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Learn to share your story, build power at MayWorks event

Labor-Center-column-logo-trans(April 14, 2015) — Anyone who practices relational organizing will tell you about the power of people’s stories. Sharing your experience of injustice and fighting back is a very effective way of mobilizing others to action. By sharing what you know, you invite others to share their own experiences. Making that connection builds the community and relationships people need to take collective action, even against repressive power.

Simple as it sounds, these acts of storytelling require courage, practice, and skill. Opening your heart as well as your mind to honestly share experiences that may have been painful or humiliating takes courage. It makes you vulnerable, but it is precisely that vulnerability that others will respond to. In the act of call and response, sharing and being shared with, you will feel empowered and joyful!

This is a version of telling your story that works for organizing, but it is also an artistic act. The best story tellers take a lot of time to craft their stories. And when they evolve to the point of performance, those can take make different forms — prose, poetry, rap, free-form spoken word, song, movement, visual arts, etc.

bryant-eliseFor MayWorks this year, the Labor Center is bringing Elise Bryant from the Labor Heritage Foundation in D.C. to lead a spoken word workshop on Saturday, May 9. The workshop will teach you how to do spoken word, based on your own experience. Even if you have never told your story before, or been involved in any kind of performance, this workshop will empower you to let your voice be heard — and to hear from others. Elise Bryant is a master story teller and has many years of experience with spoken word craft. She will inspire you!

This year’s MayWorks theme is Solidarity Forever, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the writing of that song, labor’s anthem. Elise Byrant’s workshop will focus on your experiences of solidarity. Too often, worker’s voices remain unheard. The stories we have to share of struggle, of victory and defeat, of transformative consciousness raising, and of our union brothers and sisters need to be told and heard!

You are invited to apply for one of the limited spaces in this workshop. APPLICATIONS ARE DUE BY APRIL 20. You can download more information about the MayWorks workshop and the application HERE.

The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO does a fantastic job with our annual MayWorks celebrations, involving many unions, labor councils, and community partners. Learn more about this year’s events. As we enter our fourth year of this month-long, statewide celebration of worker’s history and culture, we should all be proud of what we have built.

If you have labor education questions or topics that you’d like to see addressed in future Working Education features, email me at

Sarah Laslett is Director of the Washington State Labor Education and Research Center at South Seattle College. Her column — “A Working Education” — is a regular feature of The Stand. Learn more about the Labor Center here.

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