreements?
Linda answered us by saying, “The answer is an emphatic YES!! A few years back I heard Master Storyteller Ray Buckley tell a story about how he was able to forgive the man who had killed his wife and son, his only child. By first getting to know the man’s son, who was the same age as Ray’s own son had been, Ray was able to steel himself and visit the man in prison. Getting to know the man who killed his wife and son led to Ray being able to forgive him. Before hearing Ray tell his story, I did not believe such a thing was possible. After hearing it, I understood that when you know another person’s story, you can sometimes forgive even the unforgivable. I have served on numerous nonprofit boards and on occasion have used my storytelling skills to bring those on the opposite side of an issue around to my way of thinking.”
Linda shares her mastery in a story that embodies the Art of Storytelling within a personal tale entitled, The Punishment.
Linda Goodman – The Punishment
When asked how she felt her story, The Punishment, illustrated the concept of Ubuntu, Linda said, “We are all products of those who came before us. In The Punishment, my father teaches both me and my mother the power of compassion. His fake whipping (which she believed was real until the day she died) resulted in the first hug I ever remember receiving from my mother. Before the punishment, I saw my mother only as an enforcer. After the punishment, the memories of that nurturing hug softened my heart towards her, and I became a more loving daughter. I am a kinder, more loving person because my father orchestrated a fake whipping that brought out the secret, compassionate side of my mother.”
You can learn more about Linda at www.lindagoodmanstoryteller.com.
April 29, 2014
As far as we know, storytelling is a part of every culture. The familiar perception of storytelling as an essential survival mechanism in the limited toolbox of ancient cultures, long since overtaken by the written word and relegated to a form of entertainment in most of the world, belies the truth of storytelling as our ever-present anchor in communicating with each other all day, every day, nearly everywhere.
We are all storytellers from the time we start interacting with the first storytellers in our lives (parents, grandparents, siblings, and so on), picking up the way to get the attention of others and our points across. But some people seem to be born as truly gifted “tellers.”
On May 6th, many of those gifted storytellers will begin arriving in the historic town of Jonesborough, Tennessee, over the next five months with a full slate of performances leading up to the Autumn 42nd annual, world-renowned International Storytelling Festival. Attendees from around the world will also begin arriving to celebrate what storytelling means in their own lives, and hear how beautiful and powerful stories can be when told by “tellers” who have honed their art to perfection. The seemingly sweet simplicity of a story told by a master of the art of storytelling can definitely “pack a punch” full of meaning you will remember for a long time—if not forever.
The lead in to the Autumn festival opens in less than one week with the Storytelling Live! series, a part of the festival that joined the line-up of events 13 years ago, and this year will showcase 26 storytellers known nationally and internationally. These 26 extraordinary “tellers” will serve as “Tellers in Residence” leading up to the 42nd International Storytelling Festival on October 3-5, 2014.
We are very fortunate that Master Storyteller Donald Davis, whose performances are always a huge draw at the Festival, graciously agreed be interviewed for our site. Kiran Sirah, Executive Director of the National Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, describes Donald Davis as, “…one of the most respected Storytellers in the country—probably one of the best in the world. He does around 44 festivals a year… and does amazing work in youth education across the country.” Kiran also recounted former Vice President Al Gore’s attendance at the International Storytelling Festival one year which inspired the former Vice President to develop a project about storytelling as a tool for peace, a project in which Donald participated.
So, now let’s hear from Master Storyteller, Donald Davis, as he describes his art as a “Teller.” It is my great pleasure to introduce you to Master Storyteller Donald Davis.
Rebecca: As a Master Storyteller, do you have a single theme into which all of the stories you tell must fit?
Donald: All of the stories that I tell are true and are my own original stories. While there is no prescriptive theme, a descriptive inventory would find my stories to center around family dynamics of common trouble. Sometimes these dynamics extend to community and beyond. I look for the common, not the weird, so that listeners can feel that they have also been there.
Rebecca: What is the difference between the “Art of Storytelling” and the kind of stories people tell each other in everyday conversation?
Donald: In everyday conversation, people mostly make oral reports. That is, they simply recall what happened on a certain occasion without giving it reflective layers of meaning. It becomes a story when it is told so that strangers can understand it and the story does not stop with the events but goes on to capture the learning realizations that make the retold events worth living through and warrant repeated retelling.
Rebecca: At the church I attended with my family as a child, we were handed a printed program at the church door upon arrival. Before we even got to our seats, I was already reading the program, looking hopefully to see if our Assistant Minister was going to be giving the sermon that morning. His sermons were so colorful and exciting that they swept you up and kept you enthralled for the whole time. The senior minister was a wonderful person, but I never could get the message I knew I was supposed to be getting from his sermons because my mind would wander so much…and time did seem to really crawl. In your experience as a minister, did you approach delivering sermons with the same—or similar—style as you use when telling a story at, for example, a festival?
Donald: In preaching, I was and am always story centered. I typically retell a biblical story and then place it aside a true contemporary story so that people can see that they are truly parables to each other. If that works, people can then add their own third story beside my two and they have applied the biblical lesson very personally.
Rebecca: How do you select a story? Do you take whole stories that are among those in a very large repertoire and then craft them to your own style?
Donald: I do not make use of stories other than my own in festival performance. When I start with biblical stories in preaching, I work from the common lectionary and then match my story to the one prescribed in one of those texts. Aside from that, I do not make use of stories outside my own canon.
Rebecca: Do you build stories around your observations of the way people behave in certain familiar situations like, for example, trying to explain an idea or belief to someone who is skeptical?
Donald: I do not put performance stories together with an agenda. They are simply stories that come out of my work at reflecting on how my experiences set forth the human common agenda. I can’t use a story to try to bend someone else’s ideas and it is important to me to always honor the listener’s integrity as final interpreter of the story. Sometimes a story it “just right for the time and place,” and my trust is that stories do their own teaching work.
Rebecca: Do you retell stories that you heard in your early life, but update some elements to make the story relevant for listeners today?
Donald: Every time I tell a story it is matched to the audience. The same stories are told differently to children and adults. And, yes, stories that I have told for years have gradually evolved as time has passed. I never actually give this an active thought as there are no “scripts.” My stories are carried visually in memory so they always are being tailored to the listeners at hand.
Rebecca: Are there “classic” stories in the world of storytelling that are sacrosanct, never to be changed just to appeal to a new generation?
Donald: There are great classic stories…the Odyssey is the greatest of all. I retread it every year as it deeply informs all that I do as a storyteller. There are always needs for new translations to keep us current and lively (the one I read now is the Robert Fagles), but the story itself never changes. The great stories are windows into the culture from which they came and the peculiarities of the human dilemma…this cannot be changed!
Rebecca: How to do you craft a story and does the way in which you tell a story evolve over time with each telling?
Donald: How I craft stories is a semester long question! I work on the story orally (always with a listener) until the story finds its way and is moving pretty much the same way each time I tell it. Then it is ready to come out to the larger audience. After many more tellings it is ready to record…in recording you have to explain more than with a live audience. Last of all comes the written story for publication…it is much fuller as the readers can ask no questions and all must be anticipated then settled in the written version. The written story is usually too “fat” to tell. You know by now that all of my stories are in evolution throughout my lifetime.
Rebecca: How can storytelling help us make sense of the tragedies we encounter in life, both at the personal level and at the larger societal level?
Donald: Stories enable us to live through every dilemma, positive or negative, of the human experience without having to take on those same dilemmas ourselves. In this sense stories can have a strong prophylactic function in protecting us from stumbling…if we give living attention to them. When we are in trouble ourselves, the stories of how others came through the same travails can show us that survival is possible, even if our way through is different from the protagonist’s journey.
Rebecca: Please add any other comments that you think could help us all appreciate the important place storytelling holds in our efforts to communicate with each other successfully.
Donald: My deepest belief about story is that story is the vehicle that carries our identity. Tell children all the stories of the people from whom they have some and they will never lack an answer to the “who am I” question. Without our own stories, we are lost!
Rebecca: Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful information with us and educating us about the invaluable role stories play in lives. And within your answers, we can truly see the philosophy of Ubuntu, “I am because we are.”
Donald: Peace and joy always!
It seems that the art of storytelling has been rediscovered in applications we haven’t traditionally thought about such as business.
Jonathan Gottschall, PhD, author of the bestselling book published in 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt entitled The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, is an excellent resource for exploring more about the way storytelling is woven into the fabric of being human. He tells us,
“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”