For some of us, there is a knowing - a divine inclination that points us in the direction of our truth, our higher purpose or calling. For others of us, there is a moment, or series of moments in life that lead to the unfolding of our destinies. Within this conversation, Gray Area writers Jodi, Tanicia and Kevanté meditate on the moments of their becoming, the times when seeds were sown for them to reap the harvest of their realities and sit comfortably in truths that they are indeed, artists.
Jodi: Hey guys! It’s great to be back in this here chatroom again! I hope that you are well. How is it really going?
Tanicia: Everything's going well so far. Working on planning out my life and career for this month until the end of year. Just grateful to be making progress.
Kevanté: I’m doing much better than I was the last time we met. I’ve been decluttering, detaching, cleansing, returning to myself again. It’s been an interesting few weeks to say the least. But how’ve you been, Jodi?
J: I have been b u s y. Our BFA graduate exhibition is finally being installed this weekend so I have been pulling crazy hours trying to get everything done. Moreover, my laptop’s hard drive decided to conch out on me and we only have three more weeks of classes left. Guess who has at least two research papers due in two weeks? Guess whose research was on said laptop? I digress.
K: Honestly, the Universe has this strange sense of humor I can’t seem to grapple with sometimes. It’s like she wants us to lose our shit only to show us, she’s got us in the end. My question to her always is: but why? Lol. I have no doubt you’ll kick ass, though! I’m excited for this graduate exhibition too. Your social media teasers have been giving me life!
J: Tanicia, sounds like you’re doing exactly what I should be doing lol and honestly, Kevanté, I am not even taking that on, I’m just taking life one day at a time. I am excited for it too to be honest, and I guess that this is a good way to segue into my first question: What is your earliest memory of creating something of importance to you? As you to are literary artist among other disciplines, what is your earliest memory of writing something that captured you or what song was it that you sung that made your heart feel like that was right?
T: Well, I guess my earliest memory of writing comes from my knack of journaling. I always had a diary and had (still have) an obsession with getting new notebooks. Everyday I would document my time in school and doodle images underneath them about what happened. The one journal entry I can remember is the time in 5th grade where my crush stole something from me and was running around the class with it. I got so mad and poured chocolate milk over his head. I titled the story, “Got Milk?
K: Lol, that’s a funny one, T! And also very coincidental. Maybe it’s something about 5th grade that sparks a flame within writers? I actually had three moments that lead me to believe: “damn, this is really something I could do and be paid (or not) for.” Firstly - will y’all cancel me if I said the lyrics to I Believe I Can Fly by R Kelly sparked something in me at 4 years old? Lol. To this day, I still find myself singing the words from time to time and feeling encouraged to actually get shit done. It was my preschool graduation song, so it kind of stuck. My other two moments were with my 5th and 6th grade teacher (may she always live in love) who just so happened to be the same person. I got caught writing in my diary and one of my classmates (I remember her name but I’m not going to say it for obvi reasons lol) stole the diary and read what I wrote aloud, and everyone found out about my crush at the time - I was flushed; but my then teacher pulled me to the side after all of it and was like, “you really wrote that though? You’re good!” The third instance was when I had an essay published by the school’s yearbook committee in the yearbook of my graduating year that the same teacher so happened to spearhead. After that, I heavily considered writing as a profession more than a craft or hobby, if that makes sense? When did you have that moment, Jodi?
J: Lol, no, maybe a time-out but not a cancel? I kid! It does make sense though. But, Tanicia, Got Milk? Though lol. I legit was chuckling in this chair.
For me, things were a bit different. My mother is artistic, so we spent time drawing together since I could write so to pinpoint on specific moment of realizing that I had a talent is hard. I always found myself drawing and doodling because my mom was drawing and doodling. Furthermore, my school’s administration knew that I had artistic potential so they always made me do all sorts of little competitions and projects. In the 6th grade, they assigned us a group project for a government art competition for a campaign. The guidelines and regulations escape me at the moment. However, me, being the natural born leader that I am, took it upon myself to assemble the group, designate tasks, and sketch out our plan. Obviously this intended group project became a solo effort, and I was very proud of the work. Long story short, I got awarded for the piece and accepted my little ribbon in front of the whole school during assembly. And I was like, yeah fuckers, I did that shit.
K: I’d argue you being the Capricorn you are inspired you to delegate the work to get shit done lol. But you know n****s can never be faithful. Especially not in primary school. Dudes be acting like they got a 9-5 job how they can’t go home and get work done. They got ¼ of the assignment to complete and can’t follow through with it. Smt - clearly this is bringing back some memories lol. But, I’d also say, from what it seems, your moment could have been the 6th grade assignment? If you choose to see it as such, though.
J: While typing that I was like look how Kevanté bout to call out my Capricorn ass lol.
K: Well, you know I’m Cap rising, so I’m about that life by association lol.
T: I’m definitely Pringles rising in Uranus so I can’t relate to what y’all are saying.
K: Lmao, Tanicia don’t kill me please!
J: Haha! I mentioned my mom drawing and doodling with me as a child. Through that, I tried to draw like her and really be as good as her for a long while. So, I’m wondering what aspects of your environment has helped you to hone your interest into the craft?
T: Y’all are some boss chicas. I think it’s so cool how you bond with your parents over art. My mom has always been a slick sales talker while I was just in the bathroom - my quiet self - writing, drawing or on the computer (when the internet came around). But in regards to my environment… honestly it’s a bit tricky to pinpoint the elements that allowed me to hone my craft. I grew up on a small street/cul de sac called “Tork Nall Court” and there wasn’t much kids to play with. So, me being a bored, then- only child. I just used my imagination to it’s full potential. I think I picked up writing at school. I was always the poet and would get my friends into poetry and journaling in high school. There was a period where I learned the keyboard and would write songs to it. Also a period of comics and making paper dolls and paper clothes. Then, when I learned poetry in primary school, I started writing more of that. But I didn’t really have much push or support in writing.
My mom was in sales/tourism and my dad was a banker - who harshly considered careers like banking, finance, business etc. I would just do it because I was bored and it’s what I liked. There was, however, this moment that changed my idea of careers though. In grade 10 was the first time I was introduced to a fundamental art class. My teacher was a British senior we called “Ms. B”, and she really opened my perspective on using your creativity as a career. I really got into illustration, fashion design, interior design etc. and wanted to go to Parsons. But looking back know, I know that wasn’t meant for me. I literally ran away from English class because it was boring AF, and always doubted my writing. It was just something I did to get in touch with my emotions. So yea, Ms. B really influenced my idea of having a creative career but I was still lost on what my passion was up until I went to college. Of course now, my environment is filled with tons of creatives that I could’ve never imagined before graduating high school. So it’s more pressure now - or motivation - to continue to create. So I would say my home and school environment and then circle of influence had a hand in realizing & honing my craft
K: When I was younger I would always create my own cards and write my own words or phrases in the cards to gift to loved ones for birthdays, as “get well soon” encouragements or reminders on how much their presence means to me. My mom pointed it out one day and said, “you’re always so creative, Kevanté. You’ve always been so creative.” So, from designing cards to joining after school creative writing clubs to having such an encouraging mother, I’d say my environment supported my mission from the get-go - even if I hadn’t quite figured it out as yet. I remember being in 7th grade and coming home from school after a family life class where the topic for that day was Careers and telling my mom, “I think I want to be a linguist” and her saying, “I believe in you”. Now of course, that decision changed at least 5x over the next 5 years from architect to literature teacher (because I was such a lit geek and was heavily inspired by my lit high school teacher at the time) to french teacher to art teacher to journalist. It just kept switching up, but was always something within the arts and for every time, my mom would be like, “I’m here to support whatever it is you say you want to do”.
My dad on the other hand “always knew I’d go with journalism” as my major in college because I “always had an inquisitive mind”. He hadn’t lied though. I questioned every. single. thing as a child. To the point where they used to kick me out the living room and force me into my bedroom to do my own reading and research of the things that interested me. Now, I’d say my art teacher from 7-12 may have encouraged me to stay the hell away from visual arts and every and any attempt at it lol. Not because I was terrible at it or didn’t have the drive, talent or gall, but if you went to SAS, you know who I’d be speaking of. That woman was simply insane, lol *insert sweating smiling emoji here*. But yeah, english and lit were always my fave classes and I’d say I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by both parents and teachers who supported my mission.
T: My mom tried to get me to be a Lawyer or a Forensic Scientist just because I liked watching detective shows with her. -skull emoji- Couldn’t trust a child like me. I literally feel sometimes that I wanna do/try everything at once.
I notice a pattern between teachers and parents influencing your career path. For me, English class was not encouraging for my writing at all. It was all boring narrative essays like “What I did for Summer”. But when I read my work aloud for other teachers it made me feel good. And with my parents, they either wanted me to do something that made sense for them and allowed me to do creative stuff as a hobby. Noone saw creative path as a real career. It’s so funny now because as I continue to show them how serious I am about this, my family’s now telling me story about how I would write songs and poetry since as I 5. Hey, I can’t be resentful for not getting more of that push from adults in my environment. I’m so grateful now because it was a path I had to realize on my own. And God keeps giving me signs, through people and opportunities, that this is my light.
J: SPEAK ON THAT HYA! I love telling people that I failed my Art BGCSEs. I did not fail because I did not have “talent”; I didn’t have the range. My art teacher was grossly overworked, underpaid and undersupplied. Because I was artistic, she spent more time with other students who needed more help. However, I needed help too lol. I don’t hold any of that against her or the high school I attended. My parents honed my artistic sensibility. They encouraged me in whatever I wanted to do, and I thank them for it. I’m grateful for them and my high school principal for trying to push me as best as they could although their knowledge was limited. I think that’s because of a lack of exposure and where the community was at the moment. So, I took opportunities, I challenged myself, I started replicating other people’s work to teach myself different techniques. I also attended a summer camp where Allan Wallace was an instructor and that was pivotal for me. To be honest, I am just now gaining confidence in the fact that I can be a studio artist. I try to be super sensitive to any child’s dream of becoming anything. If someone tells me that they want to be a doctor fly, I’m going to research and find out how that’s possible.
I think it is critical to encourage people to go after something and allow them to decide if it is for them or not and allow them space to make that decision. Ever since I’ve made that decision to be who I am, an artist, like you said Tanicia, I’m receiving signs that this is my light as well.
So final question, what advice would you give to someone who feel as though they have an artistic seed but doesn’t know how to cultivate it?
K: I’d suggest taking a look back. Getting to introspection. Questioning your people… and by people, I mean your loved ones - the people you grew up with and around who have influenced your life in some way or the other. They might be able to point you back to the light within and perhaps even advise how you can cultivate that light. The process of cultivation doesn’t look any particular way either; it’s unique to you and your journey. Be patient with your journey as well because it is indeed a step by step thing. So if today you feel like artist and tomorrow you do not, that’s okay too. The good thing is, your feelings doesn’t necessarily negate what the truth of the matter is. I also want to make clear too - not to get lost in the sauce i.e. the introspective process. After you’ve unfolded and uncovered the magic within, what next of your mission?
T: All of what Kevante just said. Also, spend more time listening to your spirit. Taking time out of each day to quietly meditate on your life and where you want to go. For me, I remember asking myself on a drive to work “What is it that you wish you would accomplish?” and out of nowhere I said out loud “I want to be a poet laureate.” Woah. Nici. Where did that come from? My spirit. Whenever the spirit leads me to write I poem. I listen, and I obey. Sometimes you may also find your artistic seed in others. Is there a successful artist, you follow that gives you a discomfort (or jealousy) in the pit of your stomach? Gal, Maybe your purpose isn’t Wed Development, maybe its… cosplay design (shoutout to Shannon Collins). Another way is to just starting ANYTHING artistic that you find cool. with dabbling in different art forms you eventually find one that is your light. So… start mother fuckers.
J: Wow, yes! If I could double tap on your answers to like them, trust me I would. I feel all of that, bey, honestly. I wholeheartedly agree. I think sometimes we get caught up in what we think we should look like or be like to be this thing that were destined to be. The preconceived notion of what our artistry should manifest as hinders us from moving forward so, that was great advice.
Thank you both for your time! This was a great conversation and I hope that it inspires someone.
Kevanté Cash is a "Writer + poet + publicist"... or at least that's what her email signature reads. She credits her Piscean nature and idolization of Badu for the maintenance of her fluidity and duality. You can typically find her immersed in literature, curating her IG stories to fit an 'artsy, self-love' vibe, hanging with friends to discuss the latest in pop culture + astrology or journaling for healing’s sake. She holds a BA in Media Journalism from The University of The Bahamas and acts as Gray Area's chief editor.
Jodi Minnis is a multi-disciplinary artist from Nassau, Bahamas based in Tampa, Florida (at the moment). Her work focuses on the intersections of gender, race and culture in Bahamian society. She also makes work that tethers and exposes the lines of the personal and the political. The artistic director of Gray Area, she holds an Associates in Fine Arts from the College of The Bahamas and is pursuing a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of Tampa.
Tanicia Pratt is a writer, poet and performer from Nassau, Bahamas. Her life is a gray area; often reflected in her work + identity. She is unpredictable. Lover of ‘whatever’s interesting’...and coffee. Tanicia holds a BA in Marketing from The University of the Bahamas. Creative Director of Gray Area.