Streetside Conversations reflects on conversations past and present as we ring in the new year and bring on a new team.
This year, our writers wrestled with complicated and timely topics.
In the face of injustice worldwide, we considered the path of civil disobedience. As polarization and violence persist, we shared stories about reconciliation and peacemaking. As climate change and environmental degradation create a more volatile world — especially for the vulnerable — we wrote about disaster recovery. And most recently, we considered how to exercise self care in a time when noise is abundant and attention in short supply.
These stories share a common thread: while engaging big issues, they usually start at a personal, relational level. This attention to relationships — how we place ourselves, our homes, and the people we know and meet into larger narratives — is foundational to what Streetside Conversations is all about. Even in a globalized society, everyday interactions matter as much as ever before.
In his essay “A Native Hill” about returning home to live in Kentucky, the author Wendell Berry describes the power of intimately knowing and reflecting on his own context:
“When I have thought of the welfare of the earth, the problems of its health and preservation, the care of its life, I have had this place before me, the part representing the whole more vividly and accurately, making clearer and more pressing demands, than any idea of the whole.”
Two years ago, Streetside Conversations was created by a group of young people led by Johanna Depenthal and Cyanea Poon. At SC we strive to represent “the whole” through vivid reflections and stories on “the part” — the personal narratives our international contributors share about their experiences. Our founders recognized that the conversations that touch us and bring us together happen on street corners between family, neighbors, or strangers. While embracing the local, SC has grown into a global community and includes writers and readers on nearly every continent and in over 30 countries.
At Streetside Conversations, we invite everyone (writers and viewers alike) to ask the question: What does it mean for you to practice justice today, in your home community and social context?
We’ve been moved by Ashley’s experience working with an organization in Thailand to combat human trafficking. We’ve been challenged by Faye’s critique of race and ethnicity in children’s picture books. We’ve been inspired by Orlando’s reflections on making mental health accessible in his work as a school counselor. And we’ve been instructed by many, many more.
We also believe in the power of stories to create mental and physical pathways to action. As Berry wrote, particular contexts have clear and pressing demands on us. Stories elicit a response. And ultimately this response unfolds in particular places and communities. Berry notes:
“Action — embodied thought— requires local and communal reference.”
At Streetside Conversations, we think that just as living is a communal act, so writing should be communal — written from and for a community, whether both groups are the same or different. Heading into the new year, we will continue featuring stories about relevant issues, written from different places and perspectives around the world, all ultimately aimed at sparking action.
As we carry these conversations into a new decade, welcoming 2020 also brings a significant transition for Streetside Conversations. As Johanna and Cyanea, the co-founders and longtime leaders of Streetside Conversations, shared in their last piece, they are pursuing other callings and stepping away from their current roles at SC. Now they are entrusting this site, and the many stories it contains, to new hands. And it’s about time we introduce ourselves:
- Elisabeth Stringer is SC’s outreach coordinator. As a writer and anthropologist based near Chicago, she’s passionate about finding great stories and helping people tell them.
- Sarah Holcomb will now lead the editorial team. Based in Washington D.C., she studied journalism and now works at the intersection of writing and social impact. She loves collaborating with writers to present their ideas in clear, compelling, challenging ways.
We are beyond grateful for the opportunity to lead SC. We hope that you will join us, or continue to accompany us, into this new season of Streetside Conversations.
As we begin, we want to know: what conversations should we be having? What stories or perspectives are being overlooked? How might we provide a space for you or someone you know to contribute?
Wishing you peace and joy in the new year.
Sarah and Elisabeth