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Two Pups to the Rescue

Friday, March 23, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jacki Presnal
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For Rachel Egboro, discovering her calling was anything but expected.

She had been working in early literacy when she became interested in podcasts. Her interest led her to start attending storytelling events, where she found herself becoming a part of the storytelling community as an audience member. That was, until someone entered her into a storytelling competition.

“I had no intention of being a part of the show but the person I was dating at the time decided that I needed to be, so he put my name down,” Egboro said.

Once she realized she’d have to tell a story on stage, she began jotting down notes about a family story she’d been telling for years. Ultimately, the story won her the competition.

“I was like, ‘OK, maybe there’s something to this,’” Egboro said.

Her success at the competition led her to
take a class on storytelling and to begin producing The Storyline Slam event series with veteran storyteller Dan Hull, but she continued to want to do more.

After about four years of producing that event and others, Egboro was still searching for her niche. “I was telling my story but I felt like there was more that I could do or there was an angle that I had that I wasn’t using yet,” she said.

Egboro gained inspiration from the divisive political climate at the time, hoping to find a more positive reaction to recent police brutality cases, political protests and shootings.

“The events of 2015, 2016 happened, and these events have been happening a lot, but they just became more apparent during those years with protests, forums, a shooting, a hashtag, another hashtag, the first and last name of an individual who had been shot,” she said. “There was just a lot of fear. I was afraid, and I didn’t think that was the reaction we needed.”

Egboro decided to find a way to use her passion for storytelling to facilitate conversations and unite community members, but initially didn’t envision herself leading the initiative.

“I said, ‘We need to have an ongoing conversation where we can see each other’s humanity and connect on a level beyond the skin.’ So I thought, well, I’m a storyteller and I’m black — what about a black storytelling show? People can hear stories from black people and see themselves in the stories, even if they don’t see a similarity physically,” she said. “I talked to people about starting this and said, ‘You should start this; you would be
great. I could do it with you but you’re the one that’s connected. You’re the one that has a platform,’ and they were like ‘No, Rachel, you need to lead it.’”

Egboro decided to move forward, creating her live storytelling show, “The Whole Story,” which expands black narratives through the sharing of personal stories. At the beginning of 2017, Egboro hosted her first event at the Phoenix Art Museum during the last Friday of the Kehinde Wiley exhibit.

What she imagined as a small, one-time event became a hit, and is now a quarterly feature at the museum. “The crowd was a rainbow, which was my goal for all people to come to this show,” she said. “Even though the stories were from the black perspective, that was really important. We’re not just preaching to the choir.”

The storytellers featured at her events vary from people she’s met through work or church, or those who reach out to her after learning about the show. They’re poets and teachers and many have never publicly shared their stories.

Through the show, Egboro is building communities of storytellers and audience members, what she calls her “frequent fliers,” which she continues to grow.

“‘The Whole Story’ is my business now,” she said. “I’m growing that and getting opportunities to help people tell better stories about themselves at different events that they’re doing across the Valley, and eventually across the nation.”

In the process, she’s connecting listeners and lives, one story at a time.

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