WSW: The StoryCorps Out Loud Initiative Captures Stories of LGBT Community

Nov 2, 2015

Dave Isay
Credit Harvey Wang, Courtesy of StoryCorps

StoryCorps Founder Dave Isay says it’s important to capture the stories of people who faced a “wall of silence” historically.


The Out Loud Initiative is collecting the stories of LGBT people before the Stonewall riots which Isay calls the “Rosa Parks” moment for LGBT people. But he says it’s also important to tell the story of the courage and humor people used to get through difficult times.

Initiatives from the StoryCorps oral history project over the years have included Military Voices about veterans and their families. Isay will speak at Western Michigan University’s Fetzer Center Thursday November 5th. He joined WMUK’s Gordon Evans from StoryCorps in New York.

The Out Loud initiative is also personal for Isay who calls himself the “proud son of a gay father.” Isay says his dad passed away on the anniversary of the Stonewall riots a couple of years ago. The next year, StoryCorps launched the Out Loud initiative.

Isay says the focus of the Out Loud initiative is not on big cities. He says while LGBT people faced discrimination in places like New York and San Francisco, it’s important to hear what people faced in small towns or the deep south.

In many ways, StoryCorps is the opposite of reality TV, according to Isay. He says people who come to StoryCorps aren’t there to get rich or famous. He says instead oral history focuses on what’s important in people’s lives.

Isay recently won the TED Prize, which included $1-million. That money has been used to design an app that allows people to record a StoryCorps interview and upload it to the Library of Congress. He says it gives people the chance to have meaningful conversations with someone important in their lives. Isay says the technology is allowing for more “authentic human connections.”

StoryCorps first launched in 2003. After 12 years, Isay says it’s a project that speaks to the best of humanity. He says the oral history project shows how remarkable and resilient people are. Isay says while political debates make the nation seem divided, listening to StoryCorps interviews shows how much we have in common.