The saying goes, everything has a story. Sometimes we expand that to everyone. When I was growing up in my beloved Stephens, Arkansas, there were stories all around. I would sit and listen to different stories about the town – what businesses used to be where and the happenings that went on. I would listen to the stories about the people and the ways they interacted. I listened as a child without speaking a word, which was what I was expected to do. As I got older and was allowed to have a voice, I would ask questions about the places, the people, the times. How wonderful it was to relive those stories with the storytellers in their own voices, on their own terms, with their unique facial and body expressions. I was entertained, excited, thrilled, shocked, sometimes saddened, but always educated and always changed. As I continued to age and left the nest, I still reveled in those stories that were a part of me, the stories that helped shape and mold me. Sometimes when I was back home, I would ask my mom, my grandma, my great-grandma, aunts and uncles to retell stories of Carver High School, of St. Stephens Missionary Baptist Church, of Aunt Abby and Uncle Percy’s Café and Dance Hall, of how my grandpa died.
Those stories have helped to collectively make me who I am. They help me grow to be well rounded and open to the world, the wealth of people around me and the new experiences that awaited each new day of life. They taught me history.
History is the study of past events, particularly in human affairs. We all have one: good, bad, ugly or indifferent. The things around us have history. We live and breathe history every day. That is why I love telling stories about people and events.
I count it a blessing to be able to explore stories. With that blessing comes a huge responsibility. Did I get it right? Will they understand that this is but a part of the history that awaits the discovery, the telling, the growth? Can we start here, then continue to unearth and explore more together: the joys, the pain, the excitement, the pleasure of just the every day? And so it is with the film, “Dream Land: Little Rock’s West 9th Street.” An opportunity came along for Director/Cinematographer Gabe Mayhan and me to tell some (by no means all) of the history of this remarkable area. I pray that this film is but the beginning of passing along human stories, building stories, street stories, cultural stories in the hope of promoting knowledge, greater understanding, healing, and hope.
Thursday, April 6, 2017