A Message: “The Danger of a Single Story”

A Message:  “The Danger of a Single Story”    By Betty Trummel

This morning I had the amazing opportunity to meet a young Zambian author, Perrykent Nkole.  An articulate and extremely friendly 20-year old, Perrykent sees things much the way I do in terms of how in every culture, people deserve the chance to tell their own true story.

This same concept is adeptly shared by African novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. On the TED.com page for her talk, it’s mentioned that Chimamanda gives us a warning:  “If we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.”  I totally agree!  I urge you to listen to her inspirational TED talk which can be found at: The Danger of a Single Story

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Perrykent has just recently published his first book, “Birds of Different Feathers.” He shared his path with me…”I grew up seeing people struggle for survival.  The world calls it poverty, but I called it my daily bread.” When Perrykent moved at the time of junior secondary school, he says “It was then I learned of the distinctive differences between the rich and the poor. Clearly I was one of the latter.”

This fact certainly did not stop this inspirational young man from achieving his goals.  Trained by the Media Network on Child Rights and Development and placed under a project called the Children’s News Agency as a teen, he spent four years working on his book…a book that paints Zambian/African pictures and tells more than a single story.  I already can’t put the book down…the blend of metaphors, narration, natural elements representing people and bits of society is wonderful and conjures up rich images of an Africa I’ve only seen a tiny slice of in my four visits here with A to Z Literacy.

The biggest link between Perrykent and I is our passion to help others tell their own true stories.  It’s one of the BIG projects I’m working on with students and teachers at Shine Zambia Reading Academy while I’m here for two weeks.  My mission is encouraging connections to community…using photography, drawings, and writing to help the children at Shine tell their authentic stories.

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All four level 2 classes have walked with their teachers and I through the compounds of Mutendere, Valley View, and Kalikiliki…with digital cameras in hand.  We’ve had great discussions about what is important in these communities, the joys, the challenges, the people…the real stories of this place on the planet.  I started this project two years ago when working with A to Z Literacy in Zambia, and on this trip I’m adding rich layers of knowledge for myself, and finding more ways to encourage the students as they photograph their community.  Each night I’ve come back to my room at Serenity Lodge and have printed out their photos on a tiny Canon printer I brought with me.  Browsing through the myriad of photos, I am delighted at the results of these emerging photojournalists.  Clearly they are now taking a closer look at their own community and life.

The harder piece will be the writing…that will take place next week when I spread the photo prints on the tables at school and encourage children to begin to write about their life…to begin to tell their story.  The photos will serve as a motivation and reminder to them…to create a spark to begin the writing process.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting a photo gallery of some of the types of images students have captured this week.  These images will be from my own camera for now (since I do not have the technology with me to easily transfer them to my iPad) but rest assured, I was standing side-by-side with students when every shot was taken. Their photos are safely tucked away for sharing when I get home.

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An inspiration, Perrykent Nkole…I thank him for taking time from his busy schedule to meet with me this morning.  His words are a lesson for us all…as Perrykent said on a Facebook post about our meeting today, “No one will tell the African Story better than Africans.”

3 thoughts on “A Message: “The Danger of a Single Story”

  1. Betty, your project and your work are such an inspiration for the Shine students and the rest of us as well. I can’t wait to see the results!

  2. Thanks, Ann! It was wonderful to see their excitement as we walked through their community…and to see the children start to focus on their lives and what they thought was important!

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