“I no longer had value to them,” said Candice Woods of her journey to CEO after being laid off from a distinguished career.
Candice was one of the featured performers at The Art of Storytelling: Voices of Jamaica. The event was presented by the Five Boro Story Project in conjunction with local non-profit group Art, Food & Soul on Saturday evening October 19th.
In an area that is negatively stereotyped, it was a chance for friends, residents and artists of all kinds to tell their stories inspired by the neighborhoods of Jamaica. These are stories which largely go unheard. The evening blended featured guests' stories with open mic enthusiasts.
Bridget Bartolini, Five Boro Story Project founder, spoke to how the evening's feature artists were chosen. “We looked for strong and inspirational figures from in the community,” she said.
Jamaica native and area business owner Candice Woods found her inspiration for standing before the audience to tell her story that night from Oprah Winfrey. She saw how Oprah opened her story and “how much it motivates others,” she said. Candice also wants others to see that there are varying people and businesses in the area.
Storytellers were a mix of young and old, male and female. They ranged from upscale glamour to urban vibe tee shirt and jeans. They were dark skinned curly hair to fair skinned straight hair and everything in between. Their commonality was the sincerity of their stories of growing, living, loving and being in Jamaica Queens.
From a tale of abandoning a career to following a dream, to a portrait of a relationship that was abusive, all of the stories were heartfelt and touching. Being threatened on the streets by an unknown person to learning that person was down on their luck. Wandering the neighborhoods of Jamaica in search of its history to finding a community that withstands the ebb and flow of time. These were the stories of Jamaica.
“I tell this story because it changed the way I see people…[and] how these streets of Queens impact us,” said Irshaad Ishmail who participated in the open mic portion of the evening.
There was no set means of story telling. Some hip hop and rapped it, others just spoke from their heart. One open mic artist interwove lines from a fairy tale into her heartfelt narrative. It was clear that evening that Jamaica had a hosts of stories.
The event was held at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL). The Center, which host workshops in music, art and dance, will be hosting additional Open Mic events under the title Gimme S.O.M.E. (Saturday Open Mic Events) in the upcoming months. JCAL will also be presenting First Fridays, a networking and arts event on the first Friday of the month. These events are some of the initiatives to increase nightlife in Downtown Jamaica.