Oral History

In reading Della Pollock’s Oral History Performance piece, I came away with refreshed sense of what it means to remember; and similarly what the process of recalling does in the present to incite action. As Pollock notes of the power in oral histories, “The performance of oral history is itself a transformational process. At the very least, it translates subjectively remembered events into embodied memory acts, moving memory into re-membering. That passage not only risks but endows the emerging history/narrative with change” (2). Thus, in connecting with a historical moment—in bringing it up, in reliving its legacy— witnesses are able to play on similarities in their present to derive power, motivation, and will for change. As Pollock again describes, “the peculiar temporality of the representational real: an engine embedded in historical time, it invokes the beyond time of possibility, making possibility real or at least staking the grounds of real possibilities” (7). This process also connects back to our discussions of mimesis and poeisis and the duality of the two in oral histories can create new possibilities or realities in the present.

This principle reminded me of an organization that I work with called The Sunflower County Freedom Project. SCFP is an educational and leadership non-profit in Sunflower, MS that offers students supplemental academic and leadership development opportunities. The organization was designed and structured around the Freedom Schools of the 1960s and incorporates the legacy of Civil Rights history, as enacted many outlets including performance, as a major component in the curriculum. In having the privilege to work with the students of SCFP on several occasions, I have seen the transformative power that emerges from the performance of history. Through the recalling of Civil Rights stories, the students are able to learn and recreate leadership, empowerment, and change for themselves and their world. A have attached a video of one of SCFP’s performances as well as a link to their website.


Website: http://www.sunflowerfreedom.org/


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