photos: Even cheesy stories can galvanize. For proof, check out writer Joan Morelli's (above right) piece Sustenance in the 2019 Voices of the Street.

Stories that inspire change

Director's Corner: Incoming Executive Director Julia Aoki notes that even the most modest of narratives offers endless possibilities.

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A piece of journalism, a poem, a personal story, a photograph…

When any one of these depicts or reveals an unfamiliar idea or corner of the world, it can be a mighty force for change. When an under-investigated or unfamiliar idea is realized in rigorous reporting or creative form it can provoke a curiosity that leads to a changed perspective  or attitude—and possibly action.

This isn’t grandiose posturing. Think of some of your most passionately held beliefs and I bet you could conjure a list of vivid stories and storytellers who helped to inspire them: the books and movies that caused you to identify with someone you wouldn’t expect to and added layers and complications to how you understand the world; the stories from family, teachers, friends and even adversaries that offered an idea you hadn’t considered.

Sometimes these moments accumulate and make old ideas feel strange and unnecessary—enough to resist them in the future. And sometimes a fresh point of view is so motivating, it compels action and new commitments.

I feel very fortunate to be stepping into the role of executive director for an organization that takes as its mission  “to amplify marginalized voices,” “build power to make change,” and “create meaningful work for people experiencing poverty and homelessness.”

As I am writing this, I am barely at the six-week mark at Megaphone and my already long list of stories and storytellers who have inspired new ideas and perspectives has grown.

Megaphone magazine and its literary edition Voices of the Street, the personal stories of speakers in the Speakers Bureau, and the photographs in the Hope in Shadows calendar are all vehicles for under-investigated and unfamiliar ideas.

The works I have read, heard and seen are always composed with craft and creativity, offer something surprising, and pose an unreserved challenge to status quo assumptions about poverty, homelessness and drug addiction.

Difficult and weighted stories, or easy and light, they are all doing this work. (For an example on the lighter side, I recommend you pick up a copy of the 2019 Voices of the Street: Aspirations, to read Joan Morelli’s Sustenance—an ode to cheese that goes straight to my heart). I am looking forward to every startling, challenging and mind-expanding article, story, poem and photograph that I encounter at Megaphone.

Beyond the stories Megaphone tells, compassion and understanding are also built into the relationships here. I am learning that the Megaphone circle is big. Everyday since I arrived I have met someone new who contributes to this community.

Along with a generous and hardworking staff and board, I have been warmly welcomed by vendors, speakers, writers, volunteers, donors, sponsors and all-round supporters.

I owe a big thank you to outgoing executive director Jessica Hannon for the care and commitment she cultivated at Megaphone, and to the whole Megaphone community for having me. 

Julia Aoki arrived at Megaphone magazine in July 2019. We welcome her and look forward to a new chapter in Megaphone's ongoing story.

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