Following a weekend of unrest, it’s clear that Milwaukeeans must address the racial and economic inequality that prevents some Milwaukeeans from surviving, let alone thriving. While talking about race can be taboo in some circles, personal stories and facilitated dialogue can create safe spaces for learning. Based on those principles, Ex Fabula created the Fellowship. Now entering into its second year, the Ex Fabula Fellowship is now applications for its second cohort of community members who will prepare personal stories about privilege, oppression, and race and then share them in order to engage thousands of Milwaukeeans in meaningful conversation.
“Ex Fabula strengthens community bonds through the art of storytelling, so we felt the need to address the systematic inequality that divides and disconnects us,” said Ex Fabula Executive Director Megan McGee. “Fortunately, personal stories can create the conditions for empathy and connection.”
The Fellowship has two components. First, the “Fellows”, a diverse cohort of community members, work with Ex Fabula Storytelling Coaches to identify, craft and share stories about privilege and oppression. Then, Fellows share their stories at interactive outreach performances. Each event features several stories followed by a dialogue component. In many cases that dialogue is facilitated by the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion, a Milwaukee nonprofit that fosters civil dialogue and invites trust in the midst of differences.
Overall, the 2015-16 Fellowship was a learning and healing experience. The day after he first publicly shared his story, Fellow Nakia Hood noted the incredible “healing from hurt that has taken place by me just talking about my issues.” Audience members said the format engaged them in conversations that they might normally avoid. One attendee said, “Having these small group discussions helped me to learn more about people’s experiences and perceptions. I was afraid of it in the beginning but I’m so happy now.”
Building on these successes, Ex Fabula will launch a second year of the Fellowship; Milwaukee County adults are invited to apply for the cohort, which will meet on Wednesdays this fall. Information and stories from the first Fellowship are available at www.exfabula.org/fellows. Applications are due September 12.
Ex Fabula is grateful to all the funders who are supporting the 2016-17 Fellowship, which is supported in part by a grant from the Northwestern Mutual Foundation; a $20,000 grant from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation‘s Douglas L.P. Hamilton Fund, George and Evelyn Gay Family Fun, and Jerry L. Tollefsen and Jessica J. Suhr Memorial Kacynski Family Fund; and a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.