RSS

I Write Because…

I Write Because…
Phillip Lopate and Kiese Laymon at Columbia University.

Phillip Lopate and Kiese Laymon at Columbia University.

The other night, I attended an event at Columbia University called “Phillip Lopate and Kiese Laymon In Conversation: Notes of a Native Son.” It was part of the “Year of James Baldwin” series. It was an evening full of interesting (and opposing) viewpoints, passionate audience response and lots of questions to ponder. There was so much there to unpack about white male privilege, especially as it pertains to academia, but that’s for a whole other post/essay/rumination. Like, for real. Lopate reminded me of my asshat poetry professor in undergrad. So. Much. Asshattery. No chill. No respect.

Ugh.

But, one question that lingered with me as a result of the evening is “Why do you write?” For me there are a few answers to that question, but the first and foremost is self care. I write because I have to write. I have to do this. If I were a dog catcher or an accountant or a graphic designer or any profession that wouldn’t necessitate daily, error-free writing, I would still write everyday. It’s my way of staying sane. There are words in my brain that MUST make it onto a page or screen, even if I am the only audience. My Morning Pages (Hey there, Artist’s Way!) are lifesavers and I don’t know what I would do without my trusty Moleskine for everyday meanderings about this here New York life.

I have to understand my voice before I share it. I share my voice with journalistic endeavors all the time. I have numerous bylines in several publications about pop-culture, art, politics and the like. My fiction is where I am a bit more gun shy on the submit button. But you know what? Fiction by Demetria soon come. Be on the lookout, homie.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Tags:

Artist Date: The Andrew Freedman Home

AF_Home

Gosh, it’s been ages. I’m still doing Artist Dates though and I’ve decided to share my weekly creative adventures here. I’ll be sharing other stuff too. So, for last week’s Artist Date, I was really getting two things done at once. A friend decided to read at another friend’s event and it was the first friend’s very first time reading in public. She did a phenomenal job and I’m so looking forward to her debut novel hitting the shelves. So, one part of that was supporting two friends. The other part was (duh) getting in my Artist Date.

The venue, the Andrew Freedman Home was a place I had never been to and in fact I had never heard of this particular Bronx destination. Intrigued by this, I Googled it beforehand to get a sense of the space and be able to spot it once I emerged from the subway.

Turns out, the Andrew Freedman Home is pretty fascinating. It’s a humungous, ornate, limestone building that takes up an entire city block. Andrew Freedman was this really rich guy who was one of the first investors in the New York City subway.  He also owned New York Giants at one time.

When he was a child, his parents lost nearly everything through a series of bad financial decisions and the story goes that young Andrew vowed to never allow rich people suffer the indignity of being poor. As such, when he died in 1915, his will left his considerable fortune for the establishment of the Andrew Freedman Home. The ornate, stately palace was built specifically as a retirement home for former millionaires who had fallen on hard times and had no more money.

Residents of the home did not pay a dime for food or housing, but they lived like the kings and queens they once were. A delightful 1924 article  published in the Evening Tribune soon after the home opened, describes the immaculate space in great detail.

Inside, the building is equipped with every comfort which a modern millionaire would put in his own house. Telephones, radio, phonograph, soft-voiced servants, tiled private baths, billiard rooms, card rooms, a library, and a living room so luxurious that even a modern millionaire could find no lack in it.

When it opened in the 1920s, it was pretty much right on time for the soon-to-be poor millionaires who lost their fortunes during the Great Depression. But just like its residents, the home ran out of money in the 1960s and could no longer operate as it had. It re-opened in the 80s as a “regular” retirement home for any person who could pay the fee to stay there. The space was reinvented again in the 21st century, operating as an event space and daycare, which it remains today. It also offers 10 guest bedrooms that are attended to by locals who are being trained in hospitality and culinary arts.

I find it most interesting that this wealthy man’s dying wish was to use his fortune to help other (formerly) wealthy people. I think most everyone is deserving of help, but to use one’s immense resources to help other people with long money? Hmmmmm. Seems a tad insensitive and by “a tad” I mean very. Especially considering that in Freedman’s lifetime, New York was an extreme example of the haves and have-nots. The New York City Zoning Resolution did not come to pass until 1916 (a year after Freedman’s death), which means that there were deplorable living conditions for poor people that included a lack of basic amenities like light, air and disease-free water. With all of that going on, he chose to leave his money to people who he felt would feel poverty more harshly than those who had lived a lifetime of it. How noble. Not.

But all is well. The Andrew Freedman Home today does indeed tend to a multitude of demographics and specifically the poor and disenfranchised of the South Bronx. So there, Mr. Freedman. I shall visit there again soon.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 24, 2015 in Creativity, Writerly Things

 

Tags: , , , ,

Artist’s Way 3: Week 8

Artist’s Way 3: Week 8
IMG_0627

Blacknuss.

The chapter for Week 8 is titled “Recovering a Sense of Strength.”  Julia Cameron stays whispering to my soul. She really has a gift when it comes to breaking down the creative process and talking in practical terms about the barriers that sometimes arise.

Check out this excerpt where Cameron is talking about the important of “filling the form.” She’s talking about the importance of taking those small steps towards the big goal instead of trying to do everything at once.

As a rule of thumb, it is best to just admit that there is always one action you can take for your creativity daily.

Mmmmhmmmm. Yop. Say that! No excuses. I was just talking to a writer friend about finding the time to work on personal writing projects. We all love to put in big talk about screenplays, novels, anthologies and the like, but none of that gets done unless we create a plan and start making those incremental steps towards the larger idea.

What have you done today towards your creative goals?

For the week’s Artist Date, I hit up the Blacknuss sidewalk shop in Harlem that was put on by author Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts. She had vintage, rare and hard-to-find books as well as albums, magazines, bean pies and all types of goodies that celebrate the African diaspora. Eventually, she’ll be taking Blacknuss into a brick and mortar shop and I’m all for it.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 22, 2014 in Creativity

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Books I Recently Read…

Books I Recently Read…

RovingTree-545x800

As many of you know, I’m a voracious reader. If you see me in these streets carrying a medium-sized bag or bigger, rest assured there’s a book in there. Reading is a big part of my life, so I figure that once in a while I’ll post on my blog about the books I’ve read. Cool? Cool. So below are some of the books I read over the past few months.

The Roving Tree by Elsie Augustave
This is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. This debut novel from Elsie Augustave is beautiful and full of delicious sentences. Set in Haiti, the US and Zaire, the rich storyline is engaging and believable. Augustave really hits her stride when she describes different religious and spiritual encounters. The main character Iris is aHaitian woman who was adopted into a white family at a young age. The story follows her journey of self-discovery. If you like Edwidge Danticat, you’ll probably like this too. I’m looking forward to Augustave’s future novels. Good stuff.

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
I don’t normally pick up crime thrillers (except maybe for vacation reading), but the good folks over at Klout sent me this and so of course I had to check it out. I liked it! The opening scene definitely pulls in the reader and I found myself wanting to stay up and read “just a few more pages” before bed. The story revolves around a man who works for a super secret government agency (think Scandal‘s B6-13) and a crazy case he’s on that takes him all over the world.There are some nice twists and turns in there. Hayes doesn’t insult the reader with Scooby Doo-like storylines and he also doesn’t make the story overly complicated. He also does a great job with fleshing out the characters and making them real people instead of just villains and heroes.

Misconceptions by Blu Daniels
This is one of those fun books that you read when you’re on the brink of burn out at work or when you’re on the beach sipping on rum punch. It’s an over-the-top story that’s meant to make you laugh. The main character Alexandria is a fashionable, career driven New Yorker who winds up pregnant with quadruplets living like a virtual prisoner in Atlanta with her emotionally unavailable ex-boyfriend/father of her unborn children. That might not necessarily sound like a bucket of laughs, but the way Daniels writes it, there’s plenty of comic relief.

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
I so loved Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, so I was very much looking forward to digging into this book. Like, Let the Great World Spin, TransAtlantic follows a diverse set of characters in seemingly separate tales, but the storylines all manage to entangle one way or another. McCann is nice with words. A few descriptive phrases in this book made me go back and re-read them just to enjoy them again. The selection of characters in this book include Frederick Douglass (yep, the one and only), early 20th century airplane pilots,  midwestern ice farmers, a pioneering woman journalist and a modern day politician. All of their stories have significant ties to Ireland. McCann is his usual brilliant self with most of the characters except for Douglass. His Frederick Douglass falls flat for me, which is strange because McCann has written very believable characters of various demographics that differ from his own. (He’s a white dude, by the way). His Douglass needs more soul, more believable layers.

The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin’ Sad by Adam Gnade
A friend posted about this book on Instagram and I was intrigued by the title. Said friend then posted a couple excerpts from the book and I knew I had to buy it. This tiny little booklet is 59 pages of awesomeness. As the title suggests, it’s a self-help book that isn’t of the Chicken Soup for the Soul variety. Gnade gives super practical and simple advice for getting through the tough times in life that all of us endure. He drops little gems like “Everyone good is necessary” and “No mercy for the dreamkillers.” I highly recommend this book(let) to everyone.

What have you read recently?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 5, 2014 in Reading

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Artist’s Way 3: Week 7

Artist’s Way 3: Week 7
From my awesome "new" book about art in the Louvre.

From my awesome “new” book about art in the Louvre.

Week 7 is called “Recovering a  Sense of Connection.” It’s basically about feeling connected  to your creativity. There’s lots of good stuff in there about not falling victim to “perfectionism” (aka surefire ways to never finish a project), turning professional jealousy into productivity and things of that nature.

The interesting thing for me about this week was that before I was even deep into the reading, I had already kind of re-established some things for myself, mostly dealing with my home and making it look more like me and making it more conducive to creative work. They were relatively small things, but things that made a difference for me. I finally framed and put up the pictures I’d been meaning to add to the bathroom walls. I got some new pretty flowers for the front room and I did a deep clean/purge of the whole apartment. Like I said, the little tweeks I made were minor, but they meant a lot in terms of having a cozy, comfortable, clutter-free space. That is the optimal space for me to flex my creative muscles.

I went on at least three Artist Dates this week, but the one I’ll share is about going to one of my favorite haunts, the Housing Works Thrift Shop. When you buy stuff there, the proceeds go towards helping homeless people living with HIV/AIDS. Pretty noble cause, eh? I have a number of home accessories and furniture pieces from them (including my lovely Queen Anne desk). I went there for my Artist Date and picked up a coffee table book from 1951 that is all about art in the Louvre. There’s background on the art and the institution itself as well as fabulous color pictures. Good stuff!

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 22, 2014 in Creativity, Writerly Things

 

Tags: , , , ,

Artist’s Way 3: Week 6

Artist’s Way 3: Week 6
Just me and a trail on Governor's Island for my Artist Date.

Just me and a trail on Governor’s Island for my Artist Date.

Like I neva left…

Week 6 of the Artist’s Way is called “Recovering a Sense of Abundance.” Maaaaaan. Le sigh. So, those of you who really follow my blog like that, know that it’s been mooooonths since I’ve updated my latest Artist’s Way progress. This weekend, I finally decided to really get back in it and get back to posting about it.

This morning, I made my morning meditation about abundance and then I went on Instagram and a friend had posted about abundance. Then when I got back on task with AW, the topic was abundance. Message much? Ha!

Julia Cameron spoke to me in this chapter when she said “Making art begins with making hay while the sun shines. It begins with getting into the now and enjoying your day. It begins with giving yourself some small treats and breaks. ‘This is extravagant but so is God” is a good attitude to take when treating your artist to small bribes and beauties.”

This past weekend, I bought myself a bouquet of flowers for my dining room table (as usual) and I spent Sunday afternoon on my Artist Date at Governor’s Island. They have a whole section full of hammocks for people to use. HAMMOCKS!! So friggin’ awesome. There’s also tons of historical stuff to explore, the beautiful views (Hello, Lower Manhattan) and there happened to be an art fair going on this weekend too. Good stuff!

Abundance indeed.

Good week.

 

 

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Creativity, Writerly Things

 

Tags: , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,648 other followers