By: Sey Elemo, Columnist
Being black, and if I speak specifically for myself, being a first-generation American, and being a creative is certainly a challenge. There’s so much pressure from our elders to become doctors, lawyers, engineers and such the like. To many older black people, entering into the field of STEM is the only viable way of financial security, and in turn, fulfillment. So if you’re a Nigerian kid who loves to write poetry and passes out at the site of blood (totally talking about myself here), you may be the family joke.
‘Tis life. I’ve struggled, and continue to struggle, with this over the course of my entire life. As an artist, feeling under-, or unappreciated can take a toll on your creativity and your confidence in your artistry. But I’m not going to drone on about the woes of feeling unrecognized by the ones you respect the most.Instead, I’m going to use this space to talk about the three most important things I’ve learned in this last year that have kept me going when I felt like I should just pack up all of my stationary and change my major to biology (or something like that):
1. Surround yourself with a network of dedicated artists.
Not to sound corny but iron, does in fact, sharpen iron. Being a creative, and surrounding yourself with artists just as passionate and dedicated to their crafts, whether or not they’re in the same discipline as you, will encourage you to get down in the trenches and grind for your goals. It’s also good to be around people who experience the same challenges that you do; it makes it easier for you all to navigate through them.
2. You are your art, but you are not.
Anyone who has battled with writer’s block has had to come to terms with this concept. You are going to run into ruts where we feel as though you can’t produce. The words aren’t flowing, the brush strokes aren’t arranging themselves together the way you want them to, you just can’t seem to capture moments with the right angle. It makes you question if you were ever talented or if you simply got lucky with that one project. STOP. That’s not how this works. Production, for most, comes in waves. It is just a phase. Artistic troughs happen. But then they go away. Stick it out.
3. Your success is independent of what “they” think.
Your mom, your dad, your friends, your enemies, your haters, they’re all very opinionated. They may think that you’re “wasting your time,” or that you’re better off doing something more nine to five oriented. They are not right. You are not wasting your time. Your art is necessary. Period.
Take these three things with you and take them seriously. I promise it makes all of the the difference.
To those that don’t identify as artists, SUPPORT YOUR ARTIST FRIENDS. It’s so important to do so. We need to know that we’re worth it and that we’re believed in. Donate to our GoFundMe pages and Kickstarters. Repost our new video link. Spread the good word of our art to your various networks. Being shown love is one of the greatest motivations.
Below I’m going to highlight a couple of DMV-based artists that have impacted my artistic experience. Please support and uplift them. I don’t know anyone more deserving.
Yours in Blackness,
A Ratchet Revolutionary.
Kassim aka K.O. – rapper
Twitter and Instagram: @kassim20nvr
Bilphena Yahwon – writer/poet/activist
Twitter and Instagram: @goldwomyn
O-Slice – rapper
Twitter: @O_slice Instagram: @flowsnice
Gabe Flood – rapper
Twitter and Instagram: ClrConscience
Cat Mayes – photographer
Instagram and Twitter: @NeptuneSpeaks