Digital Storytelling: Recalling the Past

David Kapaon
By David Kapaon
I walked into the Wilkins Board Room early Saturday morning around 7:45 AM, and was greeted by the always effervescent Ayesha McAdams-Mahmoud. Ayesha, who facilitated this two-day, Digital Storytelling Workshop, had been professionally trained by Storycenter (formerly, the Center for Digital Storytelling). The room was basically set up already when I arrived. It was clear that Ayesha had planned the entire workshop down to a "T", and was ready to bat away any curveballs thrown at her (this was evidenced by the email she sent to the VISTAs at 4:38 AM earlier that morning clarifying a pre-event survey that we needed to help with). She was ready for anything.

On September 10th and 11th, Vital Village Network collaborated with Fathers' Uplift to help lead a two-day workshop on the meaning of fatherhood. All five fathers convened at the Boston University Medical Center Campus, and were eager to tell their stories. Even though the workshop was not advertised as a therapy session, the mere act of telling these stories with such detail, can be therapeutic in a way. In the end, the outcome of this retreat was to give fathers a medium through which to tell their personal narratives, and in doing so, create a supportive environment, establish and strengthen friendships, and potentially give the fathers the necessary tools and ideas to sustainably scale this workshop into their own communities. Although six fathers were selected, one could not make it on Saturday due to illness. Nevertheless, he showed up on Sunday to support and encourage his friends. It was this dynamic that, I believe, made this event so successful. With help from the VISTAs and Ayesha, these five men crafted deeply personal narratives. Although the VISTAs were there to assist, it was the fathers that took charge, writing, and revising their own stories, recording their voices, and editing their videos and pictures, into a short 3-4 minute clip.
Now, it almost goes without saying that stories as emotionally powerful as these, were going to be difficult to tell and recall. However, I was surprised with how open each father was. Any hesitation on the part of the fathers to narrate their lives to near-complete strangers (Ayesha and the VISTAs), was almost completely quelled following the telling of the first story by a very brave father. This can be partially attributed to John, one of the fathers who attended the event, who, early on Saturday morning, rallied his peers with an honest, but encouraging plea: “Look, we all came here to do something, so let’s do it. We’re sacrificing our entire weekend because we have a story to tell, so let’s tell that story”. It takes courage to open yourself up, but in doing so, these men showed compassion and kindness of the highest degree, supporting each other constantly through the full two days. Amicable talk and supportive comments could be heard frequently throughout the day as each father lounged around the Wilkins Board room perfecting their stories and videos.
At the end of the final day, as we all sat in the dark room, watching each movie, I was struck with just how professional each film looked. They may have not looked like much when they were being edited in the program, but once they were presented on an actual stage, projected before an audience, each movie took on an extremely polished feel. I think a moment that best captured the mission of the entire weekend, actually happened the following day, during our Network Connection meeting, when Charles, another father who participated in the event, told me “I just can’t stop watching my film over and over again”.

Click here to watch the Digital Stories.

Posted In: Male Engagement Task Force