So much of my work as an artist since 2003 has revolved around motherhood and the balance necessary to be valuable to your child and valuable to yourself. This year, my daughter turns 10 and I turn 40 three months after her birthday and with this landmark year has come a truck full of lessons that I’ve learned along the way. What has also come is a commitment to keep the issue of balance at the forefront of my work. Looking back, I’ve already done some things I’m proud of.
I gave an Ignite speech in 2009 about the revolutionary nature of motherhood– for becoming a mother means that you automatically become one of the lowest paid employees in US society within the context of your given industry.
In 2010, I debuted my play “Running: AMOK” which was based on my experiences as a mother, balancing an existence where you are now expected to automatically change priorities with grace and ease when baby comes. The play showcases what happens when that ease and grace are absent as are a support system that you expected to be present.
In 2012, I wrote an article for Soul Train on advice to celebrity moms like Beyonce about balancing celebrity with motherhood and then brought it closer to home later that year when I created the A Creative’s Conversation series, kicking off the first discussion which centered on the artist who is also a parent. During that conversation, many of us present realized that while we don’t know all the answers, sometimes the opportunity to fellowship and share strategies just works.
Through my work, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some really phenomenal artist peers from my immediate community who are at the top of what they do but still publicly committed to their role as a parent. Some of those I want to give a shout-out to are:
So, Moon gets first mention because I currently work with her in my piece “In Her Words” that is currently touring. Moon plays the legendary Nina Simone and is absolutely magnificent. She auditioned for the role while she was at the end of her pregnancy and began rehearsals two weeks after giving birth to her second daughter. She is a beast. While her work ethic is top notch and her talent as a singer is off the chain, her commitment to her children is remarkable. While she has a supportive spouse who is often in attendance during rehearsals and shows, she is seldom without her children at her gigs, even if her husband isn’t able to attend. She not only attends to her children while performing, she also includes them in her creative process and makes it quite clear that they are her priority while still staying committed to her artist life. On top of all of that, she is also a new entrepreneur of a beauty company, SheaMa. She is a shining example of how your artist life does not need to die because you now how chosen to become a parent.
Bomani Armah is a shining example of fatherhood. A prolific artist who garnered national attention years back with his single, “Read a Book”, Bomani has continued to maintain high profile status in the Nation’s capital as popular event host, performer and producer. While he has an active life as an artist, what you can be sure to read about on his public social media sites are shares about his twin sons who has written songs about, who he blogs about and who he often has with him at events that are child-friendly. Not only does he blog about the experiences he has as a father, but he also writes very deep blog posts about the experiences he has as a co-parent, often sharing detailed life lessons about how the relationship with his ex-wife has evolved to serve the best interest of their children. Since it is often that we talk about the balance required for women who are mothers and creatives, it is refreshing to have such a strong illustration of that experience through the eyes of a male parent as well.
New mom Princess Best has only been a mom for about four months and is already raring up to hit the airwaves as a new radio host on the DC-based FM radio-station WeAct Radio. Princess Best, formerly known as Princess of Controversy, is an animated personality who has enjoyed a decade-long career as an MC, actress, poet and community activist. As a new mother, she continues her work as a public speaker, broadening her work to include addressing issues specific to parents and children.
As co-founder of WeAct Radio, Kymone Freeman is a noted community presence that is known for his initiative and provocative approach to activism and coalition-building. He is founder of the Black Love Festival– known for its high-profile entertainment, but also its commitment to HIV testing and focus on pressing issues affecting the Black community. He is also a Larry Neal award-winning writing, crafting stage and screen plays and poetry pieces that span topics as critical as the prison industrial complex to water rights. This rebel with a cause is often seen at community and public events with his young son perched on his shoulder or prominently situated among community folk who have composed part of Kymone’s village. Kymone shows that connecting your child to what it is that you do is not so much a luxury as it is a hands-on lesson on priorities.
Wes Felton is a well-known personality nationally as a singer who gives dimension to the art of independent music. I enjoyed doing a profile on him for Soul Train and learning about all of the things that inspire his art. If you follow him on social media, you will learn a lot about what is important to him– from his work as an artist to his role as a parent. His son is often with him as he performs throughout the city and sometimes brought on stage to perform with him. His son has also appeared in his videos and often lovingly photographed by his dad with many of the famous folks his father meets through his work. Wes Felton conveys the message that this parenting thing need not be separate from what you may do for a living. He depicts the joys of bringing the two together.
This talented singer/MC is probably traveling the world as I type, gearing up for her next concert and checking out the sights of the new town she is in with her son. Maimouna Youssef balances her busy artist life with giving careful attention to her elementary school-aged son who is often seen in the crowd during his mom’s performances. Like some of the artists mentioned before, Maimouna has a willing village to support the balance necessary to raise a son and live an artist life, but above it all, she makes it normalizes the importance of being best in both worlds.