The Comeback Queen
The beat goes on for addict-turned-professor ‘Dr. E’
BY BETHANY N. BELLA
Elaine Richardson has experienced a lot in her time on earth – from a dismal life of abuse and addiction to a successful career as an artist and teacher.
Now, she’s telling audiences about her journey from point A to point B, and she hopes the message inspires them to see a brighter future for themselves and others.
“People of all backgrounds, races, genders – so many people can relate to my story,” Richardson says. “That story of woundedness and recovery resonates with every part of the country.”
Related: Columbus-area filmmaker addresses addiction with short film
Richardson, known as “Dr. E” to her students and colleagues, says her struggles early in life helped pave the way to the plethora of creative talents she now shares. Once a drug addict and teenage prostitute beset by abusive relationships, Richardson had a youth plagued with undeniable hardship, but she’s parlayed that hardship into a life as a singer, author, teacher and motivational speaker.
Her one-woman stage play, PHD (Po H# on Dope) to Ph.D., a theatrical adaptation of her memoir of the same title, combines Richardson’s musical and motivational skills into one production.
“I think that honesty, it reaches peoples’ hearts,” she says. “It breaks down barriers.”
Founder of the SisterFriends Afterschool Program and The Ohio State University’s Hip Hop Literacies Conference, Richardson is a scholar dedicated to the language, literacies and discourse practices of African Diasporic cultures, taking an interest in black females of all ages; she has written several books on the subject.
This year, Richardson has been on sabbatical from her teaching duties at OSU, focusing her energies on a new book about her after-school program. The program looks at how black women and girls are represented in today’s society, analyzing stereotypes, language use and pop culture references.
“One thing we don’t do enough with young people is encourage them to read critically,” Richardson says. “What is the language that is used? What does it mean?”
Richardson is adamant that every child has the potential for growth, learning and development, regardless of background or present circumstances.
“These kids can do it,” she says. “They just need guidance, someone to listen to them.”
In March, Richardson will be one of several guest speakers during OSU’s Women’s History Month celebration, and she has another inspirational album coming out in June. She’s also going to be traveling across the country – Florida, California and Minnesota – to share her story.
“One thing about being a professor, my load never gets lighter,” Richardson says. “It never slows down. The beat goes on.”
Bethany N. Bella is a contributing writer. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appears in the March 2015 issue of CityScene Columbus