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.