Etta Marie Simpson Ray is a Freedom Rider and one of the pioneers of the Nashville Student Movement. Etta speaks with poet Kelley Bell about the experience of living in the echo of a movement when your contributions have all but been erased, finding the courage to risk personal gain for the collective good, and the critical importance of carrying the old days with us.
In Season 4 of Versify, we bring you the stories of a remarkable band of historical luminaries, connected by their courageous commitment to racial equality in the 1960s: the Nashville Freedom Riders. We hear of their experiences, in their own words, and our poets turn their narratives into poetry.
Nashville Public Radio’s podcast Versify paired some of Nashville’s most iconic residents with local poets who turned their stories into verse. Host Joshua Moore says he learned just how under-told those Civil Rights stories were — for decades.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Rhiannon Giddens is a narrative archeologist. A historical thaumaturge who conjures the often willfully forgotten chronicles of American history and renders them with a rosined bow.
For Nashville choreographer Diane Kimbrough, her route to a career as a professional dancer was influenced by her family history. A descendant of Ukrainian Jews who fled during the Pogroms of the Russian Empire, for Diane, leaning on resilience in the face of scrutiny is practically an inherited trait.
For artist, influencer and activist Thaxton Waters, the roots of his artistic practice began with a suspicion of history. An unease about the stories around the community he was born into. And that sense of questioning spurred Thaxton toward a career of unearthing untold histories — through art.
Demetria Kalodimos is something of a Nashville institution, anchoring the Channel 4 news desk since she first arrived in Music City in 1984. But 30-plus years into her career, Demetria was unprepared to have her decades of dedicated news coverage cut short.
For attorney and aspiring writer Adam Hill, his journey toward understanding the life of his younger brother, Eric, began by coping with Eric’s death, both in the present and 1,000 years before either of them was ever born.
Tasha Lemley has spent much of her professional life championing the stories of people on the margins. But even with a career’s worth of exposure to the types of hardship that can come from living on a social periphery, there were still some harsh realities that Tasha was unprepared for.
There are about as many ways to fall in love with the craft of writing as there are books to be read. But whatever the means of introduction, that first literary gateway drug, it’s typically hard to forget. But for Nashville non-fiction writer Rob Simbeck, his route to an early love of literature, began with an American tragedy.