Got Voice? Use It! - Stephanie Renée
Mar 2, 2014

Giving honor to our God-given gifts through exercising them, often

My fears about being the featured act last Friday were foundless, it turns out.

My gift of gab did not leave me or fail me in front of a very appreciative audience at my recent performance, and for that I am most grateful. A few days beforehand, I had quite a few doubts. In preparation for poetry shows, I often use my downtime at home to mentally speedread through my designated verses, and I had a brainfart in the middle of one of my signature pieces. Total silent voice writer's block. It was most unsettling. Had me rethinking my entire approach to the show, but thankfully my cooler head prevailed and said, "Chill, chica! Come back to it tomorrow."

As it turns out, I completely reworked my gameplan for the program in the minutes before I strolled to the host's house. Perhaps one of the calming, guiding forces was the spirit of my late father. Last Friday was his birthday, so I felt his benevolent presence hovering over me all day long, keeping a watchful eye over his baby girl. But make no mistake...Daddy was a performance taskmaster. The mere thought of his disdainful glance if I forgot any words or hit a sour note somehow pushed me back into my comfort zone. I was remembering lyrics of poems I hadn't performed in years! Some of them would have made Daddy blush, so I kept them to myself. But I did end up sharing pieces that were at least a decade old, with the same enthusiasm I had when they were freshly memorized and ready for the crowd.

When I think back over the past two decades, there are countless moments that involved me being in the company of creatives, trying out new material of my own and being awed by the cloud of fertile energy that oozed from them. Whether we were freestyling musical interludes or trading rhymes, the beauty of performance is about reciprocity: acknowledging one's gifts, offering them to the world, and being open to the flow that returns to you because of your bravery. It is a selfish pleasure, wanting to inspire and be inspired, all at once. And standing in the midst of the flow is bliss. A divine oneness that I miss, a lot.

So, in 2014 I intend to open myself up to the process again. Not sure exactly what that means yet, but I know it's overdue. I've been flipping through old photos of me on stage, and the one constant is the look of peace and joy on my face. As Carrie Mae Weems said in her acceptance speech at the BET Honors award program, when she held a camera for the first time, she just knew that it was a tool that was intended for her to amplify her voice to the world. And so it is with me and a microphone. Time to turn the volume up and get my high-wattage smile back, plugged fully into the Divine Source.

Here is last week's playlist: