"The theme of my story is about walking the Phoenix fire -- sometimes you have to die to get free," says LadySpeech Sankofa. "I'm really going to be speaking to my struggles as woman and a black woman and a lot of the things that I've survived."
As part of In Her Own Words: Stories from Our Journey, a storytelling event happening this Sunday, August 25 at the Adagio Bed & Breakfast, local poet and performer Sankofa will share personal tales of strife and growth. Put on by the We Are Women Colorado organization, the day is meant to connect women through the power of personal experience.
When it comes to personal experience, LadySpeech doesn't hold back -- and that's how and why she found her voice, and the ability to share deeply private and often traumatic experiences with the larger world. "I'm a survivor of child rape, I'm a survivor of child molestation, I'm a survivor of rape as a woman -- those are things that I've seen topple women of all races and ages," says the writer. "I've lived several incarnations in this lifetime and my story will be about my survival."
Writing at a young age and later public speaking were both ways to confront what had happened to her. "I started writing when I was eight years old. That was what gave me the power to express what I was going through. It gave me the power to get into speech and debate and drama. Then, at eighteen, I found a poetry space and that seemed like it was the safest place to think about my trauma. My parents and none of my violators were in that space at all -- it was my own space. There was something cathartic and healing about it," says Sankofa.
Her chosen moniker, too, was part of the curative process.
"It kind of wasn't a choice -- I took the name LadySpeech because I was going through all of these things and wasn't able to speak," shares Sankofa. "When I was about sixteen or seventeen and I was becoming a more conscious and aware person, I really started looking at how silence kills, especially how it kills women. I took that name to combat that."
This idea of silence being a deadly force is what In Her Own Words is all about -- celebrating Women's Equality Day, the afternoon gathering has invited women of all walks of life to share their experiences, in an effort to make lasting connections.
"Our mission is to really hear the voices of your average women who have seen not maybe your average things. We recognize that everybody has a story to tell," says Meg Fossinger of We Are Women Colorado, the sponsoring organization. "All of the women we have included have struggled at times but also found their own paths. We found women who have gone through a journey of life and are really open and willing to share their struggles and challenges as well as their successes. We wanted a diverse group who could really share experiences across the board."
LadySpeech Sankofa will be joined by Linda Theus-Lee, Marina Bajszár and Sarah Zacharias for this afternoon of storytelling and discussion.
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The In Her Own Words: Stories from Our Journey event starts at 1 p.m. Sunday, August 25 at the Adagio Bed & Breakfast with a $5 suggested donation. There is a companion event happening in Manitou Springs at Blue Skies Inn Bed & Breakfast, 402 Manitou Avenue. For more information on both gatherings, visit the We Are Women Colorado website.