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Jillian Chang

A single story

24 Aug 2018 - by Jillian Chang

In July students from my university in Holland, Michigan, attended the Big Hope 2 Conference in Liverpool, UK, and attended workgroups about promoting positive change. I joined a group using Stories that Move, and our project to help engage others in a conversation about ending discrimination left me both inspired and empowered.

I choose Stories that Move because it was described as being about using narratives to combat discrimination, and I think a person’s story is often one of the most powerful things they have to offer. First, we looked at some of the life stories on the online tool, to understand a few practical things about getting a story across. For example, if it is about an event, which story is most effective at telling what happened? We also learned that, like the media, if we only have a two-minute slot, we must choose the best bits.

We then started to brainstorm ideas for a presentation. We decided to use our own personal stories to fight discrimination, and also went to Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum to find people willing to tell us their experiences. I will always be grateful for how this visit reminded me of the joy and connectedness that comes with human interaction. It was such a hopeful experience, because we found people willing to be vulnerable and share with us. Not knowing anything about us, they shared about their family, and times where they felt outcast or small. It was incredibly humbling.

When we got back we re-listened to the narratives, chose the most impactful parts, and added a photo-portrait. We created an exhibition ‘The U in Us’ and a Facebook page where we posted anecdotes and encouraged readers to do the same. But we didn’t just want them to share experiences of discrimination, we wanted them to also share of what they want the world to do about it. Our goal was to create a space where we allowed people to be vulnerable, give power to their voice, and inspire others to act. Was our project successful? I would say yes. We broke down walls and sparked conversations about how to rid society of discrimination. We sat and we listened to others’ stories, and because of that I would humbly yet confidently say, yes.

To conclude, I feel immense gratitude to the Big Hope 2 Conference and the Stories that Move team. You helped us make change happen. I think one of the key things I took home with me, selfishly, was my own voice. I was reminded that I, too, despite being young, a woman, and a person of color, can bring others along in the fight to make equality a reality for all. A single story can break down social barriers, change outcomes, bring hope. So my advice? Get to know the person sitting in front of you, and learn from what they have to offer. Strive to value human connectedness, and always remember that stories really can move.

Check out the Stories that Move map with an example of taking action from all over.

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