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  • Brandon Spars

SILC Makes a Splash at National Conference


On Thursday, July 22, six members of the SAC board presented one of SAC's signature programs at the National Storytelling Network Conference. Our panel was simply titled, "Stories in Living Color: a Presentation by the Storytelling Association of California," which is the name of this successful SAC program that has been running for about a year now.


Presenters included: Roopa Mohan, Ben Tucker, Sara Armstrong, Rick Roberts, and Tina Tomiyama, as well as myself.


The theme of the conference was "Connected Across the Divide," and our panel topic fit beautifully. SILC sprang out of SAC's decision to host an experimental concert at last year's San Francisco Free Folk Festival. We paired up traditional tellers with personal storytellers. Each pair worked together to create a theme, and then presented at a concert. The impact on the audience was positive, but the experience the tellers related about working together and practicing together is what inspired Rick Roberts to try to tackle an even bigger divide than the one in the storytelling world: the divide between white and Black America.


The first SILC event, which featured Sara Armstrong and Sheila Arnold as the first fair, was a hit. This first concert, hosted by none other than Donna Washington, also featured a riveting set of stories told by Jessica Piscitelli and Jacoby Cochran. This pairing was so dramatic and moving that I have actually used it in my classroom. All of the shows are available on the SAC YouTube channel.


There was a lot of material in our presentation, but it did leave about twenty minutes for questions. The questions were a great indication that the program and its presentation were being received positively. Many of those present, including Marilyn McPhie, had seen the performances and were there to support its launch at NSN with positive comments in the chat.


I have yet to tell at one of these events. My recent work for the third volume of my Live to Tell series, however, is leading me to examining my own privilege and a desire to connect and work directly with a person of color. As I stated in my portion of the presentation, working on a story with someone, in becoming totally vulnerable, through learning from them and conversely sharing your honest perspective, is one of the best ways I know to build trust. I had that experience working with Dana Sherry for the paired stories at the Folk Festival last year, and I believe it is one way to heal our country and to educate white people without putting the burden totally on people of color.


NSN CONNECTED - Stories in Living Color: A Project of the SAC, July 22, 2021