30 days of beautiful: a voice

the homepage of my new site for activist story-telling: http://bethefoundation.org

the homepage of my new site for activist story-telling: http://bethefoundation.org

I think I saw the event listing by chance. I emailed the organizer last minute to RSVP. It was a meeting for a new working group on the digital humanities. It turned out to be one of those meant-to-be meetings.

Maybe two weeks earlier, I had come home from an evening with one of my best St. Louis friends, Cassidy, and bought a website domain. Cassidy had told me, “You’re lucky to have a dream.” I had told her my passion project was going nowhere. She said, “Do it. Don’t give up.” Three years ago, I conducted interviews in four countries. Two years ago, I wrote 300pages of stories about these people I met. A year ago, I printed it off time and time again and sent it off to various editors who were not interested. Six months ago, I was about to leave the words rotting on my hard drive forever. What do I do with them?

The working group met to brainstorm on new media, research, and the idea of digital humanities in the academic sphere. Matthew Fluharty of Art of The Rural did a presentation on his use of PlaceStories to collect the images and words of rural America, and I was inspired. The next week, I started putting my stories up. I contacted the people I had interviewed originally. Thirty of them gave permission to go live online.

Before too long, however, I was in the thick of email exchanges with the lead developer of PlaceStories and near tears over the web design. I knew nothing about it. In my desperation, I googled web designers in St. Louis and found Justin Chick, a freelance web designer with a heart of gold. He agreed to meet with me and donate 20 hours of pro bono time to create the site. He offered suggestions and took care of complications. In turn, I was able to devote a week to sitting in the basement of Eades Hall on the only computer on campus with Final Cut video editing software. I took words and interviews and music and compiled a 5 minute background of the project for the homepage.

It began to become.

When it was all finally uploaded, I spent the next couple months doing a final edit of the stories. The big push is still ahead of me: To spread the word and ask others to share their own stories. I want students like I was in undergrad to go out and interview activists around the world. I want activists themselves to share wisdom, struggles, and photographs from their life. I want to create a network of activist story-telling. I can happily saybethefoundation.org is just the beginning of this.

The years and people behind this small site is humbling to me:

From the Eve Carson Scholarship granting the funding for the original research
To John Brodeur who listened to me and encouraged me from the beginning to now
To Donna Bickford who advised this project throughout my Junior and Senior year
To all the many people, peers and staff, at Carolina who helped and supported
To Matthew Fluharty, who inspired the site and became an amazing collaborator
To Justin Chick, whose brilliance at web design was generously granted to the project
To Cassidy Rae Miller, my dear Midwest friend who refused to let me give up
To all my true friends, every step of the way, you know who you are – you kept me burning for this and have all played a part in my believing in the project

Now’s the time to share: Be The Foundation of a network of change-making.

“The difficult part was I was very alone when I was doing it. I was more or less locked away for months going through material and putting this together. Of course, I was hoping it would be good, so I wouldn’t be using the interviews to do crap they wouldn’t like. I was afraid of that. I had to fight with myself and dare to show it. It’s kind of my greatest enemy, myself, and pumping up my self-confidence to actually come out with it.” Halla Kristin Einarsdottir, documentarian. Interview 2010.

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