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Don’t Count Me Out: Contending Voices
By Levi Frazier, Jr.

bookYears ago, playwright Lorraine Hansberry was asked if A Raisin In The Sun was realistic or naturalistic. Hansberry replied, “Realistic, of course!” The interviewer then asked why. The brilliant young writer stated, “Because naturalism is basically what you see is what you get. But with realism the author has the opportunity to change the outcome of the story.”

In Don’t Count Me Out: Contending Voices, the writers – who are members of Seek-to-Serve sponsored by Blues City Cultural Center—exercised their right to change the outcomes of their stories. Unlike Hansberry’s fictional drama of a struggling yet triumphant African American family, these authentic stories speak honestly of shattered lives that could have ended in drug addiction, depression, prostitution and even murder. However, their lives were resuscitated, given a second and in some cases a third and fourth chance to “get it right.” For them, “don’t count me out” is more than the lyrics of a popular song, it is a living testament of their determination to be “counted in.” Anna Jean Evans wrote about being in a coma for three months and bouts with depression. Robert Washington credits his leadership role in Seek-to-Serve to his years of military training. Another writer relayed her story of long-term physical abuse from her husband which eventually ended in his death at her hands.

In writing this book, they discovered and used their voices to articulate often hidden narratives that added significance to their lives while validating their importance within the greater Memphis community. As Memphis Housing Authority director Robert Lipscomb stated in the introduction, public housing residents are generally referred to as “those people.” Yet, “they have positive gifts and talents that should be shared to make Memphis better and are vital to its well-being.”

In 1879 Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen wrote A Doll’s House. The drama not only centered on women’s rights and independence but the need for every individual to discover who they truly are and to strive to become that person. Don’t Count Me Out: Contending Voices is a giant step toward self-discovery and determination against all odds. More importantly, it is a celebration of the victory in the actual overcoming. The book is dedicated to Lily Jones, a stellar graduate of the Seek-to-Serve and faithful member of the Nspirers. Jones, affectionately known as Ms. Lily, died more than a year ago. Yet, her work and enduring spirt live within the pages encouraging others to change the outcome of their present predicament and not be “counted out” under any circumstances.

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