Event Recap: RPA Storytelling Night
Updated: Oct 2, 2019
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photos from Rutherford Pride Alliance
The Rutherford Pride Alliance hosted its first Storytelling Night on Thursday, September 26th in Iviswold Castle on the Felician University Campus. Robert Lyons, President of the RPA, introduced Carl Kelsch and noted, “Carl is responsible for the creation, fruition and execution of this special event. His passion is inspiring.” Carl Kelsch, who lives in Rutherford, decided to organize this event after his experiences with Moth storytelling events in New York City. Kelsch explained, “The best connection is felt when someone is telling their own story.”
Many individuals stood up in front of the audience to tell their own stories, including one man from Rutherford who explained how he and his husband went through the difficult process of becoming parents through surrogacy. He spoke about the process and how grateful he was for his sister-in-law who was their surrogate and their baby boy.
Another man, also from Rutherford, explained how incredibly lucky he feels to have grown up with a mother who encouraged him to always be himself. He talked about how he felt comfortable coming out early in his life, yet how, just like many others, he had to deal with individuals who were “homophobic”, including his own brother. He believes that growing up with strong women, such as his mother and his Aunts, gave him the confidence to continue to be himself no matter who disapproves.
Michael Szarek, who plans and organizes events at Iviswold Castle, spoke to the audience and explained, “I am a white, straight male who works at a Christian University and yes, I am in the right place (laughed).” He recalled how he has no memories of having any opinions, positive or negative, about those in the LGBTQ community throughout his childhood and early adolescence. “People within the LGBTQ community are just like me. However, I cannot imagine the pain, anger and sadness they have felt when they were unaccepted and I am a Mets Fan," he told the audience, laughing. Szarek said he cannot wait until the day that “declaration of support will be unnecessary.”
A member of Elders for Equality with Garden State Equality, who is in the process of transitioning from female to male while continuing a life of activism and advocacy spoke about the experience so far.
Kelsch told a story about how “waiting 45 minutes for my order at a deli triggered the realization that I was needlessly waiting to fully come out of the closet.”
Finally, there was a surprise speaker who was so inspired by the event that she asked to speak and she came out publicly as bisexual for the first time.
Kelsch told TIR, “It takes guts to speak up in front of people, although less intimidating for someone like me who grew up with seven older siblings, and I am thankful for all of those who shared their stories. I am very proud of how this event turned out and I am hoping that we can do it again soon, maybe even in the Spring.”
This Storytelling Night was recorded and will air on Sunday, October 6th at 12:30 pm on the internet-based, student run radio station, Radio Felician University