Friday, January 06, 2012

Storytellers as Agents for Justice

I am thinking about stories, how powerful they are, how the act of telling them is also incredibly powerful. Writers and artists of every kind are the storytellers of humankind, and the most important of these to me in my daily life are the ones who dare to tell the stories their cultures, traditions, religions and corrupt governments don’t want them to tell. They are the sacred souls among us who understand that the stories they have to tell have the power to “split the world open,” to topple an oppressive regime, to change the minds of an entire generation about who they are and who they can be, to transform a single person from a helpless victim into an agent of her own liberation. Like the storytellers I’m reading about today at Global Voices Online in a post by Juliana Rincon Parra. She reports that artists of Mexico who, in reaction to the violence and impunity tearing into the heart of that country for too many years now, are creating videos in which they portray a single victim of the violence, telling the true story of how they were murdered and how their killers have never been brought to justice. The storytellers are also being called to comment on the fact that the violence and the impunity “are only possible through the lawlessness and corruption of the Mexican state.” But at the heart of the campaign is the enduring belief among the artists and others collaborating that a single story that tells the truth about an injustice has the power to change everything. Who can hear the voice of a murdered woman calling for justice from the grave, not only for herself but for her murdered daughter too, and not be changed, not be moved, not be inspired to add their own voices to the call for peace and justice? Mexican artists asking the citizenry to join them in this campaign are doing the work that they are meant to do. They are fulfilling their true roles as storytellers by showing their beloved the way to retrieve the personal power, selfhood, and agency stolen from them by the soldiers of the state and their guns and gangsters of the drug war and their guns. They are leading the good people of that country out of powerlessness and hopelessness by way of the voice, the story, and the storytelling art, into a place where they stand a chance of surviving, of restoring peace and justice to Mexico, and to their own lives. They are the best of Mexico, coming to the fore in the worst of times, like the greatest artists always do. They embody hope, inspire hope in others with their good storytelling work. They remind us how powerful we become when we break our own silences, when we tell the stories of our lives out loud and demand they be heard. I hope the Mexican people answer their call and lend their voices to this powerful project. I hope we listen and hear them.

What about us? What of the stories we know of victims of violence who have never received justice? Shouldn’t we be telling their stories? Shouldn’t we be breaking some silences too?


StarryTelling said...

Your blog came up on my Google alerts on Storytelling today. Is there a social justice story from the Bahamas that is waiting for your to unearth and tell?

Lynn Sweeting said...

hello starrytelling, yes there are a few, thank you for your very inspiring question.

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