WUNC is one of 15 stations across the country chosen to be a part of an innovative public media project called Localore: Finding America. The project is being put together by the Association of Independents in Radio and is funded in large part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
As a part of the project, WUNC is partnering with John Biewen, a producer with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, and will explore the things that bring us together and divide us as a community, like race, class and faith.
"We have this 'national debate' on race and class in particular since Ferguson, the police shootings and Back Lives Matter and what we are trying to do is give the people in Durham a chance to get together face-to-face and meet each other and talk," Biewen said. "Ultimately, we are going to put microphones and recorders in the hands of a team of regular people from the community and they are actually going to produce a series of short documentaries for WUNC."
Before the group of participants begins documenting, Biewen teamed up with Mya Hunter and Nia Wilson from the Durham nonprofit SpiritHouse to assemble five "Story Circle" events for the project "Storymakers: Durham." Hunter said a Story Circle is when you sit down people from different communities, give the group a prompt and then go around the circle listening to each other's stories and experiences.
"A prompt could be, 'Name the first record you bought with your own money,' and through that Story Circle process, people get a chance to hear each other," Hunter said. "You don’t get a chance to talk while you’re listening to someone’s story and at the very end of the process, people actually share back things they heard versus someone making a response to the story that they heard. They actually have to tell something that moved them about that person’s story."
Below is a clip of Roberto Nava sharing his story at a Story Circle at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Durham. In the clip, Nava speaks about his experience as a Mexican immigrant working as an auto mechanic.
Wilson said each Story Circle has discussed the same prompt, and the groups have heard an array of stories like Nava's regarding advantages and disadvantages people face in their lives.
"When we first begin the story circle process, everyone is really nervous. They don't think they have anything to talk about and then they have found this process to be something that was really engaging for them," Wilson said. "We do not spend enough time telling stories or actually deeply listening to each other, so its been a really good process for everyone whose been involved."
Biewen said next on the agenda is to give 15 to 20 people from the Story Circles a recorder and begin working on creating personal audio documentaries.
“As opposed to just pointing microphones in interesting directions in the community, we’re handing over microphones to people and making them producers of the project," he said.
For a closer look at WUNC's Localore:Finding America, view the video below: