An Evening of Story & Song

Monday, November 6, 2023

An Unforgettable Celebration, 10 Years In The Making

Our “10 Years of ‘Yes!’ gala event was a night of inspiring moments, heartfelt stories, and breathtaking performances. 

It was a night of stories, songs, smiles, tears, and laughter.

It was a night that celebrated the past ten years…and laid the foundation for the future.

But most of all, it was a night that advanced our mission and honored the people who make it all possible — people like YOU!

Whether you celebrated with us in New York City, or continue to support us from afar, thank you for being the most important character in our incredible story.

We’ve come a long way in the past decade — but we’re just getting started. Here are highlights from the event, showcasing the exciting next chapter of Narrative 4!

To make our programs accessible to schools worldwide, Narrative 4, is proud to unveil our new learning lab – a single digital touchpoint for learning resources, training modules, and global interactions. This would not have been possible without the support of the Bezos Family Foundation and their generous gift of $25,000,000 towards N4's Growth and Innovation Campaign. Lisa Consiglio, Co-Founder and CEO of Narrative 4 unveiled the JBGLL at the 10th anniversary with a moving address honoring Jackie Bezos.

"When Narrative 4 was seeded in the mountains of Colorado, it was Jackie who told us to go global immediately. It was Jackie who helped pull me out of a professional despair that almost derailed all of the good that had occurred for years. It was Jackie (and of course Mike and the Bezos Family Foundation) who tipped Narrative 4 into being in June of 2013 with a check for $385,000.

It was Jackie who showed up at events. Who talked to me on the phone. Who sat next to kids in cafeterias. Who listened. Who believed. And, along with her family and foundation, it was Jackie who officially kicked off Narrative 4’s 10-year anniversary celebration with a $25,000,000 leadership gift that marks the start of our $50,000,000 growth and innovation campaign. She believes in not only the strategy and numbers behind the campaign, but also the voices, stories, actions and lives behind it. 

Ladies and gentlemen, the Jackie Bezos Global Learning Lab goes live tonight. It represents and honors Jackie’s myriad contributions to Narrative 4 and ensures her gifts will go on to impact countless students as they become civic leaders. 

Every time a student shares a memory, listens deeply to the story of a stranger, learns from a downloadable module, connects with an artist, and/or bonds with another child - next door or across the globe - Jackie’s name and her own narrative for Narrative 4 will be front and center. Her vision to “Go Big” inspired the trajectory of the organization, and our goal is to have it inspire children everywhere, forever. Her vision will be woven into Narrative 4’s future—and front and center on this digital home for global sharing and change—as tightly as it has been woven into our beginning."

- Lisa Consiglio, Co-Founder and CEO of Narrative 4

Between authors Lila Azam Zanganeh and Colum McCann, you will see a chair has been left empty deliberately. The Empty Chair is a symbol for the dispossessed, for the lost, for the voiceless, and others who haven’t always been invited to the table of the world’s abundance.

On the 6th of November, we placed an Empty Chair on stage for the duration of the program to remember and honour journalist James Foley, who was abducted and killed by ISIS in Syria in 2014. His mother Diane Foley, whose story is told in Colum McCann's upcoming book 'American Mother', was also in the audience.

Though the Empty Chair represents loss, the empty chair is also a symbol of hope that we can fill the chairs - and the tables - of our shared world. The empty chair is all of us together remembering what is most important - our connection to one another, and our need to fill that connection.

"Through the sharing of stories, and bringing about the change that those stories invoke, we will all, certainly, be there. The Empty Chair is, in so many ways, the Empathy Chair." Said Colum McCann, Co-Founder and President of Narrative 4.

"If I should close my eyes, that my soul can see, and there's a place at the table that you saved for me. So many thousand miles over land and sea, I hope to dare, that you hear my prayer. And somehow I'll be there"

From 'The Empty Chair' by artists Sting and J. Ralph

Guests at Narrative 4’s 10th Anniversary Gala didn’t just celebrate and support beautiful art — they got to experience it!

More than 700 guests sold out the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Symphony Space for live performances of music and poetry by Sting, Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Loah, Ishmael Beah, and more.

While nothing can match the experience of seeing these incredible artists live, our specially curated playlist is the next best thing to being there in person. Check it out here!

In addition to celebrating milestones from the last decade, '10 Years of Yes' was a celebration of many new beginnings. Among them was our new Civic Engagement model through which students will be able to conceptualize and execute civic Engagement Campaigns in their communities with help from Narrative 4! You can explore and contribute to ongoing Civic Engagement projects here.

Sharing stories has been the heart of our mission for ten years – now we’re turning stories into action!

“The beauty of N4’s Global Civic Engagement model is that it’s available and accessible to all,” said Lee Keylock, Narrative 4 Director of Global Programs. “It also provides an opportunity for teachers and students to carry their work forward.” 

Our initial projects span the globe — from Langley, Kentucky, to The Bronx, New York, to Joe Slovo Township in South Africa — and we’re just getting started! “Imagine being able to scale these projects, inspire others, and replicate them across the globe,” said Keylock. “This is what our Civic Engagement platform will do. Bring the local and the global together to inspire one another. Because positive change happens when stories are shared and communities connect. Imagine what saying ‘Yes’ can accomplish!”

Addressing the violence in Israel and Palestine, Narrative 4 Artist Assaf Gavron (from Israel) and founding member and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Narrative 4 Greg Khalil (from Palestine) came together to make a joint appeal for peace, and more universally, for hope.

Assaf began - “It has been a month that made me fall silent. I have not been able to speak. Many others around me couldn’t shut up. They talked. They knew. They understood. I did not. 

Strange to say, but only stories provided comfort. Stories of compassion. Of being there for others when needed. Of courage and sacrifice to save loved ones – or strangers.

Stories and narratives are more important than ever, because if in the past there would be a conflict between competing narratives, where you could have a conversation and make up your mind, now there is a battle to even have a narrative, a story. For some, the mere possibility that the other “side” has a story is unbearable. 

Stories can give comfort and strength. But stories can be wounding and vicious.The easy ones. The over-simplified ones. The ones that cannot contain complexity. The ones who see only two colors, two sides, two angles. There is so much more than two truths.

In our region, and in the global conversation about our region, the silencing of stories and narratives was always a big part of the game, and in recent years more than ever, because of the changing speed and scale in which information and opinions resonate and spread.

We can’t waste time and attention upon the simplified rhetoric of division. People, like stories, are made of countless shades and colors. These are the truths that should interest us.

Everyone is entitled for their stories to exist and be told. This is why we must continue the conversation.”

How does one continue the conversation in times so divisive? How does one share or receive perspective when no one is listening? And most importantly, when good news is so scarce, where should we find the strength to continue seeking and telling stories? The answer is hope.

"Hope is not an adjective or a noun, hope is a verb. Hope is what you do - especially when it seems utterly hopeless." said Greg.

Quoting the 14th century poet Hafez, he added "The small man builds cages for everyone he knows. While the sage, who has to duck her head when the moon is low, keeps dropping keys all night long for the beautiful rowdy prisoners. 

You see, story is both cage and key. Story can destroy - when we tell stories about those people - we've all done it, including me because our brain is programmed to categorize. 

But story is also key. Story can liberate us too, when we turn towards each other rather than away and start truly listening and recognising that most of our perceived enemies are people of integrity too - people who grasp a piece of this larger truth too."


This year, Louisiana poet Laureate and author Darrell Bourque, the previous recipient of the Global Empathy Award, presented the Global Empathy Award to author and N4 founding artist Terry Tempest Williams. In her acceptance speech, Williams recounted the harrowing story of a family affected by a cyclone and urged members of the audience to join the battle against climate change.

"Believe the long-legged birds who are circling above us desperately looking for water. Believe the forests that are burning whose surviving trees will later stand as signals, charred witnesses to animal bodies reduced to ash. Floods roaring through burnt canyons, gathering debris and rivers running black in the desert even in times of drought. Believe the Great Salt Lake is retreating in plain sight, leaving what's left to the dust devils, whipping up clouds of chemicals resting on the dry lake bed as we inhale the toxic world we have created." she read, "This is more than an ecological crisis. This is a spiritual one."