I am a human being. I am then a father, lover, and artist.
I have the pleasure of experiencing some of the most beautiful and amazing things that folks can see. At times i wonder if God (whichever name God may be going by today) puts me in some of these situations for me to translate the beauty for others to be able to experience. During a panel discussion with Sonya Renee Taylor, she mentioned today that artists sometimes are granted the chance to experience more life so that we can present it to others and inspire more life. That may be something that i agree with. I’ve been chased by mountain lions and have taken six shots of tequila and rode huge roller coasters (and survived). I’ve been held at gun point and rocked stages up and down the east coast. I have certainly been blessed. As an artist I use this to fuel my work.
But everything isn’t perfect in the world of being a performance poet.
Folks often have the misconception that you are making more money than you are letting on, or that groupies are constantly swooning at your doorsteps. Relationships become strained by the stress of a traveling artist, even in my case where there is only a 45 minute distance between me and my family. Though these things can seem trivial to some, it’s the price for one’s passion. You plan ahead and situations still fall through. You miss birthday celebrations, I love yous, and kisses. this takes a toll. The first thing I said in this post is I’m a human, immediately followed by father.
But this post isn’t really about all of that…
This post is about balance.
See, I’ve been working a festival for the last couple of weeks here in DC; it’s an amazing opportunity that is nationally recognized and I’m getting tons of press based on the event already. It’s a paid event, which is great because there are a lot of things that I need to buy and handle financially with my family and life. But also, I have had the chance to inform people about HIV/AIDS through poetic activism. It has been a great experience. Today, I believe I spoke and performed in front of nearly 400 people, in 106 degree weather! It was amazing.
And then I walked home to SouthEast DC.
See, I’m 400 dollars in debt to the bank and have no cash at all. I honestly have no idea how I’m going to get to the festival tomorrow and perform. I’ve had to put off some really important things that I’ve wanted to do simply because I didn’t have the funds. And today, after rocking that crowd, I tapped my bus pass to realize I was -1.25 on my card. So I walked home.
And I’m not complaining.
There is a balance to being an artist; an understanding that I’m not sure the audience gets. I’ll make sure rent gets paid. If Darius ever needs something, I do my damnedest to make sure he has it. But when I’m hungry, sometimes starving is what it is. Sometimes you rock a show for the free meal. Sometimes you go to the open mic with hopes of selling your books, 5 bucks here, a sold scarf there… this is how your ends become friends; they first must be introduced.
I’m often asked “Dwayne, you have all these ‘accolades’, how do you keep from getting a big head?” Sure, I’m getting the Congressional Black Caucus Foundations Emerging leader award this year. Yeah, I’ve been interviewed by Voice of America, BBCAmerica, Washington Post. Uh Huh, I’m rocking crowds at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, touching hearts 400 at a time. I’m also walking back to southeast without a penny in my pocket. It’s the balance. There is nothing more humbling than knowing that you can do all of those things and still be at the will of someone else’s kindness.
In a way, it’s beautiful.
It’s painful to walk alone, but beautiful to know that today someone else wont be alone in their thoughts.
It’s painful to be broke, but beautiful to know that the money will come and things will work out.
It’s the ultimate exercise in patience. And I look forward to practicing again tomorrow.
Peace and safety,
PS: if you are in DC tomorrow, come check me and Mary Bowman out at the National Mall for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. We will be at the “Red Hot” stage at 11:30 or just tweet at me @crochetkingpin