My paternal grandmother was the bedrock of our family. Her powerful presence and love for family brought everyone together. I can remember spending most weekends with her and my grandfather in their two bedroom apartment downtown. Sounds cute, except the fact that we were usually 4-6 grandchildren trying to sleep on ONE double mattress bed pilled high (not so cute in practice but made for some great memories and belly laughs from falling off in the middle of the night). You see, my grandmother enjoyed having as many of her grandbabies over on the weekend as possible, even if it meant trying to keep up with all of us, as our overactive energy and excitement from being around “the cousins” were enough to make any grandmother want to send us home packing. But not her. My grandmother was a matriarch and anchor. To her, family was everything. And the stories this woman could tell! Before the internet, before Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, all my grandmother (and most grandmother’s for that matter) had were stories. Stories of life back in Jamaica, of her mother who lived to see 105 years of age, of my parents before we were born. My grandmother had stories for days and would share them with anyone willing to listen. To this day, her stories continue to circulate in our family gatherings, as we reminisce on the impact she had on all of us. Those stories, memories of a matriarch who brought her whole family here to Canada from Jamaica and left a legacy is deeply rooted in who I am and where I come from. Storytelling is one of the most powerful and unique experiences that bind humanity. Oral storytelling has been an ancient tradition in our culture and today has moved from the living room to online.
Now, our stories have global reach through our social media pages and online forums. We now create podcasts and vlogs to share our insights, experiences and stories with millions of people around the world. Though many still use word of mouth storytelling, online has become more accessible and influential in sharing our experiences. But for many, this new way of telling stories can feel intimidating. About two month ago, a producer at CBC Radio reached out to me about profiling my story on an upcoming project that would include the stories of Black women all across Canada. CBC wanted to profile women from around the country and hear their stories. They wanted to showcase the different professions, life experiences and perspectives of Black women looking to make a difference in Canada. As black women we’re often protective of our journey, and rightly so. From childhood experiences and traumas to our joys, fears and accomplishments, each story puts a face and voice to sometimes untold truths that hold so many memories both good and bad. For me, it meant sharing a part of my journey that for the most part I kept under raps. I didn’t want to “call anyone out” or “over share” and considered telling one of my more public stories, in hopes that it wouldn’t impact my image as a woman in business looking to advance her career.
You can listen to my story on CBC HERE. But I learned 3 things from sharing that part of my story online: 1. I Cannot Change What Happened But I Can Help Move The Conversation Forward Though storytelling can be cathartic is so many ways, it also has the power to help others heal. Most of our stories aren’t new. The loss of a family member or loved one, overcoming obstacles and challenges, learning to navigate the world as a (fill in your nationality, race or ethnicity here). Though each of our experiences are uniquely ours, the bones of the stories themselves can be found all throughout history. What makes our experiences so special is the fact that it can be just what someone else needs to hear to feel like they are not alone. Like what they’re experiencing is not the end but a prelude to the amazing life they can look forward to living in front of them.
2. The More I Share, The More Distinct My Voice Becomes Your story is like your personal brand. The more people know about it, the better you will become at standing out in a crowd of millions online. Learning to share my story has helped me continue to define and refine my voice. It allows me the freedom of expression to “test the waters” and see which stories stick and which ones no longer need repeating. Telling my story helps build my reputation and credibility as someone who not only talks the talk but who has walked the walk. The more I share, the more opportunities I give myself to craft a distinct voice and message that has the power to help transform the lives of women all around the world.
3. My Story Matters It is so easy to get caught up in feelings around worthiness. As someone who has been working through this for most of my life, I know what it feels like to ask yourself “who really cares and does it really matter?” And I want to let you know that it does! Your story matters, more than you will ever realize in this very moment. It matters because your life matters. What you’ve been through matters and we all have a responsibility to make our voices heard. There is no reward for going through it alone. We are a people built on community. Through the highs and lows, community has always been the backbone of our civilization. Choosing to share your story is choosing to pass on the history of storytelling so that generations to come can be impacted by your voice and hopefully hear themselves too.
If you haven’t heard my story on CBC radio, listen to it HERE
Rashida can be contacted via Twitter @rashidageddes and/or via her website @ RashidaGeddes.com