Sonia De La Cruz

Resistance, simply put, is the refusal to accept things as they are.

Sonia De La Cruz is an Assistant Professor in Communication at the University of Washington, Tacoma. Her scholarship centers on the following areas and their intersections: media for social justice, international and development communication, and critical media practices. De La Cruz is also a documentary and activist media-maker who has produced social-cultural and ethnographic documentaries where she addresses various human rights issues and has produced digital video projects for non-profits and international NGOs.

Resistance in storytelling

“Hear me and listen intently. That is all we have been asking for.”[1]

“[I feel] abstracted, extracted, poorly disguised. Hidden behind another layer and presented as progress. Sewn into the fabric of society. Etched into the lens the world views Black people through.”[2]

These quotes express the frustration BIPOC (Black, Indigenous & People of Color) students feel as they share their stories of confronting or witnessing racial injustice in their everyday lives.

In the sharing of experiences that were part of our storytelling project, I was continually astonished to hear about the complex ways college students experience racism, and as a result, the ways this affects their physical and emotional well-being. Their sense of angst and grief had been further heightened by witnessing how COVID has disproportionately taken the lives of People of Color, and by the many forms of public protests we saw unfold in 2020. Namely, the Black Lives Matter[3] (BLM) movement, which generated highly visible forms of collective action never seen before at local and global scales.

In feeling a need to be seen and heard, and driven by a desire to be a part of a larger fight toward racial justice, students engaged in a collective storytelling project to share their views and experiences on race and racism. While producing their stories—which were conveyed through video, poetry, photography, music, and writing—students honored the collective grief and pain often experienced through racism, while others wished to articulate their commitment and hope for racial justice.

In clearly articulated and intricately nuanced ways, students shared their stories by centering their lived experience. They pointed to the multiple ways members of the Black community felt oppression and discrimination; they challenged narratives of racial privilege, and made clear their dissatisfaction toward racial injustice. In their words:

“We had all learned how to navigate White spaces at a young age. We had survived at elite colleges to find elite jobs. But if we are caught showing our Blackness, we risk losing our places. Still, we know that this is work more sacred than tenuous relationships built around ignoring the ignorance and silence of our white friends and colleagues: Black Lives Matter and so does Black Life.”[4]

“What I felt and how I now reflect on the experiences of racism and hate because I am Black made me stronger… I hope that others who get to know my story don’t question why Black lives matter, but question why racial injustice is still taking place.”[5]

“Now we must believe that we deserve the same attention in our fight for justice… we will get there, and our collective suffering will end.”[6]

In the process of sharing their experiences, what emerged from this project were stories of resistance. Stories of resistance help present narratives that are frequently silenced or neglected, and that refuse to accept inequality or injustice. To resist is to enact one’s own will or desire for change; resistance through storytelling, therefore, allows us to create new ways of seeing the world that have not been pre-established or normalized in society as irrefutable truths.

Stories of resistance became acts of resilience that provided students the opportunity to share diverse perspectives through which to understand Black experience. They created a space where they could make traditionally invisible stories visible, and in the process, students engaged in deep reflection about their positionality in relation to race and racism.

Resistance through this storytelling project was a change-oriented process that spoke to the multiple ways students questioned, pushed back, countered, or simply refused to accept things as they are. Resistance was treated as a practice for social change because students were able to center their knowledge, experiences, and concerns in the process of producing and sharing their stories.

In the end, in the brave move to tell their own stories, students made clear their will to demand accountability where injustice is seen. They committed to engage in acts of racial justice for themselves and those around them, and wished that in the process of storytelling others may develop a sense of empathy about Black Lives.


Discussion Questions

  • Where and when have you resisted oppression (whether related to race, class, gender, ability, legal status, etc.)? Explain what happened and how it made you feel.
  • What do you believe is the value of resisting? Why may it be necessary?
  • Why do you think it is necessary to tell stories as a form of resistance?


Using the video resource to the Black Lives Collective Storytelling Project, select a story to view, read or listen, and do the following:

While watching a video, reading, or listening to a story, note the various ways students express their resistance to a particular injustice. Write down the particular injustice(s) they are trying to make a sense of. How do they explain that particular injustice or wrongdoing?

Reflect on the story and write down how you might react to the particular situation if it was you who were in the student’s shoes. What would you do differently, if anything?

Share your thoughts and feelings about the story with your group/class/peers and explain how the particular injustice may (or may not) relate to your own life and why.

Additional Resources

Bell, L.A. (2020). Storytelling for social justice: Connecting narrative and the arts in antiracist teaching (Second Edition). New York: Routledge.

Ganz, M. (2011). Public Narrative, Collective Action, and Power. In S. Odugbemi & T. Lee (Eds.), Accountability through public opinion: From inertia to public action (pp. 273 -289). Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.

Goodman, D. J. (2011). Promoting diversity and social justice: Educating people from privileged groups. New York: Routledge.

Guo, W. and Vulchi, P. (2019). Tell me who you are: Sharing our stories of race, culture & identity. New York: TarcherPerigee.

Kumashiro, K. K. (2000). Toward a theory of anti-oppressive education. Review of Educational Research 70(1), 25-53.

McKenzie-Mohr, S., & Lafrance, M. N. (2017). Narrative resistance in social work research and practice: Counter-storying in the pursuit of social justice. Qualitative Social Work16(2), 189–205.

Solórzano, D. G. and Yosso, T. J. (2002). Critical race methodology: Counter-storytelling as an analytical framework for education research. Qualitative Inquiry 8(1), 23-44.

Stefancic, J. and Delgado. R. (2017). Critical race theory: An introduction (Third Edition). New York: New York University Press.

University of Washington Tacoma. (2020). Black Lives Matter Collective Storytelling Project. University of Washington Tacoma and University of Washington Libraries.

  1. Excerpt from poem titled "A Reflection" by Asha Lorraine Richardson, student at the University of Washington-Tacoma.
  2. Excerpt from a story titled "This Piece Doesn’t End, I just Stop Writing Things Down" by LaKeisha Morris, student at the University of Washington-Tacoma.
  3. Black Lives Matter is a social movement that was ignited by a hashtag #BlackLivesMatter in response to the 2013 acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. As a global movement and organization, the broader goal of Black Lives Matter is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence on Black communities (“Black Lives Matter,” 2021).
  4. Excerpt from poem titled "Theoretically, It Doesn’t Matter" by Aiyanna Gutema, student at the University of Washington-Tacoma.
  5. Excerpt from poem titled "Using My Voice" by Marian Abdirahman, student at the University of Washington-Tacoma.
  6. Excerpt from poem titled "She Would’ve Been 27 today; I’m 18" by Lynese Cammack, student at the University of Washington-Tacoma.


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