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  • Adesuwa Olumhense | Untold Narratives

    TUN Fellow Adesuwa Olumhense ​ For her fellowship project Adesuwa wrote a series of poems focused on her family and culture. The numbers were added to replicate page breaks in the original submission. ​ (1) ​ Trace a hesitant finger back to your genesis Do you remember your first breath Your grandmother’s first sigh Your sister’s first laugh? Do you remember when it all fell apart? ​ (2) Foreword By: Adesuwa Olumhense ​ Because rocky road drips a tacky lie down my fingers And good things do not always come to those who wait, my father says. Because if you tug your curls down long enough Soon they’ll look just a bit straighter. Because when you’re old enough to sit and wait until your scalp catches fire It means the perm is working. Because straight hair shines brightly Until it breaks off into space. Because you will repeat your name until your throat dries And they still won’t hear you. Because your brothers march out the door on a one-way trip And your sisters murmur their bloodsoaked litany. Because my brothers are their father’s sons And my sister was born a mother. Because ‘someday’ is written in a tongue my grandfather will never learn And my grandmother refuses to speak. Because when I ask my mother “Will the sunflower’s neck snap if the sun is too far from view?” She waits for the world to answer. (3) ​ Edo terms Kpele - Sorry Ebonekhui - A white person in a black person’s body. The nickname the people around Benin City gave my grandfather. Iwu - Body markings of the native Edo people, accomplished by tattooing or scarification. There were facial markings and body markings. Women would also paint their faces for traditional rituals. In the past 60 or so years, this tradition has almost completely died. Oba - the king of the ancient Benin Kingdom, now in modern day Edo state in Southern Nigeria. The current Oba is the descendent of the ancient kings. Iyoba - A title for the King’s mother. Translates as “Queen Mother.” One of the most important Iyoba in Edo history is the Iyoba Idia who fought on the battlefield in ancient times, for whom the title was created. Ogbono - African bush mango seed. Used especially in Southern Nigeria for soup. Òy' èsé - “It’s okay. (4) Kpele By: Adesuwa Olumhense “It’s not personal,” Ebonekhui starts, standing tall and proud in clothes your father would scoff at. His English burns your ears. He will not meet your eyes until the ceremonial paint is gone So you turn, head high for all who care to see your light And you wash. When your tears clear the paint all that remains on your naked face is your iwu. And he cannot remove the marks that hug your skin Kiss your face You turn, smile, and greet your nieces Tell them the story of each curve in every scar. If their history cannot live on their face, It must burrow its home in them somehow. “It’s for their safety,” Ebonekhui claims quietly, void of apology. "We won't eat sacrifices." Your arms wilt in the kitchen bags of packaged food dangling at your sides. Do you tell him? The blessings you murmured over the stew Can be heard at the Oba’s own table. Do you tell him? You plucked the ogbono seeds for the soup yourself Stood in the kitchen for hours Stirring and singing your mother’s favorite songs Do you tell him? As you look at his daughter’s grinning faces Full of joy and devoid of the markings the Iyoba wore with pride. It’s not your God who grew this food, you want to shout. It’s not your Queen that fought our wars. Does your God know our language? Could your God sing our songs? Does it matter? Because there you both stand stuck between the powers that be and the powers that bend. The truth flails on the wrong side of your tongue And you pity it. So you swallow, smile, and say “Òy' èsé.” (5) ​ God’s Gift Adesuwa Olumhense ​ She no longer walks on coals, but she still tempers her steps. She walks a slow, trembling gait, aware of each toe that hits the earth, murmuring to the grass her apologies. She walks, and watches as you take your first step, your fourth, your ninth, into the pure madness that is freedom. Freefall. She pauses, mouth stretched wide to warn as the sink gathers a dish overnight, then a pot, but the drums of war have not started. Her world is buzzing, not from hands, not from names, but from the vertigo of the rollercoaster’s climax. And this is peace, the far echo of a mourned lullaby, the warm brush of sheets on a bed you bought with your own money. This is peace, as the kitchen gathers forbidden spices and flavors, as you create your own recipe for life’s magic, splatter it across nonstick pans on a Wednesday evening and call it art. (6) ​ One last secret Adesuwa Olumhense ​ Do not fear; The child inside you never died. She wanders, barefoot, through your veins Hikes up your back as you section your hair just to slip down the slide of your spine in the shower She mimics your silly faces at each baby on the street Stumbles right beside you to pronounce ingredients in the African market Asks the questions you don’t dare voice aloud. If you listen just right to the wind and its laughter You’ll hear her, giggling right back. (7) ​ Forward By: Adesuwa Olumhense Your world did not end in one day. When the fabled day passed, no white flag was thrown. The mourning doves chirped quietly to themselves. Instead, you face this 3 am version of you husk and human Paper skin wrapped around crackling bones gripping your shaking knees It ends like this: When they pull your fingers back To tell you that you should watch your figure So you shove your hands into your school uniform (you weren’t that hungry anyway—) When they say your skin will burn and blacken in the sun Too dark, too dirty, too ugly And you wrap yourself in shade and sorries. Like this When they pull your hands away from the steering wheel For your brother to push forward. “Save his pride,” your father says. “His little sister cannot drive first.” When you can no longer bear to make silly faces in the mirror So you turn away from your sun. When you look into your mother’s face And a thousand ghosts stare back. ​ Your world did not end in one day It will not restart in one either. ​ What is the cure for a lifetime spent dancing with the dark? When it begins again Your world will not start with a pale dawn. You scream your way to a new beginning Vision blurred, fists trembling And new truths buzzing under your tongue Your first battle, a distant “no,” You barely hear yourself Your opponent rears back from the blast And a part of you yearns to do the same You lay by the beach read the words of your sisters Until your skin matches the deepest of soils And it is no longer sin, but sacred But still, sometimes, you tremble A mosaic of misery That 3 AM version of you creeps back Hugging shaking knees to a heaving chest But never forget the wonder of watching ivy crawl up the garden wall For the versions of you, bruised, trying, grieving Countless hands clenched tight on a near forgotten daydream Your world did not end in one day It will not restart in one either. But on the nights where you continue your dance with demons On the nights where demons leave and you continue your dance alone Remember this. With each step, know your aunties smile that little grin, bright enough to make their iwu glow Know your grandmother hides her laugh in the cloud of palm oil smoke Know your sisters will turn to greet the mirror like an old friend (Like you, dearest, like you) And smile. (8) When they say “Get over it” By: Adesuwa Olumhense ​ You must never claim the sins they shoved under your skin. A jagged gift tastes of terror. A Trojan weapon will not outgrow its design. But when you remove the rot, excavate the essence of your soul Free from weight, full of grief, drenched in promise You will pull gravel from the depths of the spirit Pebble by pebble, tear by tear Shadow screams at sunlight, and the shards will try to take you with them. You must fight! From the depths of the ruin, with the strength of one thousand ‘cans’ to their army of ‘cannots’ From the blackest tunnels they left you in You must fight, because you have waited your entire life to bloom. Shadow screams at sunlight, and the shards will not give in. But you tend the gravel, coax it from your rich soil. Call each bit of rubble by name and set it aside. For the Sun has always resided in you And what is Earth, but an immeasurable beginning? The light will shower its rays of wishes And you, dear heart, are the heir to it all. ​ (c) Adesuwa Olumhense 2023 for The Untold Narratives

  • Marsha P. Johnson, a black transgender.. | Untold Narratives

    Marsha P. Johnson, a black transgender woman, was a central figure in the gay liberation movement ​ By Christina Maxouris, CNN ​ Updated 9:54 PM EDT, Wed June 26, 2019 Click on picture to read the article

  • Memoir | The Untold Narratives

    What is a Memoir? Have you ever had a strange, or funny, or tragic experience in your life? We almost all have, but have you ever thought about actually writing it down? That is what Memoir writers do. They think about times in their lives that stand out to them as particularly challenging or particularly hilarious or particularly unusual and capture those times in writing to share with the world. This is different than an autobiography. Autobiography usually covers your entire life up to the point of writing, while memoir focuses only on a part of your life. If you are writing a memoir, you will often choose an important or interesting part of your life to write about and ignore or briefly summarize the rest. In short, a memoir is a story of a personal life experience or a period in your life that made you who you are today. Why Write a Memoir? When we write down our own stories to share with others it can be very freeing. It’s like getting something off your chest in a very concrete way. When other people read our stories, they often relate because of having similar experiences. Or the opposite can also be true, sometimes they have not experienced anything like what we are sharing, but because someone has written about it in a compelling way, they develop a new understanding and feel empathy. Either way, memoir writing can create community by bringing people together through sharing familiar and unfamiliar experiences. To help get you started writing a memoir, read on to see some memoir idea prompts and topics. You will also find some tips for writing your own memoir and to links to other helpful resources. Memoir Prompts The beauty of a memoir is that it’s your story and it can be about whatever you want it to be about. You can talk about going to school for the first time, losing a friend, welcoming a new family member, experiencing bias or racism, discovering your identity, and on and on. There is no limit on what you can share with others, but you might need some inspiration to get started. Using prompts can really help! Now You Try! Read the following prompts. Pick one and freewrite your response. The process of freewriting (writing whatever comes to mind) to a prompt is a good way to get your story started. The Most Interesting Thing that Ever Happened to You? We all have some event or life experience that have stayed in our memory. We might remember them because they changed us or gave us a new understanding. Look at what you consider the most interesting or influential experience in your life. Why did this event stay with you? Did you learn something from it? Did it liberate you in some way or oppress you? Do you have regrets about it? How did this event define you? How did it impact your view of yourself or others? What Makes You, You? Think about yourself. What’s unique or special about you? If you were going to describe yourself to another person, what would you say? Think not just about how you look, but what makes you, you. When you try to define yourself, what comes to mind? Your family? Your friends? Your job? Your school? Where are you from? How have these people and things influenced who you are today? What, if anything, do they tell you about yourself? Memoir Topics Topics, like prompts, can help trigger ideas for what you want to write about. Click here to see the difference between the two. Brainstorming (jotting down any ideas that come to mind associated with your topic) based on a topic is a good way to get started and begin to get more specific about the theme of your memoir. Using topics can really help! Now You Try! Read the following topics. Pick at least 3 and brainstorm a list of at least 5 ideas that come up for each. Then, take your 5 ideas from one topic and flesh them out by turning them into sentences and then paragraphs. Then see where it takes you from there! Maybe you will be inspired to write more, or maybe you will try again with another topic. ​ Your favorite place Your best or worst day(s) a memorable family member Your most memorable teacher(s) Someone you will always remember Your proudest moment Winter/summer/fall Food Love Sports, music or books Your childhood Your community A reoccurring dream A supernatural experience A spiritual experience How to Tell Your Story ​ VIDEO TO COME Example Memoirs The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore: This is the story of two boys living in Baltimore with similar histories and an identical name. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou : I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Aroma of Orange Pekoe by Jeff Tikari: The life and living; the entertaining and ways of Tea Planters who made a living in those remote plantations of north-east India in the 1950s Age Appropriate by Jen Doll: In this anecdotal essay about a summer vacation spent with family, Doll explores what it means to bring your teenage self along into adulthood. The Price of Black Ambition by Roxanne Gay: In “The Price of Black Ambition,” Roxane Gay speaks on the fact that children of color are often given an inflated sense of “ambition” at a young age. And, despite the exceptional amounts of work people of color put in to move forward in life, their efforts are regularly regarded as less than—their presence in “white” circles is considered a fluke or consequence of required diversity. If you’d like more examples, these two sites off er free b ooks for download: ​ Oboko: Free Memoir & Biography 10 Essential Essay-Length Memoirs You Can Read for Free Other Helpful Examples How to Write a Memoir: Step-byStep Memoir Writing: Ten Easy Steps Are you ready to submit your memoir or a section of it? Upload here!

  • Fellowship 2022 | Untold Narratives

    The Community Narrative Fellowship, a project of The Untold Narratives, is a paid opportunity for new storytellers to connect to their elders and community members by elevating their histories, voices, and assets. This program provides interview and writing training, support and collaboration from storytellers and community leaders while nurturing the development of untold narratives. The program kicked off in June 2022 and culminated with a showcase in December 2022. See below to meet the 2022 Fellows and see their projects. Meet Our 2022 Community Narrative Fellows! ADESUMA OLUNHENSE is a Nigerian-American writer from New York. The child of immigrants, she grew up surrounded by books, and tried to make her own stories when she didn't quite like the endings. She graduated from Northeastern University with a combined BS in Psychology and Linguistics, and currently works in the nonprofit sector. She believes in the power of telling your story, especially when you can't see yourself in the ones around you, and the immeasurable impact it has on others. In her free time, Adesuwa loves reading, cooking, falling into Wikipedia black holes, and taking day trips. Read Adesuwa's work now. JACQUELINE PEREZ VALENCIA is the Program Coordinator for the Solis Policy Institute at the Women’s Foundation California. She is a first-generation college graduate committed to fighting for the dignity and respect of underserved communities. She received her B.S. in Sociology and minor in Business Management from the University of La Verne. She currently serves on multiple boards and is a mentor to a recent high school graduate through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. For fun, Jacqueline enjoys working on art projects, collecting unique jewelry, and dancing. If she were to have one super power, she would want to fly! SHAYAN KAVEH is a multidisciplinary storyteller and environmental science student residing in Oakland, the unceded homeland of the Chochenyo Ohlone people. As a queer Iranian-American, Shayan grounds his interdisciplinary process in collaboration across experiences, communities, and place. He currently is a Master's Student in the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara, studying the politics and economics of the environment with a focus in strategic communications. Shayan aspires to support social justice movements through community-based research and policy advocacy. If he could have any super power, he would want to be capable of nuclear fission! is a researcher, museum and sci fi enthusiast, and budding writer with interests in the intersection of science, politics, and art. She has been involved in grassroots advocacy in San Jose and Los Angeles and now lives in Boston. She graduated with an AB in neuroscience and philosophy from Harvard and currently works as a lab manager for the GenderSci Lab. Experience Kelsey's work now. KELSEY ICHIKAWA CLAIRE PLAGENS is a survivor, social work professional, and advocate. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Social Work from Michigan State University. While a graduate student, Claire concentrated her studies on gender-based violence in the context of activism, advocacy, and organizational and community leadership. Claire is currently a project coordinator with the National Council for Mental Wellbeing and has a background working in state and federal policy advocacy on issues related to Title IX and sexual abuse prevention and response. Read Claire's work now. DESHAUN RICE previously studied music and film at Georgetown University. He currently focuses on youth employment initiatives with America’s Promise on the Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships team. He also works closely with the YES Project, where he has helped guide community investment and engagement efforts, and has written on various employment-related topics—most recently in a piece for focused on class dynamics in the workplace. He is the father of one 4-year-old son and the oldest of 8 kids. In his spare time, he enjoys listening to and making music. Experience Deshaun's work now. AMINA ABUTHAHIR is a recent college graduate from Cal State Long Beach where she got a bachelors in Political Science. Her Muslim and Tamil identities inform her persepective around her. Amina uses art and writing to amplify her voice in the world. She works on community building and creating solidarity with other marginalized folks. Experience Amina's work now.

  • Black Parents Give Their Kids 'The Talk.' What If White Parents Did, Too? | Featured Article

    Tags: Parenting, police, police relations, Black families, white families

  • For Teachers | Untold Narratives

    GED/HiSET Teachers ​ ​ High school ​ ​ Middle School ​ ​ Elementary

  • I Will Always Be Muslim and Jewish | Untold Narratives

    I Will Always Be Muslim and Jewish ​ I've long felt shame that I knew much more about my Muslim heritage than my Jewish side, but this year, I'm diving in. ​ By Dr. Tamara MC Posted August 23, 2021 Click on image to access the memoir

  • Services | Untold Narratives

    Partner With Us! ​ We offer a wide array of services and support in storytelling, narrative change, learning experience design, and creative and academic writing. ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ What Workshop Participa nts are Saying ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ We elevate learning by: Conceptualizing and developing learning experiences via curriculum and training design (both online and face-to-face) Developing quality learning design from writing personas to storyboarding to course design, development and delivery Designing and delivering professional development to support k-12 teachers, college faculty, nonprofit and corporate professionals, and others in building quality learning experiences for youth and adults . Curriculum Spotlight ​We partnered with The Service Year Alliance to design and develop the skill attainment portion of the Strengthening Service Years as a Postsecondary Option curriculum ​ We elevate untold narratives by: ​Offering The Untold Narratives , a free web service to support multiple storytelling methods. Everyone has a story to tell, yet not all stories are told. Our goal is to change that through the following: ​ Narrative fellowships Educational events Collection of original stories Writing contests ​ Listen to the founder of The Untold Narratives discuss the importance of storytelling in the Reimagining Youth work Podcast Series, published by Dr. Torie Weiston-Serdan, founder of the Critical Mentoring Institute " Owning Your Narrative " ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ Partner with us to create nar rative experiences for your constituents! Contact us to learn more. ​ ​ "I love the way Dr. Santiago works and teaches. I felt comfortable enough to show up and participate fully as a person of color. Her skill at inclusivity and implicit & explicit awareness of diverse needs - really impacted me profoundly." Candice "The instructor was thoughtful about inclusion and creating an equitable environment. I would definitely take a class again with Dr. Santiago and would recommend her to others." Carrie We elevate stories by: ​ Creating content such as books, articles, blog posts, book reviews, toolkits and briefs. ​See content samples below: ​Becoming a Better Mentor, Chapter 8: Honoring Youth Voice and Building Power written by Minnie Chen and Elizabeth Santiago. Published by MENTOR National Move Beyond Imposter Syndrome: Be a Champion Instead . Personal blog written by Elizabeth Santiago ​ ​ ​ Designing and delivering workshops in storytelling, narrative change techniques, creative writing, and cultivating voice. Contact Us

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