The Ex Fabula Fellows are a unique group, coming from various demographic backgrounds and career fields throughout the Milwaukee area. After going through 6 weeks of storytelling workshops together this fall, the Fellows are now hosting interactive conversations around the city.  Scientific research shows that storytelling has the unique ability to meaningfully connect people and create conditions for empathy, and the Fellows are leveraging the power of story to address some of the most pressing issues in the Greater Milwaukee area – segregation, economic, and racial inequality.

Last week, our Fellows told stories at the Martin Luther King Library for the MLK Day Celebration. Fellows shared personal stories on the theme of “Speaking Up/Speaking Out.” The audience, just as diverse as our 2nd cohort of Fellows, told stories of how they saw situations of injustice and took action.

I recently spoke with fellow Magda Peck about her experience in the fellowship program. Magda grew up in Philadelphia in an activist household where “we ate social justice for breakfast.” She’s lived in countless places around the country and abroad, in Mexico and Chile. So the question begs to be asked, why Milwaukee?

Peck on stage at the Perfect Storm StorySlam on December 14, 2016.

“I came to Milwaukee in 2012 after 20+ years in Omaha, NE, invited to be the Founding Dean of UWM’s Zilber School of Public Health,” Peck said. “I really came to Milwaukee to ask and answer, together: What will it take for Milwaukee to – once again – become the healthiest city in America?”

Magda was drawn to the Fellowship program because of the chance to tell stories. “I’ve been telling stories to advance the public’s health for a while. Perhaps a natural, I wanted to gain expertise and experience, in the company of others, to unleash the power of my stories.”

The great thing about the Ex Fabula Fellowship is that it is centered on inclusion, stories of power and change, stories that you might not otherwise hear or be able to tell.

Another fellow, Lisa Williams, told her first story at the Doors Open Milwaukee StorySlam back in September of 2016, is a Chicago native, but now serves in the nonprofit community in Milwaukee. In addition to being coached through her first story by storytelling coach, Karen Kolberg, who encouraged Lisa to apply for the fellowship, Lisa has had some other “firsts” recently in her life. At the age of 47 she learned to drive!

Lisa Williams at the Doors Open Milwaukee Story Slam.

Lisa is very passionate about ending homelessness, poverty and sexual abuse. Through the Fellowship, Lisa has discovered that she’s grown personally in her ability to engage and interact personally with white people, more than on a professional level. Her hope is that “storytelling gives people freedom to express who they are and how they feel in a safe, positive way in hopes of inspiring those that hear these stories.”

Next up for the Fellows is a Fellows & Facilitators series event on January 21, 2017, with the topic “White Fragility.” This event is free and open to the public. It will begin with stories from Ex Fabula Fellows  and then dive into small group dialogues sessions facilitated by the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion and a short workshop by SURJ (Standing Up for Racial Justice). Space is limited, registration is required.  You can register HERE.