19th Annual Ray Warren Symposium Explores the Art of Storytelling
The Ray Warren Symposium on Race and Ethnic Studies, held November 9–11, will examine the role of storytelling as a means of preserving history and passing down cultural traditions.
by Gabe Korer BA ’23
The 19th annual Ray Warren Symposium on Race and Ethnic Studies, titled the Art of Storytelling, will feature a variety of guest speakers and student-led events from November 9 through November 11. The symposium will explore how storytelling has been used to preserve history, the dynamics of power that have shaped its role in various cultures, and the many different forms it can take.
Kimberly Brodkin, director of the symposium and associate professor with term of humanities. “Our events consider many modes of storytelling—songs, drumming, tattoos, fashion, children’s literature, history, and more.”“Part of what I find so exciting about this year’s symposium is our attention to the artistic practices of storytelling within BIPOC communities and the dynamics of power that shape the ways in which stories are told as well as suppressed,” said
“With this year’s theme, we wanted to include a kind of multidimensional framework around storytelling and how storytelling can be embodied through literature, oral history, and various sorts of customs,” Ruíz said.
As part of the symposium, two keynote speakers will present aspects of their work that intersect with the theme. The speakers for this year’s symposium are Dr. Rebecca Hall, a scholar whose work tackles how race and gender have influenced structures of power, and Dr. Oriel María Siu, an educator and writer who has striven to create academic spaces centering around BIPOC communities and has authored multiple children’s books challenging traditional narratives.
The symposium begins on November 9 at 7 p.m. in Agnes Flanagan Chapel with a conversation between Hall and Reiko Hillyer, associate professor of history and director of ethnic studies. They will discuss “Visualizing the Past,” exploring Hall’s experience researching women-led slave revolts and the graphic narrative she wrote in collaboration with illustrator Hugo Martínez. Siu will speak at 7 p.m. the following day in the Templeton Campus Center’s Council Chamber, where she will present “Undoing Foundational Fairytales One Story at a Time.”
Ruíz says that both speakers were chosen due to how their work touches on the idea of dismantling structures of power.
“Through learning and understanding, we want to start dismantling power structures,” Ruíz said. “We want to recognize that history has been recorded from the perspective of those who have won or those who have had more power and influence over others.”
In addition to the keynote speakers, the symposium will feature a multitude of other events, including the annual Race Monologues, where participants share personal narratives about their experiences with race and ethnic identity. An art gallery will also be available virtually and in a physical installation in the atrium of Watzek Library, curated by Marta Ružić BA ’25, Mithila Tambe BA ’25, and Diego Zárate BA ’25.
While cochair Yao is looking forward to all the events, she’s particularly excited about the “Ink: Tattoo Work and Heritage” panel, which explores how tattoo work has been used by communities of color as a form of storytelling and tradition across time.
“It’s a panel of speakers and students who have either had direct experience with tattoo work or who have had it passed down through their family or communities,” Yao said. “This panel is a great example of how storytelling is not just a book or the formal narrative we think of. There’s various ways that it can be expressed.”
Yao and Ruíz pointed to several other events that articulate the theme of storytelling, including a songwriting workshop, a Ghanaian drumming workshop, and a student-led fashion show. Through offering such a diverse range of speakers and panels, Yao hopes this year’s symposium will allow people to recognize the importance of storytelling as a form of resistance.
“For some of us whose stories are not told in history books, this is how our generation, our people, and those we love stay alive,” Yao said.
For more information about the events, including a detailed schedule, visit the symposium’s website. All events are free and open to the general public, although some are first-come, first-served due to limited capacity.