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‘Roxbury Roots’ provides space for community storytelling

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
‘Roxbury Roots’ provides space for community storytelling
PHOTO: NIKOLAI ALEXANDER

On Saturday, Jan. 14 at 6:30 p.m., Hibernian Hall in Nubian Square will come alive with the age-old sound of storytelling. “Roxbury Roots II: You Don’t Know My Story,” is the second of these live storytelling events, designed to bring the community together and foster connectivity.

“Roxbury Roots” was born during lunch dates between Hibernian Hall Artistic Director Haris Lefteri and Madison Park Development Corporation Health Equity and Wellness Manager Leslie Stafford. Over lunch at Dudley Café, the two friends told stories and found the experience a cathartic escape from the everyday. They decided to bring that sense of relief and connection to the greater community.

PHOTO: NIKOLAI ALEXANDER

“It goes back to the idea of telling stories around the campfire. That’s as old as humanity. It’s part of our nature to come together and tell stories,” says Lefteri. “Hibernian Hall is the home of Roxbury’s Black culture. ‘Roxbury Roots’ aims to bring those stories to life by going back to the roots of the African oral tradition.”

Interested storytellers can reach out to Lefteri, or in some cases are recruited by her, and get together for a casual meet-and-greet before the event. Aside from that, the stories are raw and unrehearsed, bringing an intimate feel to the gathering. Community members can buy tickets to attend the event and hear stories while connecting with their neighbors. All proceeds from ticket sales will go towards charity, with the specific cause to be determined.

Connectivity is an important piece here, but so is collective memory. As Roxbury grows and changes, telling stories keeps the neighborhood’s history alive. “Roxbury is the heart of culture in Boston, and everywhere in Roxbury there is a lot of history,” says Lefteri. “Without listening to those stories, without learning from them, there’s no way we can really build our future. To know yourself and to know your present is to know and understand your past.”

PHOTO: NIKOLAI ALEXANDER

The first iteration of the event was hosted in late August 2022 and was a great success. As the program grows, Lefteri says, she and Stafford are playing around with ideas for an open-mic portion at the end of the program where anyone can speak. They also hope to allow other forms of expression, for example music, as long as the aim is to tell a story. But even with such tweaks, the series will always speak to the basic human desire to bond with others over shared experiences.

“The sense of closeness, of community, of coming together and not judging each other, of intimacy — these are things that as a society, unfortunately, we are losing as technology has taken over our lives,” says Lefteri. “’Roxbury Roots’ is a reminder of keeping things as human as possible and as real as possible.”

Those interested in telling a story at the upcoming event can reach out to Haris Lefteri at hlefteri@madison-park.org.

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