Storyburgh hosts “Demilitarized Zone” for negotiating viewpoints in conflict | Pittsburgh City Paper

Storyburgh hosts “Demilitarized Zone” for negotiating viewpoints in conflict

click to enlarge Storyburgh hosts “Demilitarized Zone” for negotiating viewpoints in conflict
Courtesy of Storyburgh
Children share their Pittsburgh stories during "Parrots, Pierogies and Potholes: Stories for Real," a summer camp initiative cohosted last summer by Storyburgh and the Allegheny Center Allicance Church.

Storyburgh founder Will Halim says today’s civic landscape has become “sad and scary.”

While many instinctively fight back against the hostility by projecting their viewpoints with increased fervor, Halim believes this is ultimately counter-productive. His Pittsburgh-based storytelling initiative is attempting a different route forward.

On Thursday, Storyburgh will host a storytelling forum where the online and in-person audience will be exposed to a variety of cultural and political viewpoints. But, unlike the Moth, from where the model was adapted, the Demilitarized Zone shifts the emphasis from the performer to the listener.

Before the speakers take the stage, Halim says, he will prep the audience with deep breathing exercises and other prompts encouraging a posture of “active story listening.”

Storytelling coaches Pamela Monk and Kay Bey will be on hand throughout the evening, while emcee Leeann Shaw Younger will keep the schedule flowing.

Collectively, Halim says, story themes include “stories of origin,” “interfaith dating,” “rethinking privilege,” and “resistance, resilience, and resolve.”

An Indonesian native and work-from-home-dad, Halim is one of the scheduled speakers.

The sought-after outcome, he says, is not necessarily to justify all positions, “we just want to hear them.”

“Everything can trigger anyone,” Halim says. “So we want to craft this event as a demilitarized zone, so that, just like if you go to [the DMZ in] Korea, you know that you go into that room unarmed.”

A not-for-profit venture, Storyburgh was, according to its mission statement, founded in 2015 to “give voice to marginalized populations by telling their underreported stories and enable organizational stakeholders to visualize and understand the causes they serve.”

The group creates digital content for other nonprofits and hosts community programming that help give voice to underrepresented voices.

Halim's expectations are modest in terms of how far Thursday's event will go toward healing a fractured nation.

“Is this the solution? I don’t think so,” he says. “Is this part of the solution? Probably.”


The Demilitarized Zone. 7-9 p.m. Thu., Sept. 1. Cityview Church. 816 Tripoli St., North Side. storyburgh.org



This story was updated at 2.15 p.m. on Aug. 29 to correct an error about the date of Storyburgh's founding, which was in 2015, not 2017.

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