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Dear Reader

Writing the Stories of the Unknowns Stitched Between the Knowns

DéLana R.A Dameron on filling in the fiction between the stories everyone knows and everyone tells through Redwood CourtFeb 6, 2024


I have been writing and thinking about many of the stories and characters that comprise my whole life, and have wanted to enter into the archive an accounting of ordinary (I believe extraordinary) Southern Black life, particularly in the suburbs of a mid-sized metropolis Columbia, South Carolina.

I understood very early as a child that I was the last in the line of Damerons as I know them, how I traced them. My father was the only child of his father’s to bear children—his father’s mother passed away in childbirth. That Dameron “ended” with me felt like an especially heavy thing to bear through my years. As I came to understand my path as that of a writer, I realized that my family didn’t have much in the way of material things to pass down, but had stories, had representations of the life we lived together on this earth, and folks before me had representations of the life they lived and survived so that I could be so privileged to be here to tell you all about it…and that for me is the legacy.

When I was younger I wanted to be an archeologist. I wanted to go around with my brushes and shovels and dig up ruins and study what people and animals before me left behind. (Ask my husband, I will watch Jurassic Park any time it’s on syndication) After I decided that was too much science, I moved to study history—to piece together stories based on fragments of information—to be an archeologist of stories. Part of understanding the study of history, and working, too, as a story archeologist is that one takes pieces and pieces and creates whole epics…and somehow, the gone keep on living.

My storytelling is an attempt at fossilizing my family’s history—filling in the fiction between the stories everyone knows and everyone tells. My maternal grandmother Louise B. Melvin loved to tell stories, but I have to admit I wish I was a better listener as a child. I took for granted that I’d always have her near, always have her voice in my ear. So much of my writing, my attempt at preserving is also a filling-in or writing the stories of the unknowns stitched between the knowns. Much like what paleontologists do to create a fully-rendered dinosaur skeleton from a few pieces of bone.

I have this rephrasing of a quote from poet Sonia Sanchez that I keep with me, that I believe is at the heart of all I do: “I speak your name so there is a tomorrow.” Through my storytelling, my naming, my building, my re-building, I am hoping that folks like my folks will enter into the archive. I suppose this concern for preservation is at once a learning, a making, a maintaining and love. I love my family and so I want there to be a tomorrow for us. 

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