The Butterfly Story Collective: Social Change Through the Power of Sharing Stories

The Butterfly Story Collective: Social Change Through the Power of Sharing Stories

By Patrick O’Shea, NILC Research and Narrative Strategist
October 27, 2017

It gives Divine hope to know that her story has the power to create change. On an upcoming episode of a new podcast from the Butterfly Story Collective, she shares her personal experience of changing someone’s views on undocumented immigration by simply engaging with them, one on one.

“You just have to conversate with them,” says the community college transfer at the University of California at Davis. “Talk to them, without all of the labels, because you never know who’s affected. You don’t know if it’s a loved one.”

As the only undocumented person in her family, for years Divine struggled when the rest of her family didn’t fully understand her immigration status’s real implications for her day-to-day life. Then she discovered that her younger brother, who was born in the U.S., had voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. It upset Divine that her own brother would vote for someone whose policies so clearly aim to do her harm.

So she talked with him. The more they talked, the clearer it became that, even after seeing her struggle to get admitted to college and scrape by doing odd jobs, her brother had never fully understood how being undocumented had impacted her. Divine began to share more about her experiences first as an undocumented person and later as a college student with DACA, and over time her brother’s views changed. Now he’s part of his university’s student government, and he advocates on campus for a solution, such as the Dream Act, for his sister and others like her.

Stories such as Divine’s are at the heart of the Butterfly Story Collective, which strives to create more intimate connections through the collective power of storytelling. A brand new initiative, the collective is a network of local storytelling projects, produced by immigrants, about immigrants’ diverse experiences in the U.S. The collective’s participants seek to share resources, learn from one another, and strengthen local relationships.

In addition to connecting existing projects in cities and towns across the country, the collective hopes that new storytelling projects will spring up, each in their own unique form: oral history, video, story circles, publications, music and song, and art installations, just to name a few possibilities.

The Butterfly Story Collective intends for the podcast to be a space where storytellers from the various projects will have the chance for their stories to be heard by a wider audience, in different parts of the country, and beyond. The first season of stories, which will launch sometime in November, features students from the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center at the University of California at Davis, including Divine. You can listen to a trailer for the podcast here:

Ultimately, through its podcast and the various projects that comprise it, the Butterfly Story Collective invites people to listen to each other. Following Paolo Freire’s notion that education and social justice must begin with a close examination of lived experience, the collective is guided by the practice of ethical storytelling, which puts the person who lived through the experience in control of how their story is told. The hope is that telling their stories can help close the distance between people’s perceptions about immigration and immigrants’ lived experiences, as happened when Divine and her brother began to talk about her story.