With the holiday season and the end of the year upon us, it’s about time for the projects to go on hiatus until after the new year. But before we go, we wanted to take the opportunity to reflect a bit on our accomplishments this year – and look ahead to 2015!
First of all, you’ll note that I said “we” and “us” in the paragraph above. That’s because one of the major changes implemented this year was to add a second person to the Stories Project and Week of Action team. I’m happy to have Alice on board to co-run the projects. She should be making her voice known more after the new year, as we’re going to try to rotate who posts about certain topics more often so we’re not always speaking as a unified hivemind. 😉 Until then, you can read more about Alice and why she wanted to get involved on the “About Us” tab.
Some changes were additionally made to the site itself in an attempt to present ourselves and our work in a more cohesive and consistent way. All posts now include two things that were not there previously: tags for potentially triggering content at the top of the page and author tags at the bottom of the page. All of the “about” tabs were updated with current information and a statement in writing that we do in fact have the families’ approval to collect stories about their loved ones; we rewrote the posts in a way that more accurately reflects what we are trying to do now and provides a clearer, more-straightforward understanding of what these projects are. Some posts were made private due to outdated, conflicting, or no longer relevant information and others were password-protected. We also shifted the layout around and tweaked some of the wording on the site to make it clear the Stories Project has become the bigger/main project with the Week of Action running on the side.
Other things that are new for 2014 include a new email address, email@example.com, which is going to serve as the main contact for the projects from this point on, a new logo for the Stories Project (see below), and a Facebook page.
Four stories were collected this year, bringing the total to fifteen collected and twelve published (two are in progress as we speak). This year, we received stories from: Christine Thomas, a friend and classmate of Rebecca Wight; the Rev. Rebecca Strader, minister of Julie Williams; Jazmin Johnson, a young trans woman who refuses to be defined as anything but a human being and a survivor; and Clea Matson, the daughter of Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder. Their stories can be found at the links below:
On a personal note, I had the opportunity this past summer to pay a visit to Michaux State Forest as well as the Colonial Parkway, two places where some of the victims spotlighted here lost their lives, and to meet with one of the individuals who has shared their story on the site. I wrote two posts detailing the impact those visits had on me – overall, going to those sites was an extremely powerful and transformative experience. I left those sites and that meeting with this renewed sense of being grateful that I survived my brush with violence to have an impact on someone’s life, instead of continuing to question why it turned out that way.
I feel that 2014 has been our most successful year so far, and I am very happy with the progress we’ve made. However, that doesn’t mean we haven’t dropped the ball in some respects with the projects and our own goals this year – we are always looking for ways to improve, and it’s important to be able to honestly critique ourselves. Firstly, even with two of us having access to the website, we let the queue of comments build up again and there’s around fifty or so that we need to sort through and approve. This is something that we have got to find a better system or strategy for; I remember writing the same sentence during the 2013 review. We announced that we would be posting an interview we did to tell our own stories for National Coming Out Day back in October, but this post never came about because we put it off and never went back to it. We additionally failed to properly acknowledge several important things that happened this year, like the Black Lives Matter movement and the Transgender Day of Remembrance. So here are our goals for the upcoming year:
1. In 2013, we decided that the Stories Project was lacking stories from trans people of color, even though trans women of color are the most likely group in the LGBT community to experience violence and hate crimes. We did wind up receiving stories from three black trans women, one published this year and two that will likely be published early next year, but it’s not enough for us to focus on these women’s stories for just a year and then call it a day. So our main goal for 2015 is to continue to seek out diverse stories that represent the full spectrum of LGBT people and their experiences. We are also in the process of speaking with a few people who have expressed interest in being guest posters; they would be added to the Stories Project team and have an equal voice in the direction of the projects. We don’t just want to give lip-service to creating something that represents all LGBT people; we intend to implement whatever changes are necessary to actually do it.
2. We desperately need a better system of getting comments out of moderation before they build up. In 2015, we need to create that system and then follow it.
3. This is a fairly simple goal, but one we want to make sure to keep in mind as we do bigger things with the projects: to never forget where we came from and the people who helped us get there, and to never allow any external rewards that we might receive to interfere with or corrupt our internal motivations for doing this in the first place.
Happy holidays to all who celebrate, and best wishes for the new year. We will see everyone in a couple of weeks!