This month has been really intense for me. In a GREAT way! So much learning and so much WORK. I don't bemoan it at all, but it has not been easy. As I was rapping my fingers across my forehead trying to come up with a title for May's newsletter, it hit me. What did May teach me? Then it hit me like a bag of potatoes. YOU'VE GOT TO BE REAL. I kept humming the song by Cheryl Lynn, and I immediately realized how pertinent that song and title are. (I'm bumping and swaying to the song as I write this, btw).
Being "real" and authentic have consistently been challenges for me. I, like most people, cringe at the thought of consistently baring my all. It requires vulnerability. It requires honesty. It requires courage. You are letting the world see you as you truly are without the mask, and that is terrifying. Standing naked before the world requires Herculean strength of will. The payoff of doing so; however, is tremendous. This month I've witnessed how being true to my dream and honest with myself has yielded treasures unlike I've ever known. Working with children in particular demands that of me every time. Children are recent departures, in my mind, from a realm that exists only in truth and authenticity. Their perception and intuition are so keen. Coming in and being anything but authentic with them would spell disaster for me.
The most incredible thing that I wasn't expecting; however, is that once I reveal the real me, people like it! Not only that, it encourages them and gives them them strength. It makes them stand in awe. But not of me. In the moments where I have been most authentic, I become a mirror. People get excited when they see me succeeding, because it means that they can too! Once one person shines their authentic light, it gives permission for everyone else to do the same. And authenticity has give me some HUGE and incredible opportunities this month!
(Get ready for another long post. It's rather lengthy! LOL)
VISIT TO AMALGAM COMICS FOR SIMONE'S SHEROES!
I spent the morning of May 6th with Simone's Sheroes at Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, Inc. in Philly! I was NOT ready for how cool the space was, and I definitely was not ready for how cool everyone in that space was. I got a chance to meet the really dope Philadelphia Avengers and posed with them cosplaying as the Punisher. I THEN had a chance to meet the woman who opened this space, Ariell! But most importantly, I had the opportunity to share some art tips with the girls and boys who love superheroes and creative work! To see them so passionate about their dreams and interested in the arts made me so happy. That and to be around other POC who were nerds too was quite a healing moment! Thank you Chaundra Daniels and Leslie Crudup. This was great :)
Check out some video from the day below!
I even got the most AMAZING video review afterward! Thank you for being so awesome!
LAWRENCE INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL VISIT!
Click through the images above for the whole thing or let it play!
I make my spiritual experiences no secret. I quite literally was dragged into my career because of a series of dreams and numbers that showed me where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to do. My ancestors and guides, however, do not let up and have been guiding me ever since. Last month I kept having these recurring dreams of a school that I couldn't quite place but felt familiar. A two-sided, wide driveway entrance with a canopied front door. Long hallways with yellow walls and an entrance up a flight of stairs that led to the main office. I just kept getting this over and over again. Wherever it was, I knew that I was being shown it for a reason.
Later on that month, the incredible Ms. Jacqui Dent Ivey of the Conservatory Mansion brought my book to the Lawrence Township Public Schools Lawrence Intermediate School to read to her amazing daughter's class and invited me to come along. I parked out front and my jaw dropped. First off, I forgot what my old school even looked like from the outside since I rode the bus in. But this was what I saw in my dream. The entrance, the canopied front door, the flight of steps up to the main office. This was it. I was being shown a MONTH in advance where I was to go next!
Low and behold, I did a presentation to 300 4th grade students at my old home and had a blast! It was really beautiful to come back to a place that nurtured my growth and to give back and see some of my old teachers in the process. All of the 4th graders were super enthusiastic about my presentation and were begging to ask more questions. I even had one amazing student write me a note!
On the second day, I read my book aloud to the entire 4th grade, and the kids were all super invested in the story. I also got the best review I could've gotten at the end. Since it is designed to end on a cliffhanger, they literally all went WHAT?! HUH?! WHERE'S THE REST?! Haha
Then, as fate would have it, I ended up presenting to students in my old classroom! The teacher that I had, Ms. Sosinski, has since retired but it was incredible sharing in this moment. The students had some really insightful questions, my favorite one being: "Will you produce a book with Jewish characters? I'm Jewish!" That is just more evidence of how diverse books and characters are needed. We all want to know that our stories and lives matter. Many of the students like the girl pictured are incredible artists and wanted to show me their work too.
Thank you once again Jacqui Dent Ivey of the Conservatory Mansion!!
SLACKWOOD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL VISIT!
I visited another school as well this month, but this school has a very special place in my heart. When I first moved to New Jersey in 1999 from Staten Island, I was moving into uncharted territory. No friends in this new place. Everything totally fresh and scary. I was nervous and terrified, but the wonderful folks of the Slackwood PTO and the principal at the time Dr. Wendell welcomed me with open arms. Today, I had a chance to come back home and share in the abundance that I've since lived and received. Thanks to Chris Schafer I read my book and talked about my journey to students from Pre-K to 3rd grade, and they were ALL engaged! They were laughing, smiling, and generally just having a great time which made my day.
At the end of the story, the kids from each grade level were genuinely upset and mad at me that I didn't have Chapter 2 out yet! They loved it so much! One boy in particular jumped up and screamed "OMG BEST BOOK EVER!" and proceeded to demand I reveal chapter 2 to him at that moment haha. And at the end there were plenty of hugs and high-fives to go around. I even recognized some of the teachers I had, in particular Mr. Regan and the school librarian Ms. Saretzky! Thank you Slackwood PTO, Chris Schafer, Joanne Fletcher, principal Jay Billy, and every single teacher and staff member for welcoming me home! :)
(The letters that the kids wrote me afterwards also brought me to tears. I'm a very easy crier, but this would have made a rock cry.)
Click through the images below or let it play to see the whole thing!
SCHOOL VISIT WITH PARKWAY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL!
My friend Eric Thomas, who has become like a brother to me, got me introduced to his school's principal. She's a wonderful woman who allowed me to speak to the entire school essentially, from 3rd to 5th grade. I worked with the librarian who made me feel right at home and helped me to set up for the day. The 3rd and 4th grade LOVED the presentation! They were so enthusiastic for high-fives, hugs and a ton of really insightful questions and comments. Watching them light up made my day. Truthfully, at first I was incredibly nervous speaking to the 5th grade. Students around that age in particular start to feel a bit "grown" haha, and I was afraid that my story would be too childlike for them....
NOPE. They loved it! They seemed to be the most enthusiastic, honestly! They were all very engaged, and because they were a bit older I was able to expand on some concepts more thoroughly. The best part was having several students being so into chatting with me and having their incredible questions thrown at me. I didn't want it to end. But one particular student just gave me the highest compliment. She screamed "I DON'T GET IT...HOW IS YOUR PERSONALITY SO...KABOOM AND KABLAM?!" Everyone laughed, including her. She then followed it up with "Most authors aren't as energetic as you. Your personality is just so...I don't know..KABLAM!" hahaha. It was a TRUE pleasure. Unfortunately, I'm waiting for photos from the day that the school took so I don't have much in the way of that. But I do have a few here of me with my new big brother Eric. Once I get more, I'll share them here for you. :)
INTERVIEW WITH HOLLYWOOD SOAPBOX
I was interviewed and featured by the Hollywood reporter! You can read the interview here!
MY FIRST BOOK SIGNING!
I've also got some really HUGE news y'all...
I'll be having my first book signing EVER!!! Thanks to the incredible Chaundra Daniels and Leslie Crudup, I will be hosting this landmark event. But this is the kicker...I'll be doing so at the nationally recognized Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, Inc. !For those of you unfamiliar with this special and important place, you might have seen the owner Ariell Johnson on a year or two back in the news. This is the ONLY comic-book store run by a Black woman on the entire East Coast.
She's been profiled on CNN, ABC News, CNN Money, and MSNBC so this is a huge deal and an immense honor.
I would love if you are free if you could come stop by and hang out with me for the day as I celebrate the release of my first book ever. The space is also really cozy and inviting with a coffeehouse/deli and seating for everyone. Please share this with friends, family, kids, relatives, anybody who needs to know that their story is worth telling too.
MAY was packed. If you stayed through the entire thing, kudos to you. If not, I TOTALLY understand. It'll always be here to check out. :)
Lots of love to you. June has already promised to be quite eventful, and I can't wait to share in this all with you.
All my love,
Rashad Malik Davis