A Collaboration with Chess and Community
By Melissa Harward
As community leader Life the Griot puts it, there are about 130,000 people living in Athens, and that gives each of us 129,000 different ways to grow. Last week, Life served as Rabbit Box’s wonderful emcee for Black Like Me, a collaborative event with Athens’ local Chess and Community program. Our storytellers gathered to talk race, embracing the culture you come from, and overcoming adversity.
Up first for the night was Celest Divine, who wowed the audience v with her spoken word piece on celebrating skin color and avoiding judgements.
After being tried at age 15 and imprisoned for 10 years under Senate Bill 440 – in which teenagers are prosecuted as adults — Athens native Joseph Houston shared his story of rebuilding a life after life is taken from you.
LaTasha Sheats told the audience about her struggles with self-doubt growing up, now using these lessons to encourage young women through her mentoring organization Strong, Beautiful, & Godly Girls.
As leader of the All Love Movement, rapper and producer Versatyle Tha Wildchyld encouraged us all to choose love over anger, even in the face of dire circumstances.
Local writer and mentor Earnest Thompson, the Crackerjack Surprise storyteller of the evening, is no stranger to the Rabbit Box family. Thompson, a former Rabbit Box engineer, told of his (thankfully) brief encounters as a black man with law enforcement in Athens.
When life at home was difficult, Broderick Flanagan turned quietly to his schooling and art. Broderick now channels the artistic passion he developed as a boy to serve his community.
In his story about his a journey to find his father, Ismeal Cuthbertson (the acclaimer rapper Ishues) illuminated a few of the big cultural issues facing the black community.
Dawn D. Bennett-Alexander explained how her mother taught her never to internalize the hate or threads of racism found in their Washington, D.C., neighborhood. Her story is about standing up for yourself and not messing with moms.
Life the Griot concluded the evening with a story that landed somewhere between the dream world and reality and left us all with the idea of mending bridges, not just between family but between our selves.
Our March show at the Foundry — Wednesday, March 9th — centers on the theme “My Brush with Fame.“ In April we’ll gather at the outdoor amphitheater at Sandy Creek Park for a collaboration with the Athens Science Cafe. Those stories will adhere to the theme “Trials by Science: Dead Ends and Discoveries.”
A big thanks goes out to all of our volunteers and brave storytellers!