WASHINGTON (AP) - Yoko Ono and her son, Sean Lennon, are joining a national oral history project that urges people to take time the day after Thanksgiving for a National Day of Listening with their friends and loved ones.
The recorded conversation between mother and son about their lives will be broadcast Friday as part of the StoryCorps segment on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” Organizers said Ono and her son find similarities between their childhoods.
This is the third year for the National Day of Listening, a project that encourages people to record interviews with friends or family members about their lives. New participants this year also include U.S. Olympic athletes and staff at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian as part of Native American Heritage Day on Friday.
KJ Jacks, 29, who has worked in special events since the museum opened in 2004, said it was a chance to talk about the diversity among Native Americans, including her own experience growing up near Denver. She said it’s important for people to know Native people are part of everyday life and that “we don’t all walk around wearing buckskin dresses.”
“My father is full-blood Cherokee. I didn’t meet him until I was 16 years old. So my mom tried to get me interested in Indian culture when I was young, and I wasn’t having any of it _ I was rebelling,” she said in her interview with a co-worker.
Jacks explained that she grew up with a single mother of Irish decent. It wasn’t until she came to work for the museum that she wanted to learn more about her Cherokee heritage and reconnect with her father.
“I feel like I have a very different background than a lot of people who work in the museum, a lot of the Native people, because I didn’t grow up in it,” she said after her story was recorded. “I think it will be a good way to just understand how people work.”
Free interview guides and sample questions are available online or through an iPhone app from the New York-based StoryCorps project.
Former President George W. Bush helped jump-start the Day of Listening in 2008 before leaving the White House by sitting down for an interview with his sister, Dorothy Walker Bush Koch.
Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected more than 30,000 interviews across the country. The recordings are archived at the Library of Congress.
Founder Dave Isay said that during a time of much political and cultural division, listening to one another can remind people “how much more unites us than divides us.”
Curators at the American Indian museum may consider a larger oral history effort and are encouraging indigenous people to record their stories.
The museum wants to have Native American communities more involved in developing its content to help redefine how they are represented, director Kevin Gover said in an interview he recorded for StoryCorps.
He also showed how the interviews can reveal very personal details. Gover, who is of Pawnee decent, spoke about his life growing up with an alcoholic father and his own struggles with alcoholism.
“In my career as a drinker, I still have memories that I shudder over, things that I did, and I just wish I could take them back,” he said. “So that’s reason enough for me never to drink again.”