Storytelling as Peacebuilding and the 2016 Charleston Tells Storytelling Festival

In light of the Mother Emanuel massacre, Charleston County Public Library (CCPL) is undertaking a series of events to engage the community in a larger discussion of racial equity, social justice, and healing. Leading up to the 2016 Charleston Tells Storytelling Festival , CCPL presented two programs featuring the President of the International Storytelling Center, Kiran Singh Sirah. Focusing on the theme of “Storytelling as Peacebuilding,” he gave a presentation to the general public in Charleston and hosted a workshop with teens to help them give a voice to their experiences and to educate the ways in which the power of stories can both engage and heal communities. SC Humanities supported this project with a Fast Track Literary Grant in November 2015.

“Storytelling is leveraged to address the entire spectrum of conflicts inhibiting peace,” says Sirah. “From our work with diplomats and military leaders to classrooms, communities and individuals, we help architects of peace use stories as a foundation for effective communication to bridge divisions and connect people through their shared humanity.”

Sirah’s public presentation, “Telling Stories that Matter: Cultivating Community through Story,” took place at the Main Library on the evening of February 5, 2016 and explored the role of storytelling as a tool for conflict prevention, community development and social change. Earlier that afternoon, he hosted a three-hour workshop with juniors and seniors at Burke High School, which gave students the opportunity to work under Sirah’s direction to craft and tell their own stories—some of which will be shared at the Charleston Tells Storytelling Festival, taking place on March 11 – 12, 2016.

Recognizing the power of stories, CCPL, through its commitment to serve the varied needs of all county residents, hosts an extensive number of storytelling programs throughout the year. The goal of Charleston Tells is to promote and share the art of storytelling with people in the Lowcountry by hosting an annual Festival. CCPL is compelled to promote storytelling since this traditional performance art form supports and builds community identity, promotes literacy, and encourages the sharing of unique cultures, all of which align with CCPL’s Mission and Vision.

The only storytelling Festival in the area, this is a very special event that adds to the rich tapestry of experiences available to county residents and cultural tourists alike. Given the abundance of arts-related programming in Charleston County, this area acts as a cultural district, attracting visitors and enriching locals’ lives; Charleston Tells Storytelling Festival adds to the rich diversity of arts experiences which are integral to health, vibrancy, and vitality of our community.

For more information about the Charleston County Public Library and the upcoming Charleston Tells Storytelling Festival, visit their website at:

The mission of SC Humanities is to enrich the cultural and intellectual lives of all South Carolinians. Established in 1973, this 501(c) 3 organization is governed by a volunteer 22-member Board of Directors comprised of community leaders from throughout the state. It presents and/or supports literary initiatives, lectures, exhibits, festivals, publications, oral history projects, videos and other humanities-based experiences that directly or indirectly reach more than 250,000 citizens annually.