One of my all-time favorite TED talks is called “The Danger of a Single Story” by Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie. In this tale of how she found her own authentic voice as a writer, Adichie vividly illustrates the danger we all face when we only hear one version of anything – whether it be the history of a people or the story of someone’s life.
What about our own lives and our own stories?
If you’re like me, you look back, for example, at the many relatives you only knew as older men and women, and regret not having spent more time listening to them talk about their youth. How different their experiences as young men and women must have been in a time when race and gender relations were so very different than they are today!
The other question is: How well do we really know ourselves?
Although we all assume we’re pretty in touch with ourselves, we are also extremely multifaceted beings. That means each of us has at least one untold story buried deep inside of us. It’s a story we either feel unable to articulate or we simply don’t believe is important enough to bother. It’s maybe the tale of a secret weakness or pain, or a dream we’re not quite ready to turn into reality, or simply the thoughts and ideas of the child we once were that still remain alive inside of us.
Whether we are African-American or Afro-European, we come from a long tradition of storytelling. Our African heritage is rich with fables, myths and oral history, and are ancestors carried that legacy with them into every corners of the world where destiny led them – further polishing and enhancing it to make room for all the new experiences – both painful and triumphant – that life in the Diaspora brought with it. .
Although recounting our story orally or writing it down (e.g. journaling) are very common ways to express ourselves and share our stories with others, not all of us are meant to be authors or storytellers. But there are many other creative ways to express ourselves and simultaneously let those around us get a better glimpse of our true self.
Whether it’s through dance or song, through painting or scrapbooking, through quilt-making or cooking – what do you do to give your untold story shape and share it with those around you?