When my sister was just beginning as a playwright, she needed a teenaged, black actress for her play. Boston, where we lived at the time, does not have a huge network of teenaged, black actresses so she reluctantly asked me to play the part and I agreed.
At the time, I was in a years-long retreat from the spoken word. I spoke at home, but the number of times I spoke in public each week I could probably count on my hand. The only way I can describe it is that it felt as though, around age twelve or so, I had swallowed a smooth, white river stone and now it sat, lodged at the base of my throat, blocking any words from getting out.