“You’re No Maya Angelou!” :: Musings of an Iconic Black Woman Artist

When I received that email, something stirred deeply inside of me. It was that feeling when I encounter someone who doesn’t see me as the beautiful, gifted being that I am—and in fact, they let it be known that they certainly do not love or believe in me. With all the work I’ve done to love myself, it’s rare that I encounter such people—but when I do, it is literally a slap in the face.”

I recently screened my film, Reflections Unheard: Black Women in Civil Rights at Millersville University. I clearly remember the months and weeks leading up to this event. The elderly black woman who proposed the screening event was so short with me from the beginning that I actually wrote the entire thing off, due to bad vibes. I figured it wasn’t worth the hassle and went about my business.

Then a couple of months later, I received a surprise call from her assistant. They were indeed still planning the screening event, and they were offering me the funding which I requested, which was a lot of money. I knew then more than ever how important it was for me to take that opportunity so that I could move onto the next chapter in my life…so I obliged.

Over the next few weeks, communication between myself, my host, and her assistant was so disorganized, that I felt like the entire event was resting on a flimsy foundation. Most of the time, it was me reaching out to straighten out basic fundamentals.

The tables were turned. I was invited as the honorary Guest, yet I was doggedly pursuing these people as if my life depended on it.

It didn’t feel good.

The scattered communication continued throughout the very day of the event, with plenty of (literal) last-minute demands placed on me to provide information for tax forms, addresses, schedules, and general things that should have been dealt with months before on their end.

I stayed consistent, feeling annoyed but never complaining. I had given up on the glamour of being treated as an Honorary Guest. This was purely Biz-Ne$$. I needed to get mines.

When I finally made it to Millersville, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. It was finally happening, and I was getting paid to do something I actually enjoyed—share my story as an Artist with new faces. Everything fell into place.

I sensed from the beginning what kind of crowd I might encounter at this event, and gauged how I should dress, accordingly. Having lived as a free woman in Los Angeles for the past year, I was accustomed to dressing sensually. I thought of wearing my favorite booty shorts and high socks with a frilled English blouse.

Nope. It was the NAACP—that definitely wouldn’t fly. So, I decided to wear something that was still stylish, yet a little more conservative. The last thing I needed was extra hassle over my wardrobe. As it worked out, the weather was chilly enough to justify my extra layers. Still, I questioned the reasoning behind my initial motives.

Am I wearing a mask to please others?

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