Storytelling is Transformational
"I have made two award-winning documentaries on the Gullahs’ family ties to Sierra Leone, called “Family Across the Sea” and “The Language You Cry In.” Both have been broadcast on PBS and purchased by hundreds of universities all across the United States. I got to know Dr. Collins after seeing her documentary films, “A Taste of Gullah” and “Journey to My Mother’s Land,” which cover material similar to my own films. I was immediately struck by her skill in cinematography and storytelling. Her ability to capture the viewers’ attention and bring them into the story is impressive. But even more striking is the fact that she does everything connected with filmmaking – the producing, researching, writing, interviewing, videoing, and editing. After seeing those videos, I was not surprised to learn later that she has earned several Emmy awards for her individual work, and several more for her work in joint productions.
As I got to know Dr. Collins, another aspect of her character emerged: her devotion to social justice. She is committed to using her technical skills to give a “voice to the voiceless,” as she says. She wants to tell the story of people “on the margins” of our society whose history has been neglected and whose contributions and accomplishments are unknown to the majority. Dr. Collins’ Emmys and other national awards – earned during 20 years working as a professional journalist before studying for her Ph.D. -- speak for themselves. Janice is also an excellent teacher judging by the awards she has won in that field; but beyond appreciating her for her classroom skills, her journalism students will always boast of having been taught by a multiple Emmy winner.
Students also look up to professors who stay up-to-date on the technology of their discipline, and Janice is now producing videos aimed at the internet that are attracting tens of thousands of hits, demonstrating the continuing relevance of her work beyond academia."
Joseph Opala, Film Producer, Gullah Expert, College Professor
A.C.E. in Storytelling
Professional Journalism & Citizen Journalism
Infrastructural Design for DEBI-P
All Over the World and here in the states, voices are being heard and used to Educate, Empower, Include and practice Empathy, Compassion and Encouragement. There is power in Storytelling -whether it is used for ACEing it in the classroom, connecting to other countries for Sustainable and Development Goals, practicing Responsible Media Messaging, or simply bringing Global Citizens Together.
Storytelling creates community. The video stories at the top of this page, represent social change and impact through storytelling. The children in both pieces are the same children. One story covers the atrocities these children faced during the Boko Haram attack and living in an IDP camp (Internally Displaced Peoples Camp) in their own words. These stories were heart-wrenching to hear. The second visual shows the same children laughing and playing and exercising their voices after I gave them cameras and told them that they could still dream and they could still tell their own stories! The stories that only they can tell. The difference was stark and amazing. It was impactful. These children went from sadness to a feeling of empowerment...just from me verbally telling them that they could move from the margins in different ways, that they mattered, and with a camera, they could learn to capture and tell their stories, their challenges and solutions in their authentic voices. It was a teachable moment for me. I went there to learn and produce a story, but the beautiful children emerged with a different and changed me and my plans...and my life. You can read the backend of this story and other stories of impact from my trip to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone by clicking here. It was an amazing trip of discovery, innovation and advocacy.
Journalism vs. Storytelling
As a multi-national and international award-winning journalist and documentarian with more than 30 years of experience in the media industry I understand the impact of the style in which stories are told, who's telling the story and what is covered. In my work as a freelance storyteller and content producer, the same element of impact is present. The difference is found in the objective of the organization. Journalists are to seek the truth and report it for example. Documentarians do the same but may have an agenda of change behind creating the story. Businesses use storytelling to drive a message home to their audiences to sell a product, communicate among employees and stakeholders, or communicate to communities that have not been reached. Organizations such as legal services use storytelling to teach changes in the law or to obtain a verdict.
Here's what's challenging and unsettling. There used to be a time where the distinctions were clear. Not anymore. Because of the lack of ethical journalism practices and outlets, for instance, the audience never knows what journalists are telling or selling. No one knows, in general, what agendas are being constructed. Across the board, media literacy is imperative to understanding the world around us in which we live and making good decisions for our future. This is also the reason why authentic stories told by those most affected are so needed.
The other important characteristic that all of these media messengers have in common goes back to my point about the who, what, and why. Marginalization, omission and misrepresentation still occurs in media practices because of who is or is not telling the story, what story is being told for what agenda, and what story should be told and why. Long before the Hutchins Commission and the Kerner Report to present day, BIPOC communities are still marginalized in "traditional mainstream" media. They are still underrepresented in decision-making processes and positions (with the exception of race-focused platforms online and on some networks) and women are still working their way up through the ranks. What we see in the messaging on every level, in every part of society, DEBI initiatives continue to be elusive. So what needs to change?
Authentic storytelling improves the lives of marginalized communities by teaching audiences not just about the problems but, just as important, the Solutions told by the ones within, those affected most. The skill of storytelling is also empowering for the storyteller and communities commonly and historically marginalized because it provides an element of Empowerment and Belonging. When someone doesn't invite you, sometimes you have to create and hold your own event. Other times, a central place and event is created where everyone can tell their stories in responsible ways and inclusive ways. This is A.C.E. in motion.
Whether you want storytelling to be used as journalism or brand marketing or internal messages of DEBI-P, A.C.E. teaches storytelling in partnership with leadership development that transforms oppressive, divisive and marginalized environments into inclusive, empowered environments that are diverse and equitable. Using A.C.E., the messaging and content produced are more diverse. Individuals typically found in the margins are now standing on the front line and inline with everyone else and, together, everyone works from that positioning without relegating others to the back. Everyone becomes Actively Centralized on creating the most qualified, diverse (demographics & opinions), equitable, inclusive, Empowered environment and content of belonging that serves their constituency, customers and audiences.
The Science of Storytelling and Healing
Effective storytelling can create a line of belonging, empathy and compassion between you and your audience. It can also be just plain 'ole good for your health benefits. Paul J. Zak writes about the science of neurochemical oxytocin and storytelling in his book “How Stories Change the Brain”. In his studies, character-driven stories with emotional content consistently caused oxytocin synthesis. (Paul J. Zak. “How Stories Change the Brain.” Greater Good. 27 July 2016). This means that our brains react with empathy, sympathy, compassion, care, and connection. When we connect to stories emotionally, when they resonate with us,
We gain better understanding of key points because we can imagine ourselves within the story.
We get motivated!Remember the last time you heard a good story and started dancing or doing something?
Your audience gets motivated!
We recall material better because we remember the story and it resonated with us.
We become more creative because of the many senses a good story has involved and activated.
Video storytelling provides two primary modes of learning: visual and auditory. I'd also like to add emotional intelligence as a form of learning. The best formula is to involve all three with an engaging Experiential Learning where the listener and storyteller uses critical thinking to understand the story and provide solutions. This way, both are learning and teaching each other through visuals, audio and critical thinking emotional intelligences such as addressing SDGs problems. This also means that there is a relation between telling a positive story that results in positive actions and reactions and telling negative stories that result in negative actions and reactions. This is why it is so paramount for journalists to follow the Code of Ethics and Media Messengers/Storytellers to be transparent as to their motive or agenda for telling a particular story.
It has also been suggested that when it comes to mental health, storytelling helps us to regain a sense of order by making links between our sense of self, temporality, social standing and morality (Crossley, M.L. (2000)). The Personal Recovery Approach moves from understanding a condition through the professional care lens to the empowerment of the individual to reconnect with themselves to be able to add an element of self-care to getting better. A self-authored record of what has happened supports the individual to move forwards in their recovery, through making sense of their experiences and feeling heard by others (Scottish Recovery Network (2012)).
There may be times where talking about uncomfortable issues is difficult. This is expected and accepted. The A.C.E. way of engaging is to acknowledge that we can learn from each other and apply what has been learned to create better performing environments and content. This must be done with a positive attitude and an open-mind because at the end of the day, it is not just about who is represented, but who is missing from the story? You can learn some of the A.C.E. strategies through storytelling in "Teaching Without Borders: Creating Equity and Inclusion through Active Centralized Empowerment." You can also check out an example of A.C.E. in practice by visiting my national award winning news website of inclusion called Hearmyvoiceonline.com. You might also like to read a published article that I wrote on the challenges of Leadership Development in College Classrooms and Newsrooms. It is quite interesting. Enjoy!
Crossley, M.L. (2000) “Narrative psychology, trauma and the study of self/identity”, Theory and psychology, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 527-546.
Scottish Recovery Network (2012) "Reflections on Recovery." Scottish Recovery Network, Glasgow, available at: https://scottishrecovery.net/wpcontent/uploads/2012/05/srn_reflections_on_ recovery.pdf (accessed 30 May 2022).
Nurser, K. et.al, "Personal storytelling in mental health recovery," https://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/4650629/1/Nurser-etal-2018-personal-storytelling-in-mental-health-recovery.pdf (accessed 30 May 2022)
A.C.E. Evaluation Services Provides
Evaluation of Organization Composition or Learning Space
Evaluation of Leadership Positions
Evaluation of Leadership Styles
Evaluation of DEBI Initiatives in Conjunction with Results Desired
Evaluation of DEBI Initiatives and Media Content
Evaluation of DEBI Initiatives and Personnel
Evaluation of Responsibility & Accountability Measures
Evaluation of All Communications & Procedures
Evaluation of Media Messaging of DEBI
A.C.E. Consultation ROIs
Return On Investment
Representations Of Inclusion With Power & Equity
Learn how to engage in the theory and practice of A.C.E. and how each person plays a major role in achieving equity and inclusion for themselves and others in a safe space when it comes to Storytelling
Engage in Transformational Leadership skill activities that directly challenges marginalization
Use cross-cultural competence to center themselves within dialogues and narratives and stories
Use self-reflection blogs to develop critical thinking skills, discover relevance, gauge self-growth, enhance self-esteem, confidence, and self-efficacy, and address emotional well-being
Learn how to create a professional portfolio and how to properly use social media platforms
Engage in professional peer to peer critiques
Suggestions for Organizational Enhancement
Recommendations on Leadership Styles that are most conducive to Achieving DEBI Initiatives in this environment including Personnel, Content & Outreach
How to use Media Messaging to enact Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging and Equity
Recommendations on Issues of Power
Recommendations for Media Messaging Content with DEBI
"I have known Janice personally and professionally for more than 20 years. Janice has the experience, professionalism, savvy, compassion and commitment to the development of the next generation of journalists. A top tier innovative journalist, and scholar, Janice demands and demonstrates excellence in her career. As an awarding winning professional journalism practitioner and academician, she is a proven media professional, and highly respected in the industry and the academic arena. She brings a strong foundation of ethics to journalism that is so greatly needed.
Her extensive research over the past several years have resulted in recognition by her peers and media executives as one of the top 50 Journalism professors in the nation! Her papers, published articles and documentaries on a variety of topics as well as her work around critical issues on diversity and marginalization, demonstrate her keen awareness, and sensitivity in educational achievement and global view in a multi- cultural environment.
I have been a part of this industry as a journalism with major market experience in major market newsrooms, classrooms, and various potions in-between, and I stand by Janice Collins’ qualifications with enormous respect for her depth and quality as a person and professional.
Angela Y. Robinson, Director of Operations
National Association of Black Journalists. (NABJ)
I am the news director at WEIU-T.V. (PBS) in Charleston, Illinois. It’s truly hard to put into words my personal and professional respect for Dr. Janice Collins. Dr. Collins has, without a doubt, helped me grow as a person, a manager and a journalist. Her professional opinion is one I value with the highest regard. Her positive energy is infectious! Her constant excitement, knowledge and passion is unmatched to anyone I’ve ever had the pleasure of working alongside. She is driven to help all students learn and succeed. Dr. Collins spent time in the newsroom mentoring students by critiquing their work and assisting them with script writing. Outside of her work in the newsroom, she spent individual time with students reviewing their writing, anchoring, video and reporting skills. Dr. Collins was an integral part of the WEIU summer internship training program. Daily, she was out in the field assisting reporters and videographers. Her training technique was motivating! She taught students to “get in the trenches” and never be afraid of failure.
Dr. Collins, she is a difference maker. She has the ability to give students confidence and direction with tremendous results. She demands that students strive to not only be better journalists, but better people. She is able to instill the discipline, dedication, and sense of responsibility needed to excel in the news business. Dr. Collins is a leader that facilitates and promotes positivity. She teaches with compassion.
Probably unbeknownst to Dr. Collins, her journalistic expertise and leadership has also helped me to become a better news manager. I’ve learned to exercise patience and be a better role model. I’m more sensitive and understanding to the struggles students face on a daily basis. Dr. Collins is an accomplished author, award-winning documentarian, and EMMY award winning reporter/videographer that embraces any challenge. Janice worked tirelessly to make WEIU a better organization and a constant coach demanding the best from students. A program with Dr. Janice Collins will be a program known throughout the country!