It turns out that people really do listen to their elders.

People of all ages arrived early for “Elders Share Their Wisdom,” a performance of original proverbs, poetry and stories by the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren group on April 18 at Curt’s Café, 2922 Central St.

The performance and production team for Elders Share Their Wisdom gather at the conclusion of the performance Credit: Heidi Randhava

The free event, presented by Family Focus and Northlight Theatre, began with an informal reception and light refreshments. Audience members mingled with the performers, who wore red T-shirts with This Grandma is fabulous printed in gold letters.

In their introductions, co-producers JoAnn Avery and Beth Jacobs gave special thanks to director and teaching artist Kaiser Ahmed as well as Northlight Theatre Community Engagement Manager Ruben Carrazana, who organized the evening.

Avery said the performance was the first in-person event for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren since the pandemic forced them to shift to online meetings.

“This group is still going strong, and its current members are among the most consistent since the group started in 2005,” said Avery, who on March 1 celebrated 41 years as Family Focus program manager. For the past 17 years, Avery has worked in partnership with Jacobs, a writing facilitator at Family Focus.

In her introduction of the evening’s performing artists, Jacobs said, “Most of all, I want to thank all you grandparents. You are the most hardworking, dedicated, feisty, fierce, funny, loving group I have ever known.”

Vivian Anderson performs her poem, Speak to the Young. Credit: Heidi Randhava

Village elders

The artists delivered spoken word poems in the form of proverbs, prayers and songs. In presenting Poems to the Youth, Jacobs said, “This got started with writing letters to younger generations, imparting our wisdom … We’re feeling like we’re the village elders and we have some things to say.”

Several performers wrote responses to Gwendolyn Brooks’ The Pool Players. Seven at the Golden Shovel. Also known as We Real Cool, the poem is about the risks of dropping out of school.

One of the response poems was written by Robin Robinson:

We back bones. We
Sit on thrones. We
Walk tall. We
don’t fall. We
Be grand. We
Fear no man. We
Love large. We
don’t charge. We

Like gold. We
don’t fold. We
Don’t dominate. We
just regulate. We

Pray hard. We
Stand guard.

Toinette Tillman performed her original poem as a song with some of her fellow artists singing the response lines:

Now that the sun is beaming bright.
It’s time to rise and shine.
Put on those thinking caps
and fill up those beautiful little minds.
So much potential
and success is coming your way.
Push and strive
because it’s your time. (Repeat)
Time is so precious
so don’t waste it.
Get all that you can
and embrace it.
The path that you take
it’s all up to you.
Push and strive
because it’s your time. (Repeat)

Other performers included Jacobs and Avery, Aletha Hatfield, Barbara Wilson, Beverly Bonner, Carol Singleton, Claudia Evans, Eddie Hatfield, Jennifer Womack, LaNeca Ross Robinson, Marsha Robinson, Patty Daniel, Tammy Womack, Toreen Strong and Vivian Anderson.

Each performer had a story to tell, and their collective performance deeply reflected storytelling as an art.

Heidi Randhava

Heidi Randhava is an award winning reporter who has a deep commitment to community engagement and service. She has written for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.

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  1. I wish I had known of this wonderful presentation. I definitely would have been there.
    Please spread the word about any future related events.