Producing and curating this salon/benefit event at Arena Stage was one of the highlights of my career. Every morning, it seems we wake up to news of another innocent black person being killed in the streets with no repercussions for the one who commits this heinous crime. Everyday, in both explicit and subtle ways, we are told that the lives of black men and women don't matter. On this night, at Hold Up The Light, we compelled the audience to hear, shout, and sing BLACK LIVES MATTER for an hour and a half. It was magical. It was cathartic. It was challenging. And it was so necessary. Thank you to all of the amazing DC artists and organizations who participated. Thank you to my friends at Arena Stage who donated their time and space. Thank you to Bebe Winans, Charles Randolph-Wright, Kirsten Wyatt, Steven Jamail and the cast of Born For This who made this thing happen. Thanks to my big sister Saycon Sengbloh for blessing us with your amazing gift. Thank you Erika Totten of Black Lives Matter DC for the amazing speech, and thank you to everyone who connected me to someone, or suggested a piece, or listened to me babble on about this idea for weeks until it happened. I'm so grateful to you all!
Love and Light.
Last year, I had the distinct honor to serve as a producer on Eric Lockley's short film "The Jump", which has been selected for screening in some of the most exciting film festivals across the country including: The Philly Blackstar Film Festival (where it won the Audience Award), Martha's Vineyard African American Film Festival, and Urbanworld Film Festival.
Head over to racebaitr.com to see my interview with filmmaker Eric Lockley. (Link below images)
Last night, April 23, was opening night of Born For This: the Bebe Winans story, which made its world premiere at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. From Charles Randolph-Wright, director of Motown the Musical, and six-time Grammy Award-winning icon BeBe Winans comes a hilarious and heart-warming journey toward self-discovery.
Sometimes as an artist, you get to work on a project that speaks directly to where you are in your personal journey. This project has definitely been that for me. Not only did the stars align perfectly for me to be a part of this fantastic company, but I identify so strongly with Bebe's journey and the story we are telling. Seeking success as a creator, encountering roadblocks, facing rejection, self-doubt, picking yourself back up and remaining true to self while finding and pursuing your purpose are all themes and plot points that seem to be plucked directly from my life.
It has been an absolute joy to be a part of the evolution of this piece since its NYC reading and help create a work for which we can all be proud. I learned from masters! Men who are incredibly talented, accomplished, and authentic collaborators. In addition to Charles and Bebe, we were joined by Donald Lawrence as Music Supervisor and our choreography team Warren Adams and Brian Harlan Brooks. Under their leadership, we have made magic and I have grown so much in the process.
We run in Atlanta until May 15 and will be in DC at Arena Stage July 1 - August 28. Come check us out! It is a show you don't want to miss. Get tickets at www.alliancetheatre.org and www.arenastage.org
Letters To a Young Poet by Ranier Maria Rilke: Several years ago, when I was still performing with The Group 3D, we had a chance meeting Whoopi Goldberg. We sat and talked for what must have been two hours. She listened to our music and our aspirations and then proceeded to encourage us and share her thoughts on what it means to be an artist. She also left us with a final gem. She insisted that if we were going to continue on the artist's journey we must read this book. So, I picked it up and devoured it. After reading it, I knew what I was going to do with my life. I had the opportunity to share with Whoopi what that meeting and this book means to me during the run of Holler if Ya Hear Me. It was an incredible moment for me to have her witness my Broadway debut given the impact she had on my life. Thank you Whoopi! (Whoever has the picture of she and I on the night she came to the show PLEASE send to me!!!)
A Return To Love by Marianne Williamson: I saw Oprah talk about this book and author years ago, wrote down the info and said "I'll pick this up". Years went by and I never read it. Then it came up again (I can't remember how). Still, I didn't read it. It wasn't until I was having a conversation with someone and they brought up this book in a random conversation and I said "that's the book I'm supposed to be reading". I don't believe in coincidences, so I took this as a message from the universe and bought the book immediately after the conversation. Thank God I did! This book... THIS BOOK! It literally changed my life in every way. Read it. Study it. Read it again. Share it.
Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin: I had heard many people praise Baldwin's work and I felt that I should get acquainted with him for a number of reasons. So one summer, I picked up a couple of his books and started studying. I say studying because this man has lesson upon lesson on every page. The way he captures with words the essence of the black experience through his eyes is truly remarkable. Through reading this book, I developed a new understanding of things I felt and experienced and a language that helped me express them. Required reading, not only for black men, but for everyone. One of my favorite quotes from the book, "I am what time, circumstance, history have made of me, certainly, but I am also much more than that. So are we all."
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon: I came across this title at FedEx/Kinkos on 7th ave in midtown Manhattan while I was waiting for some greeting cards I'd made to be printed. I was instantly intrigued by the title. Even the Bible has said "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun." We see it all the time. Fashion is recycled. Music is sampled and covered. Themes recur in writing and in design. The same film gets made over and over again, yet we pay 15 bucks to go to the theatre and see it under a different title with a different cast. The idea in this book though, is about how to find inspiration in the world and allow the art and artists you love to influence your creative efforts. This is a great guide to discovering creative freedom in our remix culture.
READ them and share your thoughts with me!