Last week I co-hosted two events with Shaunda McDill, arts and culture program officer at The Heinz Endowments, and hosted one by myself via Caitlin Strokosch and Sage Crump’s invitation at the National Performance Network’s Annual Convention. Anyone that knows me knows that I am generally behind the scenes. Straight Wizard of Oz mode. I’m
comfortable being where I am needed, but as of late…God, I, the Universe, and the White Buffalo have all been forcing me to accept invitations normally reserved for men.
Jenna Cramer’s invitation to speak at the Green Building Alliance’s Inspire Speakers Series was the first time I spoke in Pittsburgh publicly (outside of panels). Jenna made me promise that I would do more speaking engagements. Jenna saw something in me and took the opportunity to encourage me towards sharing my own voice. LaKeisha Wolf gave Nathan Darity my number and he invited me to speak at a CreativeMornings/Pittsburgh. Again, a woman helping to facilitate the growth of another woman. Helping me to see that my voice, though a practitioner working behind the scenes, was in fact creative and necessary to be heard. Then Janet Sarbaugh asked me to speak at The Heinz Endowments Moral Leadership summit, when Jasiri was unable to make it. It’s funny because it could have stopped there, but Janet saw something in me that allowed me to give a speech that I am still receiving compliments on and it was over a year ago.
I mention all three opportunities because they were turning points toward appreciating my own voice. All facilitated, in one way or another, by women. Since then, by Divine interference, I have gone on to speak at national conventions such as the Grantmakers in the Arts as a panelist (shout out to my unofficial mentor Justin), the APAP Conference NYC and SXSW as an awardee. As partners in this arts community, hell, this world, I think it is imperative that we encourage one another and build up one another…while being completely honest.
It has not been easy a Black woman, who even the most FEMINIST of feminist introduce as Jasiri X’s wife. To appreciate my own voice. My own thoughts. My own accomplishments. Though I am proudly his wife, I am also me.
It has not been easy as a Black woman, where to voice my own opinion, express my own culture, and celebrate my own innovation is constantly challenged and micro-aggressions become simply aggressions. Sometimes this voice unintentionally hurts other, but it is always well meaning and truthful. I am constantly being made aware of the power and impact of this voice. Bear with me.
I guess what I’m trying to say, is thank you to all of the people who have helped me see myself. Sometimes we all need a little help. Though I’m still working to figure out how I authentically show up in the world, you’re helping me on this long continuous journey and I appreciate you!