TOMODACHI Story Jam Participants Showcased Disability Advocacy Story Videos
On November 11, 2022, TOMODACHI Story Jam for Youth with Disabilities concluded its 9-week, from September to November, digital storytelling and youth leadership program that brought together five Japanese and five American college students and young professionals with disabilities to collectively explore their experiences of breaking down barriers.
The program culminated in screening the youth’s 5-minute advocacy story videos at a final event, and the youths reflected on their program experience. They shared their thoughts on how they will use their new leadership, storytelling, and advocacy skills in the future.
When asked about their favorite part of Story Jam, one of the storytellers, Taylor Carley, said: “My experience was awesome! I made friends, and I learned about all your stories! My advocacy was the topic of my story, but how do I tell it? I wanted to tell it in 3rd person, but then I saw other Story Jam participants and thought, “I get it!” I used 1st person to talk about how I ever used my voice [to advocate] for the first time, and I think it’s great. I am thankful for TOMODACHI – I love everything about Story Jam!”
“I applied for Story Jam because I don’t want to give up on relationships with people because of my disability. The relationships are not just mine but ‘ours.’ The most important realization I’ve gained through this program is that I need a good advocate to accomplish self-advocacy. I can’t make it only by myself. Thank you very much.” said Kiina Wakiyama, storyteller.
Steven Rose, Director for Business Strategy for Northrop Grumman Japan, remarked: “Today has been very educational and inspirational. The stories were so vibrant and real. We are proud to sponsor this program and events like these. We want to support young people like you. All of you have overcome society’s obstacles. I have a sincere wish that you will change your communities. For both Japan and America, we have talent and courage amongst us, and we can build something together. I do look forward to sharing your stories. Thank you again for developing the next generation of leaders, and we wish you luck with your future endeavors.”
Miko Sawamura, the president of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Sacramento Chapter, noted: “Since its founding in 1929, the Sacramento Japanese American Citizens League chapter continues to support civil rights and cultural heritage of Japanese Americans and all citizens as well. We serve our area’s social and political needs of the Nikkei, the Japanese diaspora. With this mission, we are proud to co-sponsor TOMODACHI Story Jam, which supports brilliant young leaders like you. Your storytelling today was so powerful and touching. Watching your videos and listening to your stories – I feel inspired and motivated to continue to realize our chapter’s mission and ensure that persons with disabilities are included in all that we do. Thank you, and best wishes to everyone.”
2022 TOMODACHI Story Jam for Youth with Disabilities is supported by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NGC) and the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Sacramento Chapter, and implemented by the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston in partnership with StoryCenter.