The Practice of Bombardment and Talking Walls
What is Telling My Story?
Telling My Story (TMS) is a program that works with communities behind visible and invisible social walls (homeless people, welfare recipients, inmates, drug addicts, domestic violence victims, teenage mothers, families of inmates), together with general community members and/or students. The goal of the program is to provide tools for self-empowerment for participants to make their own positive choices in daily life, and to develop self-awareness and communication skills through the arts by putting the arts to the service of the situation. The program’s activities bring a life experience that provides tools to lead constructive lives. Through writing and performance, people are empowered to reclaim their own voice and strengths. The performance itself creates a cultural bridge between the “inside” and the “outside”, giving the audience and participant the opportunity to experience a much-needed social reflection.
This workshop focuses on the building and strengthening of communities through the use of the two core exercises from the full TMS program: the Bombardment and Talking Walls exercises. The Bombardment activity asks participants to respond to a prompt in a single word or phrase; sitting in a circle, everyone takes a turn responding. The exercise is a solid way to build community through listening and speaking while holding judgement and being aware of the limitations and negative effects created by expectations and assumptions. This is a solid practice to come together as a community in differences and commonalities; and to find ways to face difficulties, adversities, and discords. We aim to practice self-reflection and self-criticism on an ongoing basis, to see our role in any interaction clearly and recognize how we participate in the building of social walls. These kinds of realizations give us the clarity, strength and courage to keep our humanity in dehumanized realities. That is the challenge!
The Talking Wall is an activity that is inspired by graffiti writings of the seventies and eighties, created by artist who risked their freedom to post something that was important to them. We build a wall that speaks through symbols, words, questions, quotes, and images representing the thoughts, processes, and realizations that participants have arrived at throughout the workshop which they feel are important for them to publicly share them.
Pati Hernández is the creator and facilitator of Telling My Story http://www.tellingmystory.org/, and an adjunct professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program at Dartmouth College. After arriving in North America from Chile in 1983, she met the Bread and Puppet Theater with whom she worked on and off for over 20 years. She has directed Dance-Theater productions since 1988 in Puerto Rico as well as productions with FOMMA (Strength of the Mayan Women) in Chiapas, México, and University Settlement in New York City. She started developing Telling My Story in 1995, at the University Settlement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In 1999, she began using the Telling My Story approach to create a platform for self-empowerment through listening and speaking with populations in crisis, including inmates, people on parole, victims of domestic violence, and recovering addicts. In 2005, students from Dartmouth College joined Telling My Story as volunteers, and in 2007, the program was developed as a course called Telling Stories for Social Change, which is offered every Fall term. In 2013 the program expanded to Telling My Story On Campus targeting the community’s own invisible walls. Currently, Pati is training facilitators to offer their own versions of the program.