What does my art work, my writing, my commitment to human rights and social justice, a little courage and my bucket list have to do with one another? As it turns out there are a myriad of connections between and amongst them. Had it not been for my creativity, dedication, stubbornness, and a healthy desire to do a few things before I die, I would not have had the nerve to initiate the opportunity to meet one of my Sheroes.
Adversity and exhilaration both have a way of forcing you to find coping mechanisms that keep you resilient enough to live another day. You know that when people are placed in unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations there are signs that a war is raging deep within but there are only a few indicators that betray their cool? You know, like their face turns red, or colour flushes into their cheeks, or they start sweating or fidgeting…Well, I’m kind of the opposite. I get very still and appear very calm and focused despite the fact that all these pistons are firing internally; there is little indication of the turmoil or my readiness to act externally. And if forced to act or speak there tends to be a hiccup in my delivery and of course the message comes out muddled. I am told that it isn’t as bad as I think it is…but friends and family have to say that, right?
On March 27th, 2013 something happened to me out of the ordinary that I couldn’t have foreseen, even two months earlier. Besides the fact that I was able to travel with one of my best friends to spend time with my daughter and her friend while listening to speakers on the topic of leadership, higher education and the prison industrial complex; it was also the day that I was privileged enough to be personally introduced to Dr. Angela Davis.
Dr. Angela Davis
When my daughter text me a month prior to our meeting, that Dr. Davis was going to be the inaugural speaker and part of the Leadership for Higher Education initiative, hosted by her University, I knew that somehow I had to find my way there. Meeting Dr. Davis was one of the things on my bucket list. So I decided to step out of my comfort zone and ask the University a simple question, “Have you selected a thank you gift for Dr. Davis?” I offered my Modern Batik Art “The First Ladies”, from the Chosen series, as a possible option. After several conversations, I was connected to Grace Pollock, PhD. As co-director of The Public Intellectuals Project, Grace was able to not only answer my questions but also provide me with suggestions as well. So it would be my honour to offer my painting to Dr. Davis to show my appreciation for her life long commitment to leadership, education, social justice and activism.
Making my pilgrimage I felt like the little drummer boy, but without percussive instruments. I was being led to meet this pillar within our global community and I had nothing to give, except for my gifts of art and writing. I so hoped that she would be pleased with my selection and that the gift would be treasured.
Dr. Angela Davis arrived at Liuna Station and was led into a waiting room, where I had not 15 minutes before placed my artwork, a thank you card and my poetry book “Human is the Race, Woman is an Experience”. Grace then escorted my daughter and me to the room and introduced me. A funny thing happened then. Remember what I said before about when people are facing adversity or exhilaration what happens? Well, this was definitely the latter but, you guessed it…it happened. When Grace introduced me I had no introduction left and whatever was supposed to come next simply disappeared from my thoughts and the message became muddled. I stumbled over my words and try as I might, I couldn’t stop myself. I recall saying that I was the artist who created the work and I think I managed to introduce my daughter by her correct name, although I’m not sure I got that right either. Then I mentioned that it was an honour to meet her and I was looking forward to her presentation. I asked if she would mind taking a picture with me and the painting (and if I was thinking I would have included my daughter) to which she graciously agreed. My daughter took a picture of me looking up at her, while I said, “You are much taller than I thought you would be”. She smiled politely, while I cringed inwardly. The picture you see below is one in which I managed to stop talking and simply smile… (Par-rup-a-pom-pom Rup-a-pom-pom Rup-a-pom-pom)
Dr. Davis then took the time to identify the three leaders, Coretta Scott King, Winnie Mandela and Michelle Obama, in the painting. She graciously thanked me for having presented her with my beautiful painting and being so thoughtful. And as my daughter and I left Dr. Davis went back to reading the thank you card, I had prepared for her, with a smile on her face. My daughter assures me that I appeared quite calm; I spoke well and seemed to be at ease in the situation. By the grace of God I certainly hope that she is right and that she is not just saying that because she is my beautiful and empathetic daughter.