Anita Norman – #WhatsYourPeace?

September 21, 2015

2014 National Poetry Out Loud Champion and ISC youth ambassador.

I stood on a stage with a single microphone. All eyes were on me, a feeling that was quite overwhelming. The challenge in that moment was to conjure up authentic emotion—to be vulnerable and fearless. In a tent filled with expectant listeners, it was crushing to think about being so open, but I understood that the only real disappointment would be not showing my true passion. So, I gave the audience everything I had, and in turn they gave me support, encouragement, and stories of their own.

This sort of communication is responsible for the smallest and largest connections in life. The National Storytelling Festival is centered on communities coming together to listen–not to hear, but to truly listen. I think of the lonely people of the world, the misunderstood, the uncelebrated. Listening to their stories opens up doors and relationship possibilities that are far more peaceful and powerful in nature than arguing or ignoring. I learned that good communication is often hidden to my generation, even though it is a historically verified avenue to creating change in our communities.

The most powerful part of the experience was not the fact that I spoke or that the most brilliant storytellers in the world were there, but that I witnessed firsthand that people do in fact understand and desire intimate communication. There is a community rooting for a lost art form and the mental images it creates. People understand the struggle and soul behind words. They understand the sacred and the humorous, the tragic and the triumphant. I left the stage having shared pieces of myself, and I was grateful for the connection I shared with my many listeners. I finally understand that the educational world is very much in need of spaces like these where truth comes to be heard. Now more than ever, I hold closely to the belief that storytelling connects individuals. It heals.

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