As 2019 comes to a close, I have been reflecting over my life as I am a week and a day away from turning 46 years-old. I am immensely grateful to be engaged in a life where I am actively able to share, teach and build community around my creative work that is authentically borne from who I am as a person. That means that I have been completely in control of what the themes and energy is that has gone into my creative outputs, whether a song, play, book, poem or film. I am fully aware that this opportunity to be a professional creative who is paid to be creative is a privilege within a world that does not consider the arts as much more than entertainment most times. One take-away that I hope you gather from this post is that it is important to stay true to the vision you have for yourself.
From early on, people have shitted on the vision I have always had for myself. As a child, I would often declare that I was going to be a songwriter, singer, screenwriter, film director, novelist, actress and teacher. I wasn’t that aware of theater as I am now, and didn’t include playwrighting then, but, I knew that writing was always going to be at the forefront, no matter the genre. I was in my first play as the female lead when I was in sixth grade and I started participating in talent shows, intent at every opportunity, to hone my skill as a singer and actress.
My mother often doubted me and didn’t offer much encouragement of my singing and love the arts, but, she at least offered me space to write, not really discouraging that interest of mine. Thankfully, I developed personal practice of always writing something creative at least weekly so that I became familiar with my own style and types of writing. Reading was integral to this practice as well. Reading other authors helped me identify what styles best appealed to me. Some of my inspirations and supporters came in the form of teachers, parents of friends or people I only briefly came in contact with who let me know that they saw something in me and my talent that was inspiring or interesting enough for me to stay on track. As a child, those people were life-blood to my creative pursuits, even as I continued into early adulthood to look at this practice as a hobby and not realistically something I would be doing for a living. I never considered majoring in the arts while in college because my more immediate voices like my mother’s and others in my ear let me know that if I wasn’t the best in the arts, there was no place for me there professionally. I still minored in writing and majored in a communication field that required taking a significant number of writing courses. This was my way to still be doing something creative even if not overtly so.
After college, each job I took, when I had the authority to plan or create, I would often plan an activity or event that included the arts. Working in nonprofit with youth, I would implement talent shows, art salons and teaching artist visits. Working at colleges, I would plan festivals, conferences and anything that would allow me to include music and the arts. I was creating space for others while neglecting my own creative pursuits.
In the late 90’s moving into the new millenium I decided I was going to take charge of my creative pursuits. In an earlier post, I shared my story being on the show Showtime at the Apollo. After that experience, I wanted to stop singing cover songs and put some of my own music out there. In 2001, I had a good friend, the late singer/songwriter Derrick Marquis Smith, write music to my song lyrics. I then became an official songwriter.
I went on to be part of a band briefly in 2002… we did these two songs
before I quit the band and released my first single in 2003 three months after my daughter was born:
This was done in large part thanks to my current partner and co-parent Ben Beta who produces all of my music to this day.
My life started taking a turn and really focusing on the arts in 2008 when a series of things happened. I started the online community Liberated Muse, wrote and directed my first play with a cast of over twenty people and co-produced the inaugural The Capital Hip Hop Soul Fest. Since then, eleven years later, I have continued to write and produce plays, music and events that are community-centered and commissioned by schools, museums, libraries, cultural centers and festivals.
I am full of gratitude for this journey. I am thankful for the countless people who have helped push me along, supporting my vision by buying my creative outputs, attending shows, referring me to paid gigs, booking me for gigs, etc. Over the years, a lot of people have come and gone from my life. Each person left an imprint that definitely influenced how I moved forward after meeting them. I hope the imprint I have left has left an indelible mark as well.