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What is Understory 700 x 460

THE UNDERSTORY is an EmbraceRace initiative bringing uncommon stories of race and culture to light.

What Stories?

We want first-person stories in which race is central and meaningful. We welcome stories about the intersections of race, culture & other identities.

Whose Stories?

Anyone’s! Especially stories from folks in communities and with identities that are not often heard in the public square.

What’s the Process?

We match storytellers with UNDERSTORY storytelling coaches to record a 5-7-minute audio story.

How are the stories used?

Stories may be published & shared across EmbraceRace platforms, curricula, and social media.

Understory Pix 700 x 460

We want stories about ...

  • Community, Belonging & Neighborhoods
  • Family & Cultural Traditions
  • Racial Literacy
  • Family Separation & Reunion
  • Wearing Hijab
  • Names & Naming
  • Nappy Hair
  • Race, Identity & Your Whole Self ... and much more!

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Want to learn more?

We will post more information about this initiative soon. You can also contact us at

Theresa Okokon

Theresa Okokon is the Lead Story Currater and a Story Coach for the Understory project. She is a Pushcart Prize nominated essayist. A Wisconsinite living in New England, she is a writer, a storyteller, the co-host of Stories From The Stage, and a 2020 VONA alum. In addition to writing and performing her own stories, Theresa also teaches storytelling and writing workshops and classes, coaches other tellers, hosts story slams, and frequently emcees events for nonprofits. An alum of both the Memoir Incubator and Essay Incubator programs at GrubStreet, she is working on a memoir of essays about memory, family stories, and the death of her father.
Theresa Okokon

Susanne Schmidt

Susanne is the Story Project Executive Producer and a Story Coach for the Understory project. She is a native New Yorker raised by an extended family of strong women immigrants. Susanne learned the transformative power of personal narrative sitting around a kitchen table filled with multi-generation extroverts. As a storyteller, Susanne’s work has been featured on WGBH Stories from the Stage, National Public Radio (NPR), Home Box Office’s (HBO) Inspiration Room and CBS Sunday Morning. She is currently a StorySlam Producer for The Moth and is the creative director for Say it Forward Productions, a company dedicated to helping mission-driven organizations use the ‘power of stories for good.’ For more information visit:
Susanne Schmidt

Jessica Lara Ticktin

Jessica is a Senior Podcast Producer and Story Coach for the Understory project. She is passionate about storytelling in all forms -- radio, in writing, and as an educator. Growing up in Montreal, as a first generation Canadian -- the child of South African and Indian immigrant parents in an interfaith and biracial family -- Jessica turned to stories to make sense of her identity and belonging. Over almost two decades, Jessica has pursued stories by working at Sound Portraits Productions, StoryCorps at the NYC Tenement Museum, by writing and producing stories for NPR, the CBC, Vermont public radio, and She also co-produced a series of podcasts on parenting and education including Where Was I…? for Parent.Co and a series on public schools and student-driven learning around the U.S. led by the Center for Innovation in Education.
Jessica Lara Ticktin