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BC2 2019 speaker profile: Michelle “Mush” Lee on the deeper connections across our lives

“Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.”
― Chimamanda Adichie

I am a storyteller. I am a poet. I am a stepmother and birthmother. I am a cultural movement worker and healing-informed activist, whose commitment is to an embodied ethic of justice and joy, wherever I am invited in.

As a child of voluntary immigrants—as New World and Old Country—I understand the particular experience of being neither here nor there; of being immigrant and poor, woman and artist of color, Hip Hop and Orthodox, revolutionary and merciful. Like many of those I’ve had the privilege of serving and speaking with during my tenure as a storyteller and organizational leader, I, too, have felt trapped between the Hyphen that says brown skin is culturally, here. And not. My story is my gift.

As a poet, business woman and anti-racist trainer, I’ve traveled the country designing story-based experiences for organizations committed to advancing social justice at home, and abroad. I’ve listened to stories from executive directors, new mothers and freshly minted-teenagers. No matter where I go or where I am invited in, the unifying narrative is this:

We, as humans, are yearning for deeper connections across all areas of our lives.

Art, but poetry and oral storytelling, in particular, have a magical way of drawing people in close, almost instantly. The time is ripe. Creative narratives, but as well, the pedagogical imperatives by which a story is lifted, shown and held out for the world, must urgently honor the progressive cultural movement of the moment; a movement compelled by an ethic of redemptive love and belonging. And for those among us who have committed our lives to creating courageous structures of healing, connection and service, we must rally around new strategies for how best to tell the true and whole story of our lives.

Michelle will be a keynote speaker at BC2 2019, discussing how best to tell the story of our lives. A recent Harvard University, Project Zero Fellow, Mush is frequently a featured speaker on spoken word and hip hop pedagogies, racial justice and women of color in leadership.


BC2 2019 speaker profile: Marissa Louie & Why Diversity Matters in Storytelling

“It wasn’t necessarily glamorous or something that I wanted to brag about to my friends. But I thought, this is me, this is what I care about,” said Marissa Louie (‘05 Interdisciplinary Studies — Business, Economics, & IEOR) about her plan to drop everything to become a stuffed animal entrepreneur.

Marissa thought the toy industry was ready for something new. From her perspective, it hasn’t changed much in the past 100+ years, especially in the area of stuffed toys. For example, the design for the teddy bear has essentially stayed the same since 1902. So, Marissa thought, what if she could design them better? What if she could give people a good reason to want more of them?

Young student with collection of stuffed animals standing with the Campanile in the background

Marissa Louie (‘05 Interdisciplinary Studies — Business, Economics, & IEOR) is shaking up the toy industry by embracing diversity as the core element of her brand.

One area where Marissa thought toys could improve was in the area of storytelling. She recalled back to when she was a little girl playing with her own stuffed animals, and how the themes of many of her stories included friendship, cooperation, empathy, justice, and equality. Marissa thought by including these themes in the storytelling of her new toys, that she could help kids embrace those who are different, and open their minds to the possibilities of who they could become in the future.

Additionally, Marissa thought the message of diversity was really important for the toy industry specifically. In an industry where the majority of end consumers are women — our moms, sisters, aunts, and grandmas — the top 36 toy companies all have CEOs that are men.

“So, that’s a problem,” said Marissa. “At the fundamental root of that is why so many girls are asking for different kinds of toys now that appeal to them. They are saying ‘Hey, I want to be an engineer too; I want to be a designer too; I want to be CEO; I want to be president.’ And so until we change [this industry] little girls can’t see themselves in these roles. They can’t tell those stories to themselves of what to do.”

Marissa will be a keynote speaker at BC2 2019, discussing why diversity matters in storytelling. Her stuffed toys, the Animoodles have won top toy industry awards including Amazon’s Best Selling Stuffed Animals and Toys in December 2018, Dr. Toy’s Top 10 Toys of 2018, Women In Toys Rising Star 2019, and Mojo Nation’s 100 Most Influential Figures in Toy and Game Design.

This excerpt was taken from the original post here.


SAVE THE DATE: BC2 2019 is June 4

Dear Campus Communication Leaders:

I am delighted to announce that the 8th annual Berkeley Communications Conference (BC2) will be held on June 4 at Moffitt Library (Level 5).

This year’s conference will be a full-day event of inspiring talks, resource-oriented sessions and networking.

I am so appreciative of three co-chairs who will be responsible for shaping the agenda and running the conference

Tiffany Grandstaff is the director of communications for the UC Berkeley Library. She leads a team of designers, writers and editors who unearth interesting and untold stories and dream up fun and creative ways to share the Library’s mission with the world. Prior to coming to Berkeley, Tiffany was the managing editor for presentation at The (San Jose) Mercury News.

Keith McAleer is the director of communications for the UC Berkeley Industrial Engineering and Operations Research department and for the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology in the College of Engineering. Keith’s specialties include writing, web development and graphic design. He leads teams of students who help him deliver story-focused communications and marketing campaigns. Before working at UC Berkeley, Keith organized political campaigns and led urban forestry nonprofit organizations.

Tina Risker is the “Web DJ” for UC Berkeley. She manages the Berkeley.edu gateway, Critic’s choice calendar, and the official campus Twitter feed: @UCBerkeley. She was a guest speaker at Stanford University’s first annual “Social-M Challenge” on digital campaign management and mobilizing collective thought. She’s passionate about persuasive technology and currently specializes in storytelling in the digital age.

Our co-chairs will work with UC Berkeley’s Chief Marketing Officer Ram Kapoor to create an engaging BC2 experience. Feel free to be in touch with Ram or any of the co-chairs with session suggestions or advice you might have as a seasoned BC2-er.

Finally, since there will be space limitations, please send Ram an email with any staff updates so we can ensure representation from your units.

HUGE thanks to the UC Berkeley Library for helping us continue our BC2 tradition.

Warm regards,

Diana