July 13, 2024

By De’Stani Clark, Arkansas Delta Informer Staff

LITTLE ROCK – June 13, 2024 — Arkansas creatives and storytellers united at the CALS Ron Robinson Theater in Little Rock’s River Market district on Thursday (July 13) to illuminate the power of narratives centered on social justice and equity, leaving the audience with a deeper understanding of these crucial issues.

The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (WRF) on June 13 hosted the Starshine Story Slam in conjunction with the second Starshine Narrative Summit. The movement started a year ago “to create a bold new roadmap and narrative that prioritizes the voices of Arkansans and shifts perceptions, behavior, and policy to build more equitable futures.”

The free event, “Hearing Arkansas Stories, Building Arkansas Futures,” featured interactive storytelling and engaging lessons in the building blocks of narrative. Emceed by WRF Program Fellow Kristen Smith, the colorful slam explored a range of powerful topics and presented a slate of inspiring storytellers, including Eric Reece, Osyrus Bolly, Rosa Velazquez, Mollie Palmer, Preston Clegg, and youth voices of the Village Place of Arkansas.

From the Ron Robinson stage, Arkansas bards shared thought-provoking stories that elicited laughter, emotion, whispers, and applause, fostering a sense of belonging among the attendees. At the end of the event, Rev. Cory Anderson, chief innovation officer at WRF, thanked the diverse panel of storytellers for agreeing to share “their naked truths.”

“It is not by happenstance that we do this. Science will tell if we are all sitting here and undergoing a CAT scan while listening to these stories, the parts of our brains that are about empathy, understanding, action, embracing people and belonging would be lighting up as we heard these naked truths dressed up in stories,” Anderson said from the theatre stage.

This is the second year that WRF has brought together storytellers in an intimate forum. Earlier in the day, WRF Chief Equity Officer Rev. Shantell Hill hosted Starshine Narrative Media Collaborative members, a cohort dedicated to creating a healthy and thriving media landscape in Arkansas.

The foundation partnered with Reimagine Arkansas a year ago to host the first Starshine Narrative Summit. That well-attended assembly featured speakers including nationally recognized bestselling authors, politicians, and business leaders, including New York Times bestselling author Ayana Gray and Little Rock native who wrote the Beast of Prey trilogy.

A live stream of the Starshine Story Slam is available here on Facebook.

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