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Vocalo’s Storytelling Workshop: Winter 2023

Written by on April 14, 2023

The winter edition of Vocalo’s quarterly Storytelling Workshop gives Chicago storytellers free, hands-on experience building and sharing audio-based stories. 

Led by Vocalo storytelling producer Ari Mejia and co-facilitated by artist and producer Ariana Martinez, this session of Vocalo’s Storytelling Workshop showcased eight stories about Chicago history, happenings and hopes, created by residents.  

Learn more about the storytellers and hear their stories below.

Photo courtesy of Corin Love

Corin Love: Lydia Homes: For Each Other

I’m given the opportunity to tour and meet the staff at Lydia Homes – a non-profit organization housing children whose current home environment is not safe. In witnessing and admiring the care that the staff has for these kids, I reflect on the support that I received after my own traumatic experience. A reminder that we all improve when we help each other.

Corin Love was raised in southern Missouri but has lived her entire adult life in Chicago, where she has deepened her love for arts and entertainment. Corin is a writer and pursuing podcaster and vlogger whose aim is to inspire others by sharing her own stories.

Photo courtesy of Elisa Williams

Elisa Williams: Swift Transitions: A Black Church Nears Its End

Black churches across the city of Chicago have been facing this dilemma for years: to close, or to soldier on with the hope for a better, more stable tomorrow? And at the heart of the issue is the reality that these churches are disappearing before young people, like myself, even have the opportunity to figure out if or how we want religion to appear in our lives.

Elisa is a teacher and writer based in Chicago. Her work is centered on the voices and experiences of Black folks. She continues to be a lover of all things storytelling: podcasts, good TV shows, documentaries, kitchen-table conversations, YouTube videos, anything that really gives her something to hold onto.

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Rodriguez

Elizabeth Rodriguez: Windy Blessings 

A blend of Chicago native and non-native Chicagoan perspectives on living in Wicker Park over the years, to classic city nostalgia and navigating in the city as a whole. No matter where you’re from, Windy Blessings are everywhere.

Elizabeth Rodriguez, a Puerto Rican 42-year-old Chicago native, loves art as much as she loves the Windy City. Communication arts has been at the forefront early in Elizabeth’s life, from grade school at Walt Disney Magnet School to her marketing communications education at Columbia College Chicago. As a marketing professional and creative enthusiast, she believes in engaging the creativity of storytelling, along with engaging the community to make the most out of everyday life.

Photo courtesy of Elizia Artis

Elizia Artis: Vintage Shop:Time Hop

Hey! Let’s go vintage shopping! Tour and explore the Chicago vintage marketplace and clothing store scene with me. Get rad industry knowledge from some of the best vendors in the game, and sonically sift through my personal history of purchases. I promise it will be a blast!

Elizia Artis lives by one guiding mission: to further the liberation of Black people worldwide. This mission has taken her on a path that includes many direct service and administrative nonprofit jobs, a variety of creative projects and soon-to-be two Beyoncé shows.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Barajas

Jessica Barajas: Que viva la Discount Mall / Long Live the Discount Mall

A story of adversity and resilience in Little Village. Learn about how this community continues to come together to fight off gentrification and demand respect in the development of their neighborhood. Novak bought out the Little Village Discount Mall and actively ignored current tenants for years. We hear about the economic and cultural importance of the Discount Mall, and how the unity of Little Village preserved such a vital part of this community’s heart and economics.

Jessica Barajas is a longtime Little Village resident, where she was born, raised and continues to work. She is a grant writer and has aspirations of publishing books and producing mixed-media full-time. Jessica enjoys writing, storytelling, fashion, astrology, making music, plants, reading, and she loves philosophizing with her loved ones, amongst many other things.

Photo courtesy of Maria Acosta

Maria Acosta: We’re Not Going Anywhere

People can change their minds. Lies can be unlearned, because change comes from within. Fabricating fear to scapegoat and wield control is Humanity 101. This community is grappling with unlearning inherited lies. Not all heroes wear capes, and in this community, it’s the neighbors. Their ancestors gave up their culture to side with power. Now their descendants are doing the thing their ancestors feared most: building solidarity, taking responsibility and stepping up.

Don’t YOU threaten me with a good time! Living the life of YES, before there was a book; experiencing the world as it is, let’s not disrupt its “qi.” Instead, I inject laughter, enthusiasm, nonsense and an encouraging word. I find ways to give of my time. I’ll talk to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Why not?! Rarely uncomfortable. Adventurous to a fault. I’ve grown to appreciate a good T-shirt and fun socks. If you are looking for me, close your eyes and wait for the high-pitched cackle. I put mayo on burgers, fries and the occasional encased meat product, FIGHT ME! I pray to Jesus and Yemaya. My one wish … that more people had friends like mine.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Ehresman

Ryan Ehresman: A Short History of Thalia Hall

Thalia Hall is a Chicago landmark built in 1892, once again functioning as a facilitator of the arts after being closed for decades. To understand the history of the building, Ryan sits down with Sinhue Mendoza of the Chicago Architecture Center and Will Quam of the Instagram handle @brickofchicago to discuss the construction of Thalia Hall, the opera house’s impact on the community it served, and the materials and architecture design style used to create one of Chicago’s favorite venues and event spaces.

Originally from northwestern Indiana, Ryan Ehresman is an illustrator and front-of-house employee at Thalia Hall. He has a deep appreciation for the city of Chicago, its unmatched architectural history and music scene, and the people that live here.

Photo courtesy of Shifra Rapoport

Shifra Rapoport: Bards Against the Regime 

Looking to connect more deeply with her cultural identity through music, Shifra Rapoport embarks on a journey seeking Russian folk music in Chicago with her mom while exploring their connection and their past.

Shifra Rapoport is an aspiring radio producer and jack of all trades who makes her living as a barista. She is passionate about connecting with our natural environment and fostering understanding and connection through active conversations. Shifra grew up in New York and has now made a home in Chicago where you can find her making homemade vegan deli or snapping at your local poetry show, at which she is sure to recommend a new podcast you’ll love.

Learn more about Vocalo’s quarterly Storytelling Workshop here.

2023 Workshop led by Ari Mejia and co-facilitated by Ariana Martinez

Introduction written by Joshua X. Miller

Descriptions edited for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca

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