Hannah Hassan. (Photo Credit: D Fitz the Designer)

According to its site, Charlotte LGBTQ Elders is an organization “formed in 2018 to serve as a resource for LGBTQ elders in the Charlotte, NC area who are aged 55+.” It is an organization that provides ongoing networking and socializing opportunities for community members. Quoting the site again, “Charlotte LGBTQ Elders believe in quality of life, equity and affirmation for all members of our community. We do this through education, advocacy and the creation of inclusive engagement opportunities to create social networks and make a positive impact with all of our pursuits.”

One series of opportunities they have been sponsoring is the “Inside the Story” program. These events were part of the Elders’ celebration of LGBTQ History Month and included performances and workshops for music, theatre and storytelling. Included in the collection is a dramatic reading by Project Enough of Samantha Gellar’s play, “Life Versus the Paperback Romance,” which was banned in 1999 for its lesbian content.

The series has been sponsored by Charlotte’s Arts and Science Council (ASC). Liz Fitzgerald, program director for Grants and Services, explained how the funding was awarded: “When the pandemic hit, Charlotte’s creatives were among the first to feel the impact, as immediately museums, theaters and galleries shut down. Among the ways ASC responded has been to extend the timeframes for many of the projects we support, knowing that the connections made through the arts are as important as ever in times of crisis. Charlotte LGBTQ Elders was faced with the recent loss of their founding leader Dan Kirsch in addition to everything we were facing as a broader community.

“They have very thoughtfully regrouped to offer virtual community gatherings, celebrating the music and stories that have always strengthened the LGBTQ+ community in the face of adversity. This work is a wonderful example of what ASC means when we set the goal of building community by nurturing, celebrating and supporting the authentic cultures and creative expression of the LGBTQ+ community and all those who have been historically under-resourced.” More information about ASC’s Cultural Vision Grant is on their website).

One of the presenters in the series is a professional storyteller named Hannah Hasan of Epoch Tribe. “The work I do is creating storytelling events for building social justice, and this was in my niche.” Hasan wants to point out that, “I’m not telling stories. I will take participants through the process of telling their own. The experiences we have are sent to us by the universe, so we can create change in the world around us. I help participants unearth their stories, and I create a space where they can share with each other.”

In light of the current pandemic, Hasan explains, “All this will be virtual, and what is interesting about this group is that I will let them lead me to what they want to share.” Given the various situations driving the dynamics of 2020, Hasan wants to nurture the participants. “We will focus on deep joy and deep hardship, then choose which to share. This is a private event wherein the stories that are told by the group are shared only within the group.” One should note that anyone is welcome, and this experience is treated more like a community than a class.

Hasan is an adept guide with a great deal of experience. “I have been doing this since 2010, and I am a spoken word poet. I have been performing poetry since 2004. At some point, my poetry turned into doing stories about causes and organizations. That led to traditional storytelling and using it to create change and teaching others to do it, too. I create spaces where people feel brave enough to share their stories. In 2017 I decided I would venture out and do this full time.” (See hannahhasan.com.)

Storytelling with Hannah Hasan is part of Inside the Story being held on Oct. 29. The event is $5 to attend and space is limited. (Website listing: https://www.charlottelgbtqelders.org/event-details/storytelling-workshop-with-hannah-hasan-of-epoch-tribe)(Facebook event: https://fb.me/e/1zM2FWLYp)

For more information, visit charlottelgbtqelders.org and artsandscience.org.