How do you communicate if you are unknown?
In Professor Rochelle L. Dalla’s talk “Unknown Populations” UNL’s CYFS Professor spoke about the research she conducted while in graduate school in Arizona. She worked with Navajo Native American teenage mothers and conducted “mostly qualitative research, just me and them and a tape recorder.”
Professor Dalla admitted that the previous research on these women were mostly demographics, and failed to tell the stories of these women. She stated, “Most of the research on the deposits of these women. Where is the work on the good stuff? What else is going on with these women, is this it?”
“I become invested in them, not in an unethical way, but in a 'what happened to these women' way and I wanted to represent these women well” Professor Dalla went on to say.
Through her research she learned of many untold, heart-breaking stories. These women had never had a chance or a platform to speak up previously, and they poured out their hearts and memories to her.
One particular, chilling quote that she shared with us was ". . . and I was too young to be abused." One woman shared this after explaining why she eventually left her abusive husband. Not "I shouldn't be abused" but "I was too young to be abused."
Professor Dalla stated, “I was interested in these women as women. They just wanted to tell their stories and they told me, 'It feels really good to tell my story.'"
So, back to my original question: How do you communicate if you are unknown?
The importance of communication and rhetoric cannot go unnoticed. Often times we get stuck thinking of the "newest" and most "innovative" forms of communication but forget the very basics are the most essential and important. Communication is meant to allow people to tell their stories and make an impact on our world. As a society it is our duty to ensure all voices are being heard in an equal way and to a listening ear.
The women in the Navajo Reservation yearned to share their stories to people who would listen, and because Professor Dalla did, she was able to uncover years of abuse, tragedy, and prejudice. It shouldn't take one interested, caring person to reach out and investigate to uncover these stories, they should have the platform, respect, and safety to share them themselves.
Stories are out there, but communication isn't a given. Communication should not only be available to the privileged, but to the unknown and forgotten as well.