Home Sweet Home

    May 7th, 2015 By Liz Young

    I’ve been thinking about home a lot recently. My internship with SpeakeasyDC is ending, so I’m moving back to Lancaster, PA. I often wonder if I’m making the right decision…moving home to Lancaster seems like a step backward after living in busy downtown DC. Yet, I feel a desire to be near the familiar, to be with my family, to be home. Simon and Garfunkel sing, “I wish I was homeward bound”; Dorothy clicks her heels together three times and says, “There’s no place like home”; and Edward Sharpe yells, “Home is wherever I’m with you.” As shown in many pop cultural examples, the idea of home resonates within each of us.

    So my desire to move home isn’t so abnormal, right? If Paul Simon and Dorothy yearn for home, isn’t it natural that I do, too? I once took an anthropology course in which we talked about the significant meaning of home to both cultures and individuals. The lesson left an impact on me because I had just mocked my friend’s home state, Utah. I said the people there were sheltered, and I’d never want to live there myself. I regret my insensitivity, especially since my cousin once mocked my home in Pennsylvania, which really hurt my feelings. Home is deeply personal, and it deserves our respect, not our ridicule.

    This brings me to Home Sweet Home, SpeakeasyDC’s show this Friday at THEARC. The show is unique because it features storytellers who all call east of the Anacostia River in Washington, DC, home. DC residents might call this area the “dangerous” part of town. However, it’s important to remember that each place is another person’s home, and East of the River serves as home to many. SpeakeasyDC, with the help of some compelling storytellers, seeks to break the stereotypes about this area of our city.

    I had the chance to interview a few of the show’s selected storytellers recently and learned about their experiences East of the River. Gloria Keaton, a woman who has lived East of the River all her life, and still lives in the same house where she was raised, told me of how her community came together to support her 16-year-old dream of becoming a debutante. Her story shows the importance of loving and supporting your neighbors. It’s an experience everyone with ties to home can relate to, and it shows that the community East of the River is a strong and supportive one. Gloria shared the hope that her story will give a voice to the people in her community. She’s tired of the way a whole group of people are characterized when there are so many different things to know about them, and so many commonalities we share. Everyone yearns for community, and her story shows how sweet and supportive community can be.

    Gary Alston grew up East of the River, and he told me a love story. I can’t share too much here because his story is a surprise, but it shows that our homes are places that foster love. Gary enjoyed the learning opportunity provided by SpeakeasyDC, which was made possible by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. He now lives in College Park, and the class gave him the chance to tour his old neighborhood and see its evolution. Like Gloria, Gary hopes that his story will strike a universal chord with the audience, and that it will portray East of the River as an inviting place to live.

    Finally, Courtney Davis recounted finding her dream home in Anacostia. She’s originally from Chicago, and also lived in Virginia, so she didn’t know the stereotypes that surround East of the River. I was charmed by her reason for buying her house—she didn’t want to be the person who didn’t know her neighbor. She once lived in an apartment building, and a neighbor died without anyone knowing. That inspired her to move to a place where she felt the power of community, and where she could know the people around her. She hopes that, after this show, audience members living East of the River will walk away having learned something new about the place they call home.

    Courtney and I then talked about me, which is something I hadn’t expected from the interview. I shared with her, as I shared in the beginning, that I am moving home. I told her about my hesitation and my concern that moving home is a step backwards. Courtney set me straight by pointing out how special it is that I have a place to go home to. She helped me realize that sometimes returning home is a step forward, and it showed that there really is no place quite like home, sweet home. All of the storytellers in our Home Sweet Home show are filled with love for their community East of the River, and their stories will resonate with anyone who identifies with a place they call home. Residents East of the River cannot be painted with a broad brush. They each have a story to tell, so come and support SpeakeasyDC, these, and many more storytellers this Friday. You’ll walk away with a renewed appreciation for the importance of home and a new perspective on the people who live around you.

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