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Nicole “Cole” Asong Nfonoyim-Hara is a writer committed to liberation and healing through story and the power of language, narrative, and the written word. Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in NYC, her Cameroonian, Afro-Latinx and Indian roots/routes ground her creative work and practice. Her work has taken her around the country and the world. Her writing has been recognized by the Loft Literary Center, Minnesota State Arts Board, Givens Foundation for African American Literature, and VONA/Voices of Our Nation. Her arts writing has been featured on MN Artists and exhibition catalogues for the MCAD-Jerome Foundation Fellowships for Early Career Artists and the Great Northern Festival blog. Her writing on being Black and multiracial appears in the anthology Other Tongues: Mixed-Race Women Speak Out and her discontinued blog Mixed Dreams.  A former Fulbright scholar in cultural and applied anthropology, she holds a BA from Swarthmore College and earned her graduate degree in Migration Studies from Oxford University.

writer. seeker. storyweaver.

My Story

Pithy bios are far tidier than the reality. As a writer, I know words and language can never fully encompass all of who we are and how we show up in the world. 

 

The words "writer, seeker, storyweaver" are my attempt to gather up all the personal and professional parts of me that has worked in communities and organizations throughout my career. These "threads" of my identity have been woven through every piece I've written, every program I've created and managed, every space I've held and every dialogue I've facilitated.  

Someone once told me that my life was like a tapestry and all I could see was the tangled mess of threads and fraying string hanging on the backside. Yet on the other side was this extraordinary weaving that told a beautiful story. All our lives are like this. And I am moving toward a place where I can behold both sides of that tapestry with the love and sweetness it deserves-- understanding how those tangled threads represent the life-long process and creative labor of cultivating a life on your own terms.

 

I am a recovering overachiever. Achievement is a wonderful and rewarding thing to strive for. Yet as a woman of color, I am learning  to define achievement and success for myself.  I am in a process of healing from a personal belief system that had me believing I would only be accepted, valued, and loved if I was smart and productive. So while I do have a CV that lists all the things I have done and "accomplished" in the sight of others, the words "writer, seeker, storyweaver" sum it up in more authentic ways than my 6-page long list of employment, community work, and educational accolades ever could. 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I write. Yet, my life as a writer is also far beyond what happens on the page. Being a writer means that I am a student of language and narrative and a listener of stories. Everything is a story, everyone is a story. As a former diversity professional at the Mayo Clinic, approaching my work as a writer meant that I could understand and then articulate and communicate the story of anti-racism and social justice because I understood how racism, classism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and hate have a language and a narrative thrust and structure to them.

 

As host and associate producer of R-Town, a civic and cultural affairs PBS show about the city of Rochester MN, I use my skills as a writer to hold space for the guests I interview and their stories. This is the same skill I use when facilitating community dialogues and conversations---cultivating the groundwork for story to emerge.

 

Writers in communities and organizations are often relegated to the editorial side of things. They write and proofread the emails and collateral materials. They write the abstracts and briefs, the speeches and website content. They get asked to open mics and poetry readings and events that need some "arts". Yet, when we understand that a good writer has a profound understanding of how a story is told, how narrative makes or breaks worlds, and how stories structure themselves, we begin to see how a writer is a strategist, an analyst, a change-holder, and a visionary. 

 

I am always digging for the roots of things. As a seeker, I ask questions of myself and others. I have  BA in Sociology and Anthropology and my graduate degree was focused on the anthropology of migration and cities. Ethnography is a tool used in anthropology to dig deep. It uses writing and narrative tools to excavate and deepen analysis, perspective, and understanding. Yet, beyond ethnography, anthropology as a discipline asks us to come home to ourselves in the process of seeking to understand the world around us. Seeking does not necessarily mean finding. But it means that I am meticulous about the smallest details and am not afraid to ask difficult, urgent questions. There is a certain agility and resilience in the practice of seeking. Writing allows me to explore this seeking and to follow it where it may lead. I love teaching because for me seeking is also about sharing. I taught and developed a course at Oberlin College on the multiracial experience in the United States and I am currently working to develop a course for medical students and healthcare professionals about social justice and the medical humanities. I dream of community spaces where every day people can have access to the  knowledge, dialogue, and intellectual questing often reserved for classrooms and professional degrees. I am committed to seeding and cultivating more of those spaces in my own community. 

 

 

I am a terrible storyteller. It is a strange thing for a writer to admit. As a "storyweaver", I  work to weave meaning.  I bring language, ideas, and narrative lines and threads together seeking the connective tissue of meaning that binds them. It is how I approach my writing and also facilitation. My Ejagham ancestors are believed to have been the creators of an ancient writing system called nsibidi. I am nourished by the thought that my ancestors were weavers of meaning and stories and created an entire system of writing to help them better understand themselves and navigate their world. It is a powerful legacy to inherit. 

seeker. 

writer.

storyweaver.

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