Our standing forests are awe-inspiring, critical for our well-being and survival, and hold an untold number of tales. To honor our forests and the impact they have on all people’s lives, Dogwood Alliance hosted “Stories Happen in Forests” at Motorco in Durham to a standing room only crowd.
Eight amazing storytellers shared their inspiring stories around forest protection, community action, and human connection to wild places.
Gary Phillips, the poet laureate of Carrboro, kicked off the evening by sharing tales of his time in the Southern Appalachian woods with his Cherokee grandparents and how those experiences shaped him.
Scot Quaranda, the Communications Director at Dogwood Alliance, stood in for Cole and Kaela Rasenberger, and he shared their astounding story of organizing their elementary school to protect North Carolina forests and how it helped re-inspire him in his work.
Next up was Dr. Thomas RaShad Easley, forestry professor and Director of the Center for Community Diversity at North Carolina State University, who recalled how, while growing up in Birmingham, his grandparents fostered his connection to the earth. He then recounted how a tribal elder and dear friend in Michigan recently rekindled that connection.
Jodi Lasseter, the founder of the NC Climate Justice Summit and all around powerhouse, recalled how her spirit of activism and justice flowered in her youth from a deep knowledge that we all have the power to change the world.
Reverend Leo Woodberry of Florence, South Carolina, a national leader on environmental justice and climate change, closed the first set by telling the story of his first time in the woods visiting relatives in rural South Carolina after growing up in New York City.
TC Muhammad of the Hip Hop Caucus kicked off the second set with the powerful tale of finding his connection to nature in rural North Carolina as a child, losing it as a teenager in the big city, and rediscovering it as an adult working for justice.
Danna Smith, the Executive Director and co-founder of Dogwood Alliance, shared her story of how a direct action at the Port of Savannah to save the rainforests in Brazil reminded her how special and precious the forests of the South were. This experience launched her career to protect her home.
Margaux Escutin, a Durham local and Field Operations Director for Ward 2 Durham City Council candidate Levon Barnes, closed out the evening sharing a tale of how a near-death experience in a lightning storm on top of a mountain reminded her of her own powerful nature that not only saved her life but propelled her to greater callings.
Forests are our best hope for continued progress in fighting climate change and protecting our communities from natural disasters. In North Carolina and the Southeast, forests receive little protection and face increasing threats. Through the art of storytelling, event-goers were reminded to protect the places they love and resist threats to the environment, like the destructive wood pellet mill proposed for the Dobbins Heights Community in rural Richmond County.
Special thanks to all who attended, our amazing partners and sponsors, and especially our storytellers for an incredible evening.