To speak to events in Ferguson, MO and the many counts of racialized violence in America, Stay Woke: Write Yourself In gathers together artists from the greater community and Fordham students and faculty to create meaningful action through art. Stay Woke: Write Yourself In is a story space for testimonials of racial harmony and violence. It is an event space that seeks to heal, arrest and commemorate. It is a community that holds high the dignity of all people through the ritual and power of the written word.
There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is "nkali." It's a noun that loosely translates to "to be greater than another." Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: How they are told, who tells them, when they're told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.
Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story and to start with, "secondly." Start the story with the arrows of the Native Americans, and not with the arrival of the British, and you have an entirely different story. Start the story with the failure of the African state, and not with the colonial creation of the African state, and you have an entirely different story… Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity. ~ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie