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Dispatches from the Moth · Posted On: Jun 05, 2019

MOTHerview with Storyteller NeShaune Lasley

by Suzanne Rust

Mrh1902 Ne Shaune Lasley Extra 1

Neshaune in the stylish scrunchie, between her dad (in the black and white suit) and her grandfather. | “I told this story because it wouldn’t shut up—or maybe Daddy wouldn’t shut up!”

NeShaune’s father may be gone, but his spirit of encouragement is here to stay. 

How did you know that this was the Moth story you had to tell?

The night I told the story I was excited, nervous and anxious about the idea of telling it. But then a Bill Withers’ song came on and I was flooded with feelings of my dad and all the things he made me believe I could do, and I just needed people to know. I wanted someone else to feel what I was feeling…the strength, the love, the confidence, and the belief in themselves. I felt my father’s presence, literally everywhere, all at once, and I thought it was fitting, and funny, and beautiful. I was ready to share my story.

Tell us more about your relationship with your father.

Once, I took my then two-year-old to visit my family’s resting place, but couldn’t find my dad’s mausoleum. I was disappointed in myself that I was going to have to ask the office where he was, and my daughter was getting tired. As I was about to leave, my daughter squirmed in my arms and I dropped my keys. Seconds from crying, I sighed, asked God to give me strength, and bent to get my keys. When I got on my feet, I looked up and found his spot.  

That scene was typical of our relationship. I’m always worried, worked up, wondering what the next move is. When he was here, he’d stop me, always ready, steady and equipped with a scripture, a saying, or a story that helped make sense of everything. Of course, I never admitted that when he was alive! But now he’s surely getting a kick out of saying, “I told you so!”

You are a teacher now. How did your father's training influence the kind of educator you are?

Daddy was a teacher in all aspects of life: home, church, work, and on athletic courts. I truly think while he was here, he just wanted to do good things, see the best in other people, and in his community.  

But Daddy did not want me to follow in his footsteps; he didn’t think I’d like being closed up inside of a classroom all day. I understand that, but working in school, I get to be somebody’s coach, too, and that gives me joy. 

Now, that being said, here’s where I have to admit—as usual—he was right. Being inside a classroom does make me feel constricted at times. I know there’s more for me to do, but storytelling is helping me work through that. 

Do you still run?  

Yes… to the kitchen to get the good snacks before my husband does, to the phone to talk with my mama or to a “special” room to hide, write, read books and listen to podcasts alone! Also to daycare, or one of my kids’ ten million activities. No gold medals, though, and I’m always late. 

Who are your favorite storytellers and why?

My family, for sure, but others, like Maxie Jones, Sherman Powell and Dame Wilburn consistently entertain.  And I’ll add Satori Shakoor tp the mix because she is so funkdafied (literally, she was a Bride of Funkenstein with George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic), told stories at the Moth, and still made storytelling her own with her Twisted Storytellers Podcast. When she tells a story, you feel like you’re in her living room, feet kicked up on her ottoman, patting your locks and pursing your lips, high-fivin’ and hand slappin’ when you hear the sho’nuff truth. 

What did it mean for you to be able to share your story on the Moth stage, and what do you think your dad would have thought of it?

Oh, my dad is beaming in Heaven. He loved listening to my stories, or at least had the patience to sit quietly, laugh appropriately, and nod generously.  I’d bet money he’s at every Slam with me. 

Is there anything else you’d like us to know? Are you working on any new projects?

I came so close to winning the Slam the night I told this story!  I was a tenth of a point from beating Randi Skaggs, the phenomenal storyteller who encouraged me to get on stage. Technically, I lost that Slam, but I won then, and every time I beat my nerves to tell a story. 

I am writing, but unfortunately I don’t have a book to share...yet!  

Please finish this sentence: Storytelling is important because…

It is beautiful. It is art. It is evidence that we are here. Everyone has a story. We’re not always willing to tell it, but when we do it builds a connection, brings an understanding. Like a light in a dark room, it just draws everyone closer. 

For more on NeShaune, follow her at @mrslasley or donate to her classroom or any other teacher’s @donorschoose. 

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Go, Venae, Go!

by Neshaune Lasley

NeShaune Lasley receives unwanted encouragement from her father.

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