The Modern Story of Strange Fruit, with Dianne Reeves and John Beasley

Racial discrimination is a sad reality throughout the world, and sadly, still a significant aspect of American culture. From the advent of slavery in the South, to fighting a Civil War in hopes of bringing the practice to a close, and the current state of affairs after many centuries. It is a story we wish had never been written. A story whose narrative arc still requires a remedy.

“Strange Fruit” was written 80 years ago describing the horrific practice of lynching innocent African-Americans by white people. It’s unconscionable and unacceptable that lynching is still happening today and also that the justice system failed Ahmaud Arbery. It was only after public widespread outrage followed the release of the horrific video which showed evidence of a racist father-and-son team shooting an unarmed Arbery to death.

John Beasley and Dianne Reeves collaborated on this video as a way to protest the continuing brutality and racism against African-Americans.

Directed & Edited by Anthony C. Santagati
Executive Produced by Aja Burrell Wood
Music Produced and Arranged by Dianne Reeves (vocals) and John Beasley (keyboards)
Nicolas Payton – trumpet
Terreon Gully – drums
Alex Al – bass
Composer: Abel Metropol

Black people are so tired.
They can’t go jogging (#AmaudArbery).
They can’t sleep (#Breonna Taylor+#AiyanaJones)
They can’t walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin).
They can’t relax in the comfort of their own homes (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson).
They can’t ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride).
They can’t have a cellphone (#StephonClark).
They can’t leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards).
They can’t play loud music (#JordanDavis).
They can’t sell CDs (#AltonSterling).
They can’t walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown).
They can’t play cops and robbers (#TamirRice).
They can’t go to church (#Charleston9).
They can’t hold a hair brush while leaving their own bachelor party (#SeanBell).
They can’t party on New Years (#OscarGrant).
They can’t get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland).
They can’t lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile).
They can’t break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones).
They can’t shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford)
They can’t have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher).
They can’t read a book in their own car (#KeithScott).
They can’t be a 10yr old walking with their grandfather (#CliffordGlover).
They can’t decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese).
They can’t ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans).
They can’t cash their check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood).
They can’t take out their wallet (#AmadouDiallo).
They can’t run (#WalterScott).
They can’t breathe (#EricGarner).
They can’t live (#FreddieGray).
They’re tired.
Tired of making hashtags.
Tired of trying to convince you that #BlackLivesMatter too.
Tired of dying.

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved

 

Why Storytelling Matters via Patrick Moreau

“Why storytelling?” It’s a question I’ve been asked many times, often preceded by the phrase, “Out of all the career paths you could have pursued.” The standard answer has always been, “Because it matters, because it expresses our humanity, because it can change the world.”

For me, it’s something that I have witnessed in my own life, and in the lives of many others. An accumulation of experiences over many years that led to a profound understanding, built like the pyramids, one block at a time. Though it’s a reality constantly evolving, never finished.

I would venture to say that Patrick Moreau‘s experience is similar in that he has spent many years honing his own craft of storytelling as the founder of Muse Storytelling, but in his case there was a pivotal moment when the telling of stories took on new meaning and purpose.

Every story is the opportunity of a lifetime and we just rarely realize it.

Many personal stories involve tragic events or circumstances that cause a shift in perspective about the world and our place in it. We come away changed, as well as conflicted and confused, yet clarity can also manifest. Take a few minutes to watch this video about Patrick’s journey, then reflect on your desire, and maybe reluctance, to share your story with others.

Transcript (with minor edits for readability)

Amina Moreau: So, I just came back from interviewing Patrick for our launch film, and I’ve got to say, we had a really great plan going into this thing. We knew exactly what we wanted our story to be. But every so often, when you’re in an interview, something so amazing, or so unexpected happens that you know you’ve got to pivot your story.

Here’s what happened:

Why does it matter to you so much that you live a life of purpose?

Patrick Moreau: That was my mom. She took her own life, and my sister and I had to go back to Midland and pack up her apartment.

I mean, for over a decade my mom struggled with bipolar, which means she’d have these manic phases where she’d fly to places like Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan and then would often come crashing down into a depression and somebody’d have to go and try and bring her back.

I went to Lebanon to try and bring her back when she became depressed, and I’ve sat on an airplane next to her for eight hours and she pretends to read, you know, because then it looks like you’re normal.

I can’t imagine the reality of somebody going through their life trying to hide their pain so that people don’t try and bother them, you know? And so, it just came to a point where she felt like she was more of a burden.

A lot of people would probably tell you that the depression killed her, but it was not having purpose anymore. It was not being able to follow her purpose. It was not being able to find it in herself to do anything that she felt would really make a difference for anybody.

It’s incredibly hard to lose somebody you’re that close to, but what allowed me to survive was having a purpose, was believing that what we’re actually doing really does matter and makes a difference.

So it’s a very deep-seated sense that purpose not only matters, it not only drives you forward, but it also keeps you going, and it also will help see you through, and it is one of the most fulfilling things that you can have. You know?

I don’t think a lot of us realize that being a storyteller truly is the greatest job out there, because not only do we get to do something, it can really make a positive difference, that we can really take things and share them with people in a way that’s gonna open their minds, let them see something different. But that we are also changed by those things.

If I have the ability to extract something from our experience and to bring together an incredible team of people who can come up with a repeatable way that different people, wherever they are in the world, can use this structure and these ideas to do what they do better and to love it more, I mean, it feels like a crime not to.

How do you not share that? How do you not take the opportunity to try and do that? I don’t know, I guess it seems bizarre ‘cuz people come up to you all the time and they go, like, why are you sharing this?

Like, why do you just give away everything you know? And I have such a hard time understanding that question. Why would I keep it? Are you gonna go and tell your best story and then go lock it in your bedroom and go, “No, no, this is for me!”

No, you share it with people. You want it to make an impact. Well, you know what? Muse is my story. It is something that I believe in that deeply, that it can be your journey, that can help you actually make a difference and that’s all it is. And so of course, I want to share that with as many people as I can. And I want them to be able to use it and take it and take whatever works for you and just do what you do a little bit better and I’m happy.

Every story is the opportunity of a lifetime and we just rarely realize it. You rarely realize that we have an opportunity to really let somebody be heard, to allow them to see themselves in a different way, and to share something with other people that could make a difference for them.

One of the last things that my mom really wanted was to share her story. It was to have it matter to somebody else other than her. For people to take her pain in her experience with bipolar and to learn something from it, to be able to live their own lives a little bit better.

And I will one day tell that story in a bigger way. And when I do, I want it to be the best damn story I’ve ever told. You know, I want to make sure that I’m not missing anything, I haven’t left anything on the table, and that’s why we’re building this. You know? Because that’s what matters to me, this story.

But everybody else, they have something that matters to them, and it’s just about creating something that allows us all to make the most of every story we tell.

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved

 

Storylistening and the Covid-19 Pandemic

It’s Saturday, March 14th. I’ve been traveling for the past nine days, from Lisbon to San Diego by way of London and Los Angeles. At the moment I’m visiting a friend in Orange County, California. From the balcony I look out across the upscale community, an enclave of posh condos and apartments intermixed with office buildings built of glass, steel and stone. Patchy gray clouds drift above the rain soaked streets as the occasional BMW or Tesla zips by below. (This is quite different from my lifestyle in Portugal, but the world comes in many variations.)

Apartment Balcony View Orange County

It’s a peaceful day, and it’s obvious that folks live rather well in this part of the world. But the world has changed radically in recent days as Covid-19, Coronavirus as it’s commonly called, has been rewriting life for everyone, even those who are accustomed to the pleasurable stories that money can conveniently purchase. Write a check, problem solved, life is good.

But Covid-19 is something of an equalizer. If you spend time with someone who is infected with the virus, whether they have obvious symptoms or not, you may be the next in line for a trip to the hospital, or spending a few weeks under self-quarantine. You can’t bribe a virus, or hire a bodyguard to protect you. A virus just doesn’t care. Your behavior will write your story.

Woman Wearing Face Mask Coronavirus Covid-19

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

With large gatherings now banned and the sports industry on hold, it’s no surprise that more people are turning to social media to stay connected with friends and family. It’s a time for personal storytelling, and an opportunity for heartfelt storylistening. A time for empathy and solidarity, for sharing and understanding.

And I’m seeing a lot of that, thankfully, as friends and strangers band together to weather the viral storm with offers of help for those who are under quarantine, or who are at risk and don’t want to venture out. But sadly there are voices out there claiming the situation is a hoax, or is being overblown, even as the infection rate soars and the deaths mount daily.

That’s why it’s important during such times to continue our storytelling, so that others know what is actually happening. But just as important, we should spend more time storylistening. Listening to the stories of those who are affected, listening to the scientific and social experts (not the politicians) who understand the complexities of how this virus is spreading, how it’s impacting individuals, and how those effects ripple out through all societies.

Group Taking Selfie

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

By sharing stories we gain a better understanding of the issues that each of us is having to deal with, and by do so we become more empathetic toward others, especially those at great distance. It’s about the old adage of putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes, of thinking about what they must be going through, and how that situation would feel if it were us.

It’s also about recognizing that we will never know the whole story. That there are unknown elements in play that can further complicate the narrative. If we’re in dialogue, then we have an opportunity to ask clarifying questions, and I encourage you to do so, but if not, if you’re just reading, hearing or watching someone’s story, don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t assume.

Though we don’t know when, life will ultimately return to some sense of normalcy, and when it does, we can take more group hug selfies. Until then, be safe, and listen to the stories that manifest from these difficult times. It has the potential to change us, and thus, humanity.

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved

 

Unraveling the Tangled Web of Slavery

One of the beautiful aspects of storytelling in the digital world involves the inclination of the story you’re reading (or watching) to magically lead you by the hand, so to speak, to another relevant and connected story, sort of like a squirrel scampering from one branch to the next.

In my case, this act of magic happens after I receive a Nieman Storyboard email newsletter. Case in point, within the December 27th edition Jacqui Banaszynski mentioned that she looks forward to magazine freelancer Barry Yeoman’s annual list of favorite longform stories.

The 2019 version is a diverse and thought-provoking list, with something for everyone, so do dive right in, there’s a special treat waiting for you there. One story Jacqui highlighted was “The Long Road Home” by Deborah Barfield Berry and Kelley Benham French of USA Today.

The 40 hour journey of Wanda Tucker from Virginia to Luanda, Angola also spans some 400 years, back to the days when Africans were taken from their homeland and forced to live in, what was at the time, the English colonies.

It’s a heartbreaking story, reminding us that certain groups of humans, throughout history and into the present day, believe that having darker skin is proof enough that someone else isn’t completely human. (although it seems more logical that the reverse is true, but I digress)

Those in power justified slavery with the values at the time – prosperity, survival, the cleansing of souls and the expansion of the empire.

Having moved to Portugal a few months ago I’m still in the very early stages of learning about the country’s history, especially those aspects which involve colonization. My naive view had limited that topic to just Brazil, but I am coming to realize the complexity of Portugal’s history.

It was the article on Wanda Tucker that opened my eyes to Portugal’s involvement in Africa, as well as their participation in the slave trade, especially the slave trade in Angola. How did I not know this? Did they not teach me this in school? Or had I conveniently forgotten? I was shocked by the brutality of it all, as slave traders would often capitalize on the dynamics of warring factions within Angola’s borders.

The Portuguese gave guns to Imbangala soldiers in return for slaves. Armed with superior weapons, Imbangala soldiers captured and sold natives on a far larger scale as every new slave translated into a better-armed force of aggressors.

Capture and Coffle of Enslaved Africans

“Capture and Coffle of Enslaved Africans, Angola, 1786-87”, Slavery Images:
A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora

Unfortunately, it is all too common to limit an understanding of history to our own, localized situation rather than fully embrace the big picture. While I knew that slaves were brought to America from Africa, my thoughts centered on the plight of these slaves once they were living in the deep south – how they were treated, how they were ultimately emancipated, how they are still treated by many – not on the point of origin, method of capture, or the participation of European countries playing ethnically superior colonial rulers. I was missing half the story.

I’m far from done with my newfound quest to better understand the history of slavery in America, as well as the lingering remnants of ethnic prejudice and discrimination that still exist within much of the population. And this quest will serve as a reminder to look beyond the immediate scope of any (every) story created within the confines of limited knowledge.

Do read the USA Today story about Wanda Tucker, and if you’re in the process of crafting a personal narrative, ask yourself what truths lie one step beyond, one lever deeper. They may help you create a more impactful story.

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved

 

The Secret that Almost Killed Me – Kirsten Johnson at TEDxSDSU

Students that enroll in my Storytelling with Impact course at UC San Diego Extension are generally looking to improve their storytelling and public speaking skills, but one of my students had been accepted to speak at TEDxSDSU 2018 (held at San Diego State University) and she had a specific goal in mind – crafting a narrative for her upcoming TEDx Talk.

Right up my alley, I thought, as my work with TEDxSanDiego and TEDxDonovanCorrectional involves coaching speakers for the TEDx stage, and other clients have given TEDx Talks.

But this was special, as Kirsten wanted to discuss a personal issue that is never easy in front of an audience – her experience with sexual assault, and the resulting trauma that negatively affected her life for years – all the more important as she was speaking on a college campus.

As she worked through each draft of her talk and rehearsed in class, the discussions varied between “how much to tell” and “which narrative to use”. To her credit, Kirsten wasn’t afraid to experiment, to see what felt right, and to revise accordingly. Not saying enough could come off as lacking in depth, glossing over important topics, while providing too much detail could turn off an audience. This is the reality of delivering a talk with an emotional core.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure which version of her talk would end up on the TEDxSDSU stage, as she was still revising after our class had ended, but I was pleased to see how she presented this difficult subject – with heartfelt passion and resolve – to an audience that needed to hear about her experience and the lessons she learned along the way.

Kirsten Johnson is a life coach, YouTuber and author of the upcoming book Elephant. Johnson makes videos on anxiety, addiction, shame, spirituality and living your life purpose. She is also the creator of The Elephant Heard, an online community composed of people rising up to their full potential after the trauma of childhood sexual abuse.

Kristen is passionate about teaching people how to transform their relationship with fear so that they can live an empowered life.

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved