History, Legacy, Authenticity
Mar 31, 2013

Embracing the often-prickly path of growing into ourselves

Hopefully, most of you who will read this blog attended our SISTERS SPEAK event on March 30, and have had a chance to begin processing the powerful lessons each panelist provided on the subjects of growing and healing. Judging by the long line of people who left the discussion and purchased materials from our speakers, not only did you feel the messages they shared, but you also wanted to continue the healing at your own pace at home. There were two concepts that struck a familiar chord with me...that I've spent part of my Easter Sunday acknowledging and letting sink in. One about suffering, and one about authenticity.

In the fall of 2007, I was as firmly "in the zone" of my own life as I ever have been. I had spent the first few months of the year as a resident vocalist for a night club in Singapore, enjoying the excitement of an international lifestyle and doing something I loved overseas, yet realizing that there were still ups and down to being a woman creative in a sea full of male musicians and executives with plans and objectives that were not necessarily in my best interest. After returning to Philadelphia, I landed a long-term substitute teaching gig at a Catholic girls' high school, where I helped young ladies find their oratorical voices, embrace their opinions and dissect intent and beauty in film. And when the school year ended, I was offered a new job developing an intensely-beautiful multimedia curriculum for a local non-profit that explored the ways in which the creative arts and our spiritual selves connect. I was fulfilled and happy. And yet, after the recession hit and troubles began coming to the doorstep of people I know and love, I had a tell-all conversation with another artist friend about how guilty I felt for my good fortune. That somehow, when the stuff starts rolling downhill, I was supposed to get mowed down along with everyone else. Suffering, as a matter of course. As an inevitability.

On the matter of authenticity, after SISTERS SPEAK, I had the pleasure of viewing the latest performance from tap dancing phenom Savion Glover, as one of the opening shows for the 2013 Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. I've been awed by Savion's talent ever since I first saw him at age 12 or so, dancing beside one of my all-time favorites, Gregory Hines. From the the cute little kid with "nice feet," to the brilliant co-creator of Bring In Da Noize, Bring In Da Funk, Savion has proven to be a world-class repository of the styles and skills he's absorbed from the many tap dance legends who groomed him. So I didn't care about knowing the premise of Saturday night's show before I took my seat. I just expected excellence. And Savion delivered ten-fold, in a jaw-dropping improvisational piece full of percussive mastery. Some of the other patrons were less than impressed, however, from the rumblings heard as the crowd dispersed. It seems that some people couldn't appreciate Savion's skills because the elevated stage was designed to not allow them a look at his feet. The accompanists were also hidden from sight. The point, I thought, was to LISTEN. To hear what Savion's feet were saying in their intricate patterns. To acknowledge the genuine growth and artistry of this maturing man. But some people could only appreciate his performance if it catered to their predispositions. They had no interest in stepping outside of their expectations to acknowledge the beauty of his authentic gift.

A year into my professional journey with WURD, I understand much more about the need to be receptive to people's opinions and ideas, but to also embrace my voice and my mission. Some people will never be comfortable with happiness or change. Any adjustments to what they deem as an absolute, or a deviation from "the norm," is seen as a perversion. I regret to inform them that I claim my inalienable right to be Stephanie Renée with no apologies or exceptions. And if my commitment to laughing, self-love, intellectual debate and good music somehow offends their activist sensibilities, I look forward to the day that they find themselves singing or tapping their foot along with the message. I am the bearer of an infectious, undeniable joy.

Here is last week's playlist: