‘The Stories of Us’ embraces adversity in Safe Spaces

By Oliver L. Longo Correspondent
May 4, 2023

“It’s not easy to sit on stage and tell your story in any space,” Harry Harding in his introductory message to the inaugural “The Stories of Us” event at the Concord Free Public Library. 

The aim of the recent evening was to provide a platform to share powerful personal stories about topics such as adversity, belonging, and equity, in an interactive manner that invites the audience to consider the value of our own stories.

Rose Cratsley, mindfulness expert and founder of the Ivy Child organization, was the first of three speakers at the event. She discussed with Harding the importance of equity, diversity and creating refuge in your heart, home and community. She shared the story of growing up with Indian immigrant parents in Long Island where she faced xenophobic remarks and harassment about her heritage and culture at school.

Sofia Ghannam, Development Manager for the Concord Library, and second story teller, shared her value of language and family. She described her experience of being from Morocco, traveling across Europe and eventually ending up in Concord, where Ghannam has lived for the past seven years.

The third and final story told was that of Shawn Rosiah Berner, a transgender black man from Boston whose path to finding and embracing his authentic self has been an inspiration for many; his Youtube Channel has gained over 3 million views and 64 thousand subscribers. Berner creates content online because he felt it was his “civic duty” to provide the representation for those that might need it. In telling his story both at the library last week and online to his viewers, Berner’s goal is to open the conversation about what it means to be black and transgender in America.

A common theme throughout the evening was the importance of defining and creating safe spaces.

“I think it’s important for this community to hear my story because there’s very few safe spaces for people like me to tell our stories,” said Rose Cratsley.

In order to establish a comfortable environment for being vulnerable, the audience was encouraged to be present, trust and embrace silence, and respond curiously to adversity in conversation, both there and outside of the event. Harding advised, “When the going gets rough, turn to wonder … Instead of being reactive, be inquisitive.”

After hearing from the speakers, each person in the audience had the opportunity to share their own story of adversity with another attendee, as a way of practicing sharing difficult experiences.

“There’s no prescription for having hard conversations,” said Harding.

The event was interactive from the moment attendees arrived. As audience members entered the venue in the library, they were asked to put a post-it note up on the wall with a few words on what they were hoping to get out of the event.

As host, Harding shared his own goals, “What we really hope is that this sparks an inspiration for the community members to feel like their stories have value to the community, to the listener and to the story teller.”

The next “The Stories of Us” event will take place in June with more information available on the Concord Free Public Library website: https://concordlibrary.org/