RB64: Duets

February 14, 2018
by Patty Tacuri

Andreana Williams and Celest Ngeve — who perform together as African Soul — were amazing and energetic MCs for our Valentine’s Day show called Duets that featured two people telling a story in tandem on the stage. The storytellers shared stories of harmonious and unexpected love, lifelong and enduring friendships, the deep-rooted bond between parent and child, a harrowing brush with death while traveling abroad, and an act of kindness to a grieving widow.

Noel Holston and Marty Winkler shared their harmonious story of love through song. What started as a possible professional collaboration became that and much more.

Denise and Mike Mount talked about their contrasting memories of screen doors slamming when they were kids. Mike’s joyful recollections mellowed Denise’s memories that formerly always had come paired with her mom’s exasperated cry.

Cindy Karp and Connie Crawley told Cindy’s story of how an expeditious bond with a stranger helped save her life.

Laurie Allen and April Taylor told a story about their enduring friendship that extended from childhood shenanigans and mishaps through the trials and tribulations of adulthood.

Crackerjack storyteller Terry Kaley experienced an unexpected and random act of kindness from a stranger on a particularly hard Valentine’s day.

Beau Shell (AKA the Lil’ Ice Cream Dude) and his mother Vickie shared their story of Beau’s intrepid spirit of entrepreneurship that helped him start a successful business Vickie has supported and encouraged since 2012.

Dave and Raquel Durden swept us along in their humorous telling of their passionate whirlwind romance in South Korea while both were serving in the U.S. Army.

Dan Everett and Kate Blane described their family’s colorful adventures abroad in multicultural Malaysia where Dan taught for a year.

RB63: Rising from the Ashes

January 10, 2018
“Rising from the Ashes”
by Marci White

Storytellers shared intense and marvelous stories at Rabbit Box’s “Rising from the Ashes” at The Foundry this January.

More than 250 people listened to moving accounts of trauma, shock, difficulty, despair, and conflict followed by healing, renewal or self-insight. The healing was assisted by some combination of time, acceptance, perseverance and personal support. Some people rose from their ashes many years ago. Others roses more recently, and, as one crackerjack storyteller said, “I’m still kind of stewing in my ashes.”

Our friend Tara Stuart was on fire as the night’s emcee!

Krystle Cobran told about some of the pain associated with everyday racism — the worst of which is when a trip to the grocery store can turn into an anxiety-producing, emotional experience.

After a traumatic event, Sarah Bradley wanted to dissolve into the earth one summer and just disappear. She realized what she really needed was a long “conversation with anger” and a path to healing.

Between Brad Smith and his dad, things came to a head one Christmas when his dad had yet another angry outburst in front of the family. Brad didn’t want his kids exposed to that and told his dad so. But his father, a Presbyterian pastor, wasn’t about to back down.

Abbey was raised in a dysfunctional family, with a parent suffering from mental illness. Now in college, Abbey has had to confront and try to find help for her own mental illness, which manifests as a severe anxiety disorder. She’s learning to accept herself for how she is, to be okay with that, and also seek help. For now, every day when she gets out of bed she is “rising from the ashes.”

John Roper found himself taken to jail again — “this time, for something serious.” If convicted he could be facing a lot of jail time. He had to go through a week of drug withdrawal in a holding cell. Then at Christmas, the harsh lights of jail softened into something golden and reassuring, and his outlook changed dramatically.

David Bothe’s name was chosen as the Crackerjack Surprise storyteller. He talked about an old mini-van with some serious issues that would be costly to repair for him or some unsuspecting future owner. Hard-pressed to pay, could he take the ethical path?

Faye Fleming wasn’t sure she could ever recover from a devastating loss. What she dug out of the ashes of that loss — and something beautiful created from what she found — finally enabled her to go on with her life.

RB62: Holidazed

December 13, 2017
by Marci White

For this special holiday show, our MC Brad Smith wished everyone a merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah and joyous Kwanzaa. Brad’s warm and welcoming spirit added a great energy to the show.

Rebecca McCarthy told about her engineer father and how he was “good at many things” but not gift-giving. After he gave his wife a green plastic trashcan for Christmas, something had to change.

Donna Fee Smith grew up in rural Oconee County in the 1970s. The only thing she knew about religion was from seeing Billy Graham on her grandma’s TV. Even after college she didn’t know much, but a Jewish boyfriend she met after college opened her eyes to the unexpected joys of multiculturalism.

Bert Parks owned and managed a trailer park in downtown Atlanta in the 1980s and ’90s, a challenging period that included difficult characters and some dangerous encounters. In this story he tells about a longtime tenant, a woman who suffered fits of paranoia and slept with a pistol. She decided to finally move her trailer one Christmas day to a “better” trailer park, but that wasn’t the end of dealing with one of his most irascible residents.

Emily Parker told a funny and self-deprecating story about being an overly confident college student traveling abroad in Germany. She soon met her comeuppance.

Raquel Durden was chosen to be the Crackerjack storyteller for the night. During her 25 years in the military, she spent Christmases all over the world and was the recipient of much-appreciated Christmas care packages – some more cherished than others.

Hannah Angel was devastated when her boyfriend dumped her abruptly during the holidays. That Christmas could hardly have been more terrible. And then her cat went missing.

Paul Guillebeau grew up in northwest Georgia, the third of four boys. Every Christmas the three oldest boys would take their grandmother’s Jeep and head off to the woods seeking the biggest Christmas tree they could possibly fit into their house. One year there was a Christmas tree disaster and a small miracle.

As a stubborn 18-year-old, Terry Kaley married a man 24 and 1/2 years older than she was. On their first Christmas together she discovered that he was too thrifty to spend the money on a tree. But a friend owned some woods and told them they could hike into the woods and cut down a tree for free. That sounded good to him, but their quest led to a difficult situation they found hard to extract themselves from. Christmas was never the same again.

RB61: An Unquiet Mind

Nov, 8, 2017
“An Unquiet Mind”
by Marci White

Rabbit Box collaborated with Nuci’s Space this month to host “An Unquiet Mind,” a show devoted to stories about coping with mental illness. Nuci’s Space’s mission is to prevent suicide. “With a focus on musicians, Nuci’s Space advocates for and helps to alleviate the suffering for those living with a brain illness.” They also work toward ending the stigma associated with mental illness.

The emcee was Jesse Houle, who was the perfect emissary, since he works both with Nuci’s Space and Rabbit Box. Jesse told about his own journey with severe depression at “The Kindness of Strangers” show in January of 2016.

Ivan Sumner knew something was very off about his housemate, who seemed delusional and threatening. At his wit’s end, he went to Nuci’s Space seeking help, and they promised him they would assist with an intervention as long as his housemate wasn’t violent. When Ivan drove back to his house to assess the situation, he found police cars in front of his house and a scene that validated his concerns and stoked his fears. What would happen when his housemate was released from the mental hospital?

When Elsa Durusau was told that her young son, whom she had placed for adoption, had symptoms of autism, she was in disbelief. Her son’s personality resembled her own quite a bit, and others in her family, and no one had ever suggested that she was autistic. Hesitantly, she began to look at the symptoms to see if that label could help to explain some of the oddities in her own, very multi-faceted personality.

Having been born to a troubled mother who struggled with depression and drug addiction, Kyrie Amos had a rough childhood. Her father tried to protect her, but also had his own issues to cope with. An excellent student, Kyrie won a scholarship to college and seemed to have escaped the demons that plagued her parents. But as a young adult, long-repressed, difficult feelings rose to the surface, leading to illness and depression. At first, Kyrie did whatever she could to push them away and numb herself. Ironically, when she thought she had hit rock bottom, a new drug showed her unseen possibilities for how to work with her difficulties and overwhelming emotions.

Though it took him awhile to understand it, Stephen Cramer’s mother coped with mental illness for much of her life. She may have had schizophrenia and/or a personality disorder. Whatever the case, her son adored her and was “proud to be a mama’s boy.” Luckily, his mother eventually found the right mix of medicines to alleviate her symptoms. Stephen showed no signs of any real problems while growing up in Detroit; everything he did was “good enough.” But after high school, depression and suicidal thoughts became the new norm. He didn’t have a sense for how not normal this was and that he needed help until his wife forced him to go see a doctor. Since then Cramer has not only become proactive about his own health but become an advocate for others struggling with mental health issues. To that end he started a music/speaker festival called Brain Aid.

The name pulled out of the Cracker Jack box at the end of intermission was John Roper’s. John told a funny and edgy story of being pulled over by the police, who found a small bag of cocaine in the door pocket of his car. The officer was sure that not only was the cocaine John’s, but that he was on cocaine when he was pulled over. But the officer had only circumstantial evidence and his own assumptions. It was up to John to prove to the judge that the officer had gotten it all wrong about him.

Briana Wells, an exceptional student, left her violent mother and her childhood home with academic honors and a bright future ahead of her. But as a young adult she found herself grappling with the frightening feeling of being possessed by the extremes of psychosis, as God and Satan waged battle within her psyche.

As a U.S. Marine, Chad Whitworth was doing his job and his duty when he was assigned a dangerous mission, and things went terribly wrong. His hearing was seriously damaged, and his knees were hit by shrapnel, requiring surgery. But more damage was there, unseen, and with debilitating symptoms. A screening at the VA shone some light on the situation.

Julie Peters told us about her beloved younger brother who was “all boy.” As a kid he was rambunctious and lovable. As he got older he had trouble in school; the family learned he had learning disabilities. Still he was a big favorite with the girls. Eventually he dropped out of school and had problems with anxiety, depression and suicidal tendencies. He never talked about his problems and never asked for help because that’s “not what real men do.” Medical expenses and health problems exacerbated his despair until he took a decisive step.

rb61 unquiet mind group photo

Prior to the show, our storytellers were asked what they thought we, as individuals and a community, can do to fight the stigmas in our culture surrounding mental illness and mental health. Here’s what they had to share, by Jesse Houle:

Ivan Sumner, a veteran Rabbit Boxer who considers storytelling at Rabbit Box his “therapy” and was glad to get “another session”:
“Recognize that all of us walk along the edge between madness and uncertainty, wobbling, with only a tiny nudge required for us to lose our balance, falling into madness on one side and despair and impotence on the other. To have real empathy, we must at least imagine it is us.”

Elsa Durusau, an avid writer and knitter who works at the UGA music library:
“I have struggled with mental illness for most of my life but only recently found out the biggest root cause of my problems. As far as fighting the stigma around mental illness and mental health… I’m not sure what the solution is. But perhaps if people just had a little more empathy and understanding of people who are different from them, then they would understand those who struggle with mental illness better.”

Kyrie Amos, who is studying social work with plans to specialize in addiction and chronic mental illness:
“The way that I fight stigma about mental illness and health is just by telling my story to anyone I meet that will listen. I talk openly about my struggles on a regular basis because they are part of who I am. I also talk about the therapeutic value psychedelic substances have had for me and think we need to open up the conversation to include alternative medicine and therapy.”

Stephen Cramer, who recently founded Brain Aid with a mission of combating stigma, encouraged folks to help with the project:
“I founded a new nonprofit organization, Brain Aid Fest, earlier this year to combine my passions for events, music and comedy with mental health advocacy.” Stephen also coordinates Duded Helping Dudes, an online forum and weekly roundtable discussion on Thursday evenings at Nuçi’s Space.

Brianna Wells, a local musician, artist, and mental health advocate:
“One of the most important parts of fighting the stigma and experience of mental illness is to work toward validating experiences. Treat the ‘illness’ as a normal response to an abnormal event or as a medical concern when necessary, not the fault of the person inside. What makes us human? Our broken souls seek the light. Surviving darkness should be rewarded, not nailed to a scarlet letter.”

Chad Whitworth, while humbly referring to himself as “just a simple man”:
“As for fighting the stigma that surrounds mental illness, education and acceptance for those who are dealing with mental illness is key. Much like any other illness it is real and palpable – no difference with mental illness than cancer, HIV, or diabetes. If left untreated it can cause great pain or even death.”

Julie Peters, who founded TREK Foster Care which operates from the Advantage offices to recruit foster families:
“I am trying to fight the stigma of mental illness by telling my story. I think the more we talk about it and educate people about it, the more we can bring it out of the shadows. Lots of people have some sort of mental health issues and it is only by normalizing it and understanding it that we will bring people to acceptance of it.”

Julie’s sentiments echo our mission here at Rabbit Box. If you’d like to share your story and help us build community one story at a time, please let us know!

For more information on mental health resources and fighting stigma, please visit the website of our event’s cohost, Nuçi’s Space or follow them on Facebook.

RB60: Masquerade

“Masquerade” at Sandy Creek Park was a remarkable, transcendent night of stories. Under the starry sky, surrounded by the sounds of the forest, we heard from storytellers sharing their unique, authentic, hilarious and charming selves. John Rogers was our mellow Master of Ceremonies. Storytellers wore masks and costumes and brought along some props to share with us their interpretation of a “masquerade.” The storytellers were: David Bothe, Nico Isaac, Jennifer Bray, Laura Rupers, Cricket Bancroft, Neal Priest, Tommy Tye and Donna Fee Smith.

Jennifer Bray (aka Long Tall Jenny) brought her inner (and outer) clown to the stage. After an eventful year of big changes and growth, she shared some insight about her ongoing journey of discovering “what she wants to be when she grows up.”

Nico Isaac stopped into a general store in Atlanta one day to pick up some cleaning supplies. The man at the cash register showed her something that would leave her forever changed. “Some people wear masks that are obvious,” she observed of the experience, “while others’ masks blend in so seamlessly that you don’t notice them until it’s too late.”

Laura Rupers’ sister sometimes struggled, and Laura would help take care of her three nieces whenever called upon. In order to make the girls laugh and forget their worries, she developed a hilarious hillbilly character who would read books to them. The outsized character raised everyone’s spirits so much that Laura found herself compelled to bring the character back for a potentially inappropriate appearance at an emotionally charged, family gathering.

Tommy Tye‘s wild intelligence began by communicating with dogs, then birds and other animals — even trees. Listening carefully to the wild animals he’s gotten to see things most people don’t ever experience. His mom was sure that by the time he was 18 he’d either be in jail or dead. He avoided both by tuning into a wild, true voice inside.

The evening’s Cracker Jack Surprise storyteller Donna Fee is a real estate agent. She went to show an expensive house to a couple that was obviously occupied by a recently divorced bachelor. Something had her on edge about the house, and her instincts kicked in.

Neal Priest went to medical school — and many a great Mardi Gras party — in New Orleans, where he made brilliant and wonderful friends. At one party an inebriated friend dressed as the Tin Man disappeared during a period when the city was wracked by random gun violence. Would Neal and his friends be able to save him?

Cricket Bancroft is a “keeper of quilts.” Every quilt has a story, but not all are of interest to her. But when she went to an estate sale at an infamous old Athens house, she knew she’d found a quilt she wanted to keep. The house had a history of violence, and when she got home and looked at the quilt, she realized she’d brought some of that history home with her.

David Bothe was the underwriter of his friend’s vision quest. His friend was gone out West for months and when the man returned, David realized that he was jealous and wanted his own vision quest. Who would be his guides? Who were his mentors who had wisdom to share? Whom would he see emerge from the cliff walls?

RB59: Toil & Trouble

September 13, 2017
“Toil & Trouble – Stories about Work”
by Marci White

Tim Denson ably did the honors as emcee for our show in honor of Labor Day – “Toil & Trouble.” Tim is an advocate for labor rights and in the past has worked as a cowboy, mental health counselor and touring musician, among other jobs.

In 1956 Tom Kenyon became the first person in his family accepted to a university. He was 17 and desperately needed a job to be able to pay for college. He answered a newspaper ad looking for a “strong man” needed for heavy labor for $1.25 an hour. Would he be able to hack it?

After college, Robin Whetstone and her friend Susan shared an apartment and worked at Ray and Dawn’s Seafood Grill, where it was impossible to make enough to live on. But one of their new coworkers “knows a guy” with some really “good stuff,” and if Robin and Susan will help him move it, he promises that their financial situation will be much improved.

Dr. Walter Freeman, early in his career as a chemist, was misled about a job. He took the job only to find out that he would not have access to the superconducting NMR he so longed to use. His determined quest for this treasured and expensive tool would call for him to develop skills not directly related to chemistry, and those came in handy throughout his career.

Gabe Newman grew up near a golf course in a small town in Georgia and spent much of his time “in the woods…looking for golf balls.” He’d really wanted to be a baseball player for the Cubs but found himself living precariously in Athens. In 2007 he had a dream that proved to be a good omen and led to a series of new opportunities that continue to unfold.

Steven Bellan’s name was chosen out of the box to be the Crackerjack Surprise storyteller of the night. As a wildlife biologist, Steven worked in Namibia studying jackals. Part of his job was trapping them to put on, remove or replace the collars that collected data about their movements. This could be very tricky, and late one night it all came to a head.

When Christy Lin decided to stop freelancing to get a steady job at an ad agency, at first it seemed intense but good. The five “creatives” at the agency worked fast-paced, 60-80 hour weeks. It was fun to be part of a creative team, work hard and be compensated well. But when a personal issue came up that demanded some time and healing, she had to face the true nature of what she’d signed on for.

The second job Joe Willey got driving a tractor trailer was a truck driver’s dream gig: hauling carpet and yard from Dalton, Georgia, to New Orleans and to Andalusia, Alabama, and then home for the weekend. But then Hurricane Erin came along to shake things up.

As a professional paramedic and Emergency Medical Services educator, Roscoe McCoy knows how things should go, ideally, when the police and paramedics are called out to deal with an emergency. One day nothing goes according to plan.

RB58: I Didn’t Sign Up For This

August 9th, 2017
“I Didn’t Sign Up For This”
by Sean Polite

A rollicking Rabbit Box offering, “I Didn’t Sign Up For This,” took place on Wednesday, August 9th, a pleasant, cool evening at The Foundry. The assortment of tales spanned juvenile rivalry, impossible missions, international goodwill, rashly taboo purchases, accident recovery, the slow and steady slope of progress, solemn reckonings made to family, and amusing journeys to reveal one’s identity.

The inimitable Tara Stuart served as our Master of Ceremonies.

Connie Crawley kicked off the story set, taking the audience back to her elementary school days. The bliss between her and a best friend was interrupted by the arrival of a spunky usurper to their affections. Connie’s parents sent her to play with the child as the girl faced ever-worsening challenges.

A lifetime ago during his time working for the EPA in Washington, D.C., Paul Guillebeau took on the noblest of off-duty tasks: helping a co-worker move. The furniture-transporting team had issues from the outset as recounted by the always-wry, expert storyteller Guillebeau.

Dr. Leara Rhodes‘ first trip to Haiti found her in the middle of boiled-over political strife. Passage home came only through body-strewn streets and a rampaging crowd of desperate people.

Bard Jim Lavender returned to Athens to regale us with a humorous tale of the power of what hard-earned money can buy. The crate that boy Jim ordered by mail sounds rather like Pandora’s Box!

Laura Hanson was selected as the evening’s Cracker Jack Surprise storyteller. An expert working in the field of neuro- and bio-feedback, Laura found that her world turned awry after getting news that her daughter had been in a terrible accident.

Patricia Tacuri, a Rabbit Box Engineer, recalled the developmental differences her first child exhibited. She educated herself once she learned the diagnosis, nursing his (and her) spirit by always seeing his potential.

Elsa Durusau stepped up to fill a spot in the line-up left vacant late in the day. As in all our lives, the spectre-like presence of death grows as the years go by, and the miles seemed to widen between even the tightest of friends. Elsa told a touching story of the sudden and tragic loss of two beloved friends.

Evie McGovern, our final storyteller of the evening, remembers a special crush when she was 11 that led to a redefinition of her identity in relation to attraction to others. A charming storyteller, Evie recounted the sometimes-confusing path she has traveled and the ways she informed others about what she discovered about herself on her journey.

Special thanks to The Foundry and all the Rabbit Box family and audience for another wonderful evening. Thank you, storytellers that night — and you storytellers of nights to come! See you soon!

RB57: If These Walls Could Talk

July 12, 2017
“If These Walls Could Talk”
by Marci White

More than 300 people came out on a sultry Georgia night to hear stories on the theme “If These Walls Could Talk.” The stories were an extraordinary mix of antebellum walls containing romance and Chippendale furniture, Facebook walls, psychiatric hospital walls, dilapidated party-house walls, prison walls and walls haunted by ghosts. It was a night to remember. Thanks to all the storytellers, our co-sponsors the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, and to all the people who came and listened to the stories so raptly.

Adam Hebbard, president of the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, was our convivial emcee for the evening.

Daniel Epting is a 4th-generation Athenian who was raised steeped in Athens history. True to his roots, he restores historical homes, and his home in the historic Boulevard neighborhood is a perennial job-site. Daniel told a short history of some of his preservationist work, including some of the very odd, old things he’s found on job sites.

The mansion at 150 S. Milledge Avenue is currently the sorority house of Alpha Delta Pi, but its history includes the adventures and international intrigues of Ned Hodgson and family, who bought the house in 1906. Tom Hodgson told us the story of his grandparents Ned and Mary Hodgson and the role they and their house played in an unlikely international romance.

When a group of student ballet dancers at UGA left town for a long holiday, they asked Rhett Crowe and her boyfriend to house-sit the antebellum house they were renting. Only after they returned did they ask, “Did you notice anything strange about the house?” Um . . . YES!! This story gave us all the creepy chills.

Riley Kirkpatrick, in his previous life as a non-violent drug offender and addict, got acquainted with the gritty, claustrophobic confines of many county jails. Those walls can tell stories of hard, hard times, sickness and perseverance.

Kristin‘s name was chosen out of the Crackerjack box to tell an impromptu story. She told of being in a locked ward for the mentally ill in New York City with lots of doors, lots of keys. The only thing to do was to be fully herself — to face the fear and boredom and connect with the people stuck there with her.

Lee Epting, a native Athenian responsible for the renovation of many old homes and buildings in our town, told the story of an old woman he knew who was house rich but cash poor and needed to sell her historic mansion. She asked him to help her put on one last dinner party in her beautiful home. The meal had to be perfect in all its particulars. “Yes, ma’am,” he said. Things didn’t turn out as planned, but the dinner party turned out to be unforgettable.

As a freelance journalist, David Ferguson spends a lot of time hanging out with co-workers in online chatrooms and on Facebook walls. He got to be close friends with one coworker, Dan, long before he ever met him in person or even talked on the phone. When Dan’s life started going downhill, David saw it all happening, sometimes even before Dan did. They finally did meet in person but not in the way either of them had planned.

Starting in 1977, Paul Butchart participated in the Athens music scene and laid-back, bohemian lifestyle of the times. In 1980 he moved into a famous party house on Milledge Avenue that he rented from a Latvian immigrant with a mysterious and colorful past: Mr. Antons. Paul lived in the house for 28 years, and his life became intertwined with his eccentric landlord’s.

RB56: Acting Up

May 10, 2017
by Marci White

Ashley Na, activist and board member of Athens for Everyone, was our emcee for the evening. She directed the proceedings with an unpretentious grace, musing about everyone’s astrological signs and what they’re prepared to fight for.

Benjamín Milano Albino grew up in a housing project in Caguas, Puerto Rico. In 5th grade, a boy in his neighborhood, Jose, drew attention for being effeminate and acting out. While the dreamy and timid Benjamin looked on, Jose fought and danced and by the time he was in 8th grade, was openly gay and still fighting to be who he was. Jose couldn’t have known that he way a hero and role model for his straight-laced neighbor, Benjamin.

When Lori Hanna started UGA as a “wide-eyed freshman” she stumbled across the food activist group Real Food, and dove right in. She and her friends organized, had rallies, lobbied, educated and petitioned. Lori spend part of this past winter in Cuba, where her “house mother” had other ideas about what it meant to be a radical activist.

When Adam Lassila and his friend Laura flew into Mexico to begin a long adventure hitchhiking through South America, they were surprised to find themselves in the middle of an intense confrontation between the striking teachers of Oaxaca and the Mexican police. Should they join the strikers? The roads were blocked, but their path was clear.

As a young child, Maggie Schmidt was passionate about protecting animals. As a young adult with a new job at a poultry vaccine company, she had an occasion to remember her love for animals and her passion for trying to help them. Sometimes it helps to have a reminder that “we can give ourselves permission to act up.”

Crackerjack storyteller Alan Black was walking through Detroit when he saw some picketers outside a building. These picketers had extraordinarily good-looking picket signs. Who could they be?

Beto Mendoza and his brothers were raised in Mexico by their hard-working, community-helping, obstacle-overcoming and religious-minded mother. She set an example of selflessness they never forgot.

Sarah Bradley grew up in Athens and was a sweet, obedient little girl…until around 5th grade, when she turned into a terror. By middle school, she was a raging rebel and the bane of her teachers. Many years later, Sarah found herself full circle, with a job as a middle school teacher, at the same school she had gone to, teaching kids just like herself.

In 1978 Maureen McLaughlin went with a defense legal team to Reidsville, Georgia, to defend six men accused of killing a guard during a prison uprising. Maureen was the consultant for helping to pick the jury. Hosea Williams showed up. The KKK was there. The town was tense, and more than 100 people were arrested for demonstrating. After this historical trial, Reidsville would never be quite the same again, and Maureen had found her calling.

RB55: Grab ‘Em by the Story – Women’s Voices

April 12, 2017
by Marci White

Dr. Freda Scott Giles was our warm and engaging MC for this night of storytelling devoted to women’s voices and experiences. Dr. Giles recently retired from teaching theater and African-American studies at UGA and is managing editor of Continuum, an online journal of African-American theater, drama and performance.

The first storyteller was Sarah Aldama, who told of taking her mother to a hospital in Atlanta to have surgery and the suspenseful wait to find out how it went. During that pivotal time, a girl made the transition to a woman as she cared for and worried about her mother.

Yvonne Mckethan-Roberts describes growing up in the Bronx with her mother, father and brothers in a tight-knit community where “all the shopkeepers knew you by name.” But the story centers around Yvonne’s mother, who worked hard to become a nurse and wanted to look her best for the pinning ceremony. When her mom came back from a big shopping trip, including a stop at the “All-Day Wig Store,” her children didn’t recognize her.

Rashaun Ellis grew up “large and in charge” with a supportive, loving family. After she moved to Athens and ended up unemployed, broke and down in the dumps, she gave away her car to her twin sister and found herself walking everywhere. After things got even worse, as an emotional release and a way to be quiet and alone, she took up running. She became healthier both physically and emotionally, but not every result from her lifestyle change has been positive or welcome.

Raquel Durden spent 25 years in the US Army and retired recently as a lieutenant colonel. In her twenties, when she trained to be a paratrooper, she was the only female to graduate from her Airborne School training. In the following decades she didn’t have much occasion to use the training but, as she says, “The Army always collects.” She eventually was tapped for a position that required her to renew her Airborne training. Turns out that jumping out of a plane as a forty-something mom was very different from the first time around!

Amazingly, Rashaun’s twin sister Rachelle Ellis‘ name was picked out of the Rabbit Box to be the Crackerjack storyteller. Rachelle shared with us what it was like for her to watch the dramatic physical transformation of her dear sister and, for the first time in their lives, to be “the fat twin.”

Beatrice Brown says, “Sometimes it takes a crisis to find our voice.” She goes on to tell how, when she was doing her medical research at Temple University in Philadelphia in the 1970’s, she experienced a crisis that threatened to derail the research she had devoted so much of herself to. During a uncertain time when her main refuge was a seedy bar full of rough and eccentric characters, she managed, through deft handling, to deal with a boorish new boss, and turn a crisis to her advantage.

Poet and spoken-word performer Celest Divine treated us to an improvisational poem about her journey from being a “chocolate chubby girl poet” facing doubt and dismissal from others to published author, empowered woman and educator of young people.

Chelsea Brooks story was about a traumatic occasion when she was thirteen, when a trusted figure in her family’s life violated her physically and emotionally, and an immediate inquest was called to order. Her journey around these events has been one of reclaiming her truth, her power, and helping others to do the same.