more to the story

Seeking the missing parts.

September 24, 2022

It’s time. It’s overwhelming and risky, dangerous even, but that’s why I need to get started. For whatever reason, today I’m ready.

More to the Story began in 2019 as a non-profit organization I envisioned to use storytelling to build bridges of empathy between individuals and groups across lines of historical conflict. The story behind More to the Story began in Mississippi where I taught public high school in the ’90s. There I fell in love with theater as a practice with the power to bring black and white kids together in common creative purpose. In 2020 I had plans to pilot More to the Story at a camp in Jerusalem with Palestinian/Arab Israeli and Jewish Israeli kids using theater and film for English language learning. Then Covid.

During Covid, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the start of a new chapter of national reckoning with our history of racial genocide and trauma. A moment demanding that every American reexamine accepted versions of histories, personal and collective, to the point of reconstructing our paradigms of reality. Like many white Americans who identify as liberal/progressive and who’ve given some part of their lives’ work to racial justice, I had comforted myself that I was relatively “woke,” before that word was a thing. Now I hear the voices demanding I let go of my comfort and muster the courage to learn how very much more there is to the story.

My mom gave me a missing part of my story last winter. Two photos revealed fourth grade me doing up dog and dancing, led by an unknown black man. Of note: I have zero memory of this experience, but my joy is palpable in the image. I thought I discovered yoga and embodiment in adulthood, yet the photo reveals the planting of a seed for which my heart swells with gratitude. I grew up in a small town in New Hampshire where we had only four black kids at our school, two adopted by white parents and the others with parents who were professors at Dartmouth. Who was this man, and how did he come into my life in the 1970s? Zooming in on this photo, I found his name on his t-shirt, incredibly: Arthur Hall. Wikipedia’s brief entry (it should be much longer) includes his teaching at Dartmouth College, which puts us in the same place at the same time. He is quoted in an obituary: “We have changed the world through our music and dance. There is no place you go without listening to Black music. There is no place now where you go and people are not dancing like Black people. We have touched the heart of the world. I call this the quiet revolution. We have changed the world, and we didn’t use a gun.” Without this photo I wouldn’t have known my life was graced by this encounter with such a visionary artist. How much more is missing from my story?

A note about these images: I work in film and am accustomed to challenges lighting black and white skin in the same frame. I played with “color correction” on these old photos to expose by him and me ideally. I’ve included some of the variations. More extensive effort would involve differential correction on parts of the images. The metaphors suggest themselves.

So I want to redirecting More to the Story as a weekly reflection for now, a travel blog from a journey through time, mind, body, soul – into the heart of the divine, if that’s where it goes. The quest for truth about our history and parallel realities would take infinite lifetimes to complete, but let me not use that excuse (available to me as a white person) to avoid the pain. Completion is not possible. Presence and some measure of healing are.

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