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Groundswell Story

Fostering and Furthering Social Movements

In 2011, long-time community organizers Sarah K. Loose and Alisa Del Tufo brought together a group of 15 practitioners to explore how oral history could be harnessed more strategically to not only document, but to actively further social movements. Participants spanned several generations, came from nine different states and worked in rural, suburban, urban and transnational settings, and were using oral history and narrative to support movements for justice in diverse fronts: housing justice, mass incarceration, cultural preservation, LGBTQI liberation, domestic violence, environmental justice, and immigrant and workers’ rights. These participants committed to consolidating Groundswell as an ongoing network to foster exchange, mutual support and training in applied, community-based oral history as a critical contribution to the processes of organizing and movement building.

Our Principles:

  • We support our network to develop and share work that not only documents social movements, but also purposefully advances those movements.
  • We believe in the right to individual and collective self-determination. Those who are most affected by injustice ought to be at the forefront of movements for justice, speaking on our own behalf. We also support the significance of allies in these struggles.
  • We support effective and thoughtful partnerships and collaborations that contribute to amplifying unheard (or unlistened to) voices.
  • We appreciate the potential of oral history to offer individuals ample space to express the fullness of their identities, stories, reflections and experience.
  • We are committed to an anti-oppression practice in our work. Among other things, this means:
    • proactively challenging and working to dismantle systems of domination: racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism
    • rejecting the appropriation, commodification and exploitation of individuals’ and communities’ stories/histories
  • We believe that “shared authority” between interviewers and narrators extends beyond the interview itself and we uphold narrators’ role as co-creators of the work.
  • We commit to ongoing learning in and improvement of our practice.