Kayla and i go waaaay back; back to our TWU undergrad modern dance days. Even back then, Kayla has always been a changemaker—the kind of person that once they see that there’s an inequality, an injustice sets out immediately to make it right.
We’ve been working together for the last 3 years and i’ve helped her on numerous projects: artistic statements, bios, dance/artists fellowships and grants, and building and designing her newsletter.
But this last fall she came to me with a unique project that sounded fun, but i knew somewhere in my gut would be something way more profound than just another writing/editing job.
Kayla is a Model Special Education Teacher at Highbridge Green School in The Bronx. And the kids she teaches have seen a lot of life. Sides and shadows of it that you and i in our privilege will perhaps never know outside of television and movie depictions. And, with her 2019 all-male class, she wanted to do her teaching and curriculum differently. One of the things she wanted to do was put together a book made up of their poetry and memoirs and she hired me to help bring her vision to life.
Not only did i copyedit the student’s work, design the front and back covers (as well as the interior), i also got to meet and talk with each student individually—like i do for all my regular writing clients. In these sessions, we riffed about why they wanted to tell this particular story, what they wanted their readers to get out of it. i talked about the importance of self-expression and writing as a tool for initiating change as we read through their stories of survival and strength—traits most of them didn’t even know they had.
At the end of the first round of sessions, i started bawling.
Bawling because never in my 41 years of life had i ever been in the presence of so much raw talent, so much potential, so much life experience in minds and bodies so young. Eyes that have seen so much. Lives that, thanks to the internet and social media, i was able to connect to all the way from my home office in Dallas, TX. Lives that i hope more than anything that i have somehow managed—through my love of self-expression, creativity, and art— to change.
i left this project more resilient and determined to do the work i’ve been called to … to help artists and creatives who want to change and/or heal the world with their art and creativity make art. To help Othered artists express themselves. To help them harness their otherness into their power and into powerful art.
More than any guru or mentor i have read, hired, or worked with, these 12 kids changed my life.
They may grow up and forget me, but i will NEVER EVER EVER forget them.
Their book, Allow Me To Introduce Myself, and the work i did with them, is #1 thing that i am most proud of accomplishing this year—hell, maybe even in my whole life.
i am honored to share the book with you. You can download the book and read these kid’s powerful poetry and stories, HERE.
Please note, that the book has been modified from its original format in order to protect the kid’s privacy.
But their visual removal does not impact the spirit of unbreakablity this book encompasses and inspires.
P.S. This article is from my larger essay, 42 Life-Altering Discoveries & Lessons That Have Made Me Shift BIG TIME! You can read the other 41 here.