Faced with a sharp rise in racial tensions and concern over seemingly intractable structural inequalities, simple acts of speaking and listening can promote understanding and open opportunities for progress. In a recent public forum, The Klau Center for Civil and Human Rights, part of the Keough School of Global Affairs, launched its new initiative to collect stories of race and encourage constructive dialogue at Notre Dame.
Conceived as a response to student interest in proactive ways to address concerns with race, ”With Voices True” received its campus debut on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 in the Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship at Hesburgh Library. The project is a collaboration between the Klau Center, the Gallivan Program for Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy, and University Archives.
Klau Center Associate Director, Dory Mitros Durham, described the project as a hopeful step taken at an opportune time. “It seemed to us that we had arrived at a moment when there was a renewed openness to talking about race and its implications in American society today,” Mitros Durham told those gathered. “People were reading Robin DiAngelo’s White Privilege and JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy and trying to make some sense out of the modern implications of racial identity. It struck us that this moment presented a unique opportunity. We believed that people are ready to talk, and ready to listen. We wanted to set up a mechanism to let that happen--to tell and to hear real stories that give content to the concepts of race and racial identity.”
Housed within University Archives, participants’ personal stories are available in their entirety for research purposes. As demonstrated at the public event, however, a curated collection of abridged narratives is also available publicly through the “With Voices True” website, providing classrooms and other groups a tool to spur constructive conversation around race.
A panel discussion accompanied the website launch. Participating were project partners Richard Jones, the Walter H. Annenberg-Edmund P. Joyce Director of the John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy; Angela Fritz, Head of University Archives; and Claire Rafford, one of the student journalists responsible for collecting the narratives for the project.
Acknowledging the importance of the institutional partnerships, which helped solve technical, legal, and ethical challenges to implementation, Mitros Durham summed up hopes for the project. “The collection we share with you tonight is, we think, a remarkable beginning to this effort. It engages with difficult issues and tells moving stories, and at the end of the day that’s exactly what the vision always was.”
All members of the Notre Dame community are encouraged to participate in the project by telling their story. “With Voices True” can be accessed online at voicestrue.nd.edu.