On May 14, 2022, IDEA in partnership with Rutgers Camden DiSC held a Storytelling Event from 12-5pm at IDEA Center for the Arts. The event was scheduled to be held throughout Johnson Park and on the steps of the Walt Whitman Center, but the rain pushed the event indoors, which didn't dampen the spirits of all the participants that attended. Storytelling vendors from around the community participated and helped to create a very festive atmosphere filled with music, food and wonderful story telling.
In 2020, IDEA partnered with Rutgers Camden's DiSC program and was awarded a grant from the Independence Public Media Foundation to address the inaccurate depiction of history on the frieze portion of the Walt Whitman center in Johnson Park. We began a series of dialogues with community leaders, and created a video to discuss the history and provide possible ways to correct the "telling" of history. It's important to get it right.
Along with reimagining how we share history, we also sought to find ways to open access to Johnson Park. Our first event in the park was last years Art and Music Festival which was a huge success! Residents from all across the city enjoyed the all-day festivities that celebrated the diverse make up of the local and surrounding communities. This year, we continued that effort, but focused more on Storytelling, and invited storytellers from the Native American, African American, Latin and Taino communities to share about their culture and heritage.
When the Black Lives Matter protest began, it started to awaken people to the fact that, throughout the country, memorials, statues and murals like the Frieze on the Walt Whitman center were not representative of all the people of America. These lost voices who played a crucial role in developing this country were left out. So our partnership took on the challenge to reimagining how these stories would be told where all diverse people - their history and accomplishments could be included in the stories that made America. Last year's event was the first step; the second stage is the implementation of our storytelling component.
We know that there are countless benefits for all of us from storytelling. It expands our horizons, Increasing our memory, helps us understand society and life lessons, increases our imagination and the list goes on. But most importantly it’s a chance to truly hear someone who is different than you. Through increasing our understanding of one another, these stories have the power to change another persons perspective.
How do we get to tell our stories and how often do we have a chance to listen and really hear each other? That was the purpose of the event. Its a chance to really listen, to hear a good story that will provide meaning, and will establish within each of the listeners, an emotional connection.