I kiss the top of my cats head, let the sun play over our bodies, and then walk into my naturally lit living room. I lay down the worries of another ASAP grant application and my concerns that my income from my job isn't enough and breathe in. Inhale. Exhale.
When COVID-19 forced the world to go into quarantine I was astonished at how things moved so quickly to shut down. It was like watching a wave come as you are paddling out into the ocean and being knocked off of your board before you can dive under the wave to miss the hit. A lot of people assume that if you have a job that that means you're good. But many Americans (if not other cultures as well) have multiple streams of income. One of my categories of employment is artist. As an artist I teach, perform, and create. And while I was hit like many other artist, the assumption is that I couldn't possible be failing under the wave. I could and am.
The biggest difference is that I also have a job, that I am extremely grateful to have. But I realized that my income is effected by my artistry in a BIG way. It brought me to the conclusion that being an artist is NOT enough. I can't depend on income from my artistry in any real way. I have one product. I have art that I don't sell. But I am not financially benefiting from anything other than mainly live performances/live teachings. I didn't cross over to the digital realm because I felt like other self employed artist had more of a right. But I am also an artist and I also had a hit to my finances in an unexpected way. I am not excluded.
Once I wrapped my head around this reality I knew I had to make some changes. Though art is my passion and expression, it can also be my business. I don't like to see my art as business because it feels like I am losing integrity by doing so, but really it is putting value on my art. The same as I look at my library career as a value added to my time this is putting value on my art. I am, in lack of a better word, an entrepreneur. I cringed at the term because I didn't think we existed in the same plane. I kept feeding myself the same lines. "I'm not a business person." "I'm not a marketing expert." "I'm not an entrepreneur." It's simply not true.
I am a career woman, an artist, AND an entrepreneur. All at the same time. Being an artist is not enough for me. I value what I create. I refuse to apologize for having multiple streams of income or demanding what I am due for my services/products. There are some people who can function for free. I can not. I can not afford to be shortchanged or looked over. This does mean that I have to also educate myself accordingly. I have to learn business and marketing. I have to learn financial strategies. Though I can't do it on my own I at least have to learn the language.
Before this I questioned if I was making enough to justify the input of my funds. I felt I was making little in return. Though it was little it had big impact that I overlooked. My budget included my little not just my other income. I know that the economic climate is shifting in a big way so we must shift with it. That is what I am doing. My word for the year is invest. So that means stocks, savings, Roth IRA, and also in my business. Do you have areas in your life that you feel have to change?
Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. Was your money impacted by COVID-19? What strategies are you using to put you in a better financial standing?
What is slam?
Slam is a sport of words and verbs. It is something that stems from the practice of break poetry. Every year teams from all over the country and poets from all over the world compete in slam competitions.
Are You Ready?
This year has felt completely different than other slam years. Maybe it's because I took a break and was asked to re-join later. Maybe it's because the team has "hella" group pieces. Or maybe I just know that I can do other things with my time so it makes slam time more charged now. I do know I want us to win this year and I think we can.
I slam because it's a challenge for me. I started off as the poet who was cute, but... I wasn't connecting to audiences. I couldn't make the team even if I tried really hard. I wanted to do my best. I wanted to win. Through workshops and writing with others I've slowly transformed into a poet who actually can get my point across without it getting lost in translation. Now? I don't like the fact that I started becoming a poet who was "pimping pain for points". Not really, but I felt myself writing more about pain than anything else. How can I top this hurt. I know these stories must be told, but I wanted to heal. That's what I spent my time off doing. Healing.
I started writing to protest, to entice, to call to action, and to just vent. There was a time my poems were all about activism, erotica, faith, and whatever was on my heart at the time. I'm a broader writer now. Covering any and everything under the sun.
Since I've done the healing I just know slam (for me) isn't fun all the time. It hurts hearing all the things we've gone through as people. It hurts that our stories are so similar though we're all so different. It hurts. And though I cheer on my fellow poets. It gets difficult to sit in a room and be rubbed raw over and over. I often wonder if the people that NEED to hear these poems are even in the room.
The times I feel the need to slam, I'll go rock a slam. I'll still compete as a indie and support this city (St. Louis). BUUUUUUT first let's get this Nationals competition on! I ain't done yet gosh darn it. I'm ready to go. To see our team go rock those stages in Chicago.
I'll probably blog more than normal this month. Since it's my blogaversary.
Oh yea. Welcome to Slam.
2016 Slam Team
I am queen of changing my style through a cycle. Afro-classy bohemian rebel. Yea, I'm not too good with labels so I just slap em' all on and that's what you get. Yeeeep, get comfortable. This is about branding ya'll
Whether we like it or not, we're a brand. People associate us to something when they think of us. My momma told me a long time ago, "People are always watching you." If you are a person of color, you know what I mean. She scared me out of wearing pajamas to the grocery store or anywhere outside the comfort of my own home "just in case" someone was watching. And they were. I have a hard time traveling and looking too comfortable cause the one time I wore sweats I met a connect who knew Debbie Allen and I needed a internship. (Needless to say I didn't get it) Whether it's the church lady making sure you're covered up, the couple that cross the street as you walk past, or the person locking the car as you walk by. Okay so this doesn't have to be negative. It could be the promoter that takes a chance on you, the fellow artist that helps mentor you, or the foundation that wants to fund your next project. (I speak this last one into existence) We are the products for "sale". It shouldn't matter what people think, but what you think. Are you portraying the brand you want to be?
Looking at any business or job interactions this is definitely true. I'm not telling ya'll anything new though. We live in a world of influencers and people constantly wanting to sell you something. I'm just saying I change my brand constantly and whether I like it or not. It's me. Lately, I've been loving the brand I've created from that fresh out of college girl who had no clue what God what about to do to now being a confident... everything I am now.
Alright so this leads to this new project I've started. I'm going to vlog my summer and below is where you find out why.
"What's it like being black and in theater? Do people every judge you off of... you know, skin?", my student ask with an earnest face, her big brown eyes searching for an answer as she timidly looked down at her own dark brown skin.
It's black history month and I wanna take a look at the different areas that affect black folks to this day. How many no's did that person have to hear? Did they ever feel the pressure of the color of there skin when auditioning for those roles? Are they the one out of thousands that "made" it? I can only write about my experience as far as the places I've lived. Whether it's Baltimore, St. Louis, Iowa, or Knoxville the reach of black theatre is far and few. Now the bottom of the list is Iowa. Because it's Iowa, but there is still a widespread missed platform for black actors in the world.
Being a actor is hard. You have to face a slew of casting directors that could never call you back for a role or at least not for the role you deserve. I've been there. Sometimes left to wonder what I did or didn't do wrong. The great thing is that here in St. Louis there is only really a handful of minority actors and those actors all know each other one way or another. Coming from Iowa where I was almost the only minority let alone, black person that a casting team would see to St. Louis where they have their own black theatre groups it was comforting. The bad thing? It's still ruthless. Welcome to the home of the type cast.
That's what I had to share with my student. Hollywood isn't the only place you can be typecast, it can happen anywhere. There are few, *cough, cough* Will Smith, actors that can get away with not playing the same type of character. Those are far and few. Most of us are left to deal with the character we're dealt. I don't really have a grievance with typecasting though, My issue comes with landing only those stereotypical roles. You know... The roles most black folk get. The gangster, the baby mama, the thief, the maid, and so forth. That's one of the reasons I struggle with theatre. There is the other factor that you could get lost in a role, but that's another blog post. Today, we're focusing on a much bigger issue. There aren't many works that have diverse enough roles to get out of those stereotypical roles. So your typecast sucks.
The great thing is that we live in St. Louis, the home of The Black Rep, a theatre designed to give the black actors and black plays a chance. Click below to check out there website. Despite being typecast I was able to let my student know that she lives in a place where black voices have space in the world. It's a community where you can be embraced instead of shunned for your skin. The black rep is selective of the people that they cast to be in their shows so it's not always easy to get in, but they do have internship and volunteer opportunities.
There aren't a plethora of community opportunities for black actors to showcase their work, BUT organizations like JPEK Creative Works theatre exist. They produce more contemporary theatre that leans toward musical dramas. In Knoxville,
This conversation started off as me just chatting with my student, but she helped me realize something. Representation matters. It's not enough to just tell her "you have to be confident in a audition." It's providing her with the resources, providing all minority kids with the resource even some adults so they can go out here feeling great. Not everyone can afford a semester's tuition of acting courses and why pay for something you might not even want or like when you'll NEVER have the chance to use it. That's why my idea for a production company will be something I'll slowly be working on for this new year. I want kids and adults who have limited funds to be able to take short courses on theatre and work towards creating their own productions.
From the 19-27th of August I got to be a St. Louis Fringe Festival participant. In all reality it took months of preparation, nail biting (if I bit my nails), and rehearsing to put on my One Woman Show. The kick-off to my tour.
Now if you've ever been to a Fringe Festival you know it's a fun filled time with a variety of shows to see, often times with performers from around the world. Now my journey with the St. Louis Fringe Festival began in December with the application. On the day the application was due, I rushed into work with a laptop tucked in my bag. I had already filled it out, all that there was left to do was hit submit at 6PM on the dot. I asked the front desk if we had free wifi (I was new) and ran to a corner table to await the clock in. I did of course alert my boss that I was going to be clocking in 5 minutes late because 6PM was also the time our rehearsal started for my Production Assistant job. As the minutes ticked by I had my finger poised and ready to punch submit constantly re-checking my application details. As the clock turned from 5:59, butterflies swarmed in my stomach, and I hit the button.
From there I learned that I was accepted as a participant, I filled out more paperwork. had meetings with my production team (great friends), and began to rehearse. I can't help, but mention meeting the other participants from all over, seeing their shows, getting to be a part of all the creativity, and learning from them as well. It was an amazing time. Unfortunately me dealing with the stress of life limited my full enjoyment of the experience, not gonna lie. I just felt honored to be a part of it all.
Did it turn out the way I wanted it to? No. Not at all. But I've stopped looking at failure as this big inhibitor. In fact, it pushes me to go even harder. I got to spend months preparing for something I love and completed it pretty well. All in all, it wasn't bad.
I know it seems like it’s been forever since I last post, but let’s talk about the artistic scene. I have learned a lot about the scene here in St. Louis and am still learning as well as places to eat afterward/during. Shoot I’m still learning. But from the newbies perspective, here we are. I’ll begin where I started with UrbArts. Even from Iowa and coincidences I heard about this spot on Friday nights. Let’s start with the organization itself.
UrbArts is an up and coming non-profit that uplifts artist in the St. Louis with a new home located on 2600 N. 14th St. “Urban Artist Alliance for Child Development, Inc. (UrbArts) is a 501 © (3) nonprofit corporation formed in the state of Missouri for the purpose of promoting arts, education, economics, and social services. Founded in August 2001…” Want more info visit www.urbarts.org/
Soooo… I bet you’re wondering what you can see at UrbArts:
Now as far as food:
Crown Candy is a great spot to eat at which is right down the street from UrbArts definitely worth the price for this St. Louis specialty. You can smell the sugar as soon as you walk in. Diabetics be warned, but they have great lunch/dinner items as well. Try the sundae, they don’t skim on portions either so make sure you have a hearty appetite.
But for something that is good, affordable, and with great entertainment check out Legacy Books and Café where UrbPoetry is held every 3rd Friday night. The chicken is boss, yep I said boss. Now for those with dietary needs like vegetarians out there they do have a delectable veggie burger. There are also other menu items.
So a person in my creative writing class wrote a poem about how graffiti artist are a lot like poets. Poets hide nothing and neither does graffiti artist. Wandering around the London I have found so many different tags, some with meanings and some with just a name of a person who wants to be remembered or other reasoning. The viewer can only come up with why they put it there in the first place. I know graffiti exist in the states as well, but even graffiti differs from place to place. I should know I attempted in my art class to create my own graffiti looking for what techniques graffiti artist have used. I asked an artist friend of mine what she thought of graffiti and she replied she doesn't like it because she doesn't understand it. Sometimes in life we don't understand, but it's always good to take a look anyway.
Jump Rope Sis
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