Inspired by Lynn Nottage’s Clyde’s, participants in GeNarrations this fall wrote stories of food, family and the nourishment that keeps us going through difficult times. Out of over one-hundred stories, thirteen were selected by GeNarrations participants and teaching artists to appear on this page.
HUNGER BY KEITH KELLEHER
Keith Kelleher has written about his 38+ years as a labor and community organizer organizing unions and community organizations for social and economic justice. His experiences growing up in a large, Irish-Catholic family on Long Island and Brooklyn, NY, and as a grandson of an Irish immigrant domestic worker also form part of his work to date. His articles and letters have been published in The Forge, Huffington Post, Medium, Just Labour: the Canadian Labour Journal, and the New York Times. Keith began with the Goodman GeNarrations project in 2021 and has performed three of his stories. When not enjoying retirement and writing, Keith likes cooking, baking, working out, reading, and visiting with family and friends, as well as volunteering on whatever political, labor, or community campaign he wants.
Lisa DeSantiago is a non-formal educator of at-risk urban teens who works each day to live a life worth sharing stories about. She follows in the footsteps of her storytelling Jibaro (hee-bah-roe) ancestors, whose stories of resilience and survival offered her life lessons, love, and hope. She is a proud crone who feels that she has learned more through her travels and conversations than she has within the confines of accredited academic spaces. She is a purveyor of peace, who pictures herself in a hut on a Caribbean beach in a rocking chair facilitating peace circles and trading stories for cocoanuts, mangoes, and conversation.
Born and raised in Chicago Marcus Waller is a lifelong South Sider. Retired from the Post Office, he has also worked at several AIDS organizations. His interest in writing and spoken word developed early and was heightened after his sobriety over 18 years ago. He has presented his works at cafes throughout Chicago and recently wrote the book for “House Musical: Coming of Age in the Age of House”, a new musical inspired by his life story, which will have its world premiere at the Center on Halsted in April 2023 (www.housemusical.house). When not writing, Marcus describes himself as a music lover and a “HouseHead.” This is his first time at GeNarrations.
Marsha Fogle moved to Chicago from the east coast fourteen years ago. Participating in GeNarrations for eight years has been a particular joy. Marsha loves meeting new people in the program and continuing to see wonderful friends she has made along the way. Listening to their memoirs is always a gratifying experience. Marsha has coordinated and participated in storytellings at the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square. The group performed there three times before COVID interrupted our lives. In addition, she has performed in storytelling events at the North Center Senior Satellite Center. Her other interests include a weekly Improv class and playing mahjong weekly. Marsha spends as much time as possible with her grandson who lives closeby, as well as “visiting”–on Viber–with her grandchildren who live in Tokyo. Sincere appreciation and thanks to everyone affiliated with GeNarrations!
Elizabeth Smart has always loved hearing and telling stories. Newly retired, she is in her first year with the GeNarrations program. After studying theology and psychology, she embarked on a 35 year career in health care, primarily as a medical speech pathologist. This offered her the honor of walking closely with people in the most difficult situations, and to see the depth of human nature and resilience. When not writing stories, you may find her singing in choir, volunteering with adult literacy, or walking among trees. She is likely to stop on a moment’s notice to snap a photo of tree bark, clouds, or reflections in water.
Dhamana Shauri likes to craft stories that entertain, uplift, and educate. Her goal is to explore the human condition and create imagery that allows the listener to “see” as well as hear her story. Her career as a teacher and school social worker has provided her with a world of lively information from which to draw. Dhamana has been a member of GeNarrations for approximately 8 years and she is a member of ASE, the Chicago Association of Black Storytellers. Dhamana performs as a storyteller in various venues in the Chicago metro area.
Patrick Curtin is a native Chicagoan who hones his storytelling skills at the Irish American Heritage Center and Goodman GeNarrations. He shares stories in a variety of venues including Steppenwolf Theater, Second City and The Moth. Patrick co-facilitates an Improv group and volunteers for Hospice.
Sandra McCollum began writing with GenNarrations approximately one year after its inception. Although she had heard the voice of the Muse of Drama and Narration since before she was old enough to understand the machinations of the alphabet, she had never even attempted to write in a creative manner. Since that exciting beginning, she has performed with GeNarrations, Scott Whitehead, and Fillet of Solo. Sandra’s strength and interest are primarily the written word.
Sandra has been published in “The Hill,” “New Orleans Agenda,” “Currents,” “Soledad,” and “The Players of the NBA Magazine”. She is also an avid art collector of Art of the Diaspora. Sandra has spent numerous hours developing skills in genealogy and can boast of having traced her ancestry back to Marguerite, a ten-year-old captive from Angola, Africa in 1619. Taken to Jamestown, Virginia, she lived an exciting life as a captive and as a scandalous maven. According to documentation, she was the first woman of African ancestry to pay property taxes.
RUNNING ON A PLANT-BASED DIET BY DENISE MERCHERSON
Denise Mercherson is a marathon runner, news junkie, and licensed clinical social worker who works with homeless veterans. She first learned about GeNarrations at a winter book club meeting in early 2022 and immediately knew she needed to try it for herself. When Denise is not running, writing, or reading, you may find her participating in some of her other favorite activities, which include urban farming, yoga , hiking, Pilates and biking. In her next life she wants to be a journalist, news producer, or life coach . For now, she is perfectly happy living in the Historic Pullman District with her husband and Sluggo the cat.
Pete Wood has been in GeNarrations for five years. He was also chosen to represent the Willye White group, Rogers Park in the Citywide show “Stories of Extravagance” and performed on stage as part of the Summer 2019 InterGens Program at the Goodman. He has performed in improv and storytelling shows at the Chicago Park district’s Berger Park and recently played a gangster in a Smithsonian Channel documentary “Drinks, Crime and Prohibition”. Pete played Nunzio, Sal and Vinnie Black in “Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding” at Pipers Alley, Chicago. He has been a 1920’s Gangster Tour guide for Untouchable Tours since 2009 and is a stand up comic.
Sherry Moore has no great success stories of which to boast. However, she did survive raising three fantastic children as well as myriads of critters. More importantly, they too survived and are doing well enough to afford their own therapy!!!
LIVING A PURPLE AND YELLOW LIFE BY DONNA L. PASTERNAK
Donna L. Pasternak is Professor Emeritus of English Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she directed the English education program and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Writing Project. Raised in suburban New York City, she is affected deeply by her ties to the Eastern European refugee community and her experiences teaching English in Europe and South America. These circumstances formed how she approaches education through an anti-racist/anti-bias perspective to engage everyone in the joy of literacy. Widely published in academic journals, Donna has authored, co-authored, and co-edited six books, including a children’s picture book called “Hello, Pounce”, which follows a day in the life of her university’s mascot. “Living a Purple and Yellow Life” is her third story through the GeNarrations program, and she’s looking forward to having her creativity nurtured through its future programming.
Debra Salinas hails from Whiting in Northwest Indiana also known as “Da Region”. As a wife, homemaker, mother, and grandmother of six, life keeps her busy. After working 32 years in a corporate environment, she is detail oriented. Data integrity and troubleshooting are her specialty, and it comes in handy even now. Currently Debra works hard at retirement while volunteering with local organizations.
She is a firm believer in sustaining art, music, and theatre within the community that inspire imagination and creativity. Without art programs our world would be colorless and tasteless. She has volunteered with school drama departments helping backstage, in various roles. Her proudest moments were mentoring young people who are now young adults.
Debra is an aspiring novelist who suffers from diarrhea of the pen jotting down too many random thoughts. Her one piece of advice would be, “When you ask, doors will open.”
Joyce Gay is a longtime GeNarrations storyteller. Prior to the pandemic, she wrote with Cynthia Cornelius’ group at Greater Institutional AME Church. She now works with Cynthia’s Monday class over Zoom.