Section: News

Middle Path Voices digitizes students’ personal narratives

by Henri Gendreau

While multimedia the hot new thing in journalism today, the trend has mostly escaped the Kenyon bubble. Until now, that is.

Middle Path Voices, the brainchild of Wanufi Teshome ’16, is a platform for students to share personal stories through video.

“I wanted to create a platform where people could tell their stories and it would belong to them at each point of the story,” Teshome said. “You get sick of going to Dessert and Discussions and being like, ‘I’m poor.’ ‘I’m a woman.’ ‘Listen to me.’ You feel like you’re using your life as a way to sort of get people to understand the world. I didn’t want to do that with this.”

The first two videos, released last Wednesday on Middle Path Voices’ YouTube channel, feature Sierra DeLeon ’14 and Tim Jurney ’15. Two more videos featuring Jae June Lee ’17 and Reina Thomas ’14 will be released in the coming days.

While lauding the Project for Open Voices (POV) for its narrative model, Teshome said the publication can be restrictive in some ways.

“I felt like the drawback was that they just became nameless stories,” Teshome said, especially when negative commentators could deride anonymous essays. But with the videos, “You’d be accountable to a face,” she said.

The first two videos combined garnered more than 800 views as of Tuesday evening, with some traffic presumably driven by a Thrill article about them.

In DeLeon’s video, she talks about how when people would “tiptoe” around race, it would make it a more pronounced part of her identity.

“There are those people who think that whenever you mention the word ‘black’ it’s like, ‘You’re being racist! That’s inappropriate!’ and I’ll be like, ‘Well, what if it’s just true?’” she said.

“I just want to be me on this campus,” she adds. “I wish that people weren’t afraid to get to know me on that level and I wish that people didn’t impose identity upon me.”

Jurney, who talked about his past experience with eating disorders in a Middle Path Voices video, said that when he came out as gay in high school a reaction that was “exceedingly common was, ‘Oh, you have an eating disorder. Is it because you’re gay?’”

The unscripted video narratives have the potential to offer a raw look into students’ personal lives. Jurney said those interested in sharing a story should “remember that it’s not an outlet for people who’ve had it hard.” “It’s an outlet for anyone and everyone to share any narrative that they want,” he said.

Teshome, who will be studying off-campus next semester, hopes that with Jurney’s help, Middle Path Voices can gather narratives and release more videos in the spring, describing this semester’s release as “the first episode of the test pilot.”

DeLeon said Middle Path Voices “taught me that I do have a story that I take for granted everyday and everyone has a story they take for granted everyday.” By sticking yourself out there, you’re telling other people that it’s OK for them to stick themselves out there too.”



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