A Note from Felice Belle
History happens on a daily basis and in extraordinary times we are acutely aware of our role in it. Our actions today author our future. Twenty years from now, what story will we tell about the pandemic and subsequent civil unrest? How do we, in our shared humanity, want to emerge this moment? What kind of world do we want to create?
The past few months have seen record-breaking numbers of people taking to the streets, calling for racial justice and equality. These global anti-racism protests in tandem with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have highlighted systems of oppression and inequality around the world. In the United States, the promise of “liberty and justice” was never true for all. And yet, the current moment presents us with an opportunity to tell a new story, to live up to the ideals we claim to hold dear.
Narrative 4’s core methodology, the story exchange, is designed to help students understand that their voices, stories, actions and lives matter, and that they have the power to change, rebuild and revolutionize systems. Through the exchange of personal narratives we see the world, and ourselves, more empathically, a belief supported by the work of neuroscientists and by the experiences of story exchange participants.
In a recent episode of the Ten Percent Happier podcast, Lama Rod Owens, author of Love and Rage, said, “If you can’t feel my pain, then you’re not going to help me disrupt the systems that perpetuate that pain.” Every failed system is comprised of people. When the people change the system follows.
While empathy is not a panacea, it is an entry point to a more equitable and just world. When we take the time to listen to one another’s stories, we open to knowing each other more deeply, we recognize that our neighbor’s well-being is inextricably intertwined with our own.
Criminal justice dominates the national conversation regarding race in America, and it has been the rallying cry of many protests in America and around the world. I was first introduced to race and policing when I was nine years old. I witnessed the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Bree Black within a few months. The prison and the criminal justice systems are stacked against Black folks in America. Many are finally beginning to wake up to the grim reality that is intrinsic to our nation. I am pleased to witness an outcry that challenges this violence; however, as I witness and participate in the protests against this violence it is crucial we remind others the importance of intersectionality. The battle doesn’t stop at prison. Our fight faces every institution that contributes to the systemic violence we witness on a daily basis.
Thank you for joining us!
We would like to give a special thank you to our impressive panelists for taking the time to speak with us and share stories from Tennessee to the Bronx, from Kentucky to Jerusalem. As Greg Khalil mentioned in the webinar, “By inhabiting stories of another, we can build empathy. Empathy is absolutely critical to live in a world of difference. It allows us to connect to people in a way that draws us in. But it’s not the end. The end is what we choose to do with that new, expanded identity.”
Narrative 4 and Millions of Conversations hosted N4 Board Chair and Co-Founder of the Telos Group Greg Khalil, Millions Founding President and CEO Samar Ali, and two N4 Student Ambassadors as they illuminated how to use personal storytelling to build empathy and bridge differences. Using the Narrative 4 story exchange, these four individuals shared defining stories from their lives that have shaped their own sense of belonging and faith in a landscape of disinformation and violence. Watch a recording of the event by clicking the link below.
Let’s Be a Light
Join Millions of Conversations as we listen to country music artist Thomas Rhett’s song, “Be a Light.” He reminds us of why we are all working so hard to undivide our communities to build our shared future.
Engage with Justice
Millions of Conversations is partnering with Fisk University, The Frist Art Museum and Vanderbilt University to host “Engine for Art, Democracy and Justice,” a trans-institutional series of virtual conversations and artistic collaborations that address four themes over eight episodes with the objective of exploring creative approaches to living together in the South(s). Initiated by Dr. María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Cornelius Vanderbilt Endowed Chair and Professor of Fine Art and this years’ 2020 program curated by Marina Fokidis, Head of the Artistic Office in Athens and curatorial advisor for documenta 14.
This initiative brings Carrie Mae Weems’ RESIST COVID TAKE 6! public art campaign to Nashville, with banners being unveiled at The Frist Art Museum, Vanderbilt’s Fine Arts Gallery, and Fisk University’s Carl Van Vechten Gallery. Weems’ series draws attention to the racial inequalities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We invite all of you to join us for this speaking series.
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