Local storytelling nonprofit incorporates youth and cultural storytellers through festival

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The sixth annual Story Crossroads Festival will take place virtually and in-person in Murray City Park, Utah, on May 10 through May 13. (Story Crossroads Festival Official Website)

Story Crossroads will be hosting its sixth annual Story Crossroads Festival virtually and in-person at Murray City Park today until May 13.

Rachel Hedman, Story Crossroads executive director said that Story Crossroads is a nonprofit organization which celebrates folk and fine art through storytelling on a worldwide level.

Hedman, in a news release said while the festival has a history of being in-person, the organization has declared that they will be going hybrid by using both the computer screen as well as venues such as the Murray City Park.

The festival will include trainings from professionals, a “Story Art Demo,” concerts, performances, an academic discussion and a virtual field trip day.

With the rise in interest for the Storytelling Crossroads Festival, there has also been an increase in youth storytellers and cultural storytellers presenting at the festival.

Aaboli Samant, a 13-year-old speaker who will be participating and sharing her story at the Story Crossroads Festival smiles for a picture taken by her mother. (Alpana Samant)

Aaboli Samant is a 13-year-old storyteller from India currently living in West Valley, Utah.

Samant said she started participating in storytelling festivals and performances since she was six or seven years old.

One of Samant’s favorite stories that she has performed is titled “When I came to America,” a story she wrote about her experiences first coming to America when she was only six years old.

“I really enjoy doing sharing personal stories because I can take stuff that happened in my life and express it in a really funny but deep and meaningful way,” Samant said. “It’s really amazing to share that with other people.”

Samant hopes more youth and people of any age will join and participate in storytelling.

She believes storytelling to be not reserved for just one age group, but for anyone, including the youth.

“I feel like there is a stereotype about storytelling, that it’s only for older people, but literally anyone of any age can do it and enjoy doing it,” Samant said. “There are lots of teams that do it and I have made a lot of friends through participating and it’s a lot of fun.”

A cultural storyteller that is also excited to share cultural stories at the Story Crossroads Festival is Charlotte Starks, a Maryland native who has been living in Utah for over 40 years.

Starks said she loves sharing stories of what has happened to people in the past and how they were able to heal from those experiences.

Joan Nabors, a member of the Nubian Storytellers of Utah Leadership, or NSOUL, tells a story to an audience at Nibley Park School in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Charlotte Starks)

Starks is the president of the Nubian Storytellers of Utah Leadership, or NSOUL, a nonprofit storytelling group that started in 2009.

Starks said it centers around inclusiveness and encouraging others in building their self esteem.

They also share stories from African countries and love sharing cultures within the African continent.

Starks will be a part of the “Story Art Demo” for the Story Crossroads Festival in which she will be explaining how NSOUL started and what they do.

She said the “Story Art Demo” will introduce five different community groups and how they were able to start their organizations and what they do.

Talking about the festival itself, Starks said it is very beneficial for the community.

“Rachel is great at pulling people from the community together. It’s powerful because she includes different ethnic groups so that they can share their stories and their experiences,” Starks said.

More information on attending the events for the Story Crossroads Festival is posted on the Story Crossroads official festival website. Tickets can be purchased online.

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