Myra Cook’s grand daughter Kadesha had a very important question for her mother and grandmother after they finished their recent StoryCorps interview with one another. Kadesha wanted to know if her mother, Kendra, and grandmother had talked about her at all during the session.
Myra had to be honest and tell Kadesha they did not spend their time together talking about the teenager. But Myra knew that their recorded conversation about what it was like growing up in Chattanooga would be for Kadesha’s benefit.
“I am going to make her listen to it because she needs to know about her mama’s childhood. It was simpler then, just go outside and play. Now everyone needs their need wifi and electronics,” Myra said.
Kadesha won’t be the only one listening and learning. The audio stories recorded in Chattanooga during StoryCorps’ mobile tour stop will soon be added to the tens of thousands human voices gathered from all 50 states and Puerto Rico as part of the national archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
As will the songs and stories that were exchanged during Deborah Bledsoe’s StoryCorps session with her husband, David.
“Somehow that interview experience brought David and I closer. We left the session being more thankful. I can’t explain it. It made us really think: who is this person sitting across from me?” Deborah said.
The Bledsoes and the Cooks were a part of small group of residents from Glass Farm and Boyce Station who signed up to participate in the field recording day with the StoryCorps crew as they spent an entire day in East Chattanooga. Glass Farm Collective was one of the organization’s local Cultural Partners during their month-long stop in Chattanooga. Mark Making also partnered and provided space in their studios for the producers and participants to have a quiet private place for meaningful conversations to emerge.
According to their website, StoryCorps’ Mobile Tour community partners are organizations, institutions, or community leaders that serve members of the community who are conventionally underrepresented in mainstream media. ”Because our community partners are knowledgeable and connected in their communities, they are crucial in identifying participants and in explaining the importance of sharing their stories. We depend on community partners to engage their community members’ diverse voices.” Other cultural partners have included the African American Heritage Association in St. Petersburg, Florida; Chinatown Community for Equitable Development in Los Angeles, California; and the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
Deborah told us she really resonated with the StoryCorps mantra “Listening is an act of love,” and the organization’s mission to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters.
For the Bledsoes, listening to each other while talking about their history as friends, musical partners and eventually as husband and wife was very powerful and made them both realize that they had really been there for one another over the struggles and still share a long strong bond. The StoryCorps experience let them stop and think about threads in their life and their connection deepening over time.
“It was a really good experience to look back and think on the meaning of your life. People are walking through so many changes these days. Maybe someone can hear our conversation and stories and get some joy out of it,” Deborah said.
Myra and Deborah both believe there are universal lessons that can be learned by anyone who listens to their stories. From marriage and staying together, to parenting and growing up, to working with your spouse, to living in a community during unease, stories from Glass Farm will resonate around the world.
You can listen to the interview between Dr. Everlena Holmes and Frederick Flach here.
Check out some highlights from the Listening Party held on the last day of the tour in Chattanooga here.