Partnership leader Shannon Mannon founded 3-Minute Storyteller (3MS) with her husband Mike in 2015 to ignite social change through nourishing conversations. 3MS upholds partnership principles and invites viewers and listeners into a circle where, through expansive conversations with visionary movement makers and deep listening with imagination, “we remember that we flourish when we’re linked instead of ranked”. 3MS’ stories provide a window into the inspiring on-the-ground activism of generations of leaders across the country who are helping build partnership social systems.
Shannon has interviewed over 80 change makers, educators, artists and activists. She comments, “We got really caught up in the conversations we were having and the connections we were seeing. Our 15-minute chats started turning into hour-long, deep dives. People opened themselves to us in ways we hadn’t imagined, and it ended up opening us up too.
Over the past three years, things have gotten so topsy-turvy and polarized, especially here in America. We’ve found that people need the timelessness and universal connection of stories more than ever. Not only do they connect us to our essence and shared humanity, these conversations hold a deeper power that, quite honestly, we didn’t see coming: we’ve learned that when these stories touch us, they activate this indescribable, but unmistakable current. This current courses between us. It transforms many distinct us into one collective ‘we’, enlivening each one of us as it flows.
We’ve learned that our stories at 3-Minute Storyteller are sacred containers for this current. The more awareness we bring to this current, the more powerful it gets! As we’ve plugged in, we’ve discovered just how many of us are out here working for love—partners, collaborators and conspirers who are shaping the kind of world we want to live in”.
Shannon has shared with CPS the following story about Vy Higginsen and the Mama Foundation for the Arts. This story is part of an ongoing series produced by 3-Minute Storyteller featuring change makers over 50. It’s created in partnership with Encore.org’s Generation to Generation campaign, which connects older adults to kids who need champions.
Vy Higginsen on the music of Harlem as an intergenerational tool kit for survival
When Vy Higginsen, Executive Director of Harlem’s prestigious Mama Foundation for the Arts, auditioned young people for roles in her theatre, off-Broadway plays, and musical showcases, she grew troubled. How could these young people not know the songs of the black church? The songs of survival? The songs that nourished the African American community even when every other freedom was stripped from them?
What Vy discovered was a cultural hole in the fabric of her beloved Harlem community. As a music activist and community cultural champion who continues to carry the torch of the Harlem Renaissance, her only option was to mend it.
Vy set out to save the music of her ancestors, of her Preacher-Daddy’s church, of her generation. What Vy didn’t do was set out to save the children. But as she taught a new generation about the music that lived deep inside of them, inside their very cells, she witnessed an awakening that rocked her.
Vy Higginsen defies any box you try to put her in. The first female ad executive at Ebony magazine, contributing editor at Essence, she went on to become New York City’s first black primetime radio personality. After touring with her big sister Doris as she performed her hit “Just One Look,” Vy came home and wrote “Mama, I Want to Sing” the internationally acclaimed, longest running, off-Broadway black musical in history.
In this clip, Vy describes the palpable shift to minds, bodies, and spirits as her students are taught songs of praise. Notes and lyrics expand throats and hearts. Through its healing vibrations, the Gospel music weaves a new generation into its cultural legacy.
Vy’s students bear the weight of an American society newly emboldened to hate. They are the recipients of decades of systemic racism in their schools, families, and neighborhoods. Music, for them, is more than just art history: it’s a tool kit for survival.
It was a gamble, though. Vy and her team had to wonder, would the big-throated cries of women on slave’s ships that began the cultural legacy of America’s greatest export – jazz, R&B, gospel, the blues, hip hop—offer the same power to young people, decades later?
There was a collective exhale from the watchful older generation as the music animated the young people, nourishing their hungry spirits. Songs vibrant with memory of their heritage and strength. Not only was their cultural legacy alive, it would now be reimagined, reinterpreted for contemporary relevance by the next generation.
Even a visionary like Vy didn’t see that coming. “The first act in life is learning how to make a living,” Vy counsels, “and the second act is learning how to make a life.” It turns out that if you save the music, you save the children. And when you fuse the music into the children, you bridge generations and heal communities.
Not bad for life’s second act.
Shannon Mannon has lead teams, organizations, and movements locally, nationally and internationally to widen circles of compassion to include us all. Early experiences leading medical missions across the global south shaped Shannon’s vision of a world based in partnership systems. Shannon founded 3-Minute Storyteller (3MS) with her husband Mike in 2015 to ignite social change through nourishing conversations. www.3MinuteStoryteller.com Contact Shannon: firstname.lastname@example.org