Groundswell: Oral History for Social Change
Spring 2018 Six-Session Introductory Online Class

5:00 - 7:00 pm EST
May 14th - June 18th, 2018

Course Info  *  Instructor Bios *  Registration Info


Course Info

We are living in a time of great uncertainty. Our communities are confronting serious challenges around justice, opportunity and human rights. The recent US presidential election, the Brexit vote, Standing Rock, Charlottesville and many other events have made more visible stark divisions in our values and goals. How might oral history help us build the movements we need in this moment?

Groundswell: Oral History for Social Change knows that oral history and narrative can be used to promote equity and empathy that challenge oppression and racism. If you are looking for new ways to address social justice challenges in your work and community, the practice of community-based oral history can offer you important new insights and methods to further positive change.

Groundswell is offering a six-session online class, introducing participants to oral history for social change and movement building. This class will provide you with skills and insights needed to build projects that incorporate oral history and narrative in order to advance justice, build empathy, and move social justice projects forward. Participants will learn about how narrative and oral history methods are being used to build alliances, center marginalized voices and identify real strategies for change. In this introductory class you will learn basic skills needed to do community-based, anti-oppression oral history.

Each class is two hours long and includes time for group discussion on the week's theme. Participants will be provided access to a recording of each class as well as a private FaceBook group for connecting with each other, sharing resources and between class conversation. Weekly course readings encourage a deeper exploration of the material. Topics covered include:

  • The basics of oral history for social change
  • Developing a community-based oral history project
  • Ethics and anti-oppression in oral history
  • How to develop an effective interview
  • Oral history technology
  • What happens after the interview

The course outline will give you a sense of the kind of material covered. A full syllabus with details on class assignments and readings will be shared with registered participants in advance of the first class.

This class is ideal for community organizers, cultural workers, activists, artists and others looking to design and implement a community based, social justice focused project that uses oral history and narrative as building blocks.

Instructor Bios

With Alisa Del Tufo of Groundswell and Threshold Collaborative as the lead instructor, 5 of the 6 sessions will also have a guest instructor. Each guest instructor was chosen because of their unique experience and understanding of the focus of that session. 


Alisa Del Tufo, the class's lead instructor, has been using oral history to strengthen empathy and generate action for social justice for over 25 years. She founded Threshold Collaborative in 2007. Threshold works around the country with a focus on racial and gender justice, most recently focusing on how oral history can be used as a way to generate healing, reconciliation and justice. She has been a Revson, Rockefeller and Ashoka Fellow. As a founding member of Groundswell she is committed to sharing the experience and insights of using oral history in creative and inspiring ways with others dedicated to making the world more just. 


Benji de la Piedra (OHMA 2014) is an oral historian and writer living in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he is documenting the childhood and African American community life of Washington Post journalist Herbert H. Denton Jr. In 2016, Benji was a Historical Dialogue and Accountability Fellow at Columbia’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. After graduating from OHMA, Benji received the program’s Jeffrey H. Brodsky Oral History Thesis Prize for his elaboration of democratic pluralism and the dialogical encounter in oral history and the writings of Ralph Ellison. Benji recently worked as Oral History Trainer and Volunteer Coordinator for the DC Oral History Collaborative in his hometown of Washington, D.C., and has consulted for community-based oral history projects in New York City and Hot Springs, North Carolina. Along with Mario Alvarez (OHMA 2015), Benji is Co-Founder, Co-Director, and Co-Lead Interviewer of the Columbia Life Histories Project.


Gabriel Solis is the Executive Director of the Texas After Violence Project (TAVP), a human rights and restorative justice project that engages oral history to study the effects of interpersonal and state violence on individuals, families, and communities. Prior to returning to TAVP in 2016, where he previously served as Project Coordinator and Associate Director, Gabriel Daniel Solis worked as a post-conviction mitigation investigator for the Texas Office of Capital and Forensic Writs. Gabriel was also a policy researcher at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and coordinator of the Rule of Law Oral History Project at Columbia University. He has conducted research on policing, mass incarceration, the death penalty, and the impacts of violence and trauma on families and communities. He received a B.A. in Philosophy and M.A. in Mexican American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.


Fernanda Espinosa is an oral historian and cultural organizer based in New York and Quito, Ecuador. She has been generating, listening, and interpreting oral histories to inform creative public interventions that aspire to act as platforms for resistance and dialogue. She was one of twelve national Smithsonian Latino Museum Studies fellows and holds a Masters degree in Oral History from Columbia University and a double BA in Anthropology and Literature in Spanish. Fernanda co-founded and coordinates Cooperativa Cultural 19 de enero (CC 1/19), an art and oral history collaboration with visual artist Raul Ayala. She also co-founded People’s Collective Arts/Colectivo de Arte Popular, a recipient of the Robert Rauschenberg Artists as Activist award.


Helix Chase, is an independent video artist and a cord wrangler (read: Tech Manager) for the Media Mobilizing Project and served for several years as Philadelphia Coordinator for the Transgender Oral History Project. Helyx is passionate about storytelling as a means to draw connections within and between communities. Their video art is built by about and for televisions and computers. Helyx holds a B.A. from Hampshire College where they studied Video, Activism and Youth Development.   


Sarah K. Loose is Groundswell's co-founder. Sarah is a popular educator, oral historian, and community organizer based in Portland, Oregon. Sarah first fell in love with the power and practice of oral history when facilitating a two-year, community-based oral history project with popular educators in Santa Marta, El Salvador.  In the years since, she has organized for economic, racial and environmental justice alongside rural progressives, immigrants, people of faith, and low-income workers in Washington and Oregon. Currently, Sarah works as an organizer with the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice and co-directs Amamantar y Migrar, an independent oral history/organizing project that explores the impacts of immigration policy and enforcement on breastfeeding practices among Latinx immigrant parents. From 2011-2015, she directed Rural Organizing Voices. Sarah studied at Yale (B.A., History) and Columbia (M.A., Oral History).

Registration Info

Registration Deadline: Friday, May 11th

Slots are limited and available first come, first serve.
Registration Fee: $140 for Groundswell members / $175 for non-members.

Eventbrite - Fall 2017 Groundswell: Oral History for Social Change Introductory Course

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