Go Where Your Heart Is: On Stepping Back From My Annual Showcase


showcase collage
photography by @jazzthenoise

I will look back on 2016 and remember that this was the year I made peace with quiet. With open space. With blank canvases and untouched paint brushes. I will remember this as the year I stopped hearing the sound of the treadmill beneath my feet and listened to that of my beating heart instead.

I knew it when I climbed into a hotel bed in Crystal City back in March. Clad in my “See. Speak. Feel.” t-shirt that night after the show, I let my bare legs kiss the sheets and I told myself that something would have to give. I didn’t know what and I wasn’t sure when, but I absolutely knew that something would have to give. As spring melted into summer, I never felt quite right searching for new showcase venues. I let follow up emails from event coordinators grow stale in my inbox as I shied away from scheduling site visits or sharing any details about the budget.

Sometimes your heart offers up answers long before your right mind is willing to accept them.

My heart knew that I needed to take a step back ever since that night at the hotel in Crystal City. My heart knew that after three years of cultivating a cornerstone of my brand, I needed to catch my breath for more than just a season. My heart knew that I could not breathe life into something if doing so another time around would only leave me begging for air.

Choosing not to host “See. Speak. Feel.” in 2017 is both a simple and complicated choice, one that births questions I often times do not have answers for. When I have shared the news with those close to me, the first reaction has always been, “Well, what will you do instead?”

The answer is always, “I don’t know. The Universe will send something my way.”

I’ve learned to believe in the Universe’s timing. I’ve learned to listen to my heart. I’ve learned to make creative decisions unapologetically. I’ve learned that if something ceases to inspire me at any given moment, I am free to step away and savor the silence that remains. I’ve learned that if something is truly mine, it will always come back to me, often times better than how I left it.

“See. Speak. Feel.” will come back to me, more than likely in 2018. I know that this step back will give way to clarity, elevation, renewed energy, and a vision I could not have conjured up by simply remaining on the treadmill. This show sits in the most precious and sacred groove of my spirit, and I want to see it grow leaps and bounds. I trust that this break is only the prelude to that growth.

The biting cold of this upcoming winter will nip at my ankles more than it has in the past three years. I know that one day, sometime in the dead of January, a few sprinkles of sadness will shower me when I think about the call for artists I would have been working on or the opening act I would have been fighting to lock down. But I also know that in place of that work, something else will materialize. A project. A trip. A complete overhaul of my apartment. Whatever. That is how evolution works–it happens when you leave just a few lines on the page blank. It happens when you make the powerful and complex decision to go exactly where your heart is.



Masterpieces From Broken Places


The world does not need any more of our pretty pictures. It does not need the masks we wear or the facades we’ve built from scratch out of sandpaper. The world does not need our lies or grand impressions, our partial truths and twisted versions of life’s events. The world does not need half of our hearts. It does not need our fresh flowers on Sundays or our quaint living room photos. The last thing this world needs is another social media fairy tale.

So, instead, tell me about your broken places. Your ripped threads. Your shattered glass. Tell me about your black holes, your deep craters, your unhappy endings. Tell me about your roaring winds, your pouring rain, your heavy clouds.

Show me all of the ships that have sunk in your heart. Scrub the foundation off of your scars. I want to see you. Beautiful catastrophe. Delicate calamity. Woman who refuses to float on air.  I want to know that underneath all of the rock solid monuments you’ve built, you are still skin and bones, flesh and wreckage, the ink of 100 wayward lovers past.

You’ll have to dig deeply, you’ll have to pull up the roots. You’ll have to look at yourself through life’s smudged and smashed mirrors. You’ll have to cry until the whites of your eyes turn fire engine red.

Then do it again.


Once more.

Peel back the layers until your fingers grow callous. You won’t know your art unless you look behind your rough edges. You won’t know the full extent of your story until you cut it open and let bleed.

But, know that you are most beautiful in raw form. Knock over your glasses, let them shatter and spill. Allow your spirit to pour out deep red wine stains that Resolve won’t fix. Remember that the world has a surplus of insincerity and a scarcity of truth. So, make homes out of your holes and mansions out of your messes. Turn your most broken places into your masterpieces.


WYAO April general promoThis post is part of Write Your Ass Off April, a 10-day writing challenge to create your most naked, brave, and no holds barred writing. Learn about the challenge here and share your work on social media using the hashtag #WYAOApril. 

Feels Like Home [Color Theory Art Show Recap]

I feel like myself here. With the music blasting just enough to make me rock my shoulders, but not so loudly that I can’t hear my thoughts, I feel like myself here. In my hat and my leather jacket and barely brushed hair, I feel like I don’t have to explain who I am or smile too hard. I see familiar faces that warm me up and this place where I’ve never even stepped foot before suddenly feels like home.

That’s how I felt almost two Saturdays ago when I walked upstairs at Pyramid Atlantic and entered the world of Color Theory–a show curated by five local DMV artists. I came into that space and it immediately felt like home.

Because maybe that’s what artists are supposed to do. Broken down to its simplest common denominator, artists create the things that feel like home.

At least that’s what the five visual artists behind Color Theory did. Through their work and–later on during our conversations, their words–they bared parts of themselves and told parts of their stories. And, I saw myself on their canvases. I heard myself in the sentences they spoke. I felt the thumps of my heart in every stroke of their brushes.

Here are five pieces from the Color Theory art show that felt just like home and the short stories my heart told when she saw them.


Shawn Lindsay 16×20 oil on canvas, Wild Style | www.longlivepainta.com 

I want to be this woman all of the time. This woman lives somewhere in between the swirls of the “free” tattoo etched on my side. This woman with her outstretched hips and half-dressed body is somewhere inside of me, but I’ve let the world tame her and shame her enough that she doesn’t get out much anymore. Even when she’s in the house alone, safe in the solitude of her own curves and careabouts, this woman inside of me just doesn’t get out much anymore. Maybe that’s why I haven’t stopped looking at this piece since I left the show almost two weeks ago. Every time I scroll through my iPhone, she catches my eye. I stop for awhile. She seduces me and I convince myself I have got to let this woman out from behind the curtains far more than I now do.

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Michelle Izquierdo,  “A Woman Is Art” | www.michelleizquierdo.com 

I read the name of the piece before I absorbed it. And once I did, I wanted to climb inside Michelle’s mind and get answers to all of those inane questions like “What was your inspiration when you created this?” and “What parts of womanhood do all of the colors represent?” But, then I remembered the same thing I tell myself about writing–once the work leaves the artist, it’s up to the person on the other end to interpret. So, I drew inward. I told myself that the red petals are me on my fiery days and the pink petals are me on my fun-loving days and all of it is me every day–colorful, complex, beautiful, inexplicable in a mysterious, yet inviting way.


Will Watson “Untitled” | www.willwatsonart.com | @will_theartist

Many days we do want titles. We do not want labels. We do not want all of the identities and the gargantuan responsibilities that come along with them. I appreciate that this woman is untitled.  I love that this woman does not have any sort of moniker that I can affix to her in hopes of making sense of who she is or how she came to be. I have a lot of titles on me right now, but as of late, it feels like so many of those titles clash and crash. It feels like I can’t reconcile who I am on one end of the spectrum with who I’m becoming on the other. Some days I want to be untitled. I want to be unable to fit into frames and uncooperative when people attempt to pencil me in on one line of their page.


Handirubvi Indigo Wakatama “Moyo Wangu” | http://cargocollective.com/handirubviwakatama | @handirubvi

Sometimes you fall for the art first, and other times you fall for the artist. So, when I asked Indigo what being an artist means to her and she unflinchingly told me it’s a lifestyle, I believe her. I looked at her, and I listened to her, and I believed this is a woman who gets it. I believed this is a woman who understands her work, worth, roots, and womanhood, and the delicate blend she stirs for all of these things to become her lifestyle. I returned to this piece after the interview and it took on new life and meaning. Sometimes the art helps us understand the artist. Other times the artist helps us understand the art.


Vanessa Smith “Blame Game” | www.vkpaints.com | @vkpaints

They put her in a place at the show called the vault–a smaller, quiet room offset from the buzz of the main show. When I saw her, I knew I wanted to take my time. I wanted to squint. Stare. Read. Digest. Summon the energy not to fight off my triggers like I often times do. When I saw her, I saw myself–inked in all caps, dressed in equal parts passion and pain. Yes, when I saw her, I saw myself–pushing the objects of her affection and angst to the backdrop while still attributing her scarlet letters to each of them. When I saw her, I saw myself, and somewhere in her bewildering maze and mess, she felt just like home.

Congratulations to the artists of Color Theory on an exceptional and resonant show. A huge thanks to Michelle Izquierdo for inviting me into your ever-evolving and amazing journey. Keep doing what you do, and I will keep doing my absolute best to be a part of it. Grateful to have one more dope woman artist who speaks my language and stays on my wavelength.


Jump, Dance, and Bask In Your Purpose: Showcase Recap

The 2016 SSF cast Photo by @JazzTheNoise
The 2016 SSF cast
Photo by @JazzTheNoise

Author’s Note: Today is my last post until the week of March 21. It has been an unbelievably amazing start to 2016 with the showcase, a trip to Charleston to speak, the launch of TyeceWilkins.com, and everything else God has been gracious enough to send my way. But a lot of hard work has accompanied these incredible moments. So, it’s time for a break to rest, regroup, and get ready for whatever the Universe will bring next.

I wanted to write it all down. Wanted to get it on paper before the memories start spilling through the cracks in between my fingers. I wanted to relive it. Replay it. Remember it. I wanted to let those memories pick me up and twirl me around before life got in the way. Before bills got in the way. Before the pendulum swing between the present and my unending pursuit of purpose got in the way.

Except there isn’t any way to write it all down. I can’t capture that night in photos or videos or hashtags or even this blog post. I can’t sum it up in the few sentences I spit out when my coworkers asked me how it went. I can try. I will try. I have tried. But so far I can’t find a direct translation for how much my heart fluttered on Saturday night when my life’s purpose played out. Live. Direct. 100%.

I’ve written about “See. Speak. Feel.” before. The history. The failures. The doubt. The success. But, this year was the first year that the show and the people in it reflected the very reason I have been put on this Earth. If all of that sounds lofty and ridiculous and too nebulous to handle, that is because finding your purpose in life is often times lofty. Ridiculous. And too nebulous to handle.

I told my sister during the early weeks of planning that I wanted a dynamic show. Less reading. More performance. People giving it all they had. But soon enough the stress of managing the event outweighed that vision. I was herding cats. Fighting fires. Just trying to push my boulder of a baby uphill and across the finish line. I stopped thinking about what I told my sister all those weeks ago and gave in to my inevitable “this has to get done” modus operandi.

I dropped exactly three f-bombs in rapid succession five minutes before showtime. Murphy’s law stepped in and started playing with my spirit. My nerves stood on edge. The more anyone tried to calm me down, the more my blood boiled. We had to change something at the last minute. And then the plan shifted and we didn’t have to change that something anymore. By the time I sat near the booth to direct the show, I wasn’t even thinking about what to expect. I wasn’t thinking about this moment I created. I wasn’t thinking about purpose and I wasn’t thinking about that vision. I was thinking about sucking down a drink laced with alcohol once it all was finally over.

But, like every year, soon enough I settled into the show. Last year it didn’t happen until intermission. This year it happened during the second performance. I absorbed it. Watched it. Hollered when I liked a line. Waved my hands. Clapped. Laughed. Thanked God and his angels that the mics worked. Smiled when our stage manager knew exactly what to do without being prompted. Enjoyed myself. Relinquished the stress. Assumed full ownership of the vision.

When I say my purpose is to spark people to connect to the best, bravest, and boldest parts of themselves, that statement unnerves me. It feels like a giant pair of shoes to fill. It scares me that at the ripe age of 26, God has made that purpose so crystal clear and already allowed it to manifest in so many ways. Sometimes it makes me scratch my head and wonder what’s next? It makes me feel undeserving when there are people who spend entire lifetimes searching for the reason why their feet have been planted on this planet. I know why I’m here. Now. Tomorrow. Forever. So, when I say my purpose is to spark people to connect to the best, bravest, and boldest parts of themselves, as scary as it is, I know it’s right. It’s real. It’s rooted in everything I have come to learn about this life, the space I inhabit, and the energy I create.

I saw that purpose take on new life last Saturday. I saw it in my sister and the Adele notes she belted out, even after I told her “That’s a hard song. Adele messed it up at the Grammy’s.” I saw it in Roconia and Sharonia, whose unbreakable sisterhood radiated during their performance. I saw it in Jamé who went from managing the registration table at last year’s show to blowing the audience away with a poem (that she wrote that same morning!). I saw it in Yetti who rose to the challenge of reciting spoken word about the very palpable and universal concept of heartbreak. I saw it in Tassika when she smiled at the audience in between reading lines that left you swaying and humming “Yassss.” I saw it in Kalani who has not sang publicly in decades, but gave me shivers with an a capella version of Share My World. I saw it in Teresa who won our impromptu dance contest last year and went on to wow people as the only dancer this time around.

I saw my purpose in each of these women and everyone else who touched this year’s show. I witnessed people connect to the best parts of themselves. The brave parts. The bold parts. I watched them embrace the visions they had of themselves. Elevate the bar. Raise the standard. Rise to the occasion. These flickers of magic were inside each of them all along, dancing around in different ways. Peeking out. Creeping out. Waiting for a chance to burst and see the light of day. I’m grateful the stage was set to become that spark.

I don’t know if I can write it all down. I can’t translate entirely what that night meant for me or what it affirmed. But I can tell you there is not a better feeling in this lifetime than to dance, jump, and bask in your purpose. I can tell you that I want every single day to feel like the first Saturday in March.


Making Peace With The Uninspired Place

part of being creative

I keep waiting for the spark to strike. For the first time since I started producing “See. Speak. Feel.” two years ago, my energy for the show has flatlined. I’m going through the motions. Proofing content for the program. Emailing people with reminders and details. Thanking sponsors. But, it’s as though the fire has faded. I keep squinting my eyes and peering intently to find my “why” in all of this.

These words do not just feel like facts or statements; they feel like a confession. They feel like this thing I should only say in hushed tones or to close friends. Because “See. Speak. Feel.” is my offspring. It’s this very public thing that I’m tied to. And, I’m not simply responsible for pulling it off. I’m supposed to light the fire for everyone else in the show to feel. True to my purpose, I am supposed to embody the spark. It seems foolish, selfish, and short-sighted to confess that right now I just can’t find my flame. But, for the first time, I’ve wondered what the future of this show will look like. How will I truly grow it and elevate the vision? What am I doing that is so different from the next woman with only a few dollars and way too many dreams?

See, that’s what happens. The stakes get higher. The standards raise. And, the pat on the back you once gave yourself for simply pushing something over the goal line is no longer enough. Sweet as it is, success is also maddening and insatiable.

So, yes, I keep waiting for the spark to strike. I know it’s there. I know that my “why” is buried somewhere underneath the calories I’ve burned pushing this boulder uphill. I also know that it’s counterproductive to lug around ten bricks of guilt simply because I do not feel inspired or charged or awakened yet by this show. And I am learning that part of being creative means making peace with the uninspired place. Part of being creative means giving yourself license and freedom sometimes not to create. Not to inspire. Not to ignite. Part of being creative means freeing up enough mental and emotional space for the inspiration to reach you. Inspiration struggles to strike a cluttered mind or a chaotic heart.

These are the things we do not always tell you. And, by we, I mean this anonymous glob of writers and entrepreneurs and artists. As much as we craft narratives from our mistakes and humanity, we shy away from bringing you into our doubtful and dim places live and direct. We tell stories in past tense and own up to our blunders in retrospect. And, there is something special to be said for those stories. But, we aren’t supposed to tell you about the mental mud and mess behind the things you see us building in real-time. Someone somewhere would tell me that’s bad branding.

However, here I am. Mud and mess. Less than a month to the biggest and most important event I produce every year without my spark and waiting pretty impatiently for it to show up. But, I am  going to make peace with this uninspired place. I am dropping off my ten bricks of guilt on the side of the road. Because if the spark doesn’t appear, I know where to find sticks and where to buy matches. I know that the most important part of being creative is learning how to start your own fire.