SHREVEPORT, Louisiana (KTBS ) — StoryCorps is a national nonprofit dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs.
The company selected Shreveport as one of its four cities to be a part of its national effort to “Reconnect a Divided America” through the “One Small Step” initiative, which was launched about four years ago.
The organization is connecting locals with differing perspectives to record conversations with strangers. The goal is to get past the labels of “Republican,” “Democrat,” “liberal” and “conservative.” These conversations are later included in the Library of Congress.
According to Shreveport One Small Step participant Jennifer Scott, “Across the aisle, no matter what you believe on anything, I think we’ve got into so much of a team mentality of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ instead of person to person.”
She was open-minded enough to speak with someone with different views than her own. Scott was matched with Matt Harris, but despite their differences, they realized they had more in common than they thought.
“We actually agreed on most of it about how much the government needs to be involved to help young mothers,” Scott said.
Harris said, “We both are concerned with the partisan nature of politics. I have seen it before, but Jennifer was not old enough to remember the controversy of the Vietnam war and over civil rights. But I do remember when the country was divided to the point it is now.”
The country’s disconnect is the premise for StoryCorps initiative to reconnect a divided America.
StoryCorps method was created with loads of research to back their process, according to StoryCorps founder Dave Isay.
“You know there were statistics that came out a couple of years ago that we fear and hate our neighbors than our international enemies like Russia … anger industrial complex out there in media and social media that’s trying to get us to hate each other but given the stakes in the country, we are going to take a very hard swing at it,” Isay said.
StoryCorps uniqueness goes beyond storytelling. It creates animations to attach to the conversations.
Isay says the non-profit is effective, based on a principle in psychology referred to as contact theory.
“Under very specific conditions, when you put enemies together face to face, the feelings of hate can melt away,” said Isay.
That is what happened for Harris and Scott. They started the conversation by reading each other’s biography and built from there.
“We all have individual stories to tell and I think we all need to be listening to people’s stories because it makes it a lot harder to hate somebody, when you know who they are,” Scott said.
After the recording, Harris and Scott reflected on their experience.
“If you don’t get into religion or politics, you can be friends with anybody, I believe,” Harris said.
Scott left the conversation saying, “The fact that it’s facilitating more conversations between people who are not necessarily agreeing is a huge help.”
The other three cities selected by StoryCorps are Richmond, Va., Birmingham, Ala., and Wichita, Kan.
StoryCorps will be in Shreveport for an entire year.
If you would like to participate, visit their website by visiting storycorps.org/discover/onesmallstep
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