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! Both my grandmother and mother firmly believed” holding books are equally as important as holding hands.” Now gone on as ancestors probably reading the stars and telling the universe story's of what they learning of being human in their time. Thank you both with all my heart and soul.
The librarian knew my face well. What she did not know... I took out books from the adult section pretending they were 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 shinning armor, princes or wolves eating girls. No in place of those tales 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 and love walked in human compassion rode in on wild horses I learned to ride.
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. I put my head down on the table pretending to not be feeling good. My desk wet with tears.
The other place I was able to go alone was to my grandparents. My grandparents owned a grocery store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Patterson’s Grocery Store. One of the few black owned businesses in the area. My grandparents lived in the back of the store 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 in America. I knew early I was a storyteller in every and anyway possible. I tell story 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
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