As a standard part of each issue, we plan to invite you into our archives. Remembering and retelling our history is a radical, rejuvenating act. It builds on a Sankofa practice that fuels our visioning.
We come from a long line of truth tellers. Among them is Baba John O’Neal, who passed just the month before the publication of this journal. In fact, it was Valentine’s Day, fitting for a man whose work as an organizer and theater-maker was fueled by his great love.
You can read more about Baba John here. One of my most vivid memories of him was the first time I heard his warm, deep voice lay out the framework of his Story Circle process at a national gathering more than a decade ago. This process has been foundational to my work ever since. It requires we practice equity by enacting it: sit in a circle, respect the right to tell the story, listen first.
“The story forms in the ear of the listener.” You, journal reader, are our listener.
Baba John also founded our longtime partner organization, Junebug Productions in New Orleans. So it feels fitting that as we celebrate his legacy, we lift up archives that reflect the reach of his work. One is a transcription of a Story Circle process I hosted in 2013, co-facilitated by John’s niece Shani Jamila, and organized in consultation with his daughter Wendi O’Neal. The other entry is an excerpt from an ethnographic study of DWB’s engagement in New Orleans in 2015-16, hosted by Junebug.
My favorite quote of Baba John’s is: The story forms in the ear of the listener. You, journal reader, are our listener. Thank you for completing these visions with your presence here, and for helping to keep Baba John, now a powerful ancestor, an active participant in the circle that connects past, present and future.