OXFORDSHIRE, United Kingdom — Casey Gerald has lived an extraordinary life. He may have started on “wrong side of the river” in Dallas, but he ended up in the Ivy League, taking on the trials and tribulations of both Wall Street and entrepreneurship in his adult life. Now, he has documented it all in his new memoir, “There Will Be No Miracles Here.” To culminate an emotional and inspiring two days of conversations at VOICES, BoF’s annual gathering for big thinkers in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate, the author and motivational speaker took to the stage to share a deeply personal glimpse into his thoughts on identity, courage and spirituality.
Gerald, who is gay and black, described the book as a memoir on its surface but at its heart, a form of intervention, something he wrote to “unbecome” the person he became when, at age 13, his mother disappeared for five years while suffering from mental illness.
“Before she left, my mother was my human hiding place; she was the only person I knew who was as strange as I was,” said Gerald, explaining that he tried to conjure her to reappear by becoming a perfect, obedient student. Despite all the obstacles before him, he went to Yale, where he was the captain of the football team, then landed a job as a financial analyst and eventually attended Harvard Business School. He considered running for Congress, but instead started a non-profit to help entrepreneurs start small businesses.
But at the height of his success in his late twenties, Gerald had a revelation. “I was real cracked up — not exactly having a nervous breakdown, but not too far off,” he said. “I set out, with this book, just to trace those cracks with words” and show that “the way we are taught to live has got to change.”
“We are taught to turn ourselves, our work, into little nuggets...that are easily digestible,” he said, going on to recount a story from the bible of Lot’s unnamed wife, who, as she fled from the city of Sodom, disobeyed the angels and turned back to look at the city being destroyed by fire. She was turned into a pillar of salt as punishment.
While the story of Lot’s wife has been interpreted as a lesson about not dwelling in the past — and also obedience — Gilson was inspired by her bravery and empathy.
“That’s the kind of courage we need today,” he said. “The courage that says either all of us have to be faggots or none of us can be faggots for any of us to be free…. From the naked crust of all we are, we can build a better world.”
To learn more about VOICES, BoF's annual gathering for big thinkers, visit our VOICES website, where you can find all the details on our invitation-only global gathering, in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate.