REVIEW: Value the Voice

The UMMA auditorium was a beautiful venue for Value the Voice. Each storyteller had a different color spotlight which seemed almost hand-picked for the stories they shared. The theme for this event was “The Shoulders of Giants” and each storyteller had a very different kind of giant in their life. The stories were both heartbreaking and uplifting as I had expected going into this event. The fact that this event was put on by the Department of African and Afro-American Studies and the Comprehensive Studies Program meant that the crowd was on the smaller side but very tight-knit with many of the crowd members knowing each other. It was obvious which storytellers were community figures based on the vigor with which the crowd screamed and cheered when they were announced.
The first story was bathed in bright pink and centered around a freshman’s experience with her mother’s body dysmorphic disorder. She told us about a life with two mothers, one that was absent in some ways but present in many others. Her mother’s disorder often prevented her from attending school events or even leaving the house in general and sometimes led to conversations spoken through doors due to her anxiety with being seen. However, she was always present in her daughter’s life in one way or another whether it was through the lunches she packed for her everyday or being the first person to hug her after graduating from high school.
Another story that resonated with me was the second to last story about a senior’s experience losing many of her giants. She described growing up in Detroit, working Saturday’s at her family’s Eastern Market flower stand, and the friends and family that she made in this community. She told of the teacher that bought a bouquet every weekend and paid for her and her brother to go to a dinner with Trayvon Martin’s parents and a local businessman with a roll of cash that always tipped her and her brother separately so they didn’t have to split it with the shop. The storyteller later shared that she had lost all of these giants she talked of so fondly. The most heartbreaking part of her story was about a dear friend that she described as her soulmate (in a non-romantic way) and his suicide only a year or so prior. As her voice faltered with the emotion of the loss she shared the crowd snapped in support carrying her through to the end. Despite all this loss, she told us of the airplane earrings she wore to remember her friend who had wanted to be a pilot and the fact that she would be graduating this Spring.
Value the Voice is the perfect name for this event as that is what it promotes, putting value in the stories and wisdom of our community members and allowing us to create supportive spaces where we can share with and learn from others.

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