By Theodore Taylor
A passion project of mine since working at StoryFile has been the Black Voices Collection, a selection of educational life history storyfiles featuring civil rights activists, artists, and allies. Supported by our co-founders’ dedication to amplifying diverse voices with our platform powered by Conversa, this work formalized into an ongoing effort in 2018.
Like most productions with a greenlight, the development phase was not without its hurdles, and it took some time to plan and resource the project. Finally, in January 2020, we successfully started production on the first of our interviews and it really set the bar for the quality of work we were looking to accomplish. I felt inspired and motivated!
Then came March 2020, and the coronavirus pandemic. Forced to close the physical office and shut down the studio, our company quickly pivoted into the realm of remote work. Our process grew and improved over time but wasn’t a viable option for every production, namely our interviewees without local access to production resources. For these reasons, and everyone’s safety, things went on hold for the Black Voices Collection and for a while that summer felt like a let down.
I think it was sitting in that stillness with the uncertainty of the pandemic that helped remind us that there was no time like the present. Especially with regard to preserving our legacies within the Black community. WIth a commitment to the safety of our crew and talent, a newly acquired COVID compliance officer certification, and an emphasis on trust, individuals welcomed us into their lives so that we could continue recording their stories – sometimes from the comfort of their own living rooms while we were miles away in LA!
Traveling during the pandemic was often met with words of caution and mixed reactions – most people I told thought I was brave, reckless, or just outright crazy. With hindsight and irony, I probably couldn’t have asked for a better way to cope. Leaving each interview with a refreshed sense of hope motivated me on a professional and personal level. To honor my heritage as a Black American through this way felt like and continues to be a dream come true.
At StoryFile we have our three core values – authenticity, innovation and trust – and our responsibility to facilitate an experience that reflected those values was something we took seriously then and we continue to take seriously now. The great honor and privilege of getting to know each person in such a candidly heartfelt way as they reflected on life felt sacred and special. I believe this translated into each of their storyfiles, but I imagine that even a fraction of what we so gratefully experienced “on set” would make for a meaningful interaction with anyone to engage with. And using our conversational video AI technology, that’s what we’ve set out to do.
We successfully recorded 10 more individuals through the Summer of 2021 and launched the Black Voices Collection publicly on our website in February 2022. Themes of purpose, courage, resilience, and grace are illuminated by personal anecdotes that help teach a story of our shared history.
The work continues through the preservation of these histories, and now StoryFile invites everyone to join the movement. Whether it be through an engaging Q&A with someone in our Black Voices Collection, or recording yourself or a loved one on StoryFile Life, there’s no better time than now to share our stories. I know from my own experience it can be hard to find the convincing argument that “my story matters,” but I’ve learned from each person in our Black Voices Collection that it’s not always up to us to decide how we might impact others.
Let your truth speak for itself! With a thoughtfully curated script of questions, give trust a try and record the Black Heritage Question Pack now!