I chose to travel to Harlem and begin my research the day of my birthday, because I wanted to enter my new year doing what I love. I planned to document the research through blogs. However, after I arrived in Harlem I was so busy with researching I didn’t have time to blog. I actually wrote one blog, I am holding as a draft. I don’t know if I will ever finish it.
When I realized I didn’t have time to write full blogs, I thought, well, I will post images and say a few words about them. This was impossible because I used a real camera and not my phone. Above all this, I wanted to be present. I wanted to experience rather than talk about experience. I didn’t want to discuss the future or the past, I just wanted to be in the moment. I think documenting the moment undermines the moment. There were so many sunsets, buildings, people, dances, foods and dreams come true I wanted to share and at the same time I was too selfish. I just allowed myself to be, there.
As I’m wrapping up my trip, not necessarily the research I wanted to check in. I’ve scheduled this day as a writing day.
I also realized Harlem changed me as an artist and I wanted to share that. Most importantly, I have a lot to say that won’t ever be in a novel or poetry collection. This is mostly about the
I’ve been a poet and painter for years. I feel passionate about art. No matter what happens in my life I am going to write. No matter what happens I am going to paint. I don’t care if I ever get paid for it. I hope I do, though. If I could make money doing what I love, it would free me from doing things to survive and allow me more time to be creative.
I love poetry. I love reading other poets. I love the sharing of words in readings and performances. I also love the communion after a poetry event. So much of the poetry experience is about the community that embraces the art.
I will probably be referring to the experience of meeting and speaking to Sonia Sanchez for the rest of my life. In seeing her speak, she said that she believed poets were born. I sincerely believe this. She also said, that poets belong to the people. Which is why, I also think it’s important if you are a poet to tell anyone you may date you need to be open… Which means discussing them and how you evolve as a result of being in a relationship with them, publicly. Poets are the voice of the people. We articulate our struggles, triumphs, joys and wisdom.
Harlem changed me. First, the idea that someone believed in my work enough to fund my research made me feel like a serious writer. When I was applying for the grant I had to document my work and what my future projects were. Until someone asks me who I was, I hadn’t thought about it. I realized that I am a really hard work and I make a lot of progress. I have a lot of projects going on. Because I don’t discuss all the projects I work on anonymously, under an alias and because I’m compelled to give energy, I don’t always take myself seriously. To see all the things I accomplished in the past few years in writing was sobering. It wasn’t until I was writing the grant did I start to believe I deserved it.
Once I received the grant, I learned what a planner I am. I am very calculating, patient and driven. Writing, requires all of those personality traits. The planning of the trip allowed me to feel powers I take for granted. I am always in the motion of doing, not necessarily thinking about it.
Making time for research was so life altering, it was like finding a new religion. I took off work for almost three weeks, when I’d been struggling to make time to write in my daily life. The idea, that writing allowed me to be free to express myself was the equivalent of having a conversation with God. Especially because I often say to myself and other writers, writing won’t make time for itself. Not true anymore, my writing made this grant possible. I use to say, writing, won’t demand you do it the way a spouse asks for your attention, the way a job needs you there at a certain time, the way rituals required like eating, sleeping and laundry do. In Harlem, writing was like “get up we’ve only got so many days to be together. We have to see this place.” Writing didn’t allow me the time to do blogs. Writing asked for an entire two weeks with me.
Harlem also reminded me I could accomplish anything. Harlem made me feel creative, passionate, open, adventurous, aggressive, focused and determined. I always feel like I know who I am, at the same time sometimes I feel like a shadow of myself. Sometimes when I’m writing, I’m not sure anyone cares what I say. Sometimes when I’m working on a project I’m not sure I’m the right person to bring it to completion. Sometimes when I am trying to make time for writing, I feel guilty.
Harlem reminded me I’m hungry. Everyone I ran into, every time I actually sat down to eat people on either side of me were discussing business ventures. I started to feel like the only time people ate in restaurants was to discuss making money. Sometimes, for me, I feel like wanting to get paid for what I’m compelled to do is wrong. Being around other people using their gifts to live reminded me that knowing my purpose was a blessing. More importantly, living in our purpose should free us and not be a burden or hobby. I started to imagine a world where we all lived in our purpose.
I’M ALREADY A WRITER! Harlem made me scream this in my spirit. If I want to write for a living I’m going to have to move in that direction with purpose. I started to look for opportunities to grow income. I also started to think about support, friends, family and other artists. I am now considering how I can help other artists so we can barter. It is important to pay artists. At the same time, when you aren’t established in a community. Meaning you don’t know the best mechanic or when something breaks in your house, you pay through the nose. When you don’t have relationships that support you, like people helping your move, paint or figure things out for daily life, you have to pay someone. Which leaves your art shorted when you need to pay for editors, book cover designers, framers for paintings and so on… You have to haggle over their price, even though they deserve the full price, you just don’t have the resources to pay them… Which really means you don’t have the money to invest in yourself.
This makes other artist hostile at times. It makes them feel like you don’t appreciate their work. I want to apologize, here, to all the artist who I’ve asked for discounts or a hook ups. It’s not that I didn’t want to support you. It’s not that I don’t know you need to survive. I think too much explaining undermines and apology. I just want to apologize for making you feel like I didn’t value your vision, being, purpose and hard work.
With that being said, I am going to start off finding artist open to bartering, who I can help. I’m willing to answer phones, drive artist places, pick them up from the airport, help them set up events and share work space. Because we all need each other. I’d also love to do creative cyphers. Mainly because a lot of our work is solitary, it’s always invigorating for me to work in the same space as someone else. Or, in some cases do collaborations. Some of the best work I’ve seen is when a lot of people are involved. Also, I am going to be doing some editing and hopefully someone will edit me. I’m also going to explore how we all can make money collectively.
This blog, is all over the place. I have a lot of thoughts. I’m going to stop here.
Love and Light