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A Way Out of No Way

For centuries in parts of West Africa, the Griot {GREE-oh} has been the keeper of story and culture. As storytellers/writers on this project, we became Marinship griots. We were responsible for bringing to life the stories of our four heroes who lived and  in San Francisco and Marin City and worked at Marinship as welders during World War II: Mrs. Rodessa Battle, Mr. Joseph James, Rev. Leon Samuels and Mrs. Annie Small.

As is true for so many other Americans in communities all over the country, their stories are missing from the domineering culture. Our research involved digging deeper, synthesizing the skewed, dense historical content with what little we could find on our characters. Audio and video interviews, articles, books and a children's play written about the era became valuable resources. This is a pilot project, using VR in this way to teach history, and has never been done before. This required that we design a way of working and document our process carefully to become a model for others.

In less than two weeks, young Creatives in the Storytelling track researched, revised and produced content for three narrations, one dialog and two monologues. This pilot process has taught us that once the story is developed—in collaboration with the other tracks—then Soundtrack responds to the story and VR delivers the story. We are all proud to contribute to telling these untold stories, to show the world how our four black American heroes did their part in the war effort. In spite of racial discrimination and misogyny, they made a way out of no way.

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