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1-ON-1 WITH JON EVANS Working Narratives: Giving voice and power to the forgotten

By Jon Evans | July 19, 2019 at 5:23 PM EDT - Updated July 19 at 7:12 PM

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - When Hurricane Florence devastated communities like Fair Bluff for the second time in less than two years, an effort grew to share information about the recovery, and better prepare people of eastern North Carolina for future storms.

The NC Community Foundation teamed up with the NC Local News Lab Fund to award more than $300,000 worth of grants to “organizations and initiatives around news and information related to hurricane recovery”. The non-profit group Working Narratives received one of the grants, with a proposal to use a podcast to share recovery and resiliency stories from communities like Fair Bluff. The project will be called “Flood Zones”.

“We don’t just want to focus on the struggles of folks in places like Fair Bluff,” said Rend Smith, Communications Director for Working Narratives. “We want to highlight the resiliency that they show. They found ways to survive and often as marginalized communities do, they found these resistances, ways to keep going each day. Not only to keep going, but to celebrate.”

Working Narratives has just released its’ first podcast project, called “Storm Stories”, featuring hurricane survivors sharing their experiences. Smith says “Flood Zones” will be similar in scope, with more of a focus on the often forgotten African-American communities in rural areas of eastern North Carolina.

“We see a special need there,” Smith said about the follow-up project. “What we found with these historically-ignored communities is that, although they have lots to say and although they have extreme information needs, they tend to be in information poverty centers. So, there’s not information coming out, and there’s not much information coming in. One of the ways you can change that dynamic is to bring people together to amplify each other’s stories, to tell one another’s stories, to connect over those stories, and to organize.”

Along with providing the medium to tell the stories through the podcast, another component to receiving the grant includes Working Narratives conducting about a dozen events in New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender and Columbus counties. Smith says these could include live story-telling activities, where residents can share their recovery stories with others.

“We’ve discovered that stories are not just entertaining, they are a great organizing principle,” he says. “One of the ways you can bring folks together and get them to support things like policy change is to have a story circle, where people share their experiences, their knowledge, and that allows them to build connections, help them build networks that build communities that build power.”

You can hear my full interview with Rend Smith, Communications Director for Working Narratives, on the organization’s new podcast project “Flood Zones”, by clicking on any of the links below.

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