By Mary Margaret Randall

“What do you do besides teach yoga?”

I get this question a lot.

Probably because I carry around a massive backpack with my laptop in it all the time, have a floating office around town, and have a biiiiit of a crazy schedule.

In a nutshell, I help youth tell their story. This is done through a nonprofit organization I created in 2016 called One Voice Nashville (onevoicenashville.org). We teach storytelling and narrative journalism skills to middle and high school students in order to build bridges and close gaps in our community.

I have always been drawn to a good story, but like most good things, college was when it all came alive for me. During my time studying at the University of Alabama, I founded the Black Warrior Storytelling Festival, a local event focused on sharing stories from across the state of Alabama, and for my Senior Project, I collected and recorded stories from local veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. It was this project that revealed the power of community storytelling.

I made the move to Nashville eight years ago and I am beyond grateful for the city’s commitment to the arts. I have worked with youth in programming at schools all around Nashville and I am passionate about the crossroads between education and creativity.

One of our program sites this semester for One Voice Nashville is the Juvenile Detention Center, and a group of incredible students I have worked with there have created a series of real-life, personal stories shaped around these 3 themes: Past, Present, & Future. I have paired each young person with a local mentor and performer who will be sharing these stories onstage at a live event called UnLocked, (May 19th 6:30PM at 4th Story Theater- 2200 West End Avenue). Following the event, One Voice Nashville will produce an educational podcast about the history of the Juvenile Justice system and the leaders involved in making key decisions that affect the facility and the community as a whole.

Here’s the thing: It is easy to get lost in our social bubbles and get comfortable. But if I have learned anything from community work as well as practicing and teaching yoga, it is that we all need to get uncomfortable every once in a while. Otherwise, we would never learn, and that, my friends, is a tragedy.

Come support! Doors open at 6PM. Free & open to the public! Find us on Facebook under “UnLocked” and if you have any questions or want to learn more about this work, email me at [email protected]