Lisa Marie Simmons: Resplendent and creative after abandonment and abuse
Updated: Aug 2, 2021
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This week on the Finding Fertile Ground podcast, I interview Lisa Marie Simmons. Lisa grew up in Boulder, Colorado, but now lives in Lake Garda, Italy. I contacted her when I read her post on the Huffington Post, As A Young Black Girl, I Loved My Grandfather. Then I Found Out He’d Been A KKK Member.
I have interviewed 75+ people since I started podcasting. I’ve made incredible connections and new friendships. But this one feels different.
Lisa feels like a soul sister.
Lisa has written extensively, as have I, so that makes it easier to get to know each other. It took multiple tries to get this interview to happen because of technical issues, so when we finally spoke it felt magical in many ways.
Lisa is magical herself. So many times during this interview I felt goosebumps, marveling at her resilience and positive spirit. She draws amazing things into her world.
As a child, Lisa was adopted into two families who abused her. The first was a white family who took her to Malaysia before sending her back on a Pan-Am jet with a note in her pocket. Then she was adopted by a white mom and Black dad in Boulder. Although Lisa fell in love with her adopted siblings, her mother repeated her own pattern of abuse with her children…and she never felt accepted into her mom’s family.
Music saved Lisa’s life. After she began singing at a young age, she became a featured soloist with the Boulder Youth Choir. At 19, she moved to New York City to study theater and music at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and perform in the Manhattan club circuit at night.
Lisa is now an accomplished jazz and folk singer/songwriter, essayist, and published poet. (Read her blog posts here or check out her Linktree, which also includes links to performances.)
Her music (Hippie Tendencies and the poetic/musical project NoteSpeak) can be found wherever you listen online.
She has performed as a musician and speaker all over the world, most recently at the Jaipur Music Stage in India in January 2020. Her album Notespeak, produced by RopeadopeRecords, received a four-star review from Downbeat magazine. She performs and produces with her partner, arranger, keyboardist, and songwriter Marco Cremaschini. Lisa’s music is deeply informed by the experiences in her life.
In our interview Lisa shared about her adoptions, growing up in Colorado as a Black girl in mostly white spaces and getting her heart broken by a white boy, what it’s like to live in Italy, and how she found her birth mom. I was delighted to discover her birth mom shares a name with my own mom: Shirley!
Watch Lisa meeting her birth mom for the first time.
What I found the most stunning about Lisa is that she endured such trauma in her childhood (and racism, of course), yet she positively glows. Like my previous guest Leslie Batchelder, Lisa believes what happened in her childhood has made her into the strong, creative, and resilient person she is now.
She loves people and this wonderful world in spite of the way she was treated as a child. She uses those difficult experiences as a tool to power her creativity and art.
Lisa epitomizes the notion of “post-traumatic growth,” as we discussed on the podcast. She is magic.
Next week I interview Erin Shakespeare from the Macquarie Foundation on Companies That Care. The Macquarie Foundation has given away A$475 million since its inception. They provide support to hundreds of community organizations globally each year through financial support, volunteering and skills sharing.
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