ABOUT THIS PROJECT

From afar and for far too long, the City of Camden, N.J., has been defined by its night sky — an irrefutable reputation as one of the country’s most dangerous and impoverished cities.

Camden’s residents are rarely portrayed in the media in the same way they see themselves and their communities. Much in the way that true journalism must always come from the heart of a story, the story of any city is always within the heart of its people. Those close enough to Camden know that what truly defines the city is an unshakable, unmistakable, “invincible” spirit — and that is the story that needs to be told.

That’s why the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University is excited to launch “Stories Invincible,” a new initiative to support restorative narrative reporting by and for communities of color in South Jersey. Stories Invincible aims to highlight stories from Camden-based journalists and media makers that fill information gaps and serve as symbols of hope — and unite those who tell those stories for a transformative community experience.

A similar effort to support storytelling in Camden was started by WCMD Radio early in the COVID-19 pandemic with coordinating support from Free Press and the Community Info Coop, but ultimately was not able to move forward. Our new iteration aims to incubate a project that more so follows the playbook of Stories of Atlantic City.

LAUNCHING THE PROJECT

Stories Invincible will kick off with two community convenings discussing information needs in Camden and how restorative narrative practices could help meet them. After that, we’ll open a call for submissions for Camden-based journalists and media makers to apply for fellowship funding from a pool of $40,000 to support projects that will address our city’s information needs, and uplift stories of resilience and hope. The Center hosted a similar funding opportunity in Newark in 2019.

The dates and locations for the community convenings will be announced in the coming weeks, along with more details about the paid fellowship opportunity. After the fellows are selected, I’ll be available throughout the summer and fall to provide guidance, coaching, and other type of support for the fellows and their work.

After the initial phase of the fellowship is complete, members of the public will be invited to attend an event to showcase the reporting produced as a result of the fellowship.

If you live in or are from Camden and have a story about the city and its people that needs to be told, click here to sign up for updates. You’ll be among the first to know when we finalize the dates and times for the community collaboration events and open applications for the fellowships.

OUR LAUNCH EVENT

We had a great time at our official launch event on July 14, 2022 at Nuanced Café on Market Street in Camden. Below is a video of the event, along with a few photos of the participants and presenters.

ABOUT THE STAFF

Cassandra Etienne is the assistant director for membership and programming at the Center for Cooperative Media and the project lead for Stories Invincible. She has a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and has worked as a documentary producer and freelance reporter in New Jersey and her native New York City. Contact Cassandra via email at etiennec@montclair.edu.

A headshot of Reet Starwind against a light grey background.

Reet Starwind is the Stories Invincible project coordinator for the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. He is an artist, educator, and organizer in the Camden area working with the Center to elevate restorative narratives about Camden’s residents and history. Contact Reet via email at reet@storiesinvincible.org or on Instagram at @mrstarwind.

PROJECT SUPPORT

Stories Invincible is supported by a sub-grant from the Community Info Coop in partnership with the Movement Alliance Project, thanks to original funding from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the New Jersey Local News Lab Fund, a partnership between Dodge, Democracy Fund and the Community Foundation of New Jersey. We are also grateful for the support Stories Invincible has received from the NJ Council for the Humanities.