longtable3How does the Lange Tafel work?

Lange Tafel is an oral history program and festive open-air event that occurs in three stages (or “Acts”) designed to inspire dialogue between cultures and generations on the topic of immigration.

In Act 1, school children interview family members and other community members about their experiences with immigration, record their stories, and develop their own perspective on the topic. In 12 guided workshops, school children work in small teams, create time lines about the history of immigration in their community, are taught interviewing methods and communication skills, and document their findings from their interviews.

In Act 2, youth collaborate with their interviewees to stage a meal at a very long table on a major street or city plaza. This table serves as the stage where they share the results of the oral history process.   The youth serve as hosts and moderators of an intergenerational dialogue and display their immigration stories. At this event, the school children also present their oral histories to local community leaders.  Artists (musicians, dancers) perform with pieces related to the theme of immigration.

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In Act 3, school children receive a certificate that recognizes the transcultural knowledge and social skills they have developed through their participation with the project. This process is documented on film so that the program can be evaluated afterwards.

The theater actress and director Isabella Mamatis (Greek-German background), founded Lange Tafel in 2006 in her Berlin neighborhood of Kreuzberg (Bergmannstraße), a diverse working-class neighborhood with a large Turkish immigrant population. After 10 years of running, Lange Tafel has become a well-established Berlin tradition that has been held all over the city in a wide range of neighborhoods, and other major cities such as Hamburg and Düsseldorf.  Mamatis’ vision is to build the Lange Tafel around the globe and bring people world-wide together across ethnicities, social backgrounds, and generations.

During a research visit to Berlin in summer 2014, Professor Cora Granata from California State University, Fullerton and its Center for Oral and Public History, discovered the Lange Tafel project in Kreuzberg and was impressed by the way it brought a community together and fostered civic engagement through collective story telling.

“How can we bring this wonderful project to LA?,” were her words. Since then, Cora Granata and Isabella Mamatis have been working together to find supporters and sponsors in both cities to make this vision become a reality. Prof. Granata put together a team of university students who were enthusiastic about the Lange Tafel and helped implement it in LA. Through working with teachers and school children from LA’s Goethe International Charter School (GICS), the first Long Table LA event was held on March 12, 2016 in Grand Park.