I first learned about the power of storytelling when I was 12 years old. My mother enrolled me in a nonprofit program in Los Angeles called the Virginia Avenue Project. Their mission? To use the performing arts to help kids develop the confidence to overcome obstacles in their lives.
With their guidance, I poured my heart out onto the page to write a very personal play. In Anything Is Better Than… I dug deep into the story of a close relative who battled with depression and abuse – here, the personification of "Nothingness" being the villain.
Writing this was deeply affecting – but even more so was watching it performed, later, by professional actors at UCLA. And when I watched the reactions of the audience on opening night, I was struck by how storytelling connects the shared human experience. As a group, all of our backgrounds and journeys were undoubtedly different.
But the underlying emotions we felt together that night were the same. It made us realize we weren’t quite so alone.
At Fusion, we're proud to mark the creation of a long overdue platform for the exchange of unique voices, experiences and stories rarely heard before in mainstream media.
In this spirit, we also introduce #GiveStories, the inaugural initiative of Fusion’s overarching GIVE campaign (see more on GIVE here). Our #GiveStories campaign celebrates and encourages the power of storytelling as a source of cultural pride, while also championing the inclusion of U.S. Hispanics in the literary and creative fields.
An important component of the #GiveStories initiative is our partnership with First Book, a nonprofit organization focused on providing access to new books for children in need. As part of the campaign, First Book will be signing up 10,000 classrooms and community programs that serve the Hispanic population to help get them books for their students.
They’ll provide these schools with permanent access to brand-new, culturally relevant books. Importantly, they will also distribute 3000 Hispanic Heritage and Resource collections (of 50 books each) to young people across the country.
The lack of diversity in children’s literature today is shocking, and has ramifications that go well beyond elementary school libraries. Kids rarely see themselves or their experiences reflected back to them in the stories they read.
A 2012 study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center found that after reviewing thousands of children’s books, only 1.2 percent were about Latinos. When we don’t see our stories reflected back to us in libraries or magazines or book stores, the subconscious message this sends is that we don’t matter or aren’t relatable.
To this end, we will also be airing videos of various Fusion television hosts performing the words of emerging Latino writers, lyricists and artists on air and online.
The final step is up to us. To make our voices heard, we may have to speak louder than most. But if I know mi gente, that is something that already comes naturally.
Join us and share your story today at fusion.net/give.
And check out the video above of DNA host Derrick N. Ashong performing "I'm Brown," by the poet E-Rok.