Hear stories of Christmas, Thanksgiving, and more. at our Storytellers event
Every day at Statesman, we do our best to share the stories of our community. This year, under the leadership of Nell Seiler Carroll, Director of the Austin Storytellers Project, we created a new platform to help our community members share their own stories. Carroll, a longtime cinematographer, left the Statesman after this event.
Our three previous Storytellers evenings have been warm and wonderful. Storytellers from all walks of life took to the stage to share personal anecdotes of triumph and tragedy, family and friendship, delicious food and unexpected relationships. We laughed. We cried. And we came away with a deeper sense of our common humanity.
The final installment of our series will take place at 7 p.m. on November 16 at the Spiderhouse Ballroom. This time the theme is holidays.
For Stephanie Bergara, lead singer of the award-winning Selena tribute band Bidi Bidi Banda, Thanksgiving has always edged out Christmas as the best winter holiday. “To me, Thanksgiving means something different than what history has written,” she says. “It’s about family and hope.”
Inspired by his parents and son, his story explores how “thanksgiving and family time can shift and change as a person ages, but the intention and love behind the day” comes back always at home.
Family was also top of mind for longtime sports columnist Cedric Golden as he tackled the project. “My father passed away in 2016 and over the next few months I thought about our relationship. The ups. The downs,” he says.
Golden grew up in East Texas with a dad who “wasn’t always the most approachable, but he was a good provider who did enough dad stuff to pass the grade,” he says. One Christmas, the young Golden decided to celebrate his old man with a bottle of drugstore cologne, and it became a favorite family story.
“Holidays often bring out the best in each of us and that has always been the case with my parents,” he says.
Writer, teacher and lay minister, Simone Monique Barnes considers the arts her first language. She teaches Laughter and Afro-Flow yoga and takes on her role “as an aunt in my professional and personal life, raising the children in my family and in my community,” she says.
The community is at the center of her story about a Kwanzaa celebration that helped her change her perspective during a difficult time in her life.
“Healthy traditions from our childhood, if we adopt them, can sustain us in a healthy adult life,” she says. “In my case, I knew that Kwanzaa celebrations are something that nourishes me, even when I (wasn’t) sure what nourishment I needed.”
With her story, “Latkepalooza,” Statesman Growth and Development reporter Sarah Asch also taps into the lore of her childhood.
“Every year, on my mother’s side, the family organizes a latke cooking contest for Hanukkah,” she says. “It started when I was about 8 and has continued more or less every year since minus the pandemic.”
Over the years, she understood how tradition forged a bond with her family and her culinary culture. Now she tries to keep the tradition alive in her adult life. “There’s no right way to celebrate the holidays,” she says. “Family traditions may feel different to you at different times in your life, but they are always important.”
As the spooky season draws to a close, Raymond Borrega recounts the lessons he learned when his family moved in next door to someone believed to be a witch. “Most of our fears are self-imposed,” he says, adding that “most of us see what we want to see.”
And finally, with her story “Halfway to Death,” screenwriter, playwright, and actress Christine Hoang creates her own vacation during an amazing weekend in New York City with high school friends.
“I hope my MIDDLE coming of age story will resonate with the curious adventurer in all of us,” she says.
We invite you to come, laugh, cry and join us in community as these storytellers invite us into their lives.
“We live in curious times and people in many circles have forgotten how to be nice to each other,” Golden says. “Sometimes a simple feel-good story is a reminder that common decency matters.”
If You Go: Austin Storytellers Project
When: 7 p.m. November 16
Where: The Spiderhouse Ballroom, 2906 Fruth St.