Circles of Truth: Story Circles for Diversity and Inclusion

Students gathering in a circle.
Seed Grant Semester Awarded
Seed Grant Award Year

In a time of rising overt and covert racism, heterosexism, xenophobia and increasing inequity in the U.S., centering the lived experiences of marginalized people, including migrant/immigrant people, queer people and people of color, is imperative to increasing a diverse and inclusive educational environment. “Circles of Truth: Story Circles for Diversity and Inclusion” is a decolonized approach to creating multicultural spaces for students and the community to share their diverse stories at Arizona State University. Working in partnership with Rising Youth Theatre, this project will combine the work of Augusto Boal and Paolo Freire to engage diverse local artists to facilitate student-led story circles about topics important to their lived experiences. Through the story circle process, multigenerational groups in the ASU community will gather to hear and share stories, and will co-create zines, podcasts and other media that grow from these dialogues.

Our partnership between ASU faculty, graduate students and the members of the Rising Youth Theatre is well-positioned to coordinate these story circles and activate community. Rafael Martínez Orozco is an assistant professor of Southwest Borderlands in the College of Interdisciplinary Humanities and Communication. He is also an advocate for community-based history projects that support community development. Lily Villa is a Ph.D. candidate in sociocultural anthropology at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. Villa’s work centers stores of community knowledge to create community-led research projects addressing health equity, social justice and multigenerational, art-based community development. Martínez Orozco and Villa will work in continued partnership with Rising Youth Theatre, a local youth-led theatre company in Phoenix with a long history of activating art and story as a catalyst for social change. They also recognize and acknowledge the contributions that graduate student Janet Nalubega Ross had on development and crafting of our story circles project. Building on a successful history of collaboration, this project will take the work of this team to a deeper level, with a strong positive impact on the ASU community, seeding further collaborations and community partnership and expanding the multicultural center at the university.

Photo credit: Anabel Maldonado.


Rising Youth Theatre | Leadership Organization through Collaborative Artmaking

Rising Youth Theatre is a youth leadership organization that uses theatre and story to position young people in advocacy spaces. The company works with young people and professional adult artists to create socially relevant, original plays that have a positive impact on our community. Plays are created through a multi-generational collaborative process, where artists of all ages work in a shared learning, creative youth development model. The company performs in non-traditional theatre spaces, including the Light Rail, public parks and more, ensuring that all audiences feel welcome. There is no cost for youth to participate and all performances are presented to the public for free, strengthening access to arts and dialogue across Arizona communities. Young people work in leadership spaces across all levels of the organization, including staff, board and creative spaces, and are compensated for their time, work and expertise.

Principal Investigator(s)

Rafael Martínez Orozco | Assistant Professor, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts

Lily Villa | PhD Candidate, School of Human Evolution and Social Change