I waited nearly a year before embarking on gathering these interviews. I had such mixed feelings and was sure that it would be either a “Pandora’s Box or a Treasure Chest.” I started with a list of at least 80 people that I wanted to interview. Add transcribing and editing of audio tapes and I had created a pretty big project for myself.
Then I remembered something that Gordon Parks, Sr., shared with me. Gordon was an accomplished photographer (well known for his photography for Life Magazine), author, filmmaker – probably best recognized for the movie Shaft, artist, and a gifted musician/composer. He was well into his 80s when I had the wonderful opportunity to meet him and be considered a friend.
One day, while listening to him share his latest novel about the artist Turner, he mentioned that Spike Lee told him he wanted the rights to turn it into a movie after it was published. I remember chuckling to myself.
Gordon asked why the giggle. I said, “Well, what’s it like to be nearly 90 and making plans for something that is several years off?” Typical for me was that I would feel guilty if I made someone a promise and then died! Yes, I know you’re laughing. But Gordon knew what I meant. He smiled and said, “Well if I’m alive, I’ll have something to look forward to. If I die, it won’t really matter, will it?”
With those words of wisdom buoying me up, I began my interviews this summer (2016). The “Pandora’s Box” is that each interview gives me three or four names I’ve either never thought of or heard about, adding even more to my list. Plus, in waiting a year before even starting, I had already lost the opportunity to interview four people I really wanted.
Stories Teach Us Who We Are
But the “Treasure Chest” offsets the challenges. The stories are delightful. The childhood memories are heartwarming in most cases. My greatest joy is listening to stories of the resilience of the human spirit. Listening to those who thrived in tough times, who built careers and a life when educations were hard to come by, are inspiring. Add stories of how an individual becomes involved in their community through politics and/or volunteering and you’re introduced to a special character that creates a strong community!
I hope you’ll enjoy the podcasts and transcripts. I encourage you to sign up for my email list to receive notice when I add new ones. Join me as I embark on a project that is sure to blossom in ways I’ve not even considered.