People of Charlotte, please meet award-winning Author, Patrice Gopo! Patrice recognizes the power and importance of sharing personal stories after being greatly impacted by the narratives of others. Her essay collection, All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way, explores the topics of race, immigration, relationships, friendship, self-love, and faith. Through these reflections, Patrice beautifully threads together a vivid and eloquent account of the quest for true belonging while embracing our differences at the same time. Her personal stories encourage the reader to look more intentionally with greater pauses at their own lives. Details on how to win an autographed copy of Patrice's book are included below. Now let's get to know Patrice's story!
You’re pretty much an anomaly here in Charlotte and in the world. Where were you born and raised?
“A new friend talks with me about Alaska. ‘I’ve only met one other person from there,’ she says. I smile as I think that she’s met one more person than most people who begin this conversation with me.” Patrice Gopo, All the Colors We Will See (Nashville, W Publishing, an imprint of Thomas Nelson, 2018), 109.
How did your family end up in Alaska?
My parents emigrated from Jamaica to Alaska before I was born.
“I go back two generations and see our black grandmothers, our Indian grandfathers, and even further back, a white great-great from England. Together these shades of skin, different countries and cultures, formed future generations beneath a vast umbrella of being Jamaican.” Gopo, All the Colors We Will See, 122
Let’s talk about your education since you are quite educated!
I would say I have an affinity for being in school and for learning. I received my undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. Along the way, I realized my interest started to veer away from my degree. After working at Eastern Kodak for a couple of years, I enrolled at the University of Michigan. I knew I wanted to use my skills to impact under-resourced communities. I left graduate school with two degrees: an MBA and a Masters in Public Policy. During that time, I focused on economic and community development. I was interested in the field of microfinance as a mechanism for material poverty alleviation.
“But what I longed for was a split sky open, to become a scholar of more.” Gopo, All the Colors We Will See, 93
You also spent time in Cape Town which set you on a new course. Please share that story!
At the end of graduate school, I applied for a grant to go to Cape Town for 10 weeks and work with women, helping them start small businesses. While there, I met my future husband who was originally from Zimbabwe. After leaving Cape Town, I returned to Anchorage. Feeling called, I then flew back to Cape Town and got engaged. After marrying in Jamaica, we lived in Cape Town.
“More than a decade later, in early June, I leave behind my Alaskan summer. I arrive in a Cape Town winter that holds the city in a shivering trance, replete with misty mornings, a handful of bright days, and an everlasting cold requiring the bulk of sweaters and scarves.” Gopo, All the Colors We Will See, 138
How did your time in Cape Town awaken the writer within you?
When I returned to Cape Town I didn’t have a work visa so I had more time to spend with my own thoughts I started writing some of my personal stories and began sharing my writing through an online magazine. While I was happy with my writing, I knew I wanted to learn how to become an even more effective writer.
“But after some time in Cape Town, I realized my classification as a black American unlocked certain conversations with black South Africans.” Gopo, All the Colors We Will See, 145
And here you are now, in Charlotte. How did you find yourselves calling the Queen City home?
When we decided to leave Cape Town, we consulted a list of cities I’d made in grad school of where I thought I might want to move (I made this list before I met my husband). My husband suggested we revisit that list, and we decided to give Charlotte a try. In 2011, we moved here after having our first daughter, wanting to be closer to my family.
“You come from people who move. He comes from people who move” Gopo, All the Colors We Will See, 169
How long have you been a resident of Charlotte?
We’ve called Charlotte home for 8 years. As a writer, I love how Charlotte provides access to great classes and teachers. I have grown so much as a writer in this city. As a mother, Charlotte is a beautiful place to raise a family. We have since had our second daughter here.
“Charlotte seemed like a place filled with possibility for our black family, a city exploding with a bounty of opportunities.” Gopo, All the Colors We Will See, 201
Storytelling is a calling for you. Why?
There is a power that comes from sharing personal stories. I know I am richer because of them.
Common threads appear through storytelling and we gain perspective about the different ways others see and experience the world.
“We reached out over great distances to link with others we might not even know. Together we all sat beneath an indiscriminate sun and remembered that there was something shared.” Gopo, All the Colors We Will See, 37
What has your involvement been with the Charlotte writing community?
I created the curriculum for Charlotte Lit to help people find entry points into their story. Stories bring all backgrounds together which makes our community stronger. Good things are birthed here. And I feel fortunate to be able to give back to our community. I am offering while people are pouring into me.
“In those fragile beginnings, that crucible produced a writer. I exchanged a fledgling career for a thing I couldn’t have imagined. The aspirations of old found new life with a pen, a computer, and the blank lines of a notebook.” Gopo, All the Colors We Will See, 220
You not only connect to people through the written word but through the spoken word as well. Tell us about your speaking role!
I love public speaking for the ability of the spoken word to help bridge divides in race relations and promote human understanding. The spoken word has the ability to move mountains. For instance, after speaking to a group of middle schoolers, they began sharing their own stories with one another, unprompted. While not everyone is wired to write a book, I think we are all still storytellers. I hope my audiences are inspired to self-reflect on the stories that they possess and need to get into the world.
“Before us a woman with beautiful locks stands and speaks with thunder into the microphone.” Gopo, All the Colors We Will See, 196
As a mother, you are an incredible role model for your daughters. What do they think of the work you do?
Oh, thank you! My girls see what I do as fun—Mom wrote a book. They know I have an author background. And from that, they have learned that we can be complicated and have an array of skill sets while being able to step into whatever we do with confidence. We raise our daughters to be confident in whatever path they choose.
“Watching you grow gives me hope because you begin better than me and better than my generation.” Gopo, All the Colors We Will See, 225
Outside of raising two beautiful girls, you wrote a book full of beautifully told stories. Tell us about All the Colors We Will See!
All the Colors We Will See is a collection of personal stories that tie together to form a larger narrative. I explore the idea of how being different affects my quest to belong. The book is a collection of essays that I have been writing since 2011. I possess a deep sense of hope that sharing my stories will help make the world a better place. Worlds can be shifted through reading. While we recognize our similarities, we develop a better space to also honor our differences. Learn more about my book here!
“Could it be that I am not trying to belong because I want to remain my true self?” Gopo, All the Colors We Will See, 194
How did you find your publisher?
My agent found me from an online article. She connected me with my publisher, and I signed with them in 2017. At that point, I had a third of the book left to complete which I did during a fast and furious six months!
“Sometimes the very thing people say never happens actually does, and I write these words with deep gratitude.” Gopo, All the Colors We Will See, 223
Where can we hear you speak?
I have spoken about storytelling and finding our identities to numerous corporations, nonprofits, schools, universities, and conferences. I always welcome additional opportunities, so please reach out to me if you would like to collaborate. I also teach and speak about writing essays and about being a writer. In August, I will be teaching a workshop on how to transform essays into a book. I feel driven to speak about topics related to race relations and racial justice as well.
“I wouldn’t find peace by changing my appearance. So after years of striving for another look, I wanted my curves, my complexion —and my hair.” Gopo, All the Colors We Will See, 158
Can you share some of the accolades you have received as a writer?
Most recently, the Arts & Science Council (ASC) selected me as a 2019 Regional Artist Project Grant (RAPG) recipient and the North Carolina Arts Council selected me as one of their 2017-2018 Literature Fellows. Barnes and Noble also chose All the Colors We Will See as a Discover Great New Writers selection. I am honored and share more good news here.
“It is only later, months or maybe years in the future, that I think I am something like a chemical reaction myself, a combination of many elements producing an unpredictable result.” Gopo, All the Colors We Will See, 20
Any tips for the ambitious writer?
I love sharing how I write and learn and grow. You can find all my references and resources on my website.
You are giving away an autographed copy of All the Colors We Will See! How can we enter to win?
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