People of color share stories of love through justice in ‘11 Days of Love Stories’

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Behind the scenes of

Behind the scenes of "11 Days of Love Stories." (Love Now Media)

Many annual events in Philadelphia are making a comeback now that COVID restrictions are easing. And one of the city’s premiere multi-day storytelling events is going strong, now through June 24.

“11 Days of Love Stories” prioritizes experiences of people of color through broadcasts, short documentaries, and live events. This year, there’s a focus on love at the center of social justice and wellness movements.

WHYY “Morning Edition” host Jennifer Lynn recently caught up with Jos Duncan, “11 Days” producer and chief storyteller, and asked how she prompts people to share their stories about love.

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One good prompt is: When was the last time you witnessed an act of love?

Oh, when did that happen for you?

The last time I witnessed an act of love? Hmm, this morning.

That’s good!

I made time for someone who I mentor who was in a bit of distress. I made 15 minutes to just listen to her and to offer her support. That felt like an act of love.

I’m sure. Yeah, definitely. Time is one of the great things we can give each other. Jos, the stories we learn about through this series of live and virtual and broadcast events touch on many topics: loneliness, faith, money, mental health, and justice. Love is part of many things.

The scope of love is very broad. It’s about connection. It’s about empathy. It’s about humanity. For someone who has been struggling with depression during the pandemic, waking up could be an act of love. We really want to take this theme of love and make it very accessible, hopefully that will serve as a lifeline to folks who may be really struggling to figure out, “Where do I start with rebuilding? Where do I start with reconnecting?”

Yeah, a lot of us are still really processing what’s happened in the last year: the pandemic, the protests, so much of a public outcry for social justice. And one event is called “Faith, Love & Justice.” This is a broadcast you worked on with faith leaders. How are they included in this?

Yeah. During that broadcast we really talked to them about what it meant to be a faith leader during this time. I think often, when we think about activism and advocacy, we think about politicians. But a lot of people lean into their faith, and faith leaders have a lot of influence in communities. So we wanted to talk to them about what kinds of resources they pulled together during the pandemic, and what kind of work needs to be done and how faith plays a role: whether it’s faith in a system, or faith in rebuilding our communities and structures that folks are working to dismantle and reenvision, or faith and a religious sense. How does all of that play into the next chapter of rebuilding or reenvisioning our world?

You are the person behind Love Now Media, which has a wonderful website where you engage people to talk about love. How does the site work as a resource?

On our platform, the website, we invite people to share love stories. We publish those love stories with a documentary series. We called on folks who weren’t necessarily filmmakers. We asked the question, “What does love look like in the context of justice?” And our team worked with them to produce these beautiful, short documentaries. They’re all about five to seven minutes long. And those stories touch on some of these issues that are presented over the 11 days. They’re mental health workers, people who have found a new way to view life after a criminal conviction, there’s a young man who did a yoga protest throughout the activism last year. This is how these community members view love.

With so many of us feeling isolated in the last year-plus, people can be very hungry for those kinds of exchanges.

Yeah, of course. There’s the unfortunate side of the need to balance everything that’s been going on: what people are calling the “double pandemics” of COVID-19 and this like transparency around how much racial injustice there actually has been. But I feel empowered, and I think the folks who have been working with me and contributing to Love Now Media’s work are also empowered, by knowing that the idea of love poses potential solutions to some of these problems.

Well, this is really wonderful, and I’m really glad the program is back. I think it’s a treasure for Philadelphia. You’ve done some wonderful, wonderful work. Thank you.

Thank you so much.

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Jos Duncan is a multimedia producer, chief storyteller, and founder of Love Now Media, which uses storytelling to advocate for social justice and wellness. For more information about “11 Days of Love Stories,” including its live events. Go to LoveNowMedia.com.

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