“Why do you tell stories?” I was asked by an elderly audience member who I sensed was not being friendly. So I gave her a flippant answer, “Because they spring into my head and want to be shared.”

Later I was reminded of a quotation from author Madeleine L’Engle and wished I could have come up with an erudite answer like hers.

“Why does anybody tell a story? It does indeed have something to do with faith, faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose, or say or do matters, matters cosmically” —Madeleine L’Engle

Although my flippant answer had not been as poetic or literate, it was equally true. My personal stories do spring into my head and they want to escape into Madeleine L’Engle’s cosmic world. They are stories of my life experiences, my family background, my cultural history. They are a look into the real world I must occupy.

Hiba Hamdan

Barbara H. Clark

This realization came to me with more impact then ever during the last month of inequality protests. I am reminded of stories I have told that shed a light on events that diminished my value as a person. Those stories needed to be told because they matter. They needed to be told because that history matters.

So if an audience member asks today, “Why do you tell stories?’ my answer would be different. I tell my stories because they are who I am, and they matter, because I matter.

Institute of Musical ArtsBARBARA H. CLARK is a professional storyteller who performs original personal stories written for adults. They include events from life in a small east coast town and in Los Angeles, stories of her family heritage, profiles of memorable relatives, and accounts of spooky events. She has performed in storytelling concerts and festivals all over southern California. Her polished stage presence reflects the 30 years she spent as an administrator with Los Angeles Public Library. Her love of books is seen in her 14 years as secretary to a Literacy Council which provided books and storytellers to 26 preschools. Barbara is a five-time recipient of L.A. City Cultural Affairs grants to perform her stories at Senior Citizen Centers, and a four-time recipient of foundation grants to teach personal storytelling to high school students. She served nine years as Artist-In-Residence at Vineyard Recreation Center teaching storytelling to seniors. She was recognized as an “Unsung Hero of the Year” in 2005 by KCET-TV for her work with seniors, and her storytelling workshop TELL ME A STORY was highlighted on television for the full month of February. Now in it’s 16th year, that workshop is currently taught at the Institute of Musical Arts where she also serves as Artistic Director for the Ray G. Clark Theater. She is also a recipient of the “Storytelling Spirit Award,” presented by the Los Angeles Storytelling Festival, and the “Unsung Shero Award”  presented by Women In NAACP. Barbara has a B.A. degree from Howard University and a M.L.S. degree from University of Southern California.


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