“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh
The photo collage above is a tiny view of my life over the years, beginning with the day that I was born and ending about 4 years ago. While I have known that some form of creativity would be a part of my destiny, I NEVER imagined that it would be any type of visual artistry. NEVER.
So, how did I end up in this exciting (and scary!) place? Get comfy and I will fill you in.
I have had a desire to express myself creatively as far back as I can remember, as early as Pre-K. If you look closely at the top center photo (I’m sitting on my Mom’s lap) you will see my Daddy’s stereo. (My dad is pictured in the bottom center photo, left side – my grandfather is on the right.) While I was too young to touch my father’s record player, I remember singing and dancing to the music that filled our home and being introduced to countless songs and artists that I still consider favorites.
By the time I was in elementary school (center photo), I was not only dancing and singing, but attempting to play the violin, probably to my parents’ chagrin. Around the time I lost interest in the violin, I developed an affinity for books and reading. Once again, my late father was a catalyst in this endeavor as he was an avid reader.
Reading opened up a new world for me and I became both a library fanatic AND a lover of magazines like Right On! and Teen and Essence. At that point, I decided that I was going to start a magazine that would be a mash up of my three faves and geared towards Black teen girls.
Life ultimately took me in a different direction and I wound up abandoning my journalistic dreams for a stint in the Air Force, a couple of degrees in business, and a corporate-centered career path.Yet, I always found a way to stay involved in something creative, outside of my day job. Art was never on the agenda, however. NEVER.
In 2009, I decided to create a digital space for Black women and girls called Brown Girl Collective. I created BGC out of frustration with the dearth of positive images of Black women within the media and the marketplace. Fast forward to 2019, through my experiences with Brown Girl, I have not only met dozens of wonderful women that I wouldn’t have met otherwise, I have also been introduced to the accomplishments of hundreds of Black women (both living and deceased) that I had never heard of, unfortunately.
My newfound knowledge has now empowered me to only tell stories with words, but also through pictures. My own pictures. Pictures that I didn’t think I had the ability to create. Pictures that are a positive reflection of Black girlhood and womanhood. Pictures that are inclusive of all of my sisters, yet void of the specifics that oftentimes cause us to be excluded, dismissed, diminished.
I never expected to be an artist, but I feel especially blessed that the Creator has entrusted me with both the pen and the brush. It is my prayer that I will always be inclined to use my tools to be an agent of love and light.
P.S. Don’t be surprised if I turn up on a stage somewhere, singing and dancing. I’m still determined to live out that dream, if only for one night! 🙂
“You can’t use up creativity. The more the you use, the more you have.” – Dr. Maya Angelou
Pictured below: Generations of Grace, my first “real” painting. Presented to my mother on Mother’s Day 2018. It features my late grandmother (with wings), my mother (center) and myself (far right) in front of the family homestead, located in SE Georgia. The response to this piece helped me to begin defining myself as an artist.