At our first meeting in October we did a lot of brainstorming across the walls of the Atrium to distinguish what avenues we could utilize in order to bridge cultures and raise awareness in Santa Cruz. Of all of these, Sharing Stories seemed like the most natural starting point. Today so much of the stigma associated with cultures and experiences that are different to our own stem from simply not knowing and therefore not understanding them. By sharing the stories of multiple cultures, backgrounds, and identities, we can better understand where we each are coming from to create a more tolerant and accepting Santa Cruz.
As our members walked in they answered the question: “If you were a novel, what would your title be?” Try answering it yourself. It’s a hard one. We then jumped into the meeting by doing an icebreaker where we had short, one-on-one conversations starting with imagining your partner as a child to ending with reflections on racial prejudices. This was a natural segway to our lightning talks for the topics of our focus groups.
These were the presenters and topics:
Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History Archives with Marla Novo “Many collections in the MAH’s archives tell stories. But one recent acquisition keeps creating opportunities for story sharing. The Lund Family Diaries are a collection of almost 100 years of journaling from one local family. A small team of dedicated and diverse volunteers meet weekly to transcribe the diaries. They’ve formed connections with the material, each other, and themselves. It’s been a transforming process, but kept within the archives’ walls. My dream is to make the MAH’s archives a tool for cultural bridging outside of the museum.”
Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ) with Natalie Baloy “Showing Up for Racial Justice is a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice. SURJ moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability. There are SURJ chapters around the country and one is just beginning in Santa Cruz County. This new chapter aims to enact SURJ shared values locally to build relationships across difference, to support local people of color-led initiatives and organizations, and to engage white people in Santa Cruz as active and critically reflexive agents in anti-racist social change. Creating spaces to share stories – from uncomfortable moments and hard truths to dreams of love and collective thriving – is essential for this work. SURJ envisions a society where we struggle together with love, for justice, human dignity, and a sustainable world. SURJ-Santa Cruz commits to identifying locally responsive ways to support this vision here.We dream of a Santa Cruz that embraces difficult conversations as part of the process toward collectively creating a more just future here.”
Santa Cruz Community Health Centers Edgar Ontiveros and Jacquie Benetua-Rolens
“SCCHC has begun to collect and cultivate stories in the Santa Cruz Community relating to health through the use of the Storycorps mobile beta. We understand that healing happens in a multitude of different ways, and while sharing stories of adversity can help inform others to seek or provide care, the catharsis in sharing and being heard can itself be a tool for healing. As of now, our Story collection project is still in its infancy. As an organization, our stories are focusing on health and the social determinants of health. Our dream is to collect stories that create a cohesive, mosaic portrait of the greater SC Community.”
UCSC Humanities with Irena Polić discussed how graduate UCSC Humanities students could work with local organizations to activate cultural bridges in our community.
Story Sharing with Wes Modes explored the different ways story telling can create cultural bridges by creating safe spaces for listening. He brainstormed with C3 members different ways their projects could be activated through listening and storytelling.
We then dived deeper into these topics in small groups. Each group brainstormed their dream for the future of their respective endeavors, finally creating an artifact for the Pop Up Museum. It got a little arts and crafts-y when the pipe cleaners and cardboard came out, but the ideas created were innovative and important. We had designs ranging from helmets to let you see the world through a different cultural background to a mobile interface allowing the people of Santa Cruz and beyond to connect their ideas and feelings.
Our meeting ended with a group circle with announcements and commitments. Throughout this meeting you could hear conversations of shared interests and backgrounds which could now be voiced to the group. As the members bounced around the MAH’s big red ball, they voiced something they were committed to doing, whether that was volunteering for someone’s organization or simply learning to listen more. At this meeting we learned the value of listening and making room for others to share their stories. We made cross-county connections and commitments dedicated to sharing culture.