Thursday, November 23, 2023

The Great Thanksgiving Listen

Today in the United States it is Thanksgiving, a national nondenominational day to gather with friends and family and give thanks in appreciation of what we have.  I hope you are having a good and happy Thanksgiving and are able to spend it with people you care about.

Tomorrow is The Great Thanksgiving Listen, launched by StoryCorps in 2008 (originally called the National Day of Listening).  It was deliberately scheduled on the same day as the (now infamous, as far as I am concerned) Black Friday, a day of rampant commercialism that officially used to kick off the pre-Christmas spending season (but that seems to have crept all the way into August at this point).

The Great Thanksgiving Listen, or just The Great Listen for short (#TheGreatListen), is a day when you are encouraged to talk with family, friends, and community members and record their stories.  An old proverb, attributed to multiple cultures, says that when an elder dies, a library turns to the ground.  If we don't record people's stories and share them, those stories disappear when the person passes away.

So set aside some time tomorrow to interview a relative or friend and record that person's story.  Use a mobile phone, digital camera, videocamera, cassette tape, the StoryCorps app, or whatever you have handy.  Write it down if you have to!  (StoryCorps does have recommendations for questions, equipment, and resources for people to conduct their own interviews.)  If you are with more than one family member, make it a family event and have multiple interviews.  Save those family stories and share them with other family members.  If you interview a community member, share the stories with that person's family and maybe the local library.  Make sure your family's and friends' stories are not forgotten.

StoryCorps has several specific "initiatives" focused on oral histories from particular segments of the population.  Visit the site to learn about the Stonewall Outloud (LGBTQ), Memory Loss, Military Voices (service members), and Griot (Black Americans) initiatives, in addition to others.

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