Broken into a few parts due to length
Marcella André Georges
Full disclosure, I’d heard her rehearse this one before the morning of Saturday 13th June; that didn’t rob it of any of its power and resonance though. When she spoke about how hurricane David upset her 5 year old reality, I remembered that summer vividly – I was six and my sister, mother and I had spent the summer in Dominica, my mother’s homeland. Then, near the end of summer, the winds, category five, blew in. I remember, like she said, that nobody was expecting it. Either the forecast had got it wrong or David changed his mind. Someone even tied out a cow in the pasture down the road from us that morning and I’ll always remember the pummeling the house took – glass and rice everywhere; the way we had to dash downstairs from the upstairs apartment in the cold and wind, and the things flying about with fury, seeking shelter; the absence of the cow when the winds stilled. I remember the looting and disorder that followed, and how the disorder to a child was excitement (not the tragedy that it so clearly was), perhaps because I’d be returning home and with my sister and mother there I had no reason to feel my world tilt. Marcella did not have that luxury. There were details of that time I was learning for the first time from her presentation – 34 dead, 5000 plus injured, three fourths of the island homeless, displaced children like her ripped from their lives and flown to new homes in Antigua. Temporary for some, permanent for others. Marcella grew up in Antigua – a product of two families, two islands, and a whole hurricane of internal confusion.
“Looking back at the seemingly disjointed parts (of my story) allows me to create positive meaning,” Marcella said, putting her journey into perspective.
No, she wasn’t unpacking her story to serve up tasty morsels to voyeurs and gossips but to search for and share meaning, to inspire the audience to similarly look at ourselves and discover what we stand to learn about ourselves.
For me, there were two very powerful anecdotes – one the story of her at a school assembly addressed by her Antiguan father, waiting for him to claim her as he did his other children in his speech, and waiting in vain, feeling keenly in that moment the loneliness of not quite belonging; the other the story of sitting with her brothers at her Dominican mother’s bedside on the eve of her death. There, but detached from the moment. I can’t imagine it was easy to unload any of that, but the vulnerability she allowed herself was prelude to declaring that following the death of her Dominican mother, she’d bravely stepped into her skin, into choices that made sense to her. She was, after some soul searching, “living a deliberate life” (among the most powerful affirmations from any speaker on this day).
Sidebar: I have to give the organizers props for the programming of the TEDx Antigua Barbuda event – both the bookings and the ordering of both live and recorded speeches (there were two of those from US TEDx events). The one that followed Marcella’s was by Cameron Russell, a model, who spoke of how much of that path is artificial and accidental (it’s worth a listen) – among the resonant bits, that she’s a successful model essentially because she fits a certain aesthetic, luck, nothing to do with choice and purpose. And then there was…