One of the greatest limitations of The Foodways Project is the single narrative that filters every piece of content we share. As a one person operation, everything on this website is from a single perspective, my own, regardless of whether or not the stories of others are featured. As Chimamanda eloquently articulates, the danger of the single story is intimately tied to power:
It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power…Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people,the simplest way to do it is to tell their story and to start with, “secondly.”
My role in capturing and editing stories on film puts me in a place of power by allowing me to tell the stories of another through my literal and figurative lens. I am in the position to weave a story that fits the narrative that I want to promote or that my biased perspective believes to be true.
Since launching The Foodways Project I have been acutely aware of this power dynamic. The line that separates telling another’s story and sharing it can be difficult to define. Honoring the truth of stories that are not my own requires a heightened consciousness that critically challenges my power as as a storyteller. A failure to check my privilege that leads to an appropriation the stories of others diverts this movement from its mission of creating space for our communities to build power through food.
The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.
As The Foodways Project continues to develop and evolve, Chimamanda’s cautionary words to help avoid the incomplete story must remained nestled up closely to the core of our movement and intentions. The art of story telling and story sharing is akin to any other medium–painting, dance, or music–in that it must be practiced and honed, which will inevitably involve blunders and missteps. I only hope I can overcome those growing pains with a sense of grace that continues to honor our storytellers in a constructive manner.
Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.
We welcome and request critical and constructive feedback that helps our website grow into one that shares the multidimensional voices of our community. Feel free to reach out via our Contact page. All we ask is patience and understanding as we test new waters.