I have been so upset by the recent events in our country with the senseless abuse and deaths of POC. Even with a heavy heart and motivation to take action, I've been struggling with what to say and concerned my words will come out wrong and unintentionally offend. But at the end of the day, using your voice and sharing stories is undoubtedly better than silence.
I was raised in NC from a long line of southerners and was one of the first grades bused during desegregation. When you’re a kid, you just accept the environment that you were born into, but I was lucky because I had a passion for the arts. My parents encouraged me and supported me from the beginning to pursue the passion that shaped my life.
It all started with dance. This art brought people together: gay, straight, black, white, Chinese. All that mattered was we were connecting over our shared love of dance. We competed and created together as one. I was able to take bar with the Dance Theater of Harlem and I'll never forget Mel Tomlinson's performance in Manifestations. My first exposure to African Dance came from a group of dancers from Saint Augustine's College during a city-wide dance performance as well as master classes with Robert Joffrey and watching his whole company wiped out by AIDS. Dance is multicultural, timeless, and now I get to watch my daughter make her own memories and life long friends at the Alvin Ailey School.
I attended the University of Utah for Theatre. Although the university isn't particularly known for its diversity, even just being around, learning, and performing with people who were raised differently than I was shaped my outlook on the world and made me appreciate what each person brings to the table.
And, of course, there's New York. I came to New York with one goal: to become a professional singer and support myself with my art. I was and am excited by the diversity this amazing place has. During this time, I had a journey filled with beauty but undoubtedly accompanied by experiences that were despicably unsettling, too. I have made life long friends through music and they are definitely some of the coolest people I know and my heart hurts knowing our days are different.
I saw fashion companies refuse to hire models of color because their bodies were different. I was asked to hail a cab for a friend because no cabs would stop for us when he put his hand up. My writing partner was thrown in jail on mistaken identity while he was breaking up a fight between two white men. Time and time again, my friends were pulled over and questioned by the police as they were driving to the same gig as I was while I had safely arrived without any trouble.
All these experiences happened to them –– and for them, it was just commonplace. For me, it was eye-opening.
I don’t know what it’s like to live as a POC –– and I never will.
But, here's what you can do: surround yourself with people that are different than you. Open up your heart, show compassion, and provide acceptance. I will never know what it is like to be profiled or hated because of my skin color but I can listen, support, and learn.