• Rain Bennett

Ep. 69: Sharing Your Lived Experiences Through Stories with Ray Christian

Updated: Nov 28, 2020

This episode of The Storytelling Lab features Ray Christian, a professor, author, show host, speaker, and scholar in all things African American history and storytelling. Ray gives us a glimpse into how his passion for storytelling came to be and provides us with some invaluable advice on how to connect with your audience on a deeper level and sustain a lasting impact through shared experiences.



I always knew that I had great stories to tell.

Well, I should rather say that I thought I could tell great stories about some of my unique experiences. 

I hadn’t lived a life worthy of a memoir, but I certainly thought I had some parts of my life that were crazier than a “normal” person’s -- whatever that meant. But really, I thought that I could just tell those stories in compelling ways that audiences might like.

So it wasn’t necessarily about my unique experiences as it was my unique perspectives.

When I won my very first storytelling competition, I finally received some validation.

That’s probably how Ray Christian felt after he got his first story accepted (by a little show called RISK! that is hosted by The Storytelling Lab guest Kevin Allison!) after countless rejections.

“We’re all the same without our story. What separates you? Only your lived, human experience.”

Ray, now a ten-time Moth Story Slam Champion and winner of the 2016 National Storytelling Festival Story Slam, was just about to quit trying to tell his stories when RISK! took a chance on him. 

But he knew that he had unique human experiences that would connect with people.

He was right.

Ray has now become of the South’s most recognizable and accomplished storytellers, most recently being awarded the Fulbright Scholarship, a prestigious and highly competitive award gifted by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, for his expertise in Education and Storytelling Narrative.

Chosen scholars serve three-year appointments as consultants on research, curriculum, faculty development and related subjects in more than 140 countries around the world.

This won’t be hard for Ray, I expect, because he has spent years using storytelling in education in his role as a professor at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. 

Also, Ray has spent his whole life immersed in different cultures -- whether it be from growing up in a rough neighborhood in the South, or being a black man in America, or serving in the US Army for 20 years.

Now, Ray tries to help people understand his unique experiences through his podcast “What’s Ray Saying?”

“The better you can tell your story, the better people will understand you.”

I’m proud of Ray.

As another southern storyteller three years into his journey, I look up to what he’s done in just seven years. Not necessarily because of his accolades, but because he gets the people to listen.

And listening to people’s true, authentic stories, is the only way we will be able to navigate those grey areas of society and culture that often trip us up.

We all have a unique perspective on the world and they are all valuable.

If you believe someone would benefit from your unique stories and experiences in the world, but you aren’t sure how, when, or where to share them, this is the episode for you!


Some of the highlights of our conversation:

  • Winning the Fulbright award 

  • Being able to travel the world as an expert in education + narrative and oral history 

  • Teaching faculty, administrators, and teachers how to make global connections with storytelling 

  • The history of storytelling 

  • Learning from teachers that grew up during Jim Crow 

  • Serving in the army and making connections there 

  • Being rejected from the storytelling world 7 years ago 

  • Pitching stories in Rain’s hometown of Durham 

  • Feeling the emotional resonance of your audience 

  • Doing a “dance” with your audience 

  • The benefits of telling stories in person vs. writing them 

  • The importance of tone, pauses, and grit in your live storytelling 

  • Performing at festivals, music shows, and radio appearances 

  • Teaching African American history and storytelling at Appalachian State University 

  • How storytelling is used in academics 

  • The use of black history, narrative storytelling, and personal opinion and commentary on his podcast 

  • Growing up in the ghetto with illiterate parents and his personal struggles 

  • Answering difficult questions about black stereotypes and unmasking prejudices

  • Highlighting your unique human experience 

As always, I hope you enjoy the episode!

Peace and Love,



Follow Ray on:

Listen to his podcast: 

And visit his personal Website!

For more storytelling tips and tricks, 

Visit my website, or

Follow me on Twitter @rainbennett

Follow me on Instagram @rainbennett

Subscribe to my Youtube Channel

Follow me on Facebook @rainbennettfilms

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