View this email in your browser

 001: Storytelling Over Soul Food 

Hi there! <3

I'm sending you this newsletter because I think / hope you might find human-centered storytelling meaningful. If you feel it is not, please unsubscribe at the bottom of this message. Hope you'll try and make it to the end, though! ^__^

In every message, you might expect:

  • A written story or anecdote from me
  • Related piece of media
  • Interesting news or tidbits
  • Words or images from a guest


 //  THIS TIME  \\ 


Over the past few years, it's become a shockingly regular occurrence for people to come up to me IRL and greet me first-thing with some sort of compliment about my Facebook posts.

Many of these people were ones I had NO IDEA were paying me much mind at all because they wouldn't comment online... but occasionally, thoughts do bubble to the surface. Just last week, visual artist Erica Steiner, who I interviewed for REDEFINE back in 2008 and have not really kept in touch with since, said:

"Thank you for sharing your internal/ external worlds in the ways that you do here in this strange otherworld of facebooklandia. I love the way you talk, think, feel, see, express yourself."

This came just after my friend-boss Courtney Sheehan (all-around firecracker, near-birthday twin, and outgoing Executive Director at Northwest Film Forum, who you might consider saying goodbye to at our fund-rager on the 27th) suggested that I stop giving all my goods to Facebook and send out a newsletter instead... because she would love to read something that wasn't the news sometimes.

(Plus, maybe I don't want FB to own all my thoughts, and the kids are over it, so...)


Right now is obviously a rough time for many. Everyday, we're bombarded with news that is divisive, and no matter where you stand on the sociopolitical spectrum, I think we can all agree on THAT, at least. T__T

Thus, if I can pepper your inbox occasionally with a story or anecdote that isn't just about "give us money" or "spend more money" or "doom doom doom!", it would be my stupid honor. These stories won't always be happy, and they'll only sometimes be cute... but they'll always be human.

To kick it off, below is the story which inspired Erica's quote. I share it with the note that it discusses racial integration in Southern schools in the late '50s, but that racial segregation continues to happen to this day. Learn more about that in the link list to follow.

(If you've already read this on Facebook, oops, chill! New stuff to come.)

privy to the past.

Weeks ago, some random email fired my way for no clear or traceable reason has resulted, today, in the coordinator for the local African American Writers Alliance to – again, out of the blue – invite me over to her house so she can bestow upon me a bevy of leftover Southern food fixins from her oldies party last night, when a bunch of her friends had gathered to feast, dance, and sing on her massive patio.

Turns out Georgia, too, is a self-professed lover of talking to strangers, and boy, does it show. We two freaks bond over culture-sharing, politics, and... her repeatedly asking me if I need more food, in the form of homemade bread pudding and "better-than-sex" cake and cabbage and green beans and ice cream I need to turn down because I already had ice cream today and ribs and chicken I will take later for sharing rather than inhaling myself, cause I am not huge into the meats, but I reckon someone at the potluck tomorrow might be. (Not a P.S., but P.S. - Weirdly, she just discovered the bread pudding recipe is named after a plantation near her hometown in Louisiana...)

While we chat, she shares what it was like to be one of the first students called to integrate a segregated Southern college. Including the slingshot feeling of excitedly asking a receptionist where your dorm was, only to be answered by:

"We were only told we needed to go to school with you – not that we needed to live with you."

Georgia tells me she was lucky because that comment made her decide to transfer universities immediately. Best decision she ever made. Through the grapevine, she heard later of others who were not so lucky; being first to integrate meant being "angry for years."

In the modern day, I learn that a large local bookstore is happy to book the African American Writers Alliance once a yearbut even though they are one of the longest-running groups to read in that store, they are never granted any slots outside of Black History Month (February) because APPARENTLY, black history and black writers are only important when a national month dictates as such.

Not different enough from those first days of integration.

"Is California as bad as here?" she asks me.

"Racially?" I ask.

I know a little bit about that, but apparently, I don't even begin to know, because I am not constantly asking that question. That is my privilege.

"I often wonder who I would be if I didn't have to deal with THIS," she says with sadness, and repeats it twice. "It gets tiring! THIS gets tiring."

And I think how, despite having to deal with THIS, and being so tired of THIS, she continues to give so much. A lifetime of teaching, to retire perhaps a bit too early, resulting in finances that are not stable as they ought to beand yet, she cooks and cooks regardless, to give and give regardless. This massive spread for friends; that massive spread for church; whoever, to whatever, and with bounty enough to overfloweth even to me, a total strangernot just in food, but in time, energy, and vitality.

That I should be so lucky to be privy to such a steel trap memory. <3







"We are kindred spirits!... This is the poem I thought of when you wrote a few days ago!"

Selected Stories

Stories, stories, stories.

Good ones, bad ones, happy and sad ones. We’re writing a story

Hearing a story

Telling a story

Beginning a story

In the middle of a story.

Finishing a story,

Always participating in a story—not always willingly. Being left out can be part of the story.

We’re the good, the bad, the ugly.

We’re the protagonist or antagonist,

Flat or round

Dynamic or static

Maybe simply a stock character. Other times we can only narrate.

Sometimes we control the action—to a degree. Often we suffer the consequences of the action. Usually we can’t stop others from telling our stories, Others who can get it so wrong—or right. Ashamed of being fooled or having fooled,

Less than what we think we are or ought to be,

we never want to tell all the stories.

(I’ll bet nobody wants to tell all of the stories.)

We tell selected stories.




 Atlanta Pride J-Sette Competition 

I recently participated in a J-Sette workshop taught by choreographers jumatatu m. poe and Jermone Donte Beacham at PICA's Time-Based Arts (TBA) Festival. The form has roots in the “Prancing J-Settes”, who formed in the early '70s as an offshoot of Mississippi's Jackson State University Marching Band, but has recently gained mainstream popularity due to Beyoncé's "Single Ladies".

Grown out of historically black colleges and now popular within the Southern queer community, J-Sette is a strict and precise form, framed around repeating 8-counts and rotating front-row captains who carry out routines for subsequent rows to repeat. The original Prancing J-Settes have been described as "the thrill of a thousand eyes"; after watching the video above, you can read about their rich history on Jackson State's website.

Thanks to the one and only Gina Altamura for inspiring the title of this newsletter!
(She is exceptionally good at names if you need someone to name something.)



 //  NEXT TIME  \\ 
 A Mexican-American painter and graffiti artist details his earliest memories from growing up in Tijuana, both from dreams and real life... and another Mexican artist makes collective dream experiments tangible.
You should also share your early memories or prophetic dreams!



 LOVE IT? ^__^


All content belongs to Vivian Hua and/or contributing humans.