Questions, Answers, and The Power in Choosing How to Explain (or Not)


"It is as difficult for [the Action painter] to explain what his art is as to explain what he himself is; but, since he paints with the question and not with the answer, explanation is not an issue." -Elaine de Kooning, 1958

I've mentioned this before, but I think this is why in part, writing has become secondary for me, for the first time since I was 13. For me, writing places a (subconscious) demand on me to explain and most cases before I am fully aware of what desires to be expressed or have an emerging understanding of what I'm experiencing internally. With writing, I can't just ask the questions, you know? In the past, words have been a means of processing my thoughts and emotions and keys to freedom, but more recently they have felt like chains, binding me to the floor, restricting fluid thought, movement, and expression.


"You need to write your book," he said to me last week. "People need to read it. It could help people."

I nodded but said nothing in response because explaining my Why for not giving myself to that process is difficult for me to articulate coherently. I know the book is there, in the queue, waiting. I know the format, the themes it'll explore, and even the title. But I can't bring myself to go back to writing it. The words it requires feel

like prison.  


I think the truth is I don't want to use words to explain certain parts of my story, of what the inside of my mind, heart and soul have looked like these 33.5 years; I can do the work to excavate what the The Impact of events in my life look and feel like, but I balk at the demand to describe it in words. That doesn't feel like healing or liberation to me, when I think of explaining it or my living in that medium. I'd much rather just paint the questions and let a piece explain those things that I can't quite wrap my words around. Painting is sanctuary, freedom and peace. 


Like I said, I know I've discussed this before, this retreat from words and full throttle immersion into and preference for paint. I continue to share about it because it's a very real aspect of my creative process, and I've had to work my way to accepting it as a reality, which hasn't been easy. While it has felt freeing at times, this gravitational shift also hasn't felt comfortable or familiar during others. So I share it-the messy middle, the discomfort, the joy, the freedom I find in embracing the nuances and growth that occurs within this entire process in the hopes it encourages you to do the same regarding your own creative process-whatever that may be, and especially if you create in more than one medium.

Don't be afraid to to yield yourself to the shifts in seasons and rhythms, to let one replace another in the driver's seat. Scratch that-be afraid. You can be afraid. That's normal. I am about 80-90% of the time, honestly. Just don't let that fear paralyze you. I'm getting better at that-at acknowledging the fear but not allowing it to restrict my movement or expression. Be afraid, but do and give yourself fully to the process and your creativity anyway.

Year Seven


First met: August 2008

First date: July 10, 2009.

We always always always forget our anniversaries until the end of the day or the day after. Nearly 8 years ago I met him at a business meeting with a client. 7 years ago today, he took me out to dinner at Karma in Philly and we walked around Rittenhouse Square. Tonight he made me a PB&J as I updated the shop here in the site. 

8 years of knowing.

7 years of working and searching and striving and building then rebuilding. 

The years been full of difficulty and pain but also growth and striving. We're somehow still here. Our therapist said that despite how different we are from each other, she believes we're perfect for one another because we've individually survived so much. "You guys are survivors. You have a lot to offer each other that can bring healing to the both of you." I think she's right. We're survivors.

We fail and fight but somehow keep finding our way back to each other as we both evolve and find our own ways as individuals. We may be in different stages of living (hello age difference) but we're working hard to find ways to coexist and thrive together. Big personalities, big passions, big hearts, mad survival skills: that's us. I don't think I could've found a better person to learn from and partner with to raise our kids. He's the best man I've ever dated.

If I had to do it over again, I'd still say "yea, I'll go on a 'friend date' with you. Sure." (Don't ask me what a "friend date" is-it's been 7 years and we still argue about the classification of our first date. Yes, we are indeed a mess, mind yo business.)

Happy "Friend Date" Anniversary, B. For better or for worse I'm a better human, a better mother, a better believer, a more embodied woman because I am loved by you. Truly. Thank you for giving me space to find my own way and be as I heal from so many things...your love and respect and friendship are worth the work, worth the risk. Always. 

 "True love never has to hide...I trade your broken wings for mine...when you get deep you touch my mind...Nothing real can be threatened, true love breathed salvation back into me...My torturer became my remedy...Oh I've missed you my love." (All Night/Beyonce)


Lives Lost, Lives Taken


I've been quieter about it this year than I have in years past, but my silence doesn't mean I've stopped observing, processing, facing, or grappling with the reality that hate is taking lives...collecting them like trophies. I'm not lost to the fact that racism, nationalism, supremacy, extremism, and terrorism both domestic and global are obliterating innocent lives. 

Tonight I learned about Alton Sterling. This morning, Medina. Before that Baghdad. Bangladesh. Istanbul. Orlando. There's Brexit. Donald Trump is running for president on a platform rooted in willful ignorance, nationalism, and xenophobia. Police officers continue to not be held accountable for any of the brutalization or deaths they cause. 

Muslim lives. Black lives. Brown lives. Queer lives. Trans lives. Young lives. Innocent lives. Too many lives taken by hate. 

It's just too many. I don't know what to say about so much loss, but I'm bearing witness to it, and desperately hoping we find ways to do and be better for each other.I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about it getting worse before it gets any better. We deserve more than hate, fear mongering, oppression, and brutality. We deserve living, thriving, humanity. Love. We deserve love.

Don't we?  Where is it? 


I #StandWithOrlando...But I Am Culpable, Too

I have spent the days following the massacre in Orlando searching for a way to express my grief and anger over not just another mass shooting and taking of innocent lives, but also over the fact that those lives were queer and Latinx. They were targeted specifically because of their identity, orientation, and race. 49 people dancing in a safe haven on Latin Night during Pride gone. Over 50 more injured. Families and a community forever altered by domestic terrorism. I honestly spent the first 3 days not even knowing what to say. As a straight, cis identifying woman, anything I could say beyond a text of love and support to a LGBTQIA friend or loved one felt feeble, weak, inadequate, and empty. Hollow. I may be treated and viewed a certain way because of my race, but I am privileged in that I am not also attacked, targeted, or denied civil rights because of my sexual orientation or gender identity. No one is passing laws to ban me from a bathroom that matches who I am. I am not denied employment or face discrimination, or lacking adequate healthcare because my gender and expression of it conforms to what society deems acceptable. I can walk down the street and hold my husband's hand without fear of harassment. My church and family never disowned me because who I love and who I am attracted to fits what's heteronormative. I carry a form of privilege that keeps me safe and one that is not afforded to my friends and loved ones in the LGBTQIA community. I've learned this, I know it, and the massacre in Orlando has forced me to reckon with it in a new way, one that has left me at a loss. 


The truth is...I don't really have words that are appropriate. Thoughts, prayers, tears, words demanding politicians take action to protect citizens they're elected to serve-they all feel ineffective and frankly useless in these moments. They felt useless a year ago after hate and an assault rifle took 9 Black lives in Charleston, and they feel empty now that it has taken 49 lives of queer people of color and injured even more. I do not know what to say, but I also can't stay silent. So all I have is my experience to share. 

Since Sunday, I've thought about my uncle, his husband, and their children. Their smiles, my uncle's laugh and how he always understood my deep affection for Prince-so much so that he gave me his VHS copy of Joffrey Ballet's Billboards, a ballet done to Prince's music when I was 7 or 8. I think about how he's an accomplished organist, a child prodigy, and how empty the world would be without his artistry and contributions to music. I think about the comfort I always felt in his presence, and how his eyes light up when they see me, how I always, always, always feel SEEN when he looks at me. 

I think about dear friends past and present who I can't imagine not loving. Friends who have taught me by proxy how to be a better human, a better believer, a better parent to my children, a better partner to my husband. The ones who allowed me to attend my first Pride with them in DC, Baltimore, and VA when I was in the military. The ones who entrusted me to help them keep from being asked so they wouldn't have to tell and lose their careers. The ones who took me to their safe spaces to dance, the ones who helped me see beyond my own ignorance around gender and sexuality. The ones who educate me even though it is not their job to do so. The ones who have taught me about real faith, and love. 

I've also remembered my ignorance, biases, and bigotry. I've stared my complicity in the face and have been ashamed for the way I have treated others in the past in the name of a distorted interpretation of Christianity, in an errant interpretation of the Bible. Despite my own questions, I spent years as a Christian "loving the sinner but not the sin". I've spent years being conditional in my love and affirmation of people different than myself. I have spent the last 6-10 years working to disavow myself of it, but I am still culpable. I think about my best friend in 7th grade who I turned my back on when she first came out to me and started dating her girlfriend because I was a new Christian and everything I had been taught about sexuality was rooted in flawed, narrow understandings of gender and sexuality.

I've recalled the day I was driving home about 5 years ago after a friend shared her story with me about how our local church had mistreated her and her family because they were immigrants struggling to make it. I wasn't completely surprised but I was still horrified. I was nearly halfway home when the words "It's about Love. That's it. You're called to Love, A'Driane. You've been doing it wrong" punched me in the gut and pierced me in the side. I literally sat in my car on the side of the road in between New Jersey and Pennsylvania sobbing, repenting, and determining to disavow myself of any dogma or theology that wasn't rooted in love or demanded that I negate any part of a person's humanity, or deny them their full personhood. I went back and read Jesus' words with new eyes; abandoned the belief that love comes with a condition, that Christ does not accept and love us as we are, regardless of who we are or who we are naturally inclined to be attracted to. 

As I've sat with the grief and heaviness of what has happened and have once again recognized the role that religion has had in breeding the hate that triggered the attack in Orlando, I've come to two conclusions, both as someone who has been a believer of Christ and as a human being: 

I'm not a scholar or a theologian. I've taken classes, I've read a variety of texts, and I've been reading the Bible since childhood. I'm not an expert and I have no desire to spend time doing an exhaustive exegesis of Scripture to argue with anyone over this. But here is where I'm at. If God is One who cannot and does not affirm and love the wholeness, personhood, humanity, and dignity of LGBTQIA people, then what hope do I have for Him to do the same for me? I am a woman and I bleed monthly. I am Black, my ancestors were once enslaved. My brain chemistry is wired in a way that it's classified as a disorder. And my children? They are not "neurotypical".  The Bible, with all of its racial, gender, sexual, able-bodied, and ethnic biases damns us all. If the Father and the Son do not embrace and love those who are not heterosexual and gender conforming, then They do not embrace and love me and the full expression of myself either. Or my children. Or anyone. They can't. If LGBTQIA people are not worthy and deserving of life and life more abundantly as they were made and created in God's image, then neither am I...and if that's the case, then I have to conclude that Christianity and religions like it are nothing more than man-made constructs designed to oppress, marginalize, and kill. I refuse to be a believer of it, espouse its virtues, or evangelize any of its tenets as beneficial to anyone. Ever. It's either God is LOVE or there is no God...or if there is, He's awful and I'd rather spend my days in hell hating the kind of God He is...than an eternity in a heaven where only certain kinds of souls are allowed to worship and commune with Him. 

Unfortunately, as I've watched the hateful response from religious people in the wake of the massacre, the only other conclusion I've come to is that the hate being espoused and used to terrorize, brutalize, and literally kill LGBTQIA bodies and souls is unconscionable. Completely and without question. It is unconscionable to hate a person or community because you think their humanity is so different than yours. To think they have less value and worth than others. To do nothing to protect them and deny them their inalienable rights. To hate. Having access to weapons that kill is unconscionable, but so is harboring such hate for people that you refuse to affirm their whole person and right to exist, thrive and be. To not disavow yourself of beliefs, biases, and systems that don't completely and unconditionally affirm their humanity and dignity. It is immoral to do anything less. It is immoral to pray for them in the wake of this but also declare that they deserved it. 

It is unconscionable and until we dismantle this, we will continue to be culpable. Blood will continue to be on our hands. As a person and as a citizen of this country, I am committed to doing what is necessary to protect the LBGTQIA community from hate and enable their liberation. I am committed to teaching my boys how to do the same. My question and challenge to you today, especially if you are a Christian, is what will you do


“Hate may have visited our community. It’s taken the lives of innocent people. It has shaken us to our core and broken our hearts. But, hate will not define us. And, hate will not defeat us. Because we are ONE Orlando.”
- Mayor Buddy Dyer

Following the horrific tragedy at Pulse, there was a tremendous outpouring from the community seeking to provide financial support. In response, we announced the formation of the OneOrlando Fund. In the days since this tragedy, we heard from the community and our donors that there is a need for victims to receive direct funding support.

To ensure that funds are dispersed in a timely, accountable and transparent manner, we have formed a OneOrlando Board that will provide the oversight and guidance needed to support the victims of the Pulse tragedy and their families. I am pleased to announce the OneOrlando Board will be chaired by Orlando Magic President Alex Martins and will be comprised of community leaders including those in the Hispanic and LGBTQ communities most directly impacted.

As we move forward with the OneOrlando Fund we are consulting with victim fund expert Kenneth R. Feinberg, who served as the Special Master for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001, the Claims Administrator for the One Fund Boston, the Virginia Tech Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund, the Aurora Victim Relief Fund and for the BP Oil Spill Claims Administration as the Compensation Fund Administrator.

We recognize there are victims in need of support now, and we ask for your patience as we ensure we are able to assist these victims in an open, transparent and equitable manner. In the coming days and weeks we will share more with you on this process and how the community will have a voice.

Thanks to the generosity of thousands of people and our lead corporate donors from across the country, we will be able to meet the needs of victims and provide the valuable services they will need in the days, weeks and months ahead.


Donate here


The Girl on The Seesaw

I haven't been able to write about Prince's death. I still can't. I'm still struggling to process it, and the only comforts I've had are celebrating his music, the flood of videos online of performances-some of which I remember watching a young kid-and the stories being told of his philanthropy. 

I don't think I could ever face it in its entirety by trying to sum up all his life and artistry have meant to me during my 33 years of being a Purple Army member. I don't think I can pay tribute in just one piece and then move on. Just writing those sentences above has left my heart shaking. But I think what I can do is share it in pieces when the words come like they did just now. 


I'm currently working on this and it (the colors) reminded me of the Around the World in a Day album cover. I started playing the album. Got to "Paisley Park" and started sobbing as I sung it. It happens to me every time I hear it. Since I was a little kid. I don't know what it is about THAT song that breaks me open and builds me up at the same time, but that's the kind of relationship I've always had with it, since I was very young. When I was like 5 or 6, I used to dream about being the girl on the seesaw and walking around Paisley Park with a balloon. Free. Safe. Dancing with wonder and magic. Feeling music course through and lift me with each step. I still do. 


Yes, I Would Fight a Mountain Lion To The Death For Them

Hiked a bit through the Purisima Trail in Half Moon Bay this morning, and at the entrance we were met by these warnings: 


I'm supposed to fight a mountain lion if it attacks? BRUH. I can't even stomach walking past Banana Slugs! 


It was a beautiful hike though. California continues to surprise me with its wide variety of natural glory.


And yea...I may lose my guts to a banana slug, but I'd definitely fight a mountain lion to the death for these 4, because, legacies must continue.  "IWouldDie4U"-no question. 


#100DayProject Day 24: Washes

24 days ago I joined artist Elle Luna's #100DayProject Instagram challenge to make or do something for 100 days. Participants are doing all kinds of marvelous things, but I decided to focus on either writing or painting (#100DaysOfWordsPlusPaint). One of my creative goals for 2016  I started off strong, but then got sick for a week, so I'm a bit behind. I haven't decided if I'll make up the days I've lost along the rest of the way, or just let them be what they were (days I couldn't do a damn thing) and silence any self-inflicted guilt I have about it. 

At any rate, today is day 24 and I'm easing my way back into the studio by continuing to experiment with with washes-a technique I started exploring before The Plague hit. 

Wash= Water + paint, mixed, spilled and splashed across a it with the brayer/hands/brush/tilt of the paper or canvas, lay flat, wait for it to dry, repeat with a new (or the same) color. Effect: intriguing stains of color. 

Artist who piqued my curiosity and sparked my desire to give washes a try: Heather Day


Here's to trying new things and pushing myself and my creative process to go farther than I think is possible.  

Am I Enough?

I've been reading through think pieces, texts, and comment threads the last few days and while somewhat enlightened and challenged to think a bit more critically about the systems of patriarchy and oppression, I've also questioned if I'm "feminist" enough. From what I've been reading, (and quite possibly, according to bell hooks and other 2nd wave feminist ideals and theory) the answer is no. 

I wonder, then what would it take, to be enough...of anything? Of every identity I embody? I honestly don't know. What I do know is that I've spent nearly every day of my 33 years not feeling

"Safe" enough

"Good" enough

"Black" enough

"Feminine" enough

"Thick" enough

"Thin" enough

 "Smart" enough

"Nice" enough

"Pretty" enough

"Woke" enough

"Radical" enough

"Progressive/Liberal" enough

"Woman" enough

"Mother" enough

"Wife" enough

"Christian" enough

"Mentally stable" enough

"Old" enough

"Strong" enough

"Brave" enough

"Educated" enough

and on and on and on the list goes.  

In this moment of frustration and weariness I feel like lead in my bone marrow, I just want to know when will I be enough? Is enough attainable? Is liberation attainable? If so, for whom? Is it for the Black, straight, able bodied, cis woman and stay at home mother living with bipolar disorder who enjoys sex when she isn't exhausted, being feminine, wearing make up, and looking fly as hell for herself and her man, who ALSO grew up with abuse and dysfunction in her childhood? If I'm not able to be enough, and I can't get free, how can anyone else who's far more vulnerable and has less privilege than I do?

I don't mean to whine or complain as much as simply express my exasperation with these standards that seem to always be out of reach...with this constant barrage of messaging both within patriarchal systems and academic schools of thought that imply nothing I do or am will ever be enough. Nor will anyone else unless you got their ideals and standards and live out the "truth" according to how they've constructed it. (Or maybe this is just a big whine. Whatever. I'm being honest. Snark away. These are the thoughts ruminating on a loop in my anxious mind as I attempt to fall asleep at 12:04am.) 

There are just these moments when it is overwhelming to take in and the tension of bearing it suffocates. I'm committed to working to disavow myself of as much bigotry, bias, and conditioned bullshit as possible...but I have to be honest and admit that there are moments when I question if it'll ever be enough-for myself or for anyone else and their freedom. How CAN we get free? When will women (all who identify as such) have the grace, compassion, space, autonomy, and agency to simply just B E? 

It feels like a pipe dream.  


Painter Selfie

I've worked really hard over the last 2 years to believe I am an artist, a painter, a woman who communicates stories, ideas, and messages about living through color and brushstrokes. 

I believe it. I own it. When people ask, I reply with "I'm an artist, I paint"-not stay at home mom, not veteran, not even writer. I am all of these things, of course...but at my core, I am an artist and I've finally gained the confidence to no longer doubt it. I might be a terrible one, or perhaps one day I'll be one who is considered "good" and widely known, but I'm much less concerned about either, and just reveling in feeling so grounded and secure in who I am. I grew up with so little self agency or autonomy so this season of being rooted firmly in knowing who I am  feels like undulating liberation. I'll take it. 

To celebrate this victory, I took a selfie. As you do. 


Art as Protest: Nate Parker's 'Birth of a Nation' Trailer is Here

After stunning the crowds and critics at Sundance, winning The Grand Jury Prize and Audience award, and garnering a record breaking $17.5 million deal from Fox Searchlight, Nate Parker's Birth of a Nation has had folks like myself eagerly awaiting a trailer. It's the story of Nat Turner's uprising in Virginia before the Civil War, a story that Nate himself said he wanted to tell, to #ReclaimTheNarrative around the history of slavery in this country.



The first teaser trailer was released today and...well...intense is an understatement. It instantly had me as Nina Simone's cover of  "Strange Fruit" plays over and in the background of the scenes. Take a look...

I'm sitting here with chills. Initially I wasn't sure if I wanted to see another movie about slavery and Black pain...but when I realized who did the writing and directing...and that it was coming from our perspective, I decided that yes, this is a movie I need to see. I'm all for #ReclaimingTheNarrative and for those of us in the margins having the means to tell our histories-silent and otherwise-free of White washing and concern for White comfort. I'm grateful to artists like Nate who are using their art to challenge, uplift, and foster dialogue around critical issues of injustice.  

 “I made this film for one reason, with the hope of creating change agents. That people can watch this film and be affected,” he said. “That you can watch this film and see that there were systems that were in place that were corrupt and corrupted people and the legacy of that still lives with us. I just want you, if you are affected and you are so moved, to ask yourself, ‘Are there systems in my life that need attention whether it be racial, gender?’ There are a lot of injustices.”-Nate Parker

 Birth of a Nation is set for release in October of this year. 

Coping With Rejection and Mixed Episodes (Part One)

I've been pitching my words + art to various publications and places almost weekly since January. Some incredible opportunities have come my way over the last few months from simply sharing my work + process out there on Instagram, but I've yet to have a pitch accepted. Overall the rejections haven't impacted me too greatly. I've only had two really hit me in the gut and one of them came to my inbox yesterday. 5% of it what was mentioned about the paintings I submitted was constructive. 95% of it wasn't and that 95% crushed me unexpectedly when I read it. 

I'm also experiencing my first mixed episode in months. Cycling through slight hypomania (which for me usually manifests as agitation & anxiety) and depression simultaneously is unsettling. My thoughts form, splinter or fracture into bits, then fuse together repeatedly and trying to get anything substantial done is damn near futile. I always feel untethered and raw, like an exposed nerve ending when I experience these types of episodes. I'm assuming that's why yesterday's rejection landed like a sucker punch to my soul instead a slight but bearable sting like the others before it. 

To cope, I did two things: abandoned my To-Do list and allowed myself to get lost in painting without thinking. It got me through the day and served as my oxygen mask.

That's what painting has become for me...the oxygen I need to survive.  


Paint and Meditation: Audre Lorde's "Uses of Anger"


"Women of Color in America have grown up within a symphony of anger at being silenced at being unchosen, at knowing that when we survive, it is in spite of a world that takes for granted our lack of humanness, and which hates our very existence outside of its service. And I say symphony rather than cacophony because we have had to learn to orchestrate those furies so that they do not tear us apart. We have had to learn to move through them and use them for strength and force and insight within our daily lives. Those of us who did not learn this difficult lesson did not survive. And part of my anger is always libation for my fallen sisters.

Anger is an appropriate reaction to racist attitudes, as is fury when the actions arising from those attitudes do not change. To those women here who fear the anger of women of Color more than their own unscrutinized racist attitudes, I ask:  Is the anger of women of Color more threatening than the woman-hatred that tinges all aspects of our lives? It is not the anger of other women that will destroy us but our refusals to stand still, to listen to its rhythms, to learn within it, to move beyond the manner of presentation to the substance, to tap that anger as an important source of empowerment. I cannot hide my anger to spare you guilt, nor hurt feelings, nor answering anger; for to do so insults and trivializes all our efforts. Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness."

-From Audre Lorde's "The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism", 1981