You’re Never Alone
As a person who interprets slavery, this is a thought that is more than reassuring…as soon as you find out it’s true. There aren’t many African American interpreters out there, and when we do find someone like us, we really get excited. But what’s more exciting than finding someone else like you? Finding more and creating a network.
That’s exactly what’s been going on for about the past 9 months or so as a small collective of African American interpreters have found each other on various social media and email and have found ways to come together and collaborate on projects. We get excited when we know we’ll get to work with each other or present at the same conferences. We cheer and push each other on when there’s a presentation coming up, offering encouraging words and additional resources, if needed. We have odd conversations via email (chitlins anyone?) and explore the depths of our craft, asking about different audience reactions, helping find solutions to interpretive questions.
There’s something to be said about never being alone in a field that often places you in solitude. With the exception of Colonial Williamsburg, many sites that do interpret slavery have very few African American interpreters that can lend themselves to make it a very “authentic” experience. There aren’t just that many people willing to share the story as part of a whole narrative and be willing to put themselves out there for what some may see as entertainment, open themselves up to criticism, and/or mockery (things I have experienced) when on the flip side, there is education, enlightenment and let’s face it, a bit of fun. There can be fun in telling an unknown story, there can be joy in spreading a history often ignored. To see understanding and acceptance show up on a visitors face is amazing. It makes you smile, inside it may even make you laugh. It rocks knowing that your work is making an impact. It is mind blowing to be able to share those experiences with others who share your plight and struggle and your joys and accomplishments.
So for my fellow interpreters I have connected with, and those that I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing from, keep it up. You may be the only one at your site, in your area, but you’re never alone.