The Fort Lauderdale Story Slam, a story-telling competition hosted by the World and Eye organization, took place this Saturday at the city’s African American Research Library and Cultural Center.
World and Eye’s mission statement is “to use the arts to promote awareness and explore solutions related to a wide range of social concerns.” It has held 12 such events since December 2016, always focused on a particular theme. The latest focused on heroes, with the winner receiving $100.
Judith Lavori Keiser, one of the participants, talked about her personal hero, her mother, a dedicated teacher for children with special needs. Her story included about how her mother “needed different kinds of heroism” when faced with a school shooter and later on, the cancer that took her life.
“I love the idea that this is not a task, a job, an obligation, or a problem; this is a gift. The way that I think of it is that I am a channel, and my job is just to keep that channel clear so that my love for my mother comes through,” Keiser said in an interview.
Saturday’s champion was Gail Choate, who won with a story about “everyday heroes” she met while working at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
“It was the story about an entire community of people coming together to provide some joy and laughter on the last days of a child’s life,” said Choate.
“My hope in telling my story is that someone will be inspired to tell their own, because we live in an amazing world… and we all have stories to share,” she said.
Some of the judges talked about the benefits of story-telling for the community.
“I love telling stories because stories are actually how our brains are wired to take in, process and store information,” said judge Denise Jacobs. “The more you tell a story, the more you connect with people, the more people understand what you are talking about and the more they learn from it.”
And organizer Helen Reynolds said what makes the competition different is how much they strive to involve the audience.
“It’s really about trying to build connections with people because we are all in this together,” she said.