Storyteller Rodney Remson, an Army Veteran turned videographer and multiplatform creative focuses on turning his trauma into art. Growing up in a strict household as a military brat, he quickly found solace in art. He spent 8 years in the army reserve, he says he joined the army by accident. 

His time in the military solidified characteristics of being resilient and persistent, but he says the military wanted everything from him and more. Creative energy and artistic talents never stop, despite years in the service, his passion remained. Remson took his life experiences and used them to help himself and others. 

He described the first step in this as being able to forgive himself. Overcoming PTSD and mental health issues is nothing to be ashamed of, instead, he encourages others to find a creative outlet. Remson recently released a short film, Heal Up, to add a visual representation of the mental torment he has experienced and the ways in which he has elevated himself from it. 

Anissa Durham: How would you describe yourself?

Rodney Remson: I would say a storyteller. For someone who works behind the camera and in front of the camera. As part of performances. I hate all those titles. So I just rather describe myself as a storyteller, because I’m someone who loves stories from other people and I get inspired to help me want to tell my own story, use my own voice. I think… that being creative, it’s one of the best things you could have in this world. It’s like everyone is, I encourage everyone to be creative, find that thing that you’re creative in and get a community that supports you. So that way you can have your voice be heard within that realm. And it just brings so much of a different dimension to your life. Knowing that you have an outlet of creative expression to get to.

Anissa Durham: What would you describe as your superpower? 

Rodney Remson: Listening. I think you have to be a good listener to maintain good relationships. You know it’ll teach you that nonverbal interaction is just as important as verbal interaction. But to really listen with your whole body and your whole being, meaning that you’re showing empathy for whoever you’re talking to because everybody has a story. And so I think I’ve taken upon myself to be responsible as a storyteller, to be able to facilitate an environment where people feel comfortable to share their story. So, because I would want it for myself.

Anissa Durham:How long were you in the military?

Rodney Remson: Eight years, Army Reserves. We served in the public affairs unit together.

Anissa Durham: What was your experience like serving in the Army reserve? 

Rodney Remson: Yeah, I made… a monologue piece called PTSD and me, it talks about at the beginning of the story, I tell people I joined the army by accident. I joined the army just to pay for college is what I knew. Think it solidified the traits of being resilient and persistent. I didn’t know those things about myself until joining the military. You know a lot of people join the military for one thing, and what I encourage them is that whatever it is that you joined the military for, they’re going to make you work for every penny of it. And then some. Because when you decide to get out, it becomes more testing and trying to get out. I was a military brat myself before I joined the military. So being on that other side of that family dynamic where we had to be that support system to our soldier, my dad, was tough on us already. So it helped me realize resiliency and persistence and discipline, are all things that you need to be successful.

Anissa Durham: What would you say you are most passionate about?

Rodney Remson: Leaving the world a better place than when I found it. And right now, that would be through storytelling and films and performances. It’s just about really helping others find their voice.

Anissa Durham: How do you use your experiences to help others find their voice?

Rodney Remson: I had to forgive myself first and foremost, to realize that, to get myself out of that identity in the victim. As a result of my injuries as a result of upbringing. I had to embrace trauma. I think for many people who have a perspective that they’re trying to move past their pain, including myself. I thought once I got past them in a physical sense that it was the end of it, not realizing the impact that it had on mental health. So I did this master’s degree program that helped sharpen my voice as a creative to say you know what, I need to embrace my trauma because it’s a part of me now. It’s part of my new normal. I initially did the therapy for PTSD and all that stuff and when I was done with it I said great, I’m healed I’m good to go, treating it like a sports injury.

I had to learn that that is something that you don’t fix. It’s something you manage. Something that I have to manage every day. I try to say to myself, I have to forgive myself almost every day. And so, coming in with that kindness, doing the therapies, doing the artistic expression, doing the work of being a part of a community, all of that has to go into what makes me whole. Which helps me, and I try to share that with others. Everyone has a story, you come from different places, but if you can get to a place where you can embrace those quirks, those weaknesses, those things that hurt you and put it in that creative realm that we’ve talked about. It’s a godsend.

Anissa Durham: Can you tell me a little bit more about your storytelling work and your videography work.

Rodney Remson: I just finished a movie called Heal Up a documentary that I made, where I was looking for veterans who were doing these artistic programs and performances, comedy, improv storytelling. And I was going to try to tell the story of how they’re using this as an escape from their invisible wounds, or even some visible. But COVID hit. And I didn’t have anyone to tell somebody to come out of their refuge to be a part of myself to expose themselves to COVID just to be a part of mine. So, I reluctantly had to turn the camera on to myself. And so, I dig into the loss of my older brother, when he fell into a pool- I was two years old. I wrote it, it’s called ghost child, I write about PTSD and me. How I had to embrace PTSD as part of my new normal.

How our families’ photos are gone because they were locked in a storage unit and we never had the money to pay for it. That’s history that’s gone. So, that documentary, I just finished, is a compilation of those performative pieces. Because there are these endorphins you get when you’re standing on stage and holding, I want to hold people hostage but they have the attention for a set amount of time to say what it is that you want to say. Put it in your craft and make an impact, the release of endorphins is wonderful. 

Anissa Durham: How long have you been transforming your pain and trauma into works of art? 

Rodney Remson: I would like to say since I was a kid, because I was in that observant mode, watching my parents seeing that, when my parents or family was the most happy was when they were telling a story. I started working at this job in the government and it was nonmilitary. And so, therefore, I was doing video production then I was not getting the autonomy, the return that I had at previous jobs where they allow me to produce stories of other soldiers. So in 2016, I took a leave of absence from work. I applied to different colleges, and there was this one college that took me in, and four years later, which will be November of 2020. You know I made that film that I told you about. As part of my arrival to say you know what, I’ve graduated survival mode. 

Anissa Durham: What advice would you give to people that are struggling with their mental health? 

Rodney Remson: It’s your new normal. You can no longer go back to what you were before that. You have to accept that and take ownership of it, whether it’s your fault or not. And I’m not saying there’s not people who are not to blame for it. I’m just saying for the sake of your sanity, your health and living your purpose, you have to take ownership of it. So you can move forward and then you seek wisdom. And then I’m describing these steps from the traveler’s gift. But that was an eye-opener for me to say, all these things that I keep blaming such and such about. Now that I’m old age and I know how to take ownership of, and by all means, find a creative outlet. I’ve done my vices, and there’s many others who have had it worse than me addicted to their vices. Whether you’re good at it or not, do something every day that moves towards what your purpose in life is and find out what it is. What you want to do, and do something every day to move towards that.

Anissa Durham: Where can people find your film? 

Rodney Remson: It’s in the film festival circuit now. So it’s not exactly available, it’s just me sending the link out. But I’m posting clips, you know, to like my Vimeo, my Instagram, and all that stuff.

Anissa Durham: Is there anything else you would like to share? 

Rodney Remson: Community is important. And I guess I’m at that place now where I’m looking to be a part of, not just one community but a few communities where people support each other. I love to support people and help get their stories out. I love people to come and help me out and tell stories as well. So, if there’s a good story you have an ally in me.

Interview by Anissa Durham

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