Special Edition

#PositivelyPowerstories – June 2-15, 2020 – Episode 9

Powerstories Theatre stages true stories to open minds and hearts and inspire action worldwide.

Stories are powerful. They are moving and create genuine emotions. They are authentic human experiences that engage, connect and inspire us. And it is undeniable that the most powerful ones demonstrate conflict and then resolution.

THIS IS THE TIME TO INSPIRE OTHERS BY SHARING A POWERFUL STORY…A POWERSTORY.

Normally, we share submissions that bring a smile to our faces and joy to our hearts, but this time we asked our global family to dig deep and share stories, videos, poems, art pieces that inspire us to TAKE ACTION AND IMAGINE A BETTER TOMORROW.

What is causing your pain? How are you feeling? What are you doing? For the love of everything holy, WHAT CAN WE DO TOGETHER?

Below are the responses to our call.

Video Submitted By Josy Olmstead

  • Castleton, NY

Story and Artwork Submitted By Sarah Connell

My story isn’t much of a story. I’m in a rock painting group caked 801 Rocks. We have weekly themes/challenges, this week’s was something you lost and then found. I chose hope.

  • Ogden, UT

Poem Submitted By Deb Kelley

A civil war is brewing
A divided nation is undoing
A madman on the highest pedestal
A false prophet, cruel without a soul
Looting starts, shooting starts
Says the man without a heart
Hate inciting
Chaos inviting
While the nation burns
What lesson can we learn
In this somber hour
When pure evil is in power
When your color marks for you to die
Little recourse, just a question why
Leads back to his lofty throne
An agenda that we should have known
A repeated warning that needs to be heard
A brave few are joining hands to share the word
Lock arms with one another
Support your sisters and brothers of color
When asking what else can I do
In November, I beg of you, vote blue
When conscience finally end this con
And another takes hold of the baton
What side of history did you stand
Complicit, unmoved or change demand

Past Director

Breast Advice – 2019

  • Tampa, FL

Poem Submitted by RAin Christi

Where is the answer
In all of this?
White Amerikkka choking
On stolen bliss
Black America fighting
Just to be free
White Americans
Take time to refuse to see
Liberty and Justice
Never been for all
We were created equal
Then came the Fall
Colonialism needed
Power to thrive
Stole the peace of living
From every Black life
Winding up for something
What will come next?
How many peaceful protests
Got no respect?
White man resting
On a black man’s neck
What type of values
Does this system protect?
Rising up the anger
Rising up the lies
White man’s knowledge
Has never been right
Sifting through the facts
Makes it hard to decide
What pathway to peace
Can we embark on tonight?
Strategic miseducation
Of an entire population
Distracting a nation
They got them chasing sensation
So they miss all the truth
Right in front of their faces
Sit in their comfiest chairs
And yet they feeling complacent
They only see the anger
Not the lives that were taken
They witness the system
And would never trade places
Whispering hatred
Inside of their bones
They don’t know how to leave
Racism alone
They act like they’re better
Because they aren’t out in the streets
But they missing the point
Try escaping the heat
Judgement is coming
It cannot be escaped
Babylon is America
And the whore must pay
Playing with fire
And you’re bound to get burned
Read in between the pages
And you’re bound to learn
The victor tells the story
It rarely ever is fact
So take American history
And rewind it back
Black history began
Long before the slaves
And Amerikkka should begin
With every unmarked grave
Every soul they took
Without permission
Every family torn apart
With no remission
Forty acres and a mule
Could never bring forgiveness
Let’s all begin
Supporting black owned business
May every conscious soul
Stop feeding the system
May we all take time
To truly stop and listen
To the anger, the pain
The injustice, the wisdom
May we fight the injustice
Release them all from this prison
We are one human race
All deserve to be free
May the pathway to peace
Begin with me

  • Rochester, NY

Poem and Photo Submitted By Jim Yerman

What if the Gods created the most beautiful planet
and filled it with valleys and mountains and trees
with wildflowers that bloom in Spring
with fishes, and birds and bees.

What if they added waterfalls…and ladybugs…an occasional butterfly
and sunrises and sunsets so colorful they kaleidoscope the sky.

And what if once they were finished the Gods were so elated
with the beauty and magnificence of the planet they created

they decided this beauty needed to be experienced to be felt…and thus
what if the Gods created people to enjoy it…what if the Gods created us.

What if the Gods hoped we’d not only appreciate the love and beauty that surround us
but spread that love and beauty to everyone and everything around us.

What if the Gods never dreamed anything bad would happen
What if the Gods were wrong…
What if the people tainted the beauty the Gods created
What if the people could not get along.

And what if now every time the Gods look down on us
every time they realize their mistake…
their tears fall as rain from the heavens
filling our oceans our rivers…our lakes.

What if the Gods created the most beautiful planet
with but one hope…that we’d enjoy it…
What if the Gods created the most beautiful planet…
and all we did…was destroy it.

Regular Patron of Powerstories

  • Dunedin, FL

Poem Submitted By Kathryn Manz

Institutional Injustice

I’ll never understand a consensus of cruelty that fosters division & hatred
Stars to brand us
Chains to contain
Strong slap to the face of a child with an Arab name
Ridicule & alienation as the sibling of a “freak”
Each generation oblivious to the havoc we wreak
George Floyd, Logan, Trayvon, Tanisha & Gray
And on and on without sustainable transformation, the body count leading the way
Back to the 13th Amendment that never fulfilled its promise
What becomes of institutional injustice is now anyone’s guess

  • Rosendale, NY

Story Submitted By Janice Creneti

I had lived most of my life before I understood the reality of white privilege. I had seen the reality of racism from a very early age as the neighborhood bully spat in my friend, Michael Ann’s face and snarled, “If I punched you, would you get a white eye?” At 8 years old, I was horrified and angry that someone could be so mean to another person. Michael Ann, on the other hand, seemed to let it roll off her back. Shortly after Trayvon Martin’s murder, I was having a conversation with 2 colleagues – both mothers of teen age sons, both African American. “Didn’t his parents ever have the talk with him?” Janet said. “What does the Birds and the Bees have to do with someone getting shot? I countered. Keisha looked at me at said patiently, “Different talk, Janice, different talk.” In my world the sex talk was the only talk there was. I didn’t know there was another world where parents talked to their sons about what to do WHEN they got pulled over by a cop, how to behave if they found themselves in a neighborhood not their own, confronted by someone that didn’t look like them, what they should and shouldn’t wear on their heads if they wanted to stay alive. I didn’t know because I’d never heard of that talk. My parents never had it with my brother because he’s white, because they are white. I looked at my colleagues and saw on their faces a pain I would never have to feel. I saw their shoulders slumped with a weight I would never have to carry – because I’m white. I thought again about the incident with Michael Ann and understood that the reason she seemed calmed, almost unaffected by the bully’s words was not because it didn’t bother her, but because, at the tender age of 8, she was already being trained to handle the racist insults that would be hurled at her for the rest of her life. And I realized it wasn’t enough for me to be horrified, to be angry. That alone wasn’t going to change things for people I loved. I realized I had a lot to do, a lot to learn to become a true ally. I had learned about the history of racism in our country, but was just beginning to examine my privilege. I voted in every election but needed to get active in protecting that right for others. I had done a lot of talking but not enough listening. So now I try to lead with listening, to examine my personal experiences and uncover my biases, to look for more ways to use the power that comes with my privilege. There’s a lot of work for me to do. But I’m committed to working on myself so I can do more work in the world.

Past Performer

Numerous Productions

  • Palm Harbor, FL

Story Submitted By Jaimie Robbins

In honor of George Floyd and to combat the racial injustice that is going on in every day, I established this movement titled #BlackIsLove. #Blackislove came about when George Floyd was killed in cold blood but then memorialized post a traumatic situation. You see it every day in urban and black communities; Black individuals are not highlighted for the positive influence in the community until something tragic happens and they are no longer with us (Breonna Taylor, Treyvon Martin, Amahd Aubrey, etc). My intent with #BlackHisLove is to celebrate the average black American individual, Advocate, or Ally while they are still here with us. Hopefully, To make them more relatable in the eyes of those oppressors. They do not have to have a financial platform or the notoriety to make an impact on someone’s life. It could be the person that works down the hall in your office, the school teacher, or the construction worker. Each one of these individuals impacts the community in a positive way through either sharing values or working hard just trying to be a face for change. For example, if you know someone to be a family member, work in a similar profession or has the same interests and hobbies, You find them to be important as an individual rather than solely being known for their skin tone. Part of #BlackISLove Is about giving back to the community. We have merchandise available and 50% of the profits received will be given back to the community as a donation to black-owned businesses each month. This allows that business to receive free community-based advertising, awareness of their impact in their cities, and the support from this movement showing that they’re making a change in the world. #BlackIsLove is truly appreciating the Black Community and celebrating racial justice and equality. Everyone has been impacted by the black community through art, music, food, dance or the simple inventions that I was to live everyday life. It’s thanking those individuals that allow us to live in a world that celebrates their culture.

  • Jacksonville, FL

Story Submitted By Brittany Beard

  • Groveland, FL

Story Submitted By Greg Sinadinos

I have been deeply effected over the last few years by the disturbing trend and acceptance of prevalent institutional racism. While I’ll never be able to fully understand as a white male, it wasn’t until I began having candid conversations with my PoC clients and business partners that I began to see and hear more clearly the pain, fear, and hurt that this system thrusts on families within the African American community. I’m a financial planner by vocation, and I had parents writing life insurance for their children to cover funeral costs because of how scared they were that something might happen in which their child would be singled out, harassed, or profiled by our system. That affected me in a very impactful way. I have a 7 year-old daughter myself and to think about how concerned I already am for her every day, and then to add that level of fear and worry on top of that would be suffocating. It hurts my heart to think that millions of PoC deal with that feeling every day. I won’t be silent on it. I won’t stand by and do nothing. I though “how can I fight intolerance in the communities I’m currently in?” As a business owner, I’m constantly determining who I’m comfortable doing business with. So, I started a new group on Facebook called “Business Owners Against Racism.” It’s a group where we vet the members to make sure they share our visions of inclusiveness, action, and understanding. It’s a safe space for business owners to share their frustrations and ask for support and compassion. It started with 5 of us and has grown to 40 in just the first days. It’s great to know there are so many business owners out there willing to take a stand against racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. and not tolerate it in their communities. I’m proud to use my voice, and by business as a platform to fight intolerance. However, we need to work towards that being the standard for everyone. When love and acceptance become the “new normal,” we’ll be able to progress and enact true change for the better.

  • Tampa, FL

Story and Artwork Submitted By Amy C. Ragg

As I continue to reflect on my own unconscious biases and confront my own insensitivities, I realize that by looking to my friends of color to help me know how I can help, I am adding to the problem. It is not up to people of color to tell white people how to be anti-racist. It is up to us to do the research ourselves and provide support. I have to do the work. Read. Research. Share. Call out mistakes when I make them. Sit in the discomfort. Apologize for the mistakes. Learn to be better and do better. I am sorry for my lack of sensitivity in the last post. I am going to keep listening, reading, watching, learning and trying. I will be part of the solution, not part of the problem. I hope you will be too.
Peace & Love

  • Tampa, FL

Story Submitted By Paula Stahel

Bread is a near daily part of my life. A few years ago I began baking my own, as it is healthier than store bought, and making it delivers its own satisfaction. Flour, salt, a bit of fat, water, yeast, a pinch of sugar, mixed and turned out to be kneaded. Eight, nine minutes of pressing, folding, turning, pressing more.

Eight minutes, forty-six seconds. Enough time to transform those few elements into a living thing under my kneading hands. Enough time for a man’s life to be ended under another man’s knee.

On Thursday, June 4, after Rev. Al Sharpton’s searing, and soaring, eulogy of George Floyd, I—along with millions of others—observed eight minutes and forty-six seconds of silence, marking the exact time on May 25 that Floyd was murdered.

Eight minutes, forty-six seconds passes in the blink of an eye when you’re busy. It seems interminable when you must be still. Yet what I was doing was not hard—what George Floyd endured was, and was unimaginable. I had not expected the tears that spilled from my eyes within seconds. I also did not expect the words and memories and thoughts that flooded through my mind, as they must have through his.

I am not wealthy, nor do I have civic, social, or public power. Yet I have the privilege of skin the color of the bread dough that takes form under my hands. George Floyd did not have that privilege. And for that lack, he died.

George Floyd was young enough to have been my child—my son, T, is only four years younger. I never lived the fear that Black mothers deal with, but T learned early what their sons are subjected to. As a teen, one of his close friends was M, a smart, articulate, well-mannered young man of color. Just the kind of kid I wanted to rub off on my kid. One day T came home after he and M had hung out together. He was agitated, angry. “We went into a store,” he said, “and this guy started following us around right away. He was watching everything we did, like we were going to steal something.” T knew it was because M was Black—clerks never did that when he was out with a White friend. “It made us feel like criminals.”

Guilty because of the color of skin—a knee on the neck.

The summer after I graduated high school, I worked in a shoe store. Not long after I started, N was hired. He was about my age and we hit it off. It didn’t hurt that I found him handsome. It didn’t matter to me that he was Black. But it mattered to our boss. He didn’t like it when N and I took our breaks together outside the store. We ignored the boss, and the passersby who glared at us. Then one day N didn’t have a ride home, so we hopped into my red VW and I drove him. Later, the boss strongly suggested it was “not a good idea” for me to be driving “to that part of town.” Within days, N lost his job. The boss said he wasn’t needed, but he quickly hired someone else. Someone White.

Not needed because of the color of skin. Or was it really “protecting purity”?—a knee on the neck.

Several years ago a now deceased friend took me to lunch at an exclusive club he belonged to. A couple of decades earlier, neither he nor I would have been allowed to dine there. R, who had retired at a very early age, had been one of the first Black men to break the color barriers in New York City banking. Now he led a national foundation focused on health education for Black men, he’d lobbied Congress, testified before the FDA, and was devoted to opening doors into the finance world for young Black men and women. As we were leaving, two White men he knew were entering. When he greeted them, their body language told me they were uncomfortable. But it was I who became manifestly uncomfortable when one of those so-called scions among the local movers and shakers used the word “boy” as casually as he might use R’s name. Which he never did. R gave no indication he noticed, but how could he not have? Revulsion still courses through me at the memory.

Lesser than because of the color of skin—a knee on the neck.

Always, as Rev. Sharpton said, the knee is on the neck.

Four days before George Floyd’s death—his murder—my car died at an intersection. Even with light traffic due to the stay-at-home order, drivers piled up behind me. As I was on the phone with Triple A, a Black man, about my son’s age, rapped on the rolled up passenger window, indicating he could push me. I had to wave him off, and I read the change in his face. A moment later a Hispanic man of about the same age came to the opened driver’s side window. I too had to signal him to wait a second as I finished the call. I apologized, and gratefully accepted his offer to move me out of traffic. He and the Black man immediately teamed to get me around the corner, into a drive, and under the shade of a tree. The Hispanic fellow headed off to wherever he’d come from almost before I finished expressing my gratitude. But even more heartfelt was my thanks, by way of apology, to the Black man—how I’d been in phone hell with AAA, how the passenger’s window wouldn’t roll down so I could talk to him. My relief was as great as his, with him knowing I had not flinched from him, feared him, because of the color of his skin.

When my bread comes out of the oven, its crust is beautifully brown. Before I learned to knead the dough well enough, there would be a hole in its center when I cut it open. My heart is cut open now, and there is a hole in it. There is a hole in the heart of this nation.

There’s no way to fix the hole in the baked bread, any more than there’s a way to heal the holes in our hearts. And there are many. They are named George Floyd, Manuel Ellis, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, and so many more, going back to Emmett Till, and so many, many other names we’ll never know. Christopher Cooper’s name could have been on that list. All holes gouged in our hearts over centuries of senseless, vicious, reprehensible deaths from knees and nooses and weapons wielded by man against man. Only because of the color of skin.

These are our sons, our daughters, our brothers, our sisters.

It must stop. We must stop it. And to do that, we must act.

Protesting is important because we take comfort in solidarity and community. But the public protests will eventually fade. The problem will not. Here are ways you can work to effect true, long-term change.

Write your county commissioners and sheriff, your mayor, your police chief, and city council members, to require implementation of 8 Can’t Wait. It costs nothing, it requires nothing except enactment, and decreases police violence by more than 70%.

Yes, we need police officers, but first and foremost they should be peace officers. Write your local sources and insist changes be made to the selection process of recruits. On Tuesday, June 2, Meghna Chakrabarti’s NPR program, “On Point,” addressed “What the George Floyd Protests Reveal About Policing in the U.S.” Her guests included (along with Tampa’s mayor and previous police chief Jane Castor) Jeh Johnson, former Secretary of the Dept. of Homeland Security. Johnson asserts that recruitment criteria must be changed—he said too many people go into law enforcement because “they want to be the bully on the block or the badass.”

We don’t know what we don’t know. Becoming aware helps us change our perspective. Do you know about your hidden bias?

Spend twenty minutes listening to Chimananda Ngozi Adiche’s TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story.”

Read A Rap on Race, drawn from more than seven hours of discussion between anthropologist Margaret Mead and writer/activist James Baldwin in 1970. Out of print, it should be available at your public library; if not, reserve it through WorldCat.

75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice (I’ll add a 76th: Google “black owned indie bookstores” and shop from them—Jeff Bezos gets enough of your money from other stuff.)

And continue to protest. (But please, safely … and in a mask!) In his eulogy of George Floyd, Rev. Al Sharpton announced that on August 28—the 57th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington—a national protest will be held in DC to recommit to that dream. Rev. Sharpton calls for organization of such events in every region, “not only for a march, but for a new process … to be getting us ready to vote, not just for who’s going to be in the White House, but the state house and the city councils that allow these policing measures to go unquestioned.”

We must act. All of us.

Now.
  • Tampa, FL

Story Submitted By Mark Ferguson-Nokham

Racism. Yeah, I seen it, and spoke out against my whole life. From leaving in Cleveland, Ohio, to Chicago, and now here in Tampa, Florida. At a early age my parents shown me the importance of treating everyone as equal. I never cared about how someone looked like, or the color of their skin. I accept everyone for who they are, and treating each other with mutual respect. But here we are today, the riots that have taken place lately is because of continuing treatment people have received from not being treated as equal. And the constant evidence of that comes from a behavior breed by hate. When I was a child I lived in a beautiful neighborhood community where every family was from a diverse background. I had neighborhood friends who were Black, Native American, Hispanic, Asian, and every spectrum of the world. In college, I found out just how much hate would go and it forever open my eyes. As Student President of the Ball State University Religious Council I was invited to march with the Student President of the Multicultural Affairs Council during the first ever MLK march at Ball State University. What was shocking was that cold day walking down McKinley Avenue was very little police presence, along with a handful of college students along the side of the streets. I was marching with at least 400 black students and leaders of the community. Needless to say I was excited, and a little bit uncomfortable as we approached Riverside Avenue. Men in white sheets, and hoods. It was the KKK. And their main office in Knightstown, Indiana is very close to Ball State. They just stared at me with looks of hate that made my chest, and heart get tight. I was told by one of the leaders marching beside me to not respond. As we marched past them one of them looked at me and yelled “We know who are N lover, and know where you live.” Shocked, I had my first real experience of how far hate from others was like. The next day walking home late from evening classes I found the place where I was staying at vandalized. Everything I owned was vandalized, rug soaked in urine, and my pet cats missing. I was scared and I immediately called the police department who never showed up. My first experience ever being a target of hate. Through out my college years I moved from place to place. Never publishing my phone number, or address. I cut back from student activities on campus. But I will never forget my first time ever dealing with racism. My Senior year I decided to no longer fear get the best of me, and to be more of advocate for Diversity, and culture. That’s the way I been since college. Lastly, Racism has no place in our society. We must not be afraid to speak out against it. What I did back then was stayed silent because I was living in fear of what could happen next to me. Those who are racist towards someone is a learned behavior, meaning they were not born to hate. We must put aside the fear and become learn to accept each other as equals. If we could do that with open minds, and hearts so much can be achieved together. Maybe what has happened this past week will open up a dialogue where we can to begin to heal, and learn to accept one another as equals? One can hope.

  • Tampa, FL

Story Submitted By Lisa S.

“Am I your first black friend?” I will never forget Drew Smith asking me this. The embarrassing truth was…yeah, he pretty much was, and it was obvious. I had been taught to be a kind, decent person and not to make judgements about people based on race, but I was clueless about how complicated, nuanced, and layered the topic of race was. Drew handled my ignorance so graciously, giving me room to learn and grow, and forgiving me when I messed up. And many others have done the same. I am still learning, and I am listening, in the hope that I can speak and act with empathy, set a positive example for others, and truly follow the commandment to “love one another.”

  • Tampa, FL

Video Submitted By Donna DeLoney

Past Performer

  • Largo, FL

Curated from Twitter, WFLA, TBT, & CarlosEats.com

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Episode 10 – Coming June 10