Public Narrative teams up with A Picture’s Worth to produce “Our Stories, Our World”

CHICAGO—As part of an innovative collaboration between two nonprofits focused on narrative change and community building, Chicago youth will produce “Our Stories, Our World,” a series of community-centered narratives about public safety, public health and public education.

The collaboration connects Chicago’s own Public Narrative, a longtime advocate for broader, more accurate and more authentic community representation in media, and A Picture’s Worth, a nonprofit focused on strengths-based storytelling for community change. To be released in 2021, the complementary nonprofits’ first project will combine audio stories and photography to create a series of citizen-centered podcasts that add depth and context to stories about Public Narrative’s three thematic pillars: public safety, public health and public education. 

“We’re so excited to launch this podcast, which will allow youth to highlight critical community narratives often overlooked by traditional media,” said Jhmira Alexander, Public Narrative’s President. “We couldn’t imagine a better partner for this work than A Picture’s Worth.”

“At A Picture’s Worth, we’re honored to join a long tradition of storytelling,” said Elissa Yancey, MSEd, co-founder and CEO of A Picture’s Worth (APW) and longtime journalist and educator. The APW theory of change posits that when sources select their own narrative frames—by describing a single photo from an important time in their own lives—the resulting narratives can not only build deeper understandings, they can bridge both regional and ideological divides. “We already know that a picture is worth more than 1,000 words—we just turn those words into engaging podcasts.”

The series will feature original music by Malci, a Chicago-based hip-hop artist, producer and co-founder of Why? Records. He’s been releasing music since 2015, but this will be the artist’s first foray into making music for podcasts.

Youth selected to be trained in the interview methodology practiced by A Picture’s Worth include Kaylen Brandt (left), 17, of Chatham; Daniel Animashaun (center), 16, of Woodlawn; and Andrea Hernandez (right), 19, of Englewood. Brandt, a student at Lindblom Academy, looks forward to adding new voices to public narratives about important issues, because people deemed experts by the media don’t represent the whole story. “People have opinions about Chicago based on the way the [mainstream/traditional] media presents the city,” Brandt said. “I feel like that narrative actively blocks out voices that need to be heard.”

Animashaun, also a student at Lindblom Academy, agrees that media narratives fuel narrow and often false perceptions about his city, especially the South Side. “If you’re from the South Side, you’re either a thug or you’re stupid,” he said, referring to harmful and persistent stereotypes that are rooted in racism and that limit opportunities. Hernandez is inspired by her work with the Chicago Police Department Office of Community Policing’s Youth District Advisory Council (YDAC). “I think we need to stop jumping to conclusions, and find a way where we could come together and try to change something,” Hernandez said. 

The collaboration began earlier this year, and despite COVID-19-related setbacks, both nonprofits remain committed to the project, which combines strengths-based storytelling and community engagement. “We know that authentic storytelling is a critical element of narrative change,” said Alexander. “This podcast series will not only help amplify important perspectives about our city and its strengths, it will also train a new generation of story-gatherers in responsible story-sharing techniques.”

Look out for more about the podcast soon–stay tuned on our website and social media!