Last week I read an incredible interview between Charles H. Rowell and black American playwright and director George C. Wolfe. In it, Wolfe shares that “…anytime you can predict something, it’s best to leave it.” While I try to refrain from living by any one adage, no matter how good it sounds, Wolfe’s words of wisdom give us something to consider. It’s important to ask ourselves the following questions: have I gotten myself into a rut, unknowingly? Am I a slave to my way of doing things because I love doing things that way, or simply because it’s become a habit? We can ask ourselves these questions in relation to style, relationships, our professions…just about everything! And our answers are revealing.
I’ve asked myself this question and realized that some of the best times I’ve had during the past few months, and especially this summer, are due to those unpredictable moments, spontaneous decisions I made, or those out-of-the-norm opportunities I seized. And because of my intentional choice to break out of a recognizable pattern, I have reaped the best rewards.
As the Education Director for Face Forward, a growing non-profit organization focused on art and social change, one of my responsibilities entails facilitating some events we bring to local communities and organizations. Last week, I had the extreme pleasure of coordinating and emceeing a show in East St.Paul for a group of 60 kids enrolled in the EastSide Kidventure program, which focuses on instilling pride and a love for the community. We booked New Heist, a local breakdancing crew, Earthshake, a drum and dance ensemble, and OSO’s Bomba Umoja, a traditional Afro-Caribbean music and dance group. I had a ridiculous amount of fun dancing with the girls who could groove more than me, responding to the questions that were posed by the kids with little mouths that had more than a few missing teeth, and applauding with screams to the talent of the artists. Reflecting on this experience, I know that a few months ago I wouldn’t have expected this. In May I was still hunched over my computer with books stacked around me, earnestly completing my master’s thesis. When my close friend, and Face Forward Creative Director Amanda Leaveck asked me to join her team, I gave it some thought. I realized it would be a different paradigm of education work that I had done thus far, but knew it would offer me the perfect amount of challenge, fun, and new experience! With few opportunities to engage with artists, youth, and live performance, in graduate school, it’s a breath of fresh air to do so now. I’ve come out of the habit of being a professional student-– a habit of over 18 years-– to doing something so engaging, yet still educational, with multidisciplinary artists and with a community of lively youth! My work with Face Forward is anything but predictable, so I think Mr.Wolfe would encourage me to stay around with it for a while.
Something that I’ve intentionally made a bit more unpredictable is my mane. I’ve worn my hair natural for more than five years now. As a black woman within a culture that consistently affirms straight hair, at least for black women, this was a pretty big change for me. The first couple years were what can be referred to as my tame, safe years. I rocked a little fro and from time to time I’d twist it. But in the past year my girl Chelsea helped me unleash my inner male peacock. Now I experiment freely and find that others often take a second glance at my curls. My mane is in constant flux and it’s my intention to keep it that way. What’s always fun is walking around Minneapolis with Adrienne, whose long, gorgeous locs, whether perfectly assembled in a crown on her head or freely flowing around her shoulders, also catch others’ eyes. People don’t know whose hair to look at. Yesterday morning when moseying down Eat Street, two women stopped us and literally thanked us for looking so fabulous. Why should we ever stop experimenting? Similarly, why should you stay in your usual way of doing things? Let’s all vow to embrace spontaneity, new approaches, and uncharted territories in the final months of 2012.