Centenary College alumna creates COVID-19 oral history project

SHREVEPORT, LA — Britney Winn Lee, a Shreveport author and artist, has created an online oral history project to collect stories and reflections from individuals dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Lee is a 2009 graduate of Centenary and is the director of the Noel Community Arts Program at Noel United Methodist Church.

The oral history survey is available here. Lee answered some questions about the origins and goals of the project earlier this week.

Q: What sparked your interest in collecting these stories?

As a writer, I process the world through words even if that's months or years after something has occurred. In every significant moment of my life, I have tried to remember to at least jot down notes that include feelings, details, timelines, or interactions so that I might return to them later and flesh out my experience. I started to do that recently just in my personal life as "coronavirus" became a household name, and then I began to think about how special it is to read accounts from the daily lives of real people navigating significant historic events. It's one thing to read about the Cold War in a text book; it's another to find your mother's diary page describing what it was like to hide under her desk at school during bomb drills. I wanted to open up a space to invite more people to contribute and process what life is like specifically in Louisiana right now during the COVID-19 crisis. I imagine we'll be glad to have them recorded one day. 

Q: What do you hope for the outcome or the takeaway to be?

I don't currently have an outcome in mind for this collection other than some form/s of mass sharing and the ability to reference them when needed by anyone interested. I can imagine crafting them into an accessible collection or partnering with artists to share them in some form of public show, etc. I hope a variety of people from multiple demographics will hear about it and take advantage of it so that we can have a diverse and accurate cross-section of life in our state mid-pandemic. 

Q: What do you hope others will gain from reading the stories?

At the moment, I mainly have hopes for those who are writing these stories, and that is that they will find space to process and share. Sometimes we don't know if or what we're feeling until we write it out. It's a bonus that recording these will likely mean something more to us one day as well.  

Lee’s art and writing is available online at britneywinnlee.com.


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