I am a storyteller, on stage, the world of literary, radio and film. I grew up near a library it was one of the only places my mother gave me permission to travel alone lucky me! My mother is an avid reader. Mother, sent me at least once a week to get her books. Both my grandmother and mother firmly believed” holding books are equally as important as holding hands.” The librarian knew my face well. What she did not know is that I took out books from the adult section pretending they were all for mother but really at least one or two books were for me. I read the adult themed books secretly in my bed room closet. There were no princess’s on the pages waiting to be rescued or knights in armor, princes or wolves instead there was a truth I connected too. I was eight years old reading, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Maya Angelou, and Willard Motley. I flung myself into the love of literature with passion and my imagination was on fire. My heart broke with the narratives of “others lives”! After those literary encounters the reading material in my classroom became one long boring session until… 8th grade. I was 13 years old and our teacher read out loud Emily Jane Brontes novel, Wuthering Heights. I wept openly yet silently in class tears streaming down my face. Silence, something I had to activate to avoid the commentary from my classmates.
The other place I was able to go alone was to my grandparents. My grandparents owned a grocery store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin named Patterson’s Grocery Store. One of the few black owned businesses in the area. My grandparents lived behind it in an attached apartment. The community of folks that came and went under the tinkle of the bell attached to the grocery store door were as vibrant, poetic lovely ,and desperate as the characters within the books I read. They were people of all colors, shapes, sizes, and accents. The people that shopped at the store had no boundaries to their stories or how to present them. They came in shouting, screaming, whispering, crying or solemn with hunger begging to be put on the books for a bit of food. My grandparents store was a safe haven for the community of black people, spanish speaking families, Italians and gays (as was the term then) in the community. It was a massive confessional booth. The people were gathered into a sort of wedding bouquet of various accents and skin colors in the struggle of daily survival and future dreams. I knew I would become a storyteller in every and anyway possible. I do this as a filmmaker, comedian, literacy instructor, novelist, performance artist and musician. I abundantly enjoy engaging my audiences, students, and friends in conversations of how and why it is essential to be present and realize the stories in our life, to examine the narrative of our collect lives. And lastly… how to be the author and the voice of your life stories.
Jovelyn D, Richards
Subscribe to Nappy Headed Love Stories
Get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox