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On Sept. 26, eight humans positively impacting the region came together to share their prologues with the community.

“Stories…protect us from chaos, and maybe that’s what we, unblinkered at the end of the 20th century, find ourselves craving. Implicit in the extraordinary revival of storytelling is the possibility that we need stories — that they are a fundamental unit of knowledge, the foundation of memory, essential to the way we make sense of our lives: the beginning, middle and end of our personal and collective trajectories. It is possible that narrative is as important to writing as the human body is to representational painting. We have returned to narrative-in many fields of knowledge-because it is impossible to live without them.” – Bill Buford, The New Yorker [Art by Brothers Hilts for David Delgado]

Honoring the Human “Before-Word”

Prologues was designed as a humble effort to use storysharing to learn more about and from our fellow community members, to strengthen community networks, and to give visibility to all the good happening around us while supporting the people who make it all happen.

Often we see impact within our community, but we don’t ever get visibility into the context about how that impact came to be. Additionally, as community-builders, rarely do we have the opportunity to reflect on the sometimes very small coincidences or nuances that have led us to becoming part of a much larger vision or our everyday purpose-driven work.

It is our belief that the simple act of storysharing can become a powerful platform for connecting people to one another and to our broader community. To that end, we recently brought together eight leaders catalyzing positive change in our region to share their backstory with the community.

The Setting

Black Apple Crossing made for the perfect unobtrusive backdrop for our first convening of storysharers and listeners. Along with raw brick walls and worn wood floors, the space is spiced by fruit & pepper trails leading to a farm-to-glass cider bar in the back. Our inaugural Prologues started with casual drinks and chat and settled into storysharing. By unspoken understanding we all recognized when we bear witness to a personal story, we are being invited to step into an individual’s vulnerability and truth. Not a single guest took that invitation lightly.

Recap video courtesy of John Wayne Pharr

The Setting

“Re-humanizing humans, an interesting concept…yet this is exactly what Prologues accomplished. Being on the receiving end of the personal truths from the people executing invaluable work within the community I live in, reminded me of how powerful people’s voices truly are. 20 images with 19 seconds of narration each was all it took to ensue laughter, joy, tears, and ultimately, understanding.” – Jacqueline Perez, Teen Action & Support Center

“If we want to build diverse and inclusive communities, we need to actively procure safe and mindful spaces where a variety of voices and preferences feel free to express and be themselves. The relevance of the prologues, in my opinion, is not in who is speaking, where or for how long, the relevance is in the concept of creating room for these interactions to take place. Like a living library or a work of art, Prologues offers the opportunity to exchange ideas, express ourselves, share the essence of who we are, become vulnerable before a room full of friends, strangers and familiar faces, and grow through that vulnerability.

Our entire community needs spaces for this vulnerability to surface, leaving behind the mask of the “persona” we somehow have become, and go back to the essence of who we are, that place where the differences between us start to dilute. Northwest Arkansas needs this kind of event. Diversity, inclusion, collaboration, empathy, all start with communication and an honest reflection of the difference that exists between the kind of community we say we want to be and who we really are.” – Rogelio Garcia-Contreras (Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at University of Arkansas)

“Prologues showcased the breadth of experiences, imagination, and compassion we have in NWA. I was really excited to see an initiative that embraced storytelling and its ability to explore resonances, harmonies, and productive tensions across a wide range of perspectives. In a region like Northwest Arkansas — where we are large enough to have diverse range of knowledges and origin stories, and small enough to share them in intimate settings, Prologues has so much potential to build community and mobilize those connections toward mutual growth.” – V. Jo Hsu, Assistant Professor of English at University of Arkansas

“Storytelling magically activates our brain and senses in a unique way that we can almost feel what the tellers are feeling. Prologue creates the right setting to learn more about their lives, experiences and challenges. It also gives us permission to be transported to a new place in our imagination.” – Daymara Baker, Rockin’ Baker

“I wanted to say thanks for last night! It was so beautiful hearing everyone’s stories. You curated an amazing cross section of storytellers, and I met so many interesting people and shed more than a few tears. Looking forward to going to all of the future Prologue events!” – Monica Diodati, Bentonville SOUP

“‘So, what do you do?’ is often the first question we ask new acquaintances. As a community, we rarely get to know each other as full people first. Prologues replaces the age-old question “what do you do” with a deeper conversation about who we are. I believe that true impact ignites in the moments we understand one another as individuals with full stories & full lives. We build community first through building deep individual connections.” – Brody Parrish Craig, TWANG

“Being a Prologues storysharer gave me an opportunity to reflect, helping me think about experiences that shaped my journey in life. It was inspiring to hear the walks of life from the other storysharers. The event showcased the diversity that exists right here in the region and was a reminder of all the different paths through this life we might take.” – Nelson Peacock, Northwest Arkansas Council

“I was grateful to participate in the inaugural Prologues program, as it gave me a chance to think creatively and to share a part of myself that I, a very new NWA resident, have not yet shared with anyone here. It was a great opportunity to hear the stories of many great leaders in our community, shared in a more informal, low-stakes format that inspired openness and understanding.” – Allyson Esposito, NWA Regional Arts Council

“The Prologues was a fantastic event. Hearing these stories was a good reminder of the incredible people we have in Northwest Arkansas, and I think that’s something to be proud of.” – Blake Binns, Good Advice

We invite you to save the date for the next Prologues storysharing salon, tentatively scheduled for January 16, 2020. RSVP below to stay updated as we organize the next event.