Three Sisters, a Podcast from The Well, shares the stories of sisters Devona, Rana, and DeAndra. The maternal sister, the rebel sister and the baby girl explore their familial foundations in faith and music to speak on themes such as change, suffering, celebration, love and the meaning of life, together.
- Episode 1: The Place Where We Abide, The Water We Are In
There's the Chekhov play, where three sisters ponder purpose, change and the meaning of life. There are the three Native American crops, squash, beans and corn. When planted together, they are thought to create sacred significance to sustain life. There are the three sisters rock formations in the Blue Mountains of Australia and the volcanic peaks in Oregon.
And now we meet the Beard sisters from Kokomo, Indiana: Devona, the maternal eldest, Rana, the rebel, and DeAndra the baby girl. All of the sisters attended HBCU's before finding their own path in equity and social healing via medicine (Devona), policy and poetry (Rana), and in social enterprise (DeAndra).
In this episode, we meet the sisters and begin to learn about the family dynamic that sowed the deep seeds of love that keep the sisters, and now us, grounded in what really matters.
- Episode 2: Diversity Club. (Or how showing up as yourself should not be seen as an act of political resistance.)
The visual artist Titus Kaphar was asked at a talk in Cincinnati how long his work had been political. He told the audience that for some people -- people like him -- the work is always viewed as political.
Recorded two days after the 2020 presidential election and two days before the race was called for Biden, the Beard sisters took a break from refreshing their news feeds to speak of this same idea and many riveting others in Episode 2 of Three Sisters.
Even without direct conversations about race and politics in the Beard household, the young sisters were inspired by dogeared books including The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Kaffir Boy, Native Son, Invisible Man and Her Eyes Were Watching God (get these titles and more at DeAndra's Beyond Barcode Bookstore!) These books were often being read simultaneously, one sister waiting to pick up the book the second another put it down. When sister Devona began to eschew hair straighteners, it was clear to the younger sisters that an act of bravery was happening, even if they didn't have the words to explain it as anti-racist representation.
The sisters also talk about the challenges of parenting and the need for new rituals -- ones that take rituals of oppression and turn them on their head. As always, the conversation is deeply personal and beautifully, tenderly universal.
For full links and additional resources mentioned in the episode, click here.
- Episode 3: Fear, Faith and Hope, Part 1: Code-Switching and The Gift of Fear.
When the Beard sisters sat down to talk about fear, faith and hope, the night went long because the subject matter was so deep and personal and necessary. In this episode, the sisters talk about code-switching as linguistic smoke and mirrors (shout outs to Michelle Obama, Zora Neale Hurston and Benjamin Crump).
As the conversation deepens, we come to understand the first moment when rebel Rana lost touch with the voice of God, trusted a stranger, and entered into the abyss of assault. This traumatic event helped Rana understand that "black girls need therapy." She was introduced to the work of Gavin de Becker, whose book The Gift of Fear helped her understand how fear can be a resource and how it aligns with the voice of God.
Note: This episode includes information about an assault.
- Episode 4: Fear, Faith and Hope, Part 2: It’s Not What it Looks Like.
In this episode, the Beard sisters continue their reflection on moments of profound and overwhelming fear in each of their lives: the premature birth of Devona’s daughter Zora, the near-death experience of Rana’s husband Julian, and when DeAndra went from the sanctuary of church into an unexplained coma.
As always, prayer, faith and powerful images and messages orchestrate the way the sisters and their families heal, survive and thrive despite extraordinary circumstances.
- EPISODE 5: MUSIC FROM THE HEARTH: INTRODUCING THREE SISTERS THEME, BRIAN RAPHAEL NABORS AND AFROCENTRIC MUSIC TRADITIONS
Music is an essential part of what makes and moves the Beard sisters. In this episode, the sisters share their afrocentric music roots with classical composer and Three Sisters Music Director Brian Raphael Nabors. From spirited "performances" from the hearths of the Beard and Nabors' homes, to their shared musical influences (a Three Sisters Spotify playlist!), to their reverence for and reflections on the intelligence of the human voice to transcend the most difficult of circumstances, the sisters and Brian bring the Word to the work of life and music. We also get to hear John Hall (Pappy's) influential voice and hear the premiere of the Three Sisters theme music.
For additional notes and to purchase a Three Sisters tote bag or cap, visit The Well.
- Episode 6: Christmas Tree Bandits & The New Face of Santa. Meet Pastor Beard!
Note to family listeners with young ears nearby: The Beard family stories reveal a bit about Santa's true identity.
When we were mapping out our episode themes, we asked the Beard sisters if there were any Christmas traditions they might want to talk about. The energy in the Zoom room became electric with excitement and a bit of trepidation: "Can we tell THAT story?" We then asked, who might we invite from the Beard family to our holiday show?
"Daddy!" was the unanimous response.
In this spirited, sweet, humorous episode, learn about the Christmas Tree Bandits and how "in the midst of chaos, tradition grounds us." Also we receive the most touching blessing from Pastor Beard, a much needed balm of faith and light as we near the end of an unprecedented year.
- Special Episode: On Breaking Wide Open with Sister Rana Dotson
Rana, one of our Three Sisters, lives and works just outside of Washington D.C. Her role in the federal government as a public servant is one of the identities that defines Rana's determination to live up to the promises of our country, now broken.
We asked Rana to talk to us about her feelings, observations and hopes for the long rebuild following the January 6th assault on the Capitol and democracy.
Thank you for listening.
To learn more about the sisters, click here.
Devona Anderson (left) was the first born of four siblings and known as the maternal sister. She was born prematurely and breech at four pounds, seven ounces in the small town of Kokomo, IN. She is nearly four years older than the next child and was given responsibility by her parents to help with caregiving. She grew tall fast, which further reinforced her role, as she towered over her three younger siblings. She never resented her added responsibility, but cherished the opportunity to help her working parents.
Rana Dotson (right) was born the middle child of three sisters with one younger brother. An entrepreneurial promoter of social and economic inclusion, she is a 4th generation daughter of Black Church pioneers who made their way from points south in the US to settle in Indiana during the Great Migration. She attributes her poetry, activism and grit to their genetic imprint and their prayers.
DeAndra Beard (middle) was born number three of four, better known as the "baby girl" of the family. Her deep love for family easily translated into deep love for community. She is passionate about working to create common ground and connect with the world through the study of language and culture. This passion has led her around the globe as an activist, interpreter and organizer and (happily) back to her hometown, Kokomo, IN, where she works diligently alongside her parents in ministry and as a community educator.