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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

USA Network and The Moth presented A More Perfect Union: Stories of Prejudice and Power

Last night, USA Network multi-platform public service campaign Characters Unite ( joined forces with the acclaimed not-for-profit organization The Moth ( for a special storytelling event called “A More Perfect Union: Stories of Prejudice and Power”. The event was held at the New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. The purpose of the event was the storytellers of the evening, to share personal experiences with Discrimination and Bigotry.

The Moth is dedicated to the art and craft of telling stories. On this night, one of its ongoing programs, The Moth Mainstage, was in full effect. Special guest storytellers were Hip-Hop Recording Artist and Actor Mos Def, Paralympian and actress Aimee Mullins, the author of ‘The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates’ Wes Moore, Creative Director at Barney’s New York Simon Doonan, and Anti-Bullying Activist Sirdeaner Walker. The event was hosted by Tony Award Winner Kristin Chenoweth and attended by a long list of USA Network stars from shows like Psych, Royal Pains, Covert Affairs, and White Collar. Tom Brokaw was a very special guest.

We, at The Race to Nowhere, had the honor of speaking to many of these stars and storytellers. And with excellent media in attendance, we decided to ask every attendee one question: Who was the greatest storyteller of your lifetime; and please share a story from this special person that you remember most or played an important part in molding the person you are today? And here are a few of those answers:

Tiffani Thiessen of “White Collar”: My grandmother; my grandmother for sure. She was raised in a different time, a very different world. She didn’t have her parents raise her. Her grandparents raised her. She was married at 16. So it was the stories of when she was young, showed how much she perservered, and got through it all. My grandmother is a very strong woman and the reason why mother is strong, and I am strong. (she warmly smiled afterwards)

Dule Hill of “Psych”: I would say my grandfather Barris Hill, the late Barris Hill. He would tell me stories about growing up in Jamaica, and what his grandmother and grandfather would look like. Long of the short, growing up, he told me how he found out what his real name was after leaving the Army and going into the Police force. (he laughed to himself)

Sharif Atkins of “White Collar”: That’s a great question. My grandfather on my father side was a great storyteller. He just had this way of telling stories about his childhood; he and his brothers growing up. He grew up in an era where things aren’t as they were now, in the 30’s. He was able to tell some interesting stories that gave me great perspective on the life that I am able to live now. Let me paraphrase one of his stories. My grandfather’s father owned a plot of land. And it just so happened that the town drove right through that land. Once that plot of land was purchased, his father requested that people must go around. This was an African-American man laying down the law of his land during that era. So he had a neighbor that decided he wanted to still drive go through this plot of land. So his father brought a shotgun and told people that if they continue to go through his land, he will use it. So this neighbor drove through the plot, and his father shot out the rearview mirror and another mirror on the car. After that, the neighbor drove around. He stood up for himself at a time when being African-American and standing up for yourself didn’t always end well. But he earned the respect of his neighbor and they became friends. (he smiled thinking about the story)

Tim Dekay of “White Collar”: The greatest storyteller to me was my grandmother. I couldn’t call her grandmother at the time so I called her Danna. So we named our daughter Danna, after her. She would tell my brother and I stories before we went to bed. She told this story: When she was little, her and her sister had a room upstairs. The only heat in the house came from a wood stove downstairs which would rise up through a grate on the floor. They had an uncle that lived with them. His name was Uncle Audley. He was a quiet man, a bald man. One day when my grandmother and sister were in bed, they looked down through the grate in the floor and saw their bald uncle reading a paper. Now these were two good little girls, never done a thing wrong. My grandmother said she had such an impulse to spit on his head. So she did it! She said he was reading the paper and without even looking up, he just wiped his head. He yelled to her mother and said, “Ione, you are about to be shy a young’n in a second.” (he smiled brightly after telling the story) Great question, thanks for asking.

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