In an effort to incite an empathy revolution in our own hometown and, perhaps a little less hyperbolic, continue the fruitful dialogue that began this summer, the SOA Creative Writing Department and the North Charleston High School English Department coordinated Charleston’s very first Narrative 4 Storytelling Exchange Program, a project that brought together 90 students (45 from each school) from a variety of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds and asked them to listen and retell each other’s stories.
SOA friend, one of the Narrative 4 Founders and National Book Award Winning Author of Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann, met with SOA creative writing faculty to tell them about the program during their trip to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards in New York last summer. Reeling from the Walter Scott shooting, in which several SOA students wrote poems of empathy and outrage over the killing which happened just minutes from their campus, faculty members F. Rutledge Hammes and Beth Webb Hart, were eager to find ways for their students to share local stories of injustice and oppression. Narrative 4’s vision (Fearless Hope through Radical Empathy) and their mission (To foster empathy by breaking down barriers and shattering stereotypes through the exchange of stories across the world.) seemed like the ideal fit. McCann told them about the success the organization has had in pairing students from Newtown, Connecticut with students living on the south side of Chicago as well as students on both sides of the ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland.