Doreen Vanlee had something to get off her chest. She’s miffed about “Candyman,” the 1992 horror film that depicts a spirit who murders anyone who speaks his name five times in the mirror. The film is famously set in the iconic Cabrini-Green housing project, a place Vanlee called home before the last vestiges of the project were demolished in 2011.
“I don’t like that movie and how it’s attached to Cabrini-Green,” Vanlee said. “There was nothing scary about growing up in Cabrini. Forget candy man, we had other things going on there.”
Vanlee has poured her frustrations with the film into a book, “Damn, Candy Man: He Ain’t All that I Lived Beneath the Candy Lady for Years.” The book is about Vanlee’s life growing up in Cabrini-Green in the 1970s and 1980s. According to the book’s Amazon profile, the Cabrini-Green Vanlee knew and loved was about family, community, relationships, triumph and survival.
“It is not about a boogey man running loose with a hook in hand,” the profile reads. “It is about the ups and downs of growing up young, gifted and black.”
Vanlee was among about 10 people who attended the Poetry Jam: My Voice, My Power open mic session at the North Austin Branch Chicago Public Library, 5724 W. North Ave., on Nov. 26.
Vanlee and others read poetry and short stories about family, history, growing old, hope and other topics. Carolyn Stewart, a librarian, said the sessions have been happening since 2012.
“As a librarian, I like reaching out to people and everyone has a story to tell,” she said. “I like listening to what people have to say. I think it’s pretty great that people have so many hidden stories they want to share. I think it’s kind of neat to relate to others.”
Vanlee said she’s been writing since she was 9 years old.
“I was inspired by my teacher reading a poem to me about the four little girls of Alabama, then my mother would read that poem to me at home and I just started crying one day when I realized what it was about,” she said.
“Then, I started to write poetry. I would write little short poems and stuff,” she said. “I wrote for different newspapers and magazines and then went to school for journalism and poetry came back to me.”
Vanlee said she’s working with the National Public Housing Museum and Stage Left Theatre on a play based on her book — yet another hidden story revealed.