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Storytellers share experiences growing up in America

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Storytelling Arts of Indiana is giving a platform to two storytellers who will contribute to the broad conversation about racial disparity in America.

Charlotte Blake Alston, a Black woman, and Bill Mettler, a white man, will present “Growing Up Black and White in America” 7-9 p.m. Jan. 11 at the Frank and Katrina Basile Theatre in the Indiana History Center, 450 W. Ohio St.

Tickets are $20 in advance at storytellingarts.org or 317-232-1882. Tickets are $25 at the door and $15 for students with a valid ID.

The idea for a shared stage came in 2013. Alston was commissioned by the Singing City Choir in Philadelphia to observe the 1963 children’s march in Birmingham, Alabama. Mettler attended with his wife, Bonnie, who said she hadn’t heard of the children’s march, according to Alston.

Bonnie then created a series of paintings called “My Racial Ignorance” — which will be part of the storytelling event — and Bill approached Alston with the idea of crafting a storytelling project.

Their stories are set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, Vietnam War and women’s movement in the 1960s.

It was a time of “sensory overload,” Alston said.

Alston and Mettler have been friends since the 1980s and have a lot in common. Both of their fathers were in the Air Force and stationed in the Philippines. Both of their parents were married in 1944. They both came from families of five children.

Alston said it was a reminder that she and Mettler — and many others — do share more life experiences than they might think.

Still, Alston understands her experience growing up in America was different.

“Our experience in America is invisible,” she said of Black Americans. “It’s only one part of the story that America gets to hear.”

She remembers, for example, former President Barack Obama singing “Amazing Grace” during the eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in a 2015 shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and the organist joined in.

Many white people were confused by the spectacle, Alston said, but there was nothing confusing about it if you were brought up in the Black church.

Following the event, Alston said she and Mettler will stay for anyone who wants to participate in a Q&A. 

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.


Storytellers Charlotte Blake Alston and Bill Mettler will share their respective experiences growing up in America.

• When: 7-9 p.m. Jan. 11

• Where: Frank and Katrina Basile Theatre in the Indiana History Center, 450 W. Ohio St.

• Cost: $20 in advance at storytellingarts.org or 317-232-1882, $25 at the door, $15 for students with valid ID.

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