So, who are you today?
If there’s one question that makes me uncomfortable while interpreting slave life, I would have to say, it’s “So, who are you?” Like most people, I respond with my name. But they don’t want to know who I am outside of the site, they want to know who I’m “playing”. In there mind, there has to be a name associated with how I’m dressed and what activity I’m doing.
Unless I’m doing first person interpretation, then I am nameless or I am just Nicole. I find it hard to single out one particular slave and try to tell their story, not just because we don’t have the documentation that makes such a task viable, but because I feel it’s a disservice to the other slaves that I am representing. I’m sure I’ve discussed this in previous blogs, but I am neither house nor field slave. I am just one who wants to tell you about the lives and the work of those who were enslaved.
Is that to say that I never used a name before? Nope, I started to use the name of Letty, who we believe was a seamstress, but then I got to thinking. No one else had a name that they used, and I didn’t want to be the only one who had an alter ego while out on site. So I dropped the Letty, and only use it when we have instances where first person is appropriate. Once I did that, I noticed that I felt a freedom that was new. I could be more animated in how I talked to visitors, and I could laugh and smile while working because I could show that I enjoyed fully what I do. By just being Nicole, who happens to do slave life interpretation, I could put visitors at ease with a topic so sensitive. Seeing me relaxed and enjoying conversations about slavery put others at ease and opened them up to ask more questions or share their experiences with learning about slavery.
At the end of the day, I want to be the person that shares the truth to the best of my knowledge and gives all of what I have into that presentation. That’s who I am.