On The Importance of Community
(Apologies in advance for a long post. February has been INSANE!)
February has had me thinking. Really hard. With the exciting release of my first book "Carefree, Like Me: Chapter 1: Root the Brave" I've been mulling over the concept of the fairytale of the "American Dream". You know the one. The lone hero who pulls him or herself up by the bootstraps, gets it done through grit, hard work, sweat, determination and their steely will alone. Though I do concede that dreams are made with hard work, I cannot forego the amount of community support I've had in getting me here. The concept of the lone ranger sounds nice, but it's totally unrealistic. I really dislike the notion of the lone worker, because no one becomes great in isolation. Did your caretaker/guardian/parent not birth or raise you, feed you, care for you, love you? Did not one person show you kindness in order to make it through a rough day? Was there not a friend or stranger who smiled when everything else in the world seemed to be too much? I reject that notion wholeheartedly and instead embrace the concept of community; the community embracing one's individual gifts and supporting the individual ultimately in support of the whole.
I look back at every page of my book and see the smiles and warmth of each person I've ever met. I can taste the warm meals delivered with love at home. I can hear the laughter of my friends who picked me up when making this book seemed too overwhelming. I can smell the chlorine still as I reminisce on summer days. Point being, success in my opinion is never achieved in isolation, and this month proved that to me in abundance.
I started this journey of opening the books in community as it didn't feel right to do it alone (and my Mother and best friend would have KILLED me if I didn't wait! haha) I shared the video of me opening the books up on Facebook Live and the response was tremendous to say the least! I had so much fun sharing in that moment with not only my immediate family and friends but also my chosen family through the web.
After the opening, I knew I had to kick things into high gear! My amazing aunt/personal assistant Angela ( I love my family LOL) went with me to shop my book around to local mom and pop bookstores to see if anyone was interested. Unfortunately, most black owned bookstores had since closed down for whatever reason. But the one I did visit was named Logos Bookstore in Manhattan, and what I found was the coziest little nook with two people having casual conversation. It felt like someplace you could just sit in for hours aka a book nerd like myself's dream. The gentleman working there said to me "Make yourself at home" and I certainly did. I introduced myself, the book, and the premise and they fell in love with the concept! They praised the artwork and my idea, and it felt amazing to hear my work validated. The gentleman was even so excited that he brought it to his boss, and the bookstore owner came out to meet me and bought two copies right there on the spot!! They even invited me to come speak to the kids one weekend!
I then went up to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library and met some wonderful people there to try and get the book in their bookstores/library and work with them somehow in the future. The head librarian enthusiastically agreed to get my book in their library too! Positivity all around.
What's happened most recently, however, was that I was offered the opportunity to share my work at the Princeton Theological Seminary! For Black History Month, the Seminary has been hosting a series of "Black Matters" events and I was a featured artist in the "Black Art Matters" event this past Friday. The event started off with the play "The Colored Museum", which was a series of vignettes discussing the African-American experience. To say it was tremendous is an understatement, and I highly recommend it. The cast and crew were fantastic. The gallery showing itself was tremendous as well with the likes of the incredibly talented: Ebony Flag, gallery host, curator, and artist extraordinaire Carmelle Beaugelin, and one other wonderful artist who attended SCAD! It was a beautiful celebration of culture and pride.The event was phenomenal for me personally as well. I sold more books than I had initially prepared for, signed them, took pictures and generally felt the love. Mom and Aunt were there to support. People were just generally truly in awe of what I'd done. The best part however, was watching the kids who were GENUINELY excited about my book. The girl pictured with the glasses was SO excited about getting a copy that she forced her mother to run across campus to an ATM to get cash to pay for it! haha. Ebony's adorable daughter with the afro-puff even demanded that she get one of my custom buttons and a book! It was incredible. My boy Johnny from High School even visited, which was an incredible surprise and a very wonderful reunion! He's doing incredible work with the Environmental Protection Agency, so it was amazing to hear his stories and share in the good news with an old and super supportive friend. And of course last but not at all least, thank you again Barbara for throwing my name into the hat and giving my work a voice and a platform to be seen. It means the world! :)
Lastly, thanks to the hard work and efforts of my brilliant PR person Dan Bauer of Dan Bauer Public Relations (who Eric Thomas introduced me to) , I even will be in my town's local newspaper "The Lawrence Gazette" and presenting to students at the Mercer County Boys and Girls Club! And that's just the tip of the iceberg of what he's lined up that I'll share soon! Things are moving so rapidly that I can barely keep up, but I'm so grateful for every opportunity and chance.
Despite the length of this post, I wanted to impress upon everyone how collaborative my journey has been. I wouldn't have made it to this point without the love, support, hard work and labor of those around me and for that I am forever grateful. I can only hope to give back by making them ALL proud! :) I'll leave with my first real review from a girl named Jade. I definitely cried. Haha.
Lots of love to you all! Until the next update! :)