It is only fitting that I share my take-away from a wearable art silk scarf-designing workshop I recently facilitated at the East Meadow Public Library through my social and cultural enrichment program, My Time Has Come . The sources of inspiration for this workshop were many, with Valentine’s day and Passover on most minds, and not to speak of themes that some participants had already given thought to before they arrived!
I want to start by ‘commiserating’ with fellow artists around the world who prepare for, and facilitate workshops with the mindset that they have a ‘task’ that they must accomplish… otherwise known as a Job. This was not a job for me. It was yet another “this is why I do what I do” opportunity for me. Thanks, to the participants. For what is of utmost importance and most gratifying to me, as a facilitating artist, is the enthusiasm and willingness of participants of all age groups to try new things, the camaraderie shared by ‘strangers’ in some cases, and last but not least, the desire for excellence in creativity that results in exceptionally crafted pieces they can take home with them. This was present in great measure!
I must say, I really expected nothing less from participants who did not use the pouring rain as an excuse to stay away. Suffice it say that it was that same spirit of determination that filled the room. Determination to try something new, to make the most of it and, as far as I am concerned, succeed at it. You, the reader of this post, can register your opinion on the accompanying visuals.
As my heartfelt gratitude goes out to this outstanding group, I must share that for the first time as a workshop facilitator, I was asked on more than one occasion to stop for a moment to hydrate as a result of what must have struck someone as me “on overdrive”, as I passionately executed my task. I thought that was so sweet and nurturing! (I had no idea I was perspiring at all…as the pictures would reveal later!) I also want to thank those who privately shared with me their observations about what they observed as my commitment to what I do. I intend to use those kind sentiments to further motivate myself as I strive for excellence in all I do. Those, who could, stayed behind to help with the inevitable post-workshop clean-up and pack up. How wonderful that was! Thank You, to Charlie who helped us settle in, Jude Schanzer, the Director of Public Relations and Programming, and last but not least, my husband, James Lacy, for his role as the photographer and another set of helping hands.
The Christian Cultural Center’s Cultural Arts Academy Charter School – a charter school of the arts- hosted a homecoming event at their Brooklyn location recently. What was so special about that event was an element that served to raise awareness of the importance of entrepreneurship for those who pursue the arts – especially for children at the primary school level.
The event coordinator, Mrs. Joy Spruill, a Fine Arts graduate herself, who gained first hand experience on how difficult it is for creative people to successfully follow their bliss through entrepreneurship, was right on target with this vision. “Far too many African Americans lack the knowledge or financial soundness to even consider this as an option. It is my intention to surround our students with familiar faces that have accomplished the challenge of owning their own business. It is my hope that through exposure that entrepreneurship will no longer seem so foreign to our scholars.” Mrs. Spruill said of the motivation behind this event.
Worthy of note and a great delight, is the fact that a kindergarten vendor participated as a seller of lemonade – which not surprisingly – sold out before long. “She exemplified one who demonstrated to her peers, that regardless of age, one can acquire an understanding and an interest at all different levels that can lead to a successful experience.” Mrs. Spruill added.
I was quite flattered when asked to participate as the featured vendor of an event that would serve to plant the seeds of entrepreneurship in the minds of our children. Kudos to Principal Laurie Midgette for working with Mrs. Spruill to bring this vision alive! It was a delight to be able to engage in meaningful conversations that were initiated by these young and curious minds. I was told that I had been selected as a featured artist/ entrepreneur, not only because of my “beautiful works of art” but because of my “willingness to give back to causes such as the arts, cancer, children, etc.”
“Character development is one of the main missions of our school. Thank you, Madona Cole Lacy for your example of good character.” -Joy Spruill-
It is fitting for me to end by saying it was indeed a pleasure to execute my duty as a “Good Villager” and join the church, school, home and community as a whole, to creatively empower our future leaders. The Cultural Arts Academy Charter School can count on me to collaborate with their creatively supportive spirit in the future. The warm embrace I received from Principal Midgette, Mrs. Spruill and her husband Ron Spruill, and others I encountered, will forever remain with me, and serve as a catalyst that adds to fueling the connection of the dots of my creativity!
I believe that much encouragement should be given to community-generated initiatives aimed at encouraging self-sufficiency that can be realized by practitioners of the arts. This is a start to acquainting our children with the many elements that make for successful entrepreneurship.
What innovative ways to embrace and steer young minds toward success have you entertained or implemented? Please share.
This lovely display by the Joy Spruill team of an almost life-like photo and bio was as humbling as it was amazing! My husband, James Lacy, and I extend our gratitude to everyone who made this a special experience for us.
The following is a social media posting I woke up to on the morning after the 2016 Election Day
“Accurate description of how I feel right now:
In the sixth grade, I found out that the KKK still exists…that it wasn’t an entity that solely existed in my history books like the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, and outright literal slavery in the US, but that it was an organization that still exists to this day.
My first reaction wasn’t irritation, rage or frustration. It was fear. Deep, bone-chilling fear that produced sobs that wracked my 12 year old body. And I only had one concern in response: will they kill me? Can I be killed for no reason?
If I try to fit in and I don’t talk slang, and I tell everyone I don’t like fried chicken or grape drink, if I cringe along with the white people in my class when slavery is brought up in history class…IF I DO EVERYTHING RIGHT, EVERYTHING TO ERASE MY BLACKNESS, WILL THEY KILL ME ANYWAY BECAUSE OF MY SKIN?
And of course, those sobs were hysterical. I realized that I could not totally protect myself. If someone was out to kill black people, they need not wait until I open my mouth. They need only look at the skin I was born in and can’t change.
It was the moment I remember feeling the most afraid and impotent. That is how I feel now. I can’t move past this question that it’s a shame I have to ask: will they kill me? Will I survive to see the next president elect in 2020?
Way back in middle school, I eventually concluded that I was overreacting and my life wasn’t truly in danger. I was overly emotional and easily frightened.
Over ten years have passed since then and I’m struggling to stay rational, to not give in to fear… But I heard how he spoke at rallies and the debates, I heard his soundbytes, I heard how his supporters spoke and how they behaved…and I can’t tell if I’m overreacting this time.
And that’s what terrifies me the most.”
My dear daughter, Madona Ayorinde,
As the mother of that middle schooler and 10 years later, a young adult who is trying to make sense of life on her own terms, I want you to know that it is at times like these that you work at unleashing qualities of the firm foundation which has been laid in you over the years.
The seeds of sensitivity, high self-esteem, love and appreciation of the humanity of mankind, empathy and much more that have been embedded in you are now yours to use.
I wish I could make you a promise that moments like these will be few and far between as you blossom into full adulthood, but I can’t, as the reality of life as I know it dictates otherwise. The trick is to use the tools that are available to you in a manner that will bring about self-preservation in the physical and mental health sense of the term, with little or no chance of feeling victimized by the shenanigans of this sometimes cruel adult world. I implore you to always operate from the mindset that: it is not the hand that life deals you that defines you, but it is the way you handle what is thrown at you that defines the essence of life for you.
I am sorry that for you there were no satisfactory explantions that could have protected your 6th grade mind set from what you discribe as bone-chilling fear when you learnt that the KKK was not merely a group that once existed, but one that was and is now alive and well.
I am sorry that current events have taken you back to reliving the nightmare that no child should have to experience, as adults around them espouse hatred, racism, bigotry, insensitivity, ignorance, lewdness as the status quo.
I am sorry you once entertained making changes to the essence of your being and or buying into the stereotypes that a cross-section of white America has in place for its black counterparts, in order to fit in and escape the wrath of the KKK.
I am particularly sorry I did not read between the lines at that time to identify the emotional trauma you experienced, for you know my parent-school alliance initiative would have been stepped up to include tools that the school would have had to put in place to address this important issue in a manner that would have been of benefit to not just you, but to the rest of the school. Surely, you recall from experience how important it was to me that the school reinforced the basic universal personal development values I taught you at home.
Having said this, my daughter, I want you to know that one cannot be adequately prepared for the complexities of life. We know not when and in what form societal ugliness may come our way. It is for this reason that I will again stress the importance of readiness through the implementation of self-improvement tools.
I implore you to focus your energies on building yourself up in ways that you can be a blessing, not just to your family and friends, but also to those who do not mean well for you. I ask you to do this bearing in mind that the only competition you have to contend with is YOURSELF. Allow me to draw upon the gift of Grandpa’s wisdom, as I say to you: “Festine Lente.” Hasten slowly, as in act decisively, yet thoughtfully! I ask you to take your time to figure out how you can tap into the academic discipline, life-skills and orientation you have received thus far, to turn around what you perceive as an eminent license for nationwide ugliness, danger, and unsettling behavior. If I know of anyone with the capability to do so, it is you. “Let your light so shine…”. You know Dad and I have your back, and that we are here for you.
A Mommy Disclosure
What you may not fully realize is that, as a United States Citizen and Citizen of the World – with deep community and family values that were instilled in me at an early age in my country of birth- I am automatically a good candidate for some form of discrimination, rejection, and the issue of fitting in – more often than I care to recount. This, my child, is in no way to be confused with the occasional misunderstandings that occur in the normal discord of life! It is the waging of all-out war in the…just because.. department!
The ‘God News’ is that even though the scale may tip more to the side of the undesirable, it is not everyone that I know or encounter that is this lacking or needy in character and spirit. I suspect by now, you are asking how I manage to appear so ‘sane and composed – most of the time.’ I can tell you what I do not consider to be viable options: withdrawing into isolation, cutting ‘these people’ off (this is not possible as they are all over the place), a tit-for-tat stance, a feeling sorry for self response or engaging in self-destructive behaviors. How I deal with this is to position myself to continually search for positive ways to prevent this phenomenon from overshadowing my sense of self. Maintaining a sense of self mindset in each unique encounter helps me emerge from the lion’s den emotionally, socially and culturally intact. Also, please note that if I were to internalize the negative effects of this dynamic and allow said perpetrators to take control of my life, I doubt that those touching sentiments you and your brother, Samuel, recently expressed to me on my birthday would have ever found their way to me in a hurry.
I will now summarize the personal development tools of my response in easy-to- read quotes I have formulated:
Personal Development Madonarisms by Madona Cole-Lacy
1. Since there is no patent on societal ugliness and propensity to minimize humanity, do not assume there is one to prevent you from unleashing the qualities of a firm foundation which has been laid in you over the years.
2. Use fear and anxiety as tools to focus your energies on building yourself up in ways that you can be a blessing, not just to your family and friends, but also to those who do not mean well for you.
3. Those of us who have lived long enough know that bigotry, racism, and many more “isms” that are in place to suppress and diminish others are alive and well in all shapes and sizes.
4. Whenever we consider directing our attention toward the avoidance of stereotypes meted out to us by others, we unwittingly position ourselves to accepting the hate they espouse. Hatred for self is as unlikely to cause the unenlightened, unfeeling and uncaring to love us more, as self-empowerment is as likely to chase these characters away from us -each time! You know which one to go for!
5. I implore you to focus your energies on building yourself up in ways that give you joy and satisfaction in knowing that you can indeed be a blessing, not just to your family and friends, but also to those who do not necessarily mean well for you.
6. We must approach life knowing that the path to being an Agent of Change begins and ends with us. This change is only accomplished when we operate from a place of understanding that the change we desire is the change we want to be …and the first step to this long and sometimes arduous haul begins with us.
God Bless You, My Daughter.
Mom, Momeeeee, Mother, Madona Catherine
The visuals of what appeared to be a whirlwind workshop experience at the Wyandanch Public Library yesterday, speaks volumes of the impression I walked away with. While I believe the photos adequately depict the atmosphere and experience at the library, I feel compelled to express the joy and excitement I felt as I worked with a group of students who were ‘hungry’ to learn new techniques and new ways of expressing themselves. This point needs to be made because I find it contrary to popular belief that high school students don’t want to be bothered at the end of the day – after ‘doing’ school especially by people they are not familiar with.
I could not have wished for a better group of participants who kept me on my toes as they went through the arduous and sometimes frustrating process textile designers go through to put their point across.
Here are the sentiments which did not show up in the previously published post:
Since, I cannot in good conscience consider the workshop participants’ comportment and commitment to the task at hand a mere coincidence, I must thank the good villagers of Wyandanch and give them due credit for the effective role they collectively play in the lives of our youth. Kudos to the parents and caring community members, the Wyandanch library director who stopped by for a pre-workshop chat, the Youth Program Coordinator and library staff who pitched in to make this a wonderful experience for all, and the leadership of the Wyandanch High School who undoubtedly foster a sense of discipline in their students. Keep it up!
My Time Has Come Program
Promotes tolerance to racial, cultural, ethnic and generational differences.
Fosters a sense of belonging, accomplishment and pride gained from the creation of well executed culturally inspired works of art.
Develops skills in the use of hand-crafted textile designs, contemporary and multi-cultural visual arts techniques.
I told someone about himself the other day, and my husband who was standing right beside me was in agreement with what I had done. I told a salesperson about himself when I said to him, ” You are such a pleasant person; keep on smiling.” His modest, if not bashful response was, “That’s all I can do.” Yes, I have gotten into the habit of “telling people about themselves” and I am really enjoying it. What I wanted that man to know was, that his personable demeanor had a calming effect on random strangers, including me! He needed to be acknowledged for sharing that God-given gift of his with people he encountered while on the job. I wondered whether he had ever been presented with the opportunity to celebrate his exemplary interpersonal skills which made him so perfect for the job. For the record, I knew nothing about this man besides the fact that he worked at the store I was visiting.
As much as I know this subject goes way beyond monetary compensation, I must admit that I walked away hoping that salesperson was being adequately compensated for a job he was so perfect for. Of great importance to me was the hope that my acknowledgement of the way he handled himself served as fuel for him to continue to use his ‘gift’ in such a positive and effortless way to touch lives. I somehow had no doubt he would connect the proverbial dots after having fully recovered from my unorthodox response to what he must have thought came to him quite naturally.
All too often, we are placed in the unfortunate position of responding to unruly service providers and/or their staff as we resort to lodging complaints, taking legal actions in extreme cases, or boycotting businesses. My thinking is that as consumers, we have the ability to create a “new culture” that calls for diligently rewarding good and pleasant behavior of the deserving, at every opportunity we get. + A kind word, a smile, a nod or even a note to management will work wonders! I can just see the scale tipping all the way to the other side as potentially unpleasant workers feel motivated by those who receive an abundance of positive reinforcement for ” good behavior” from customers. This fail-proof motivational tool will not only serve as a high self-esteem booster, for service providers, it will ultimately create a wonderful atmosphere we will have all subscribed to — a great feeling for all concerned! When was the last time you told a salesperson or even a waiter “about themselves”? Give it a try, you might just like it!
” Communicate unto the other person that which you would want him (her) to communicate unto you if your positions were reversed.” – Aaron Goldman –
Madona Cole-Lacy M.A. Ed.
Founder: Your Creative Empowerment, Inc. http://www.yourtime4liny.org
Program Director: My Time Has Come www.mytimehascome.org http:www.twitter.com/MyTimeHasCome1
Creative Director: Madona Cole Originals. www.madonacoleoriginals.com https://twitter.com/MColeOriginals