Storytelling for Change – Racial Justice

Recently, we ran a workshop called “Storytelling for Change- Racial Justice” with Semble’s membership of BAME leaders and those working with BAME communities. We recognise that in order to see true systemic change we need to amplify our voices and continue to tell our stories. We developed this interactive workshop to equip our community with the tools to understand the power of storytelling, build confidence to have a stronger voice and provide methodology and understanding of how to tell stories well.

Here’s an account from one of the participants Fon Browndy:

“For so many years I have been reluctant to talk about racism and how it has affected me – partly because in my experience very few people wanted to listen and partly because I have been gaslighted so many times (“you’re being paranoid / overly sensitive / one of “those” black people that makes everything about race”) that I started to question my own perceptions of reality. But more importantly, admitting to myself that the colour of my skin has disadvantaged me in so many ways and for such a long time was just too much of a painful realisation. Perhaps subconsciously I felt that racism would render me powerless and defeated so I refused to give it airtime for my own self-preservation. But inevitably my feelings have ebbed and flowed and changed over time and now engage with racism differently.

Growing up it felt like no matter what qualifications I gained, how hard I worked or what successes I achieved I would always face racism and inequality. And as a black woman – unique layers of intersectional racist oppression and anti-blackness that I just didn’t know what to do about. So I buried these thoughts and emotions perhaps as a coping or mechanism for survival until I felt strong enough to deal with them. But as I grow older these experiences inside me refuse to stay buried and I am now more acutely aware that keeping quiet won’t solve anything or help future generations, communities or workplaces progress or help my internal wounds to heal.

Stories of racism and oppression need to be told and they need to be heard. Attending the Storytelling workshop made me realise how important and impactful my voice can be for shining a light on the darkness of racism. Meeting other people who have been through similar experiences, people who are willing to speak up and speak out made me reflect on how telling these stories can affect change even if it’s just for one person.

Facing uncomfortable truths is essential in the fight against racism and inequality. Re-living painful past experiences does hurt but it can be a driving force for creating a different reality for others and for yourself. Exploring ways of effectively articulating the damaging pervasiveness of racism and the destruction it causes whilst not being overwhelmed by it feels like both an art-form and a life skill but we can all learn together. Having a forum for well-facilitated discussion and time for self-reflection is valuable and taking the time to think about how you tell your own personal stories to affect change is worthwhile so my advice to anyone dealing with racism, intersectional inequality and injustice is to find your voice and tell your story.”

Others left the workshop saying:

“When you tell your story, other people feel they can tell their stories! That’s the way it needs to be, it’s empowering”

“Our voices matter for the change we need”

“That connection is really powerful, much better than lectures”

“Storytelling leads to empathy and understanding”

“Thank you for the session. It’s been inspiring for me and has made me aspire for greatness. Thank you”

We were honoured to have such an opportunity to facilitate this session, about something so meaningful and transformational and we cannot thank Semble enough for trusting us.

In fact just a week later I was personally stopped in a well known high street store and was asked to produce a receipt for my shopping. I never ask for the receipt from self-checkout as it just gets lost in my bag and I try to do my part in being good to our planet. It was clear that it was because of the colour of my skin as I was the only one that was asked, I was approached aggressively and it was very accusational.

Being black should not mean that it’s ok to be treated differently, it is not ok. This experience brought me straight back to this workshop, I had to share my truth and so contacted the organisation through a public tweet. It’s a minor incident in comparison to murder, but it still isn’t acceptable. I watched channel 4’s “The Talk” after this too, which confirmed how important storytelling is. I hope that we continue to let our voices be heard.

If you are interested in our Storytelling workshop for your community or you want to learn more about how to be a more Inclusive Leader, get in touch.