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West Dayton Stories is a community-based story-telling project centered on the people and places of Dayton’s vibrant west side. WYSO brings together community producers to tell stories reflecting its proud history, current complexities, and future hopes.

West Dayton Stories: Looking To Ancestors For Solace And Inspiration

Omope Carter Daboiku
courtesy of Omope Carter Daboiku

Storyteller and folklorist Omopé Carter Daboiku draws on the deep well of her Appalachian forebears in her professional life, but that heritage has also proven to be a source of solace and inspiration in these tough times. Here’s her West Dayton Stories covid commentary:

I had just started driving again after major surgery when Governor DeWine shut down the state. My immediate response was anger--anger about quarantine, losing contracts and income, anger at the government for waiting until the wolf was at the door. Then the “coronacoaster” hit, with continuous ups and downs of fear and despair.

If I sat still, my body went to sleep. When awake, tears slid down my face without permission. I was a teapot boiling over.

To stay depression, I reflected on how my ancestors had survived the travesties of being kidnapped, chained together without knowledge of destination, the indignities of African enslavement and indigenous displacement, and centuries of systemic racist policies and supportive capitalism, others arriving possibly penniless from some European settlement where owning land was an impossibility. As their legacy, the same desire to survive and thrive resided in me.

My body and psyche began to reset and grab the opportunity to create the serene life my grandparents had. I got up before dawn, gave thanks for another day, drank more water, ate more fresh produce, and sat in the sunshine to absorb vitamin D. Walked in pre-dawn meditative silence, felt the wind shift. As the sun came up, listened to bird song. As I watched them busily building nests for a new generation, I was reminded that routine and tradition help keep us grounded in our purpose. I began to dream my new normal.

My Appalachian ancestors taught me that working the earth could absorb anxiety and I could help restore our agricultural heritage. So now my nails are often dirty from teasing the urban landscape into producing nutritious food. I enjoy engaging urban children and adults as they marvel at the seed to food process. And now, if the ‘rona gets me, I'll go empty, knowing that I've done my duty in the generational transfer of earth wisdom.

This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

West Dayton Stories is produced by Jocelyn Robinson at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices and is supported by CityWide Development Corporation.

Jocelyn Robinson is a Yellow Springs, Ohio-based educator, media producer, and radio preservationist. As an educator, Robinson has taught transdisciplinary literature courses incorporating critical cultural theory and her scholarship in self-definition and identity. She also teaches community-based and college-level classes in digital storytelling and narrative journalism.
Known affectionately as Mama O, Omope Carter Daboiku is a 2012 migrant to the Miami Valley. Originally from Ironton, in southern Ohio, she identifies as an Appalachian of mixed ancestry. Trained as a cultural geographer, Mama O has 30 years of experience as an international performance artist, educator, and published writer. The founder of the local Dunbar Literary Circle, her storytelling is included in Dayton Metro Library’s new Dial-a-Story service, and she’s working with arts education ally, Muse Machine, to produce writing and theater resources for virtual learning.