6-8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 8
Songbirds Guitar & Pop Culture Museum
35 Station St., Chattanooga
When asked to take “One Small Step” toward sitting down with those of differing views, Chattanooga answered and is now invited to a Dec. 8 celebration of the conversations that are resulting.
That’s the date of the Chattanooga One Small Step Listening Party. This live event will feature local participants, audio from the conversations themselves and reflections on the project and process. The conversations came about through the Chattanooga presentation of One Small Step, an initiative of National Public Radio’s StoryCorps project and a response to increasingly polarized American society.
StoryCorps records, preserves and shares stories from everyday Americans. For its One Small Step initiative, trained facilitators guide recorded, 50-minute conversations—not about politics, but about who the participants are as people. The facilitator guides discussion to flow like conversation and helps participants connect and reflect on their passions, hopes and fears. The goal is not to convince them to agree but “to recognize each other’s humanity and commonality.”
Chattanooga is one of only six sites chosen nationally, and the effort has been led by Will Davis of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
“With One Small Step, we want to make new friends and make a difference. We abandoned our egos, listened to each other, and cared. We want to be part of an empathy revolution,” said Davis, a faculty member who teaches podcasting at UTC. Davis also is manager of UTC’s PodLab, a student podcasting studio training the next generation of professional podcasters.
“Chattanooga is becoming bigger and denser every day, and every effort is being made to make it a more tolerant and inclusive city. One Small Step embodies our community’s goals.”
Davis, with assistance from some of his UTC students, began recording conversations last summer and has continued through fall. He estimates a total of 50 participants will be paired up and sit down at the PodLab microphone across from a person they’ve just met—and begin talking.
StoryCorps officials describe Chattanooga as a politically diverse region that can serve as a model for other communities, “demonstrating what’s possible when people take time to listen to those with whom they disagree.”
Listening party guests will meet conversation participants, hear excerpts of conversations being edited for a serial podcast, receive small commemorative items and enjoy a variety of beverages. Davis will emcee the event, as he did at a 2019 listening party for Tennessee Valley StoryCorps, the Chattanooga-area presentation of that NPR initiative, which Davis played a critical role in bringing to the area.
Students in Davis’ spring semester 2023 podcasting courses will be involved in every aspect of editing, packaging, promoting and sharing a multi-episode serial podcast based on Chattanooga’s One Small Step conversations. Episodes of that serial will be aired on Chattanooga NPR affiliate WUTC-FM 88.1 and available for download at the station’s website.
Since 2003, StoryCorps has given people of all backgrounds and beliefs in thousands of towns in all 50 states the opportunity to record interviews about their lives. StoryCorps recordings are preserved in the American Folklife Center archive at the National Library of Congress. The archive comprises the largest single collection of human voices ever gathered and shares select stories with the public through StoryCorps’ podcast episodes, NPR broadcasts, animated short films, digital platforms and best-selling books.