Summer Workshop Series on Anti-Oppression and Oral History

Amy Starecheski's picture

Oral history has a strong tradition as a progressive practice, focused on amplifying marginalized voices typically giving powerful platforms to speak in public. Oral historians have documented the stories of struggles for justice around the world, and at times have participated in those struggles. At the same time, as a field oral history has excluded Indigenous people and practices from the legitimacy we have so laboriously built. Leadership in our organizations and institutions has been predominantly white, even while people of color have played key roles and invested their time and energy in building these institutions.

In this series, we will share visions for oral history in which people of color - their knowledge, skills, practices and voices - are at the center of our practice. This is not a diversity approach, in which our field remains white-led but invites some people of color in. It is an anti-oppression approach, in which we reorient our work to challenge structural oppression actively, expecting that that will change our work and our field in deep ways. The series will start out with a workshop introducing an anti-oppression approach to oral history work. The next four sessions will invite participants to explore project design, interviewing, and transcription from an anti-racist and decolonial perspective. We invite you to learn, grow, imagine and be challenged.

These workshops, sponsored by OHMA and the Oral History Association, are free and open to the public. We also encourage donations to cover the costs of paying the facilitators. Any donations that go beyond covering these costs will be used to support a Black incoming OHMA student.

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SERIES AT A GLANCE

July 25, 2020, 1:00 - 4:00 PM
Identifying Patterns: How Oppression and Abuse May Show Up in Oral History
Noor Alzamami and K.K. Hammond

August 7, 2020, 3:00 - 6:00 PM
Amplifying Oral Histories of Resistance
Sara Sinclair

August 13, 2020, 1:00 - 4:00 PM
Listening for Embodied Knowledge: An Approach to the Oral History Interview
Nyssa Chow

August 22, 2020, 4:00 - 7:00 PM
Talking White: An Anti-Oppression View Towards Transcribing Black Narrators
Alissa Rae Funderburk

August 27, 2020, 1:00 - 4:00 PM
Decentering Dominance: Language Justice in the Field
Fernanda Espinosa

*All times are listed in Eastern Standard Time


WORKSHOPS

Saturday, July 25th
1:00-4:00 PM

Identifying Patterns:
How Oppression and Abuse May Show Up in Oral History

Noor Alzamami and
K.K. Hammond

In this workshop we will focus on building the foundations for understanding how oppression shows up in systemic and personal life. Building on this foundation, we as oral historians can better continue our growth toward anti-oppression in the future. It is vital we acknowledge we will never be “perfect,” we will always perpetuate harm and it’s important we accept this so we can take responsibility and grow.

In addition, we will focus on how these big concepts of oppression can show up in patterns in daily life, and in our oral history work. As oral historians we are often confronted with concepts of shared authority, trauma informed interviewing, and many other buzzwords to create structures to keep communities and individuals safe.

By the end of this workshop, attendees will: understand the difference between stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, oppression and internalized oppression - and how they can interact; understand that abuse is an example of white supremacy and that each of us can identify abuse through patterns of behavior. But how does this actually show up? What are ways we can check ourselves so the onus of education is not on the targeted communities we interact with but ourselves and other privileged peers?

Noor Alzamami (they/them) is an oral historian who studied at Columbia University. They describe themself as an arab-american, mentally ill, queer, trans non-binary person with a passion for self-determination and liberation. Prior to attending OHMA (Oral History Masters of Arts) they worked as a facilitator, advocate, sex educator and queer youth programs coordinator.

Kordell KeyAndre (K.K.) Hammond is a graduate from the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a concentration in psychology. He works at the intersection of psychotherapy and history education, having developed a person-centered methodology with Columbia’s Oral History Master of Arts (OHMA) program. With an emphasis on supporting the whole person, K.K.'s approach to psychohistory incoperates DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) and instructional technology.
K.K. began the An Americana Issue Oral History Project, codified narratives told and curated by Educators of Color (E.o.C.) from the Indigenous and African diaspora, as part of his online OHMA exhibit. The intent of this work and its derivatives is to build an attainable resource for young adults and ourselves. While completing coursework at OHMA, K.K. worked as Graduate Intern with the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Humanities New York, assisting with their grants programing. As an activist, he’s committed to using the humanities to foster engaged inquiry and dialogue around social and cultural concerns.
Founder and Director of Operations with KeyAndre & Company — a lifestyle brand established in 2017 on a mission to encourage self-awareness, self-discipline and self-care through the art of design, rhetoric and rehabilitation — Kordell looks forward to re-defining narrative therapy: Drawing inspiration from oral history methods and narrative medicine techniques to continue excavating the psychological experiences of BIPOC, and otherwise. Please, find some of his publications and join the discussion with KeyAndre & Company on his Soundcloud @keyandrehammond and Instagram @theKeyAndre, or connect via email (at) keyandrehammond@gmail.com.

Friday, August 7
3:00-6:00 PM

Amplifying Oral Histories of Resistance
Sara Sinclair

In this workshop we will think about how to take an intentionally anti-colonial or indigenizing approach to the planning, execution and presentation of oral history. We will consider how, who we choose to tell certain stories, the questions that we ask of them, and the additional information that we use to supplement their narratives, ensure that the stories we amplify empower the people who share them with us. We will use Sara’s project How We Go Home as a case study and launching point for discussion and exercises to explore project, interview and editorial design.

Sara Sinclair is an oral historian, writer, and educator of Cree-Ojibwe, German-Jewish, and British descent. Sara’s book How We Go Home: Voices from Indigenous North America (Voice of WItness/Haymarket) is forthcoming this fall. Sara was the project manager and lead interviewer for the Columbia Center for Oral History Research’s Robert Rauschenberg Oral History Project and co edited a book from these narratives, Robert Rauschenberg: An Oral History, published with Columbia University Press in 2019. Sara has conducted oral histories for the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and the International Labor Organization, among others. A graduate of Columbia University’s Oral History Master of Arts program, Sara has taught at Columbia University, Princeton University, and the Museum of the City of New York.

Thursday, August 13
1:00-4:00pm

Listening for Embodied Knowledge: An Approach to the Oral History Interview
Nyssa Chow

What does it mean to have BIPOC voices at the center of our practice—what are we inviting them to speak on, or claim authority over? We know that oral history has the ability to document the experiences of BIPOC life, but can our approach to the interview go beyond the chronicling of what has happened to them? Can we also prioritize and harness oral history’s potential to record, elevate, and assert ‘ways of being’ and ‘ways of knowing’ our shared world that have been historically delegitimized and overlooked? Our embodied experiences are also our particular expertise on the world. The reality of BIPOC life becomes a particular education, one that shapes unique strategies of surviving and thriving; of sense-making; ways of seeing, interpreting, and “reading” the moments, politics, and interactions of daily life—it is embodied knowledge, embodied authority. How can our practice better ‘hear’ and legitimize embodied knowledge(s)? In this workshop we will consider the oral history interview as an ‘act of translation’, an approach that permissions the narrator to be both the ‘teller’ of their story, and also the first interpreter of their lived experience. We will discuss forms of un-hearing that can interrupt this process; reflect on the making and un-making of agency and authority in the interview by introducing both the language and concept of permission; and consider the oral history encounter as a ‘space of remembering’ and translation.

Nyssa Chow is a lecturer in the Creative Writing Department at Princeton University and is the current Princeton Arts Fellow at the Lewis Center for the Arts (Princeton University). She is an oral historian, writer, and interdisciplinary artist. Chow served as Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University and as core faculty in the Oral History Masters program at Columbia University. She was the 2018 Recipient of the PEN/Jean Stein for Literary Oral History, won for the book project, Still. Life. The immersive literary oral history project ‘The Story of Her Skin’ won the Columbia University Jeffrey H. Brodsky Oral History Award. She is a recipient of the Hollywood Foreign Press Grant, the Women in Film and Television Fellowship, the Toms Fellowship, the Academy of Motion Pictures Foundation Award and the Zaki Gordon Award for Excellence in Screenwriting. She was a recipient of a Sloan Foundation Grant. Born and raised in Trinidad, she is a graduate of Columbia University’s MFA Film program and Columbia University's Oral History Masters Program.

Saturday, August 22
4:00-7:00 PM

Talking White:
An anti-oppression view towards transcribing Black narrators

Alissa Rae Funderburk

In this workshop we will explore useful concepts in the transcription of oral history to help us more accurately portray the voice of our narrators. The English language is inextricably linked to a history of colonialism and has been used in the history of America to delegitimize the voices and agency of Black people (from forced illiteracy during slavery, to voter suppreersion during the Civil Rights Era, to even the halls of academia today). This workshop aims to change the way we think of the transcript as a record and the way we consider dialect and the importance of AAVE (African American Vernacular English) to recording American history and culture. AAVE has been stigmatized and portrayals of it exoticized as part of white supremacy. When transcribing, how do we navigate this fraught power dynamic? How do the relationships between narrator, transcriber, and audience shape our approach to this?

I will be looking at the CCOHR Transcription Style Guide, Margaret Walker’s Jubilee and Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon as well as contemporary audio and transcript samples. Participants need not read all of these, however a passing familiarity would be helpful. I encourage participants to send in examples of how these issues come up in their own work, even with narrators from other races, dialects, or languages. The ultimate question we will seek to answer together: how do we transcribe and edit the voices of Black people while recognizing their power and attempting to balance the importance of accuracy and feeling with the necessity for understandability?

Alissa Rae Funderburk is the Oral Historian for the Margaret Walker Center at the HBCU Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. She maintains an oral history archive that, like the Center, is dedicated to the preservation, interpretation, and dissemination of African American history and culture. Previously, she created an oral history course for high school students at the Roger Lehecka Double Discovery Center and conducted freelance oral history interviews for the city of Jersey City. While completing coursework in the Oral History Masters Program at Columbia, Alissa Rae served as the Deputy Director of the Columbia Life Histories Project alongside its co-founder Benji de la Piedra. Her interests include the studies of race, culture and religion, particularly those of the African diaspora, her OHMA thesis having been on the religious and spiritual experiences of black men in New York City.

Thursday, August 27
1:00-4:00 PM

Decentering Dominance: Language Justice in the Field
Fernanda Espinosa

As oral historians, our source of inquiry and creativity is the embodied language through which the personal becomes historical. If language surrounds, contains, and articulates all of the work of oral history, why not design our projects with very intentional attention towards it and its use? How would project design be if we de-center dominant linguistic standards and, instead, center the language needs of our participants? In this workshop we’ll discuss what Language Access and Justice could look like as actions and values inseparable from the work of oral history. We will pay particular attention to designing projects that create access for and welcome narrators who are most comfortable using Spanish in English-dominated spaces.

Fernanda Espinosa is an oral history-based practitioner and cultural organizer based in New York and Ecuador and originally from the Andes. She approaches storytelling as one of the many ways of transmitting knowledge and her analysis and practice are deeply embedded in interrogating colonial standards, including story forms. Since 2014 she has been generating, listening to, and interpreting oral histories to inform creative public interventions that aspire to act as platforms for resistance and dialogue. Espinosa holds a degree in Oral History from Columbia University, where her thesis was awarded the 2018 Jeffrey H. Brodsky Oral History Award. She led community partnerships with StoryCorps from 2018 to 2020, and is the recipient, along with her collaborator, of the 2020 MDOC Storyteller's Institute Fellowship. Fernanda is also the co-founder and coordinator of Cooperativa Cultural 19 de enero (CC 1/19), a wandering art and oral transmissions collaboration.

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