“The key to listening is to seek to understand our opponents – not to change them, persuade them, compromise with them, or legitimize them. It begins with wonder. When we work to listen beneath the slogans and soundbites, we begin to hear their story and see their wounds. Listening preserves their humanity and our own. And it opens up the possibility of transformation.”
Valerie Kaur, the author of “See No Stranger”
This DMZ is not meant
to negate or deny anyone’s lived experience — it is meant to be a space where that experience can be shared with those who might otherwise be unable to.
To bring people together that might otherwise not be in each other’s presence through their own authentic stories that might otherwise go unheard by audiences that might never hear them: how people form their positions about climate change, gentrification, 2nd amendment, immigration, public health, and religious freedom to name a few possibilities.
“We are all on the spectrum
of woundedness which has a great impact on how we relate to each other and our health.”
~ Gabor Mate, MD, author of The Myth of Normal
“Not everything that’s faced can be healed but nothing that’s not faced can be healed.”
~ James Baldwin
Full Video Replay
Quotes from the events:
9/1/2022: Tripoli Street Community Center in North Side, Pittsburgh, PA:
“Hoping for some kind of law enforcement that would rush by to rescue me. But nope. No luck. No help. Nowhere to go.”
“For me to go in the public space with no identification is terrifying!”
“I was at the very least hopeful when Roe v Wade was recently overturned.”
“You can’t go out with him, he’s Jewish!”
“We don’t want what happened in the US to happen to us here.”
“Heard the tiny voices of white children yelling from the school bus, I realized that prejudice was learned.”
- Event Assistant: Alyse Horn
- Exec.Producer: Will Halim
11/14/2022: Sanctuary Hall in the Pittsburgh Project – Fineview, Pittsburgh, PA:
“Leave those keys and get out!” — a personal experience as a fresh high school graduate being carjacked at a gunpoint in grafitti-filled West Philadelphia
“This would be the start of a six year battle with the school system and the family courts of Allegheny county.”
“I was called the n-word — me and my siblings — on a regular basis” upon moving to a predominantly white neighborhood.
“They argued for hours but remained friends afterwards.”
“The doctor came into the office and asked me whether I had an insurance and I said no, because he suggested that I needed to get a colonoscopy.”
“They turned me away and just gave me some antibiotics and sent me on my way.”
“She said she loved me and she hoped we could still be friends” after finding out they were in the opposite side of the political spectrum/belief system.
- Producer: Carla Arnold
- Exec.Producer: Will Halim
05/25/2023: Tripoli Street Community Center in North Side, Pittsburgh, PA:
“There’s something wrong with Maureen… neither of us can tell anyone until we take her to the family doctor.”
“Maureen, age three, rolling around in the grass and laughing hysterically after drinking my dad’s beer.”
“This disease crept up on me and ruined my life.”
“He quickly turned around and ran, but the gun wouldn’t fire.”
“I got plans today. I got my bag. I’m going to the mall.”
“As I’m laying there in the room, I keep hearing this scream. And there is a woman who is screaming bloody murder.”
“Everything is so tall and shiny. And oh my god, look, there are girls walking around in pants, just like they do in the movies.”
“By the fifth grade, I was thriving academically, but still felt like I was thrashing. Just aimlessly, here and there, left and right, trying to move in the direction of the other kids.”
- Exec.Producer: Will Halim
Why are we doing this?
Our current political discourse has left too many of us feeling distressed, angry, and hopeless. People on all points of the political spectrum agree on this: they are unhappy to see our country inching towards uncertainty and chaos.
That is not a small thing… it’s common ground, upon which we could start to build productive discussions and actionable plans to restart a civil discourse.
We will challenge each other to listen with an open heart in an effort to understand the meaning of the stories – where the storytellers come from.
Overarching Theme: Where I Come From
To create a physical as well as metaphorical space where people, who might otherwise not interact with one another, can share their stories of their lived experiences.
Don’t we have Twitter, FB, Instagram, Mastodon, and other social networking media to “tell” our stories?
Humans are inherently social, so we need real in-person interactions with other human beings. Screen-based “interactions” in social media can be deceptive and misleading because participants may hide behind pseudonyms or sham identities.
Who is this DMZ for? Why DMZ?
It is for everyone who is concerned that divisive, unexamined and uncritically accepted rhetoric will lead to irreparable gashes in our social fabric.
This does not mean that we minimize the differences.
Rather we admit, in our very title, that a “war” is being waged. The DMZ offers a safer opportunity for members of various factions to step outside of stereotypes and cliches to acknowledge our common humanity both through storytelling and storylistening.
I’m not sure if my stories are appropriate. So, what are considered as DMZ stories?
- Personal lived experience (non fiction, happened to you)
- Shaped your thoughts or assumptions on what is society or how it is organized
- Shaped your thoughts on how we should treat one another
- Affected your attitudes toward people from whom you differ in some profound way
- Influenced or even changed on of your core beliefs
- Not written to induce/incite hate and violence against other people
- Not a lecture or explicitly ask people to do one thing or another
Why should I tell my story in the DMZ? Why should I share time and space with people who hold beliefs and attitudes that I find abhorrent and offensive? What if I like to stay in my bubble/echo chamber?
This program is for you if you have, like so many of us, wanted to speak of your deeply held beliefs to people close to you, but have refrained yourself from doing so because you have no way to engage without causing damage to your relationships. It’s also for you if you want to bear witness to your lived experience.
But, it is not for you if your purpose is to change people’s minds, or to vilify those with whom you differ in these core issues.
We strive for diversity in stories, so we bet that you will hear stories that match at least one of your beliefs. As long as you follow the rules of engagement, you’re welcome and encouraged to attend.
Wait! Do you actually have rules?!
- Yes, these Rules of Engagement are so important that we have a special tab for it.
Why do you need those rules ‘though?
We believe in mindful and respectful inclusivity, so we believe those rules are there to facilitate that state of being. Like traffic lights, they are there to help us navigate difficult journeys.
OK, I do have a story to tell but I’m still not sure if it meets your guidelines above.
Don’t worry! We require coaching to help you write and tell it in 8-12 minutes, and to provide you practice time delivering it (in person or via zoom.) The coaches will not censor your story as they only help you on your delivery and its impact for a wider audience.
But, I have a terrible stage fright. I can’t do a public live storytelling on a stage yet but I really want to tell my story.
The most important part is that you want to share your story. So, we have other options to share your story to the public such as pre-recorded/offline storytelling, reportage/essay/opinion articles, and coming soon social conversation (audio/video) podcasts as well. Let’s talk!
So, what does Storyburgh hope to achieve?
The Storyburgh team has a deep and abiding interest in creating community through thoughtful, intentional sharing of truths revealed, lessons learned, epiphanies experienced.
Blah blah blah – that answer might work for grant applications. But, what is it really?
We want to create a space where folks on any point along the political spectrum can begin to get some answers to the questions: How could they believe that? Where Are They Coming From?
Plus at least one of us has a goal of hearing about everything that ever happened to everybody in Pittsburgh!! NEB NOSES of the world unite!!😃
By participating in this event and entering the DMZ, you agree to the following rules of engagement:
- Check your weapons at the door – metaphorical, figurative, virtual, actual
- No groans, cheers, eye rolling, insults
- No signs
- No slogans/symbols on t-shirts.
- Enter as an individual who is prepared to respectfully listen to the story of another individual
- Listen well
- Understand that as tellers, they speak for themselves alone
- Respectful attention does not imply agreement or disagreement
- What you do with what you hear is up to you – after you leave the DMZ.
- Tellers have to agree to be coached
- The story is about a change that happened to them
- There is a time limit
- Audience participation is structured
Event Snapshots on Social Media
Recorded Story Clips
Will Halim 1 of 3 (Squirrel Hill - Storyburgh)
John Bolanos (Evergreen Hamlet)
Susan Edwards (Natrona Heights)
Leeann Younger (Cityview Church)
Pamela Monk (Perry South - Storyburgh Coach)
Susan Ewing (Perrysville)
Margo Hinton (Troy Hill)
Paul Matthews (Fineview)
Nancy Noszka (Gibsonia)
Lisa Vasser (Perry North)
Will Halim 2 of 3 (Squirrel Hill - Storyburgh)
Marcus Daniel (Marshall-Shadeland)
Sue Johnson (McKees Rocks)
Introduction by Leeann (Cityview Church)
Annafi Wahed (Squirrel Hill)
Carla Arnold (Perry South)
Marcella Holmes (East Allegheny)
Marcus Daniel (Marshall-Shadeland)
Micki McDonough (Perry Hilltop)
Ep.6 - Pamela Monk from Perry South: the creator and ringleader of The Demilitarized Zone "DMZ"