The Storyteller Matters


Occupy Toronto by Heather Plett









Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives—the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it,
joke about it, and change it as times change— truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts.
—Salman Rushdie

You may have noticed that I have been super quiet  on the Kony 2012 controversy.  Those of you who know me , were probably shocked that you did not hear my opinion on this issue- because I always have an opinion.

I did not respond in the middle of the brou-haha , because I was angry. I was really angry, but that is another story for another day. More importantly I wanted to make space for the Ugandan voices to be heard.  That’s right.. not a western voice, but the voice of the folks that matter. The folks impacted. The Ugandan people.

I was happy to see all the articles, blog post and vlogs by Ugandans sharing their thoughts–pro or con.

In talking with someone I admire she shared with me some great wisdom:  It is really easy to have a campaign to hunt down and kill a bad black man.

She is right. A slick campaign, a true and real enemy, some horrible pictures and  a story that touches us will cause most of us to act.

For me the story matters, but also the storyteller matters. The voice that the story resonates is just as important as the actual story. Perception is reality.


 Those who tell the stories rule the world. —Hopi American Indian Proverb


It is much harder to come up with real plan for that get dirty in depth community development work  that leads to lasting change. Awareness is important. Advocacy is important but never at the cost  of the communities you are trying to serve.

Several human rights organizations, including UNICEF, International Rescue Committee, Child Soldiers International and SOS Children’s Villages have been working to rescue and rehabilitate child soldiers in Uganda. It is a worthy and important cause. They do good and meaningful work with local folks on the ground.

What is happening in Uganda is  a sad situation but it is not going to be solved by a movement led from the US.

There are so many lessons to learn from the Kony 2012 marketing/ engagement/ mobilization strategy and from the Komen/ Planned Parenthood debacle earlier this year. For me one of the greatest lessons  is this:  The Storyteller matters. Whether we are discussing Mike Daisy and Apple, IC and Kony2012 or young black males and  the Treyvon Martin tragedy:

Who shapes, narrates and control the story matters.

I have said this a million times and I will continue to say it a million more: We need new voices telling their stories in mediums that their tribe understand and that resonates with them. We need these voices amplified. Storytelling invites you into a deeper relationship with the storyteller.

I want to be in deeper relationship with the Ugandan people via their stories, not via a third party US based organization.

We need strong, loud, clear, powerful voices to speak truth to power. Voices that speak about identity and issues of class, race, age, gender and health…from people in the trenches, living it, breathing, knowing it.

We can not only have one type of voice at the mic, especially if that voice is all male or predominately western. We need to hear voices not unlike our own and we need to get out of the way and give them room to speak.

Even with social media a very select few ( some might even say elite)  tell the stories at the big mic, on the big stage….

With their voices storyteller’s  paint new visions,and  their voices  expand conversations.

 We need more stories of inclusion and wholeness. More voices that speak of healing and renewal.

Let the voices of your communities  and their stories shine–let them shine brighter than  any organization ever formed…..including yours.




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