One of my favorite Ted Talks is storyteller Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The danger of a single story.” In the talk, Chimamanda shares her own experience of being a child reader and writer in Nigeria reading only American and British stories, and her journey to find her own authentic cultural voice. Given the world events unfolding, Chimamanda’s reminder of the danger of a single story is just as relevant today as it was when it was recorded in 2009.
As we reflect and honor Martin Luther King, Jr., with the backdrop of the tragedies in France that stemmed from an attack on free speech, I want to propose story sharing as one avenue to advance understanding. Intentional story sharing can bridge cultural, ethnic, racial, social and even health-related, gender and generational gaps in understanding.
There is some great work being done in this area. Barnard College has a program geared toward educators. Their Storytelling Project teaches about racism and tolerance through storytelling and the arts. The Center for Digital Storytelling’s project, “All Together Now,” focuses on narrowing the generation gap with civil and human rights stories. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture hosts “Stories from the Struggle for Civil Rights” digital stories on their website that stem from an oral history project.
Today, technology makes it easy for us to share stories. In the selfie-era, however, our challenge remains, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminds us, to avoid the danger of the single story.