Sunday, August 16, 2015

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

3-D Valentine

I always wanted to be someone's whole world. Be careful what you wish for.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Thanks! And While You're At It...

Dad sent a card thanking me for the $50 I sent him for Christmas. But no "thank you" is complete without a request for more.


Ask and you shall receive, I guess, because I will definitely be buying him a copy of Humans of New York for his birthday. If you're not familiar with the book, check out the page on Facebook.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Minimums & Maximums - Tipping the Scales of Justice

Yesterday President Obama commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates, each of whom were non-violent offenders convicted of crack cocaine crimes. One commute was given to Stephanie George who received a life sentence in 1997 for letting her boyfriend hide crack in her home. The judge in her case expressed frustration at not having any choice in her sentencing.

"There’s no question that Ms. George deserved to be punished," said the judge. "The only question is whether it should be a mandatory life sentence... I wish I had another alternative... your role has basically been as a girlfriend and bag holder and money holder. So certainly, in my judgment, it doesn’t warrant a life sentence." 

Yet a life sentence --the minimum-- is exactly what Ms. George received.

My father received twenty years with a possibility of parole in ten --the maximum-- for stabbing a woman five times and slicing her throat from ear to ear, nearly decapitating her. A repeat violent offender, he could be back on the streets as early as June 2014. If he serves his full term, June 2022.

I would like an explanation on how a man can be allowed to prey upon women, violently assault them with a deadly weapon and receive what amounts to a slap on the wrist when compared to Ms. George's crime and ultimate sentence. Every day, the news is filled with reports of men with past convictions of rape, molesting children and other heinous crimes who are arrested yet again for violent criminal acts. Why are they allowed three strikes and then some and still given an at bat?

Ms. George was one of eight commutations. According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, there are at least 8,800 more federal inmates sentenced to mandatory minimum terms for crack cocaine crimes before the Fair Sentencing Act was put into action on August 3, 2010, who can appeal their sentences. While not all of those 8,800 deserve shorter sentences (drug crimes are not victimless) many do, especially when compared to offenders like my father.

The Scales of Justice are tipped. It is time for us to right them. 


A few days later, after the last ferry of Cuervo prize-winners was shoved off the dock, I hitched a ride in a dinghy to the main island of Tortola and took a taxi into town, where I borrowed a computer from a friendly shopkeeper. Knowing there was some sort message looming in the universe addressed to me, I scoured the web not knowing what exactly I was searching for.

Was Dad dead or in the hospital? My leg bounced, and I chewed my fingernails. My father’s given name appeared in the Fort Worth Star Telegram with the grim headline, “Boyfriend Jailed in Knife Attack”. The blood drained from my face. I clicked the link and read the brief report.

BEDFORD - A man was arrested on suspicion of stabbing his girlfriend Thursday night. A 45-year-old woman, who suffered cuts to her neck and upper chest, was in critical condition Friday at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. Her boyfriend, Theodore Crews, 55, was in Bedford Jail on Friday with bail set at $100,000 on suspicion of attempted murder.

I thought back to Thursday night. I was partying with a charismatic billionaire in his world, while my world was falling apart.

My heart sank, but there were no tears. I was stoic and contemplative. My mind didn’t race to wonder what happened, why or how. I knew he was capable. It was wishful thinking that what Dad had done to Mom was a fluke. I had pushed aside any worries that his troubles with women were beyond what he described in his letters, choosing to believe that he wasn’t dangerous. But I was wrong. The only thing missing were the gruesome details.

When I flew home to New York, I returned to my full time job at the law office. Arriving at my desk that first day, I acted as though everything was business as usual. I was shell-shocked and the routine kept me from collapsing. Throughout the day, my mind flashed images of a bloody attack on Helen or replayed the scene of Dad attacking Mom. When I slept, my sleep was fitful.

For years after Dad had attacked Mom, I had nightmares of murderous rampages. My dreams were a horror movie, where an unknown villain would stalk and butcher people. I would be the sole survivor, on the run, hiding in terror of being slaughtered. Other times, I dreamed I had killed someone years before and hidden the body. Now, the cops knew about my dark secret and were following me. I woke up feeling consumed with guilt and fear.

Both nightmares haunted me on a regular basis. It had been thirteen years, ten months and twenty-six days since Dad had snapped. The repressed trauma was as alive as if my memories had gotten a stiff snort of smelling salts. My subconscious was screaming for help because I seemingly could not.

I was overwhelmed with anxiety and concern for Helen. I needed to know more than what the article in the paper had told me. What exactly had Dad done to Helen and, more importantly, was she okay? I hoped that finding out the details would allow me to move on. Nervous, I called the Bedford police station and introduced myself.

“Hi, I’m calling about a case I read in the Star Telegram.” My voice shook as I gave the officer Dad’s name and listened to the click, click, clicks of his keyboard as he brought up the case on his computer.

“Oh, yeah, this one. The officer on scene busted down the door and found him on top of her stabbin’ her.”

Just like when I interrupted Dad straddling Mom that night.

“So what can I do you for?”

“Um, well,” I cleared my throat. “I, uh, what about Helen? Is she okay?”

I rubbed my neck and tried to loosen my shirt that felt uncomfortably close to my skin.

“What’s yer relationshee-ip?”

“Oh, um, well, Theodore…” I said, awkwardly repeating Dad’s formal name as it was written in the article. “The man who did it…Theodore…he’s my father.”

“I see,” he paused, weighing the situation that was presenting itself to him. “Well, last I heard she was in the hospital and might not make it. She pretty much lost all her blood.” He spoke bluntly, clearly someone who had seen more than his fair share of crime scenes and had lost the ability to buffer the brutal truth. “If the officers didn’t get there when they did, we’d be lookin’ at a murder case.”

Unable to muster enough air behind my voice to make a word, I squeaked, “Oh.” I rubbed my lips together in a poor attempt to press away the trembling tension that was building up.

“He damn near decapitated her.”

The disturbing news surged through me, but the angry tone in the sergeant’s voice caught me off guard. Did he think I was calling to defend my father? He made me feel as though by being related to Dad, I had helped plunge the knife into Helen’s neck. The judgment I perceived in the officer’s voice made me want to set him straight. I fought back the swelling emotions. “It wasn’t the first time.”

“What’s that? Yer gonna have to speak up, Ma’am.”

“He did it before. Back in August 1988…in North Richland Hills. Look it up.”

I didn’t want my father to slip through the legal system’s cracks unpunished. If they knew a case existed with a similar modus operandi, they would realize they were dealing with a repeat offender and sentence him accordingly.

The embedded splinter of anger and betrayal had risen to the surface. Ratting out Dad’s past brutality against women to an officer extracted the anger all together. A sense of clarity and calm blanketed me, soon followed by guilt. I knew Dad would finally be punished, but at what cost? Helen’s life was in the balance and I, his own daughter, wanted him to pay not only for what he had done to Helen, but for what he had done to our family.

I wanted justice.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

My Deaf Family's Domestic Violence Story on Lifetime

Many months ago, I was cast in a docu-drama pilot called “Family Secrets” for the Bio Channel. It never aired & I thought it was dead in the water. But…lo! It is scheduled to air this Sunday, Oct 27 on Lifetime Movie Network (LMN) at 10PM EST and again at 2AM Monday, Oct 28.

Since it’s a pilot, it doesn’t even have a logo or show page on Lifetime’s website, but the description and name matches what we filmed. I’m honestly terrified to watch it because they have re-enactments by non-Deaf people and, well, re-enactments are usually kind of cheesy to begin with.

I’m mostly worried about having my story in someone else’s creative, editorial hands. Who knows how they’ll piece together my words and spin it? We shall see this Sunday! And if it’s truly go
d awful, well, it will make for a fun story to tell on stage.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

CODA Author Kambri Crews at Mid-Manhattan Library in NYC

I’m giving a presentation / reading / performance at the NY Public Library on 8/21. Free! ASL interpreted! Click here for the Facebook invite. Or here for the library’s page . Here is the press release. Hope you can make it.

CODA Author Kambri Crews at Mid-Manhattan Library
Author to Give Presentation, Sign Books & Answer Questions About Her Memoir
New York, NY The New York Public Library Mid-Manhattan Branch is pleased to welcome Kambri Crews, author of Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir (Random House) on August 21st at 6:30PM. Crews will read and tell stories from her memoir, take questions from the audience and sign books. The event is free and will be interpreted in American Sign Language.

Kambri is a comedic storyteller and author of the highly acclaimed new memoir Burn Down the Ground. Kambri will chat about her unconventional childhood living with deaf parents in a tin shed in rural Texas (Crews is not deaf), and her attempts to reconcile that harrowing childhood to her present life—one in which her father is serving a twenty-year sentence in a maximum-security prison for attempted murder.

Crews’s memoir has received praise from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Glamour, ELLE magazine, and Library Journal, whose review states, “While there’s plenty of memoir fodder in the hearing-child-of-two-deaf-parents subject, Crews’s story has heartbreaking depth and complexity. 

With insight into her father’s feelings about deafness, his ├╝ber-Christian family’s response to his violence against the women in his life, and the culture of the deaf community, this is a rich read.”
A renowned storyteller and public speaker, Kambri has performed on The Moth, Risk!, UCB Theatre, Gotham Comedy Club and given speeches at Illinois State University, Rutgers, University of Oregon, DeafHope, and many other schools, colleges, venues and events.  Learn more about her at

Aug 21 @ 6:30PM
NY Public Library - Mid-Manhattan Branch
455 5th Ave.
New York, NY 10016

FREE! Books will be available for purchase for $20. Credit cards or cash accepted.

"Poignant and unsettling." —Kirkus Reviews

"A compelling testament to the strength of the human spirit.”—Booklist

"Crews' account (the title refers to lighting brush on fire to clear out snakes) is as well-paced and stirring as a novel. In her fluid narrative (she's also a storyteller on the side, a gig that helped her develop this book), Crews neither wallows in self-pity nor plays for cheap black-comedic yuks. Instead, this book stands out for what matters most: Crews' story, bluntly told." —Elle magazine

“Harrowing…A remarkable odyssey of scorched earth, collateral damage, and survival." —Publishers Weekly


Tuesday, July 09, 2013

I Performed a Medley of Songs in ASL

I sang an ASL medley of all the songs featured in stories on "The Soundtrack Series". Fast forward to 2:55 if you want to skip to the ASL.

Runnin' With the Devil by Van Halen (Watch my ASL interpreted story about David Lee Roth.)
Edge of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks
Corner of the Sky from Pippin
How Soon is Now by The Smiths
Epiphany from Sweeney Todd
Vogue by Madonna
I Want You to Want Me by Cheap Trick

The Gospel of David (Lee Roth)

I told a story on the Soundtrack Series about how David Lee Roth was my unconventional life coach when I was 14 and spending my summer living in a one room tin shack in Texas.

It's ASL interpreted, too! I hope y'all enjoy it.