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The Apple Seed: St. Louis Storystitchers

This week on the Apple Seed: Tellers and Stories, we featured a piece about the St. Louis Storystitchers, who we met and saw in performance at the historic Old Courthouse, in the shadow of the Gateway Arch, in St. Louis, MO.  The Storystitchers took the place by storm, at an event honoring some of the men who, 50 years ago, worked on that remarkable arch. Before a panel discussion that had us meeting those men and hearing their stories, the Stitchers – a group of local young St. Louis writers and performers under the direction of KP Dennis and Susan Colangelo – performed high-energy hip-hop pieces about the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the Dred Scott Trial (important parts of the historic story of the 1857 Dred Scott decision took place right in the very building in which we clapped and cheered as those stories unfolded in hip-hop before our eyes and ears). We saw dance and poetry as well (one piece, called “603 Stories,” took our breaths away).
The St. Louis Storystitchers have a goal to “work alongside twenty 15-24 year old urban youth living in economically disadvantaged areas to collect stories, reframe and retell them using the arts, direct community engagement, storytelling, publishing and the Internet to promote a better educated, more peaceful and caring society.” They erase real and perceived divisions through cultural exploration and arts practice — by stitching together our city.”
That’s the language the Storystitchers use on their website. What the show looks like in practice is a handful of talented young people exploding onto stage in committed, competent performances of stories, songs, dance, and poetry that they created themselves.
In performance, the Storystitchers wear t-shirts that say, in big letters, “Pick the City Up.” And this is an organization (like others that have cropped up in this age of storytelling) that when faced with real-world stakes, turns to the power of storytelling to do the heavy lifting. In this case, the heavy lifting includes helping young people speak out on issues that are important to them: issues like gun violence (one song, “They Think it’s Okay,” decrying the myths that make gun violence a part of life in the neighborhoods from whence come these young artists, is a staple in their live shows).

We were amazed at the degree of trust placed in the artful rendering of St. Louis stories by this high-stakes organization. And also at how well-placed that trust seems to be. You can hear the Storystitchers episode of the Apple Seed in our archive: Just enter “Stitching the City Together” in the search field. You can find out more about St. Louis Storystitchers by visiting their website, ​

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