On a typical day, Atlanta storytelling practice StoryMuse serves as a way to assist people in exploring their personal narratives. This weekend, however, it’s taking a different form. Eight Atlanta-area storytellers will take the stage to share their experiences of difficulty and trauma in the spoken show “Trigger Warning.”
Some stories will be heavier, others more comical, but all will provide an opportunity for support for those who’ve had similar experiences. Shannon Turner, founder of StoryMuse, said there will be volunteers available for anyone who finds themselves triggered by a story and in need of a person to speak with. Small group discussion will follow the performances.
“These are their own authentic human experiences. We don’t end up in the room together very much like that,” Turner said. “I think that’s just my mission, to provide a space for people to tell their stories and hear stories from folks that are different than them.”
One of the storytellers is Tiffany Courtney, who lives in southwest Atlanta.
“I am female, black, gay and … all of those things factor into why I moved into that neighborhood. All of those things factor some way into why I had to leave my neighborhood,” Courtney said.“I am talking about my experience with a recent home invasion that was not successful – what it meant for my family and I. We live in southwest Atlanta. It was our neighborhood of choice. It has been wonderful; it has been challenging,”
It’s a story that was 12 years in the making, and Courtney said it was painful to finally make the decision to let go of the area because of the crime.
“The break-in was something that I’d been preparing for in the sense of, it has already happened to us once. One of those things where you’re thinking, ‘I hope it never happens, but I’m preparing for it.’ One of those things you wish you had a head’s up that morning,” she said.
“Trigger Warning” itself is a story about 10 years in the making.
Turner, who was at Virginia Tech in 2007 when a shooter attacked the school, was already involved in activism before she came to Atlanta. It wasn’t until she heard a friend’s tale about being pistol-whipped at Grant Park that she found her calling.
“It was one of those lighting-flash epiphany moments when I realized I had been doing all this work about violence in my former community, but I hadn’t thought about what my responsibility was to help stories come to light in my now-community,” Turner said. “Things happen to people every day. Maybe some things, they end up on the news, but most of them wind up being covered up and swept under the rug.”
She said community healing occurs when these stories are told aloud, allowing people to identify with one another and come together.
“I’ve seen it happen time and time again when someone has the courage and offers their own vulnerability, and six people come forward to them and say, ‘This exact same thing happened to me,’ and a new tribe is formed,” Turner said. “I wanted to provide a public forum for these kinds of stories, and I knew I wanted it to be a spectrum of encounters with trauma and violence.”
Courtney said it’s important for Atlantans to come hear these tales because she believes stories are what motivate people.
“We are motivated to do something different or examine ourselves or embrace ‘other’ through story,” she said. “We see each other’s skin color, each other’s rainbow flags and bumper stickers. But when we open our mouths and tell someone who we are, we see a little bit of each other.”