2013-14 Recipients Brimstone Award for Applied Storytelling

The Brimstone Award for Applied Storytelling supports a model storytelling project that is service-oriented, based in a community or organization, and to some extent replicable in other places and situations. We are confident that the four projects above will inspire excellence in applied storytelling work and communicate to new audiences the humanitarian possibilities of storytelling.


Christopher Mulé
Trouble the Water: Building a Reservoir of Local Knowledge from Cultural Conversations on Hurricane Sandy, Traditions, Work and Resilience
In response to Hurricane Sandy’s devastating impact on the eastern shore of Staten Island (TWP) will, the Trouble the Water Project illustrate the power of storytelling by transforming stories of sorrow and tragedy into a reservoir of knowledge that will strengthen community ties and create cultural conversations about preparedness. Through interviews and community organizing, the TWP will build a reservoir of local knowledge and re-frame Staten Island’s relationship to water by collecting and disseminating stories from the following knowledge communities: (1) Traditional folktales and songs from Staten Island’s new immigrant communities that have extensive experience living in water-based environments and negotiating catastrophe (Sri Lankan, Dominican Republic, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Puerto Rico); (2) Oral histories of Hurricane Sandy first responders and survivors; (3) Experience and expertise of Staten Island’s working waterfront community that navigate and protect our waterways (Sandy Hook Pilots, Tug Boat captains, engineers, and Fisherman Conservation Association of S.I).

The project takes its title from “Wade in the Water,” an African American spiritual, or sorrow song. This song functioned as more than a reminder of the healing power when angels “troubled the water.” For slaves of the Underground Railroad, it was a coded message that turned this sorrow song into instructions for survival.


Ayla Schlosser
Resonate: Storytelling for Women’s Leadership
Resonate partners with organizations focused on women’s skill building, growing their capacity by incorporating narrative-based leadership training into existing programming. Resonate will partner with the Akilah Institute for Women in Rwanda, a college that offers a unique model of market-relevant education empowering graduates for success in careers and leadership roles.

Resonate will conduct workshops with 75 Akilah students as part of a leadership course to teach the importance of storytelling as a communication tool and leadership practice. As professionals and influencers in their families, communities, and work places, Akilah students will need to learn to speak compellingly and confidently about themselves, their skills, and their work. Students will be asked to reflect on their strengths, skills, and values, and develop a personal story that portrays those positive qualities. This process builds confidence among participants and faith in their own abilities. Workshops also address the practical applications of how and when students can relay these stories in their daily lives, increasing their public speaking ability and effective communication –both important leadership qualities. A follow up train-the-trainer course, and a final project report and video, will allow the workshop curriculum and benefits to have a continued impact.



Deborah Strahorn, Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia, an affiliate member of the National Association of Black Storytellers.
Using storytelling to transform community: The Sudan and African American oral storytelling project

The “using storytelling to transform community: The Sudan and African American oral storytelling project” is an innovative approach with potential for replication that seeks to: (1) preserve Sudanese oral children’s stories, culture and values; (2) encourage Sudanese families with young children to use stories and their home language to enhance children’s literacy and language development, and  (3) use storytelling to foster relationships and understanding among Clarkston, Georgia’s diverse residents.

The Project strengthens the partnership between United Sudan and South Sudan Communities Association (USASSCA) and Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia, Project fiscal agent. The Project grew out of storytelling activities begun by Clarkston Early Learning Network (CELN), a collaborative with over 20 partners, including USASSCA and Kuumba.  CELN, facilitated by CDF, a Clarkston community development organization, will assist with evaluation, sustainability and dissemination.

Project partners will collect and compile oral Sudanese children stories through interviews with Lost Boys and other Sudanese refugees. USASSCA members, including youth, will be trained to tell the stories at community events and will conduct workshops for Sudanese families. Stories will be translated into Dinka and Arabic. USASSCA will conduct a workshop on Sudanese culture and history for Kuumba storytellers who will include Project stories in their performances throughout Georgia.

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