My Sit-Down With Dr. E

Here’s what the press release will tell you:

“PHD to PhD: How Education Saved My Life (Parlor Press/New City Community Press, 2013) is a new gripping, no-holds-barred memoir, that details how education took Dr. Elaine Richardson from being a PHD, or “Po Ho on Dope”, to getting a real Ph.D.”

But the book isn’t all. Utilizing her life journey to reach out to those ensnared in hopelessness, Dr. E presents Songs For The Struggle, the musical recollection of her journey to pick herself up from a life of self-destruction to a life of self-respect and academic achievement. The road was far from easy, but despite obstacles, Richardson launched herself like a cruise missile with her targets in mind: graduating with undergraduate and graduate degrees from Cleveland State University and earning a doctorate in English from Michigan State University. The first release from Songs For The Struggle is the darkened soul based track, “Deaky” which takes listeners on a daring adventure into the underworld of harlotry.

Now, this isn’t something you’d normally expect to find in the Amps And Green Screens wheelhouse, but I chose to conduct this interview because it is an important story that must be told. You don’t have to be a woman, or young, or both, to be affected by the book, and the forthcoming EP…you just have to be a human being. Dr. E’s message is one of hope and inspiration for people from all walks of life, and if publishing this helps just one person out there, well that’s a start. I present to you, my interview with Dr. E:

Dr. E
Amps: PHD to PhD is a pretty in-your-face title. Was the idea to grab people and get their attention for a story that, quite frankly, NEEDS to be shared?

Dr. E: Yes – I definitely wanted to grab people’s attention, especially to draw attention to people who have been written off by society as being worthless.

Amps: How did you do it? How did you overcome a slew of obstacles that most people probably could not?

Dr. E: I had a lot of help. I struggled many times going to treatment, going to AA, being involved in a program called Project Second Chance that was for sexually exploited women and everyone who poured into my life kept giving me good advice on how to heal myself. I kept failing over and over. It was a combination of people loving me, especially my mom, people caring about me when I didn’t care about myself, crying out to God and not wanting to mess up my children’s lives.

Amps: When was the moment that you said enough is enough?

Dr. E: I said it over and over again. I tried over and over again, I think I heard some of the advice people gave me and with mentors, my AA sponsor who was a former drug addict and street person, I just started trying to forgive myself and live one day at a time. Low-self esteem and addiction mixed together is a killer.

Amps: You’ve become a pretty well-known person in academic circles. Is there one class you took, or taught, or one place in particular that has stood out in this journey?

Dr. E: Definitely-I went to a lecture given by a Black woman linguist, Geneva Smitherman. She wrote this book called Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black America. By the time I attended her lecture at Cleveland State University, I had read everything I could find with her name on it. Her book is a treasurer house of knowledge about history, culture and background and innovativeness of Black Language. I knew then, I wanted her to mentor me, but I never dreamed that I would get a Ph.D. at that time. Meeting her though eventually led to my being granted a full ride scholarship and entering Michigan State University.

Amps: Were the Minnesota winters brutal?


Amps: Do you get pretty intense with the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry? I’m a Florida man, so I can stay out of this one!

Dr. E: I don’t wanna hurt anyone’s feelings so, I’ll just say my favorite sport is LeBron James! LOL

Amps: Tell me about the Sisterfriends Afterschool Program.

Dr. E: It is for middle school girls. It’s a space where we get to explore what it means to be a Black girl and woman in the world. We encourage each other and think, read and write about ways that Black girls and women are represented in society and what we want to do about it and how it affects us. We pay close attention to popular culture and what it is asking us to think, do and be. We laugh, cry, dance, and chill together! I love it!

Amps: You’ve got the first single “Deaky” from your upcoming Songs For the Struggle. When’s that coming out?

Dr. E: We are planning for early December, 2013!!

Amps: Is there anything you’d like to say to the young women out there?

Dr. E: Don’t be afraid to be yourself!

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