Detroit Performs

S11 E5 | FULL EPISODE

Curated By: Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers

Everyone on this planet has a story to tell and The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers for years has been giving a platform to all people who want to share their story. Detroit Performs Live From Marygrove is honored to be the platform this time around to share stories from three different storytellers; Maxie Jones, Monica Sholar and Khary Mason.

AIRED: November 10, 2021 | 0:27:12
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

- Hello, everybody, I'm Satori Shakoor

and welcome to Detroit performs live from Marygrove

where Detroits talented artists take the stage

and share insights into their performances.

This episode is curated by our partner organization,

my organization, the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers,

where real people tell true stories live on stage.

The three very personal stories

you're about to hear are love stories.

They will make you laugh, cry, think, and feel the joy.

First is Monica Sholar.

- I started my nonprofit, Remembering Cherubs,

we provide support guidance and education

to everyone who's experienced pregnancy loss.

- Then Maxie Jones.

- I thought that moving to Detroit would put distance

between me and my family,

but actually it just shows how close we really are.

- Followed by Khary Mason.

- I learned why I should be more afraid of the police,

but I am the police.

So why was I still afraid?

- So sit back, listen and enjoy,

right here on Detroit performs live from Marygrove.

- Funding for Detroit performs is provided by the Fred A and

Barbara M Erb Family Foundation.

the Kresge Foundation,

the A. Paul and Carol C. Schaap Foundation,

the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs,

the National Endowment for the Arts,

the DeRoy Testamentary Foundation,

and by contributions to your PBS Station

from viewers like you.

Thank you.

(upbeat music)

- Hey everyone, are you ready?

Because it's showtime at

the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers.

(upbeat music)

- Welcome to the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers.

Here, there are no passwords, no velvet ropes,

no locked doors or secret knocks.

You need only be human to connect, heal and transform.

Before written language, stories were passed down

from generation to generation,

through storytelling song and dance.

Stories make us laugh and cry and grow.

Stories can heal,

they heal the storyteller and the story listener.

Listening is a generosity, a human kindness,

a revolutionary act

and at the highest level, listening is love.

We are all unique and just a little bit twisted.

We all have a story to tell,

now, are you ready to hear a secret?

Let's get to the stage where Monica Sholar

is ready to share her story.

- It was January, 2011,

I met this guy who was tall, handsome, funny,

just a gentle giant.

We go on our first date and by the end of the night,

we're talking about when we'll get married, not if.

(laughing)

He was a single dad to a five-year-old son

and a few amazing dates later,

I finally get to meet him and he's adorable.

He's got these big brown eyes

that just reel my heart right in.

And I learned everything about him.

His favorite color is blue.

His life revolves around video games.

And I also learned his mother wasn't in his life.

So the more I spend time with him, the more,

I just want to leave my bachelorette lifestyle

in the rear view mirror

and just immerse myself in his five-year old world.

So I do exactly that,

the three of us spend all our time together.

And two years later in November, his dad and I get married

and right away, we know we want to expand our family

because we're adorable

and we want to have more adorable human beings.

But deep down, I was really scared to try,

because years before in a previous relationship,

I gave birth to my son and right after he died in my arms

and doctors never figured out why.

And I was just so scared of that same thing happening again.

On the other hand,

I thought about my husband and our son

and this beautiful life we were building

and it was worth it to face that fear.

So the least I could do was try.

So we did, we tried,

we tried for years, I did fertility treatments.

I changed my diet.

I did acupuncture,

even though I hate needles 'cause they're of the devil.

I tried everything I could, but nothing worked.

So eventually we kind of just gave up on the idea.

Years go by, then September 2018,

I am shocked to be standing in my bathroom,

holding this positive pregnancy test

and I just cannot believe it

and I'm so happy and overwhelmed.

And more than anything I cannot wait to tell my son,

he is finally gonna be a big brother.

So everyday I'm just counting down the days till Christmas

so I could surprise him.

Fast forward a few weeks,

I'm in that same bathroom and I am pouring blood.

At some point during the night I had a miscarriage

and I was devastated

'cause this is exactly what I did not want to happen.

This was my biggest fear and it happened again.

And I had no idea how I was going to get through it.

My husband and son were there to support me

and do whatever I needed.

I didn't know what I needed,

but I knew the three of us would get through it together.

Months go by, I'm reading Michelle Obama's book, Becoming,

and in it she talks about how she had a miscarriage.

Then I'm watching TV one day and a woman on there had a

miscarriage.

Then it seemed everywhere I looked

people were coming out of the woodwork

talking about these losses

and saying how they had these stillbirth

and miscarriage and all types of loss.

So I started to research and learn more about it

and I learned that as many as half

of all pregnancies end in loss

and more often than not doctors don't even know why.

It's just something that happens.

Millions of women around the world

were having this same experience

and millions more still would

and didn't even know it.

And my heart broke for them

'cause I remember the hell I went through

after both my losses

and feeling like every day was gonna be just as awful

as that first day.

And it took such a long time to learn

that I had to do deep self-care.

I had to tend to my mental health,

my physical health, my emotional health,

my spiritual health,

and just reach for my healing at every different angle.

And I needed supportive people around me

and eventually things got better,

but I felt like I had to learn it the hard way.

There was no coach or guide or place to go that will walk

you through it.

I wanted to be that voice of encouragement

and wisdom to other people.

So I had a baby of a different kind.

I started my nonprofit, Remembering Cherubs.

We provide support, guidance and education

to everyone whose experienced pregnancy loss.

My nonprofit is two and a half years old now

and in this community of people that we've brought together,

we sift through the rebel of our pain.

We pick up those broken pieces

and we rebuild our beautiful, happy lives, together.

Thank you.

- We just heard the beautiful Monica Sholars story

and thank you so much, Monica,

for opening your heart, being vulnerable.

What made you choose this story?

- [Monica Sholar] I think about the listener,

the person who may have had this experience

or someone they know who had this experience

and it's like, ah, you know, I'm not alone.

You know, there are other people

who are still living healthy, happy lives.

Maybe, you know,

some women may have gone on to have another baby.

That wasn't my story, but it shows what's possible.

- [Satori Shakoor] And what is it like to craft a story

that you want to share with the listeners

out of such a deep place of pain?

- It takes honesty, you know,

and some parts are ugly and you know,

you really have to go there and just face those moments

and being willing to dig deep and face things,

maybe in real life that you haven't really faced.

That's when you really touch on something,

that's going to touch somebody's heart

and that's the whole point in being a storyteller.

- What was it like beginning your non-profit

because how did it, how was it born?

- So I wanted it to create something to inspire people

and encourage them that you got to do the work to heal.

So from that I wanted to create this space

where people could come together to heal, to be heard,

to be understood and be educated.

- Thank you so much, Monica Sholar.

- Thank you.

- And now we're headed to the stage to hear Maxie Jones

tell his story.

- I would do anything for my family.

2001, my sister Zita calls,

Maxi, I'm getting married.

When?

Friday at the courthouse in the Bronx,

would you be my witness?

No,

I got to work on Friday and if I miss work I'm in trouble,

Please. We could be there early, like nine o'clock.

I can't say no.

All right. I'll tell my boss I'm coming in an hour later,

I get there early and Zitas not there.

I got to get to work.

The courthouse is packed because word got around

that they were deporting people

who were in the country illegally.

And I could tell 'cause I see all these odd couples.

There's this one guy he looks about 23,

marrying a woman like 80.

There's this other couple,

they don't even speak the same language.

There's a bride with a wedding gown and a photographer.

And they're processing everybody in 90 seconds.

I see this one, couple keeps staring at me.

I hope they don't think I'm gonna witness for them,

I'm not for hire.

Just as they're about to go in.

Excuse me, sir. Could you witness for us?

No, I'm here for my sister.

It's 9:30 and Zitas still not here.

What the heck? It's only 90 seconds.

I go in with them, 90 seconds we were on the way back out

and that's when I find out

I can only witness for one couple per day.

And as soon as we step out there's Zita, uh oh,

I tell her what happened.

What?

She's livid, now I'm desperate.

So I go after the couple I just witnessed for, excuse me,

can one of yall witness for my sister please?

And they're like, ah, yeah, we would.

But I just witnessed for y'all.

so one of y'all going back in there with me,

until my sister is married.

The bride comes in with me, Zita gets married.

On the way back out, she says, you know,

I outta kill you.

Why?

'Cause I got some strange women's name

on my marriage license now.

All right, well, you're going to have to kill me tomorrow

'cause I gotta get to work.

I'm three hours late and my boss is angry.

A couple of months later,

I lose my job and I loved that job.

Well, nine years and four jobs later, it's 2010.

Zita gets a divorce.

After I helped her move into her new apartment in the Bronx,

she says, you know, Maxi,

you were here for me at the beginning of my marriage

and now you're here for me at the end.

So here,

she hands me the keys to her car and she says,

there's no place to park around here,

so I'm not going to need them.

I started a career in workforce development,

which I love,

two years in my boss asks, hey, Maxi,

you want to move to Detroit?

Nah, Detroit's just another big city.

Plus I don't want to be that far from my family,

but he convinces me that I could find great schools

for my two year old son and the one I had on the way.

So I packed up that car Zita gave me

and I moved right to Detroit.

My sons are doing great in school and I love it here.

I'm here a couple of years and Zita calls me again.

Maxi, I'm worried.

They gave Roxanne's mother a week to live

and I'm leaving for a cruise today.

I would feel bad if something happens while I'm away.

I tell her, don't worry, Z.

I'm going to be here.

So if something happens, Roxanne can call me.

Well that Wednesday Roxanne calls me.

My mother passed away and the funeral is Friday.

Zita gets back the next day.

So my sister Vivian and I send flowers on her behalf.

But then I think nah Roxanne is Zitas best friend.

If she were here, she'd be at that funeral.

So I jumped in that same car Zita gave me

and I drive back to New York.

As soon as I walk in, Roxanne bust out in tears,

she says, thank you, thank you, thank you for coming

and gives me a big hug.

Her family says what?

He really drove here from Detroit?

Saturday morning, I'm on my way, driving back

and Zita calls crying,

Maxi, I just checked my messages.

Roxanne's mother died and I missed the funeral.

I said, I know Z.

As a matter of fact, I'm on my way back to Detroit now,

from the funeral.

(gasp) You were there?

Yeah.

Well, if you were there, then I feel like I was there.

Thank you, dear brother.

I thought that moving to Detroit would put distance

between me and my family,

but actually it just shows how close we really are.

Since COVID, social distancing has brought us even closer.

My sisters and I have talked on the phone

every day for years,

and now we even see each other on zoom sometimes.

Yeah, they get on my nerve.

But like the song says ain't no mountain high enough

to come between me and my family.

Thank you.

- We just heard Maxie Jones, wonderful story about family.

And here we are with Maxie Jones. Tell me about your family.

Tell me why it was so hard to leave New York.

- Well, because as you can see in my story,

we are really, really close.

We talk to each other every day

and we have done so for years.

And I was a little afraid that moving here to Detroit

would change that.

But one thing that distance does

is it shows you how really close you are in spirit.

And I'm glad to have done it now

because now I get to see how really close I am to my family

and how much I love them.

- [Satori Shakoor] A story the end of the day is a message.

Why did you pick this story?

- [Maxie Jones] I told this particular story that I told

because of the fact that

these are the people I love so much my children, my family,

and it's what motivates me to do everything.

And honestly it might be the motivation

to why I even tell stories in the first place.

- So what is the process you go through

to craft your stories, to be so engaging and so compelling?

- Well, one thing I've found is that the deeper I dig

in far as my own feelings or my own personal life,

and the more honest I am,

the better it connects with the audience.

It's laying myself out there for the better story.

I came into storytelling about five or six years ago,

I think it was, and I've grown to love it so much.

It is such a wonderful art, such a wonderful craft,

and it's relieving.

I released so much on stage and I encourage anybody,

if you've got a story to tell,

come to the Secret Society of Twists and Storytellers.

- [Satori Shakoor] Thank you, Maxi.

- Thank you Satori.

- So now we're going to the stage to see Khary Mason.

- I am a Detroit police homicide detective,

it's 2019.

I'm in Des Plaines, Illinois

attending a conference on force science.

Force science is the study of what happens to all of us

when we are involved in life-threatening situations.

When we are in life-threatening situations,

we focus on the one thing that will kill us,

our minds won't allow us to see anything else.

Imagine being at the bus stop,

where you arrived at gunpoint.

When the police arrived,

they ask you to describe the gunman,

but you are only able to describe the gun.

The purpose of this training is to help me

better investigate cases where police shoot at civilians

and civilians shoot at the police.

Stress affects how and why we remember things.

But I'm curious to see how this training

will help me become a better investigator.

It's the first day of class I'm anxious, my chest is tight.

I walk into a large classroom and I see a sea of white faces

who pause their conversations to stare back at me.

I feel unwelcome.

I searched the space for a face like mine.

She smiles and offers my partner and me seats nearest her,

a short white man walks into the room,

all side conversations stop.

Everyone takes their seats.

He is the psychologist leading the conference.

He welcomes us and mocks the execution of Eric Garner

at the hands of NYPD, all in the same breath.

Most of the class laughs,

but I'm afraid,

thinking did he just say that?

This guy also goes on to say that he testifies as an expert

on behalf of police who injure or kill civilians.

I'm beginning to feel naked and unprotected.

Next, our first instructor shows video

of police shooting civilians

and civilians shooting the police.

In most of the videos the civilians are brown or black,

like me.

I'm furious.

My colleague says,

you're overreacting.

On the first break,

I rushed to the front of the classroom

and I asked the instructor,

why are you presenting this material in such a biased way?

He responds, I'm not a racist.

I'm thinking, I didn't say you're a racist.

He continues,

this is the best video we have available.

I counter, some of this video is 10 years old

with body-worn cameras and surveillance footage,

new content is being created every day

to support your teaching.

I returned to my seat more furious than before.

Next, we are shown a reenactment

of an American citizen in Ireland

who gets into a shootout with the police.

And the part of the American citizen is played by

a black man.

Ah, I get it now.

You want us to be afraid of people who look like me,

this is dangerous.

Throughout the conference

we are encouraged to ask questions

and one by one white hands go up around the room

like popcorn hitting the lid,

the instructors have no problem

answering their non-confrontational questions,

so, I figured why not?

I raised my hand and it stays there until it gets tired

and heavy and finally, the instructor calls on me

and I ask, why are you contradicting material

that we've already been presented?

I'm thinking his training is BS

and as he begins to shout me down,

I feel like what he's actually saying is,

you black people better not ask any more questions.

On Wednesday night,

my black and white colleagues and I

are sitting in the hotel dining room,

studying for the upcoming exam.

When the psychologist walks over with a smile on his face,

he says, I hope you're studying really hard.

Tomorrow we're going to go over the Malice Green case.

Malice Green was a black man who was beaten to death

with a flashlight by Detroit police officers in 1992.

My colleague says I knew Malice and his family,

I can't wait to see what you present.

The next morning a large white woman is at the podium,

she is supposed to present the Malice Green case,

but she does not.

Her laptop is open

and I can see the Eric Garner thumbnail on her screen.

She looks in my direction and says,

we are going to have to skip that one.

When I left that place, I was terrified.

When I got home I met with Chief Craig.

I told him of my experience.

He asked me if I was willing to write it down

and I did, an investigation was opened.

And the outcome of that investigation is that no other

Detroit police officer will attend this training.

They were supposed to be using science to teach us

to be better investigators.

Instead I learned why I should be more afraid of the police,

but I am the police.

So why was I still afraid?

I managed to counter that fear.

And in 2020,

my colleagues and I created a non-profit

called Capturing Belief.

We use visual literacy and photography to teach children

to tell their stories

because we believe that no one

should be able to tell your story better than you.

Thank you.

- We've just come from listening to Khary Mason's

powerful story.

And it's our pleasure to have Khary right here.

Thank you so much for that story.

- Thank you for having me Satori.

- I just want to know what is it like

to defy what we call the masculine male?

Especially as a police officer?

- I was actually given the way that I worked my career,

a healthy fear of people that look like me

and I didn't think that could happen.

And so when I went to this training,

I knew exactly what was going on.

He was using the classroom

to reinforce or instill a fear that may not have existed

before stepping foot in there.

And I saw how dangerous that was.

And I thought about everybody that looked like me, right?

I've arrested thousands of people,

they all look like me.

It's heavy. Right?

The beginning of my career, I was not an empath,

but by the time I left,

I was very empathetic towards others

because I come to the realization

that we had been locking up people from the same families,

from the same houses, from the same neighborhoods,

decade after decade, nothing was changing.

Nothing got any better for anybody that looked like me.

And if I'm supposed to be making society safer,

it wasn't happening.

And I knew that I had to approach children

in the beginning of their lives before they made mistakes

that caused them to collide with law enforcement

and meet them with resources.

I believe that's what law enforcement is.

I believe that's what it can change into.

So that it finally meets its mission

of making society safer for everybody.

- And what is your message,

what you want the viewers to be left with?

- When nobody in the room is doing the right thing

and you know what the right thing is to do,

it's up to you to do it.

You have to say something.

- Thank you very much. Khary Mason.

- Thank you.

- You have privileged us with your presence,

with your honesty, your vulnerability, your empathy,

and your story.

- Thank you.

- Thank you for being with us on Detroit performs

live from Marygrove.

Did you connect listening to Monica Sholar,

Maxie Jones and Khary Mason?

Did it strike a chord?

We believe when we listened to each others stories,

we connect, break down barriers,

create bridges to understanding and learn about

and from each other,

I invite you to share your stories with family, friends,

and onstage with the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers,

where we honor your lived experience

through the art and craft of storytelling.

Remember listening is a revolutionary act.

So join us next time

on Detroit performs live from Marygrove,

where we promise to bring you dynamic performances

that are uplifting thought-provoking and soul cleansing.

Can't wait to see you then.

- Funding for Detroit Performs is provided by

the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation,

the Kresge Foundation,

the A. Paul and Carol C. Schaap Foundation,

the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs,

the National Endowment for the Arts,

the DeRoy Testamentary Foundation.

And by contributions to your PBS station

from viewers like you, thank you.

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