The Stoop Storytelling Series and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have collaborated to host the “Hidden in Plain Sight” event at the Enoch Pratt Central Library on September 22. The event included a live recording of an episode of the Stoop Storytelling Series podcast, released October 3, where a panel of speakers told their stories about the impact public health has had on their lives.
The Stoop was founded in 2006 and has featured the stories of more than 2,500 people, ranging from notable Baltimoreans to everyday people.
Co-founder and co-producer of The Stoop Storytelling series, Laura Wexler conceived the idea of storytelling as spectacle from her experiences working as a writer in San Francisco.
In an interview with The News-LetterWexler discussed the origins of the show.
“In 2005, I went to visit a friend in San Francisco, and she took me to a storytelling show, which was the first time I experienced storytelling as something you go to see,” said she declared. “I never thought about it verbally, only as a writer, but it was great and I loved being there.”
Wexler decided to start The Stoop Storytelling Series to bring stories to Baltimore. It organizes its own shows and collaborates with other organizations to address certain issues. Stoop members also run workshops and trainings, where they teach people how to effectively use storytelling to achieve their goals.
After hosting numerous workshops in the area of public health, Wexler connected with the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and they developed the idea of doing a show focused on public health.
“A few times a year we’ll partner with an organization to use our model to explore the issue they’re focusing on, and that’s what happened with the public health show,” Wexler said. . “[Public health] really lends itself, as a field, to storytelling,”
With the COVID-19 pandemic, public health grew in importance, and Wexler aimed to raise awareness of the relevance of public health to everyday life.
“We wanted to use storytelling to make public health issues more accessible and memorable to the average person and let them know there’s public health all around you,” she said.
At the event, seven different speakers told stories about aspects of public health they were passionate about.
Carolyn Sufrin, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the School of Medicine, was one of the speakers who spoke about her experience delivering an incarcerated woman who was chained to her bed. This event made her more aware of the neglect felt by incarcerated pregnant women and led her to work in prison as an OB-GYN. Today, her research focuses on reproductive health care for incarcerated women.
Cleo Hirsch, director of COVID-19 response for Baltimore Public Schools, was another speaker who told her story of working on big policy changes in a short time while ensuring vulnerable students receive good education. This involved addressing food insecurity, ensuring a safe transition to in-person instruction, and managing testing and contact tracing.
According to Wexler, an important goal of the podcast was to choose a wide range of stories and storytellers.
“We want to give people a space to tell their stories, to even all the stories around a theme, and let people portray stories that we don’t always hear. It’s also a much more interesting event when there’s a variety of interpretations of the theme,” she said.
The Stoop Storytelling series has many future events planned, including a collaboration with the Baltimore Museum of Art around migration on November 3.