Black History Month 2018 was literally the BLACKEST Black History Month on record.
Outside of seeing Black Panther *twice* and driving around town bumpin’ the soundtrack with my hair in a head wrap all month, I was also at BHM Galas, museum exhibits, expos, documentary screenings…and I’m sure I’m leaving something out.
During two of those events, I had an epiphany: I can’t run from who I am.
Now, don’t get it twisted. I am not confused or struggling to deal with my Blackness. My revelation was more rooted in purpose than pigmentation.
The African American Read-In in Orlando was one of the first events on my social calendar. As a guest luminary, the Orange County Library asked me to share an excerpt from a book, a poem, or a song by a Black author of my choice.
I searched and searched and finally, I found “I am African, I Am Black”, a poem by The Champion of Darkness. This poem was absolute FIRE!
And I didn’t want to just get on stage and read off a piece of paper. I wanted to give the audience a show and make them feel like they were in some lounge in a city up north, with dim lights, where the crowd snaps their fingers for the dopest acts.
So, I enlisted the help of a friend, actor, poet and playwright Felichia Wright (she wears many hats). After sliding a copy of my selection across the table for her observation, she looked up and said, “What does this make you feel…when you read it?”
“It makes me feel POWERFUL,” I responded.
She really wasn’t looking for an adjective, though. Instead, Felichia pointed to the structure of this piece. As it turns out, it wasn’t just a poem. It was a sermon.
As she walked me through the lines, I saw the introduction, the body and the close — you know that part of the message where the preacher shifts gears, his voice lightens after a pause and he works his way into convincing you that hell is real and that’s where you’re headed if you don’t quit what you’re doing?
I could see it all clearly.
“Samson’s strength was not in the length, but in its originality…”
“That’s your close!” she said definitively.
I walked out of the session with a challenge. Felichia dared me to practice the poem in my favorite preacher’s voice. She assured me that once I went there, I’d lose myself and I’d be free to perform.
I gave it a try in the shower; convinced that I sounded like an idiot, not Bishop T.D. Jakes. Hours later, I received a standing ovation at the event.
That part, the applause, didn’t really move me. I was still so blown away that out of all the choices and all the Google searches, I picked…a sermon?
Wow. Roots really run deep. (My Dad is a deacon. My mother is a minister. My family is….church).
Apparently, folks were so impressed with my poetry reading they wanted an encore. Weeks later, I read it for the second time at the Orlando Black Expo.
Seconds into the performance, I knew I wasn’t there for the poem.
One of the organizers had watched every single one of my old Youtube videos and read all my previous blog posts prior to the event.
“Your faith…it really centered me,” they’d said as I walked in the building.
So when I was asked not once, but three times, to share miraculous testimonies of how I arrived in Orlando, paid for Michigan State and won my first Emmy, I wasn’t shocked. I just raised the mic to speak.
People smiled. Some nodded in agreement; other’s eyes grew wide with each surprise ending. Their handclaps filled the silence between my last words and the host running to grab the mic.
“Wow. They really enjoyed that,” I thought to myself.
I’m pretty sure it was T.D. Jakes who said “Everything you’ll ever be, you already are!” The Bishop noted that published authors have been writing books silently for years, successful TV personalities have always been trying to get their face in front of someone’s camera, and it’s likely, that as a child, thriving artists swirled their leftover condiments on the dinner plate like paint.
Speaking. Publicly. About God…is just in me. I can’t run from it and even when I do, it apparently catches up to me.
So often, all we can think is about is satisfying who’s out there. My sole intention in reading the poem was to “give the audience a show”, remember? Then, God brought me to this place, where my eyes opened and He showed me, “No. THIS is who you are.”
I could sense him whispering, “Jazmin, you are not about the clever captions with no real meaning, the cute clothes, or the best depth-effect photos and boomerangs. You’re not here for the contest.”
Don’t get me wrong, I live for a quality boomerang! But that’s not why I’ve been given a platform. I’m here to shine my light and if I’m not doing that, why am I here?
Since I launched 316 Bailey and started making inspirational posts, there’s always been one, two or three people in my DMs saying, “Man, I really needed this!” The comment section is always bound to have at least one person who says, “This really hit home for me!”
That should be celebrated and put on display. The mere fact that who I am, at my core, helps people? Sometimes in the midst of news and tragedies, it can feel like I’m doing more harm by repeatedly telling people what’s wrong, negative or evil.
What if I take a second, and before any of those stories (that do, by the way, have a significance) leave my lips, post something that changes the course of someone’s day? What if they take a little nugget from my video and it stays with them for the rest of their life?
The world would likely be a better place if we all decided to be who He created each of us to be, individually…and if we stopped posting what we thought everyone wanted to consume.
It’s possible your Instagram or Snap isn’t supposed to be filled with positivity and testimony…maybe it’s art, maybe it’s financial advice, maybe its comedy. Whatever seeps through no matter how much you try to ignore it — the world needs to see THAT.
What part of yourself are you neglecting or hiding? It’s bound to come out at some point.
*Here’s the full performance: