Rejection Letter #1

It’s been almost two months since I got my first R.L. from one of the Arts applications I submitted. Admittedly, I’ve been stalling about updating everyone with the results. More interesting, though? My video diary belting out a Barbra Streisand classic and tracking what I’ve been up to since I got the e-mail. Why is Babs being dragged into this? Because there’s nothing like a little drunken (yes, there was alcohol involved in the making of this video) ode to Nikki Arnstein to make me forget how sucky Rejection Letters can be! #PushOnThroughTheStruggle ~ cS, Constance SHERESE

August 20, 2014
Dear Applicant,
Thank you for your interest in the Critic-in-Residence Program. We received a number of outstanding applications and were only able to choose three finalists for this year’s inaugural program. The review committee has considered your request and regrets that we cannot invite you to participate at this time. 
We appreciate the effort you put into submitting your application and we highly encourage you to remain in touch with our organizations in the coming year. 
Sincerely,
Your Latest Motivation
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The Creatives Project @ Ponce City Market

The old City Hall building and surrounding lot are being renovated and turned into loft apartments/small business shops on Ponce De Leon. The majority of this new ‘Ponce City Market’ site is still a large scale WIP, but a small area on the back side of the block – a.k.a. North Avenue – is up and running. Tonight, the hubby and I got to check out the soon-to-be hot spot, courtesy of The Creatives Project; with a little Art, Education, and Community Involvement thrown in free of charge!

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The basic concept of tonight’s Capturing Community event was a grand finale exhibition that both capped off TCP’s summer youth program and launched their month-long residency at the PCM Gallery. Neda Abghari, the founder and main photographer with The Creatives Project, spent the entire summer partnering with Big Bethel AME Church to provide photography lessons and educational outreach to a group of Atlanta Public School students in collaboration with Operation P.E.A.C.E. Then, TCP sent those students out into the streets of their own neighborhood – Auburn and Edgewood Avenues to be precise – with a mission to interview and photograph the interesting community members they met along the way.

Tonight’s exhibition showcased the talent of those budding photographers and shone a light on the citizens of a long neglected neighborhood. I was most impressed by the ages of the students ranging from 12 to 15 years old!

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My favorite picture/interview of the evening was taken by 13 year old Anton Cousins – A candid photo of Ms. Wanda Little. I immediately connected with Ms. Little because we share a bond in our mutual fight against Lupus, and Anton captured perfectly the strength in her eyes despite a debilitating illness which has placed her in a wheelchair. I write often about Lupus advocacy and it made me smile to know that I happened to be wearing my Lupus butterfly ring tonight. It’s not purple like the butterfly in our logo, but I was feeling the sisterhood anyway. Thank you, Anton for capturing just the right community member to make my day and thank you Ms. Little for being willing to share some of your story with your young photographer.

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I won’t show you all of the pictures from the exhibition because I want to leave you with something to go see for yourselves, but here are a few of the many photos that jumped out at me tonight. The Creatives Project is doing great things in Atlanta and you won’t want to miss it! #TCPatPCM ~ cS, Constance SHERESE

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So today… I got a life!!!

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If you’ve read my “Letting Go” post from a few days ago, you know that it’s sometimes a struggle for me to step outside myself and away from all the things I’ve scheduled for maximum productivity. You also know, then, what a big deal it is for me to be able to say that today I got a life. That’s right, not just tried to get a life… I actually got one. I immediately needed to share the news. Yes, this is me, shouting from the roof tops:

“Hear ye! Hear ye! Your girl Constance Sherese broke out and broke free! She didn’t follow the schedule. Nope. Wasn’t feelin’ the structured plan. Never. And she definitely threw up her goodbye deuces to the beaten path! Woo De Woo!!!”

So, how did I manage to pull off this death defying feat? I went for a walk! But this wasn’t just any ol’ walk. This was a step outside myself walk. A take time to care for myself walk. A forget about the business plan walk. A super hero blue walk. An inspire and be inspired walk. An “I’ve got so much more to give” walk. This was a FREEDOM walk, y’all!

I know I’m being more than a little dramatic with all this coy posturing. Basically, I’m playing the tease real hard today. But I promise it’s worth the build up. So let me start from the beginning.

I’ve been a fan of a certain Facebook group and nonprofit organization called GirlTrek for over a year. Their mission is to inspire one million people to join their Movement by the year 2018, with the ultimate goal of supporting Black women and girls as we lead our healthiest lives ever – just by walking.

Why walking? And why Black women and girls? Because GirlTrek founders, Morgan and Vanessa understand the power that women and girls hold. They understand that all women deserve to live their healthiest lives possible. And all women deserve to be inspired to such a healthy lifestyle in a way that speaks to their human experience on a personal level.

Morgan and Vanessa realize Black women have that kind of personal connection with walking. Because we have a connection to the women of our pasts who spearheaded major change like the Civil Rights Movement. Without major funding. Without a large platform. Without popular opinion or public support. But we did it anyway using the power of walking. Walking to freedom like Harriet Tubman. Walking to the neighbors’ house to spread the word. Walking to the voting polls like Fannie Lou Hammer. Walking for Life.

As an advocate for Lupus awareness – a disease that is overwhelmingly a womens illness, and even more so a Black womens illness – I can relate to the power of walking for better health. The Lupus Foundation of America chapter, here in Georgia, has its’ annual Lupus Walk coming up in April and I could use all the motivation I can get to ramp up for spreading the word about that initiative.

So, if GirlTrek and walking for better health are so important to me, why is this the first time you’re seeing me write about their organization? Because I’m a chicken. I know that sounds very 5th grade of me, but it’s true. I like my schedules for a reason. It’s a daily struggle for me to step outside myself and play the role of bold trend setter.

Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means shy. I can give a public speech to a packed house with no problem. Just give me advance notice so I can fine tune my talking points, write three drafts, proof read everything, work on my tonality/inflection, and add the proper vocal emphasis, then trust me, I’ll knock it out of the park. But what’s that you say? You want me to just Show Up and Show Out? Effectively, “wing it” and get a bunch of other women to follow my lead? Now that’s just crazy talk!

And let’s not forget that I’ve got my own cause. CultSTATUS. My own mission that requires me to step out of my comfort zone. Because it’s all about the Art, right? Where is the Art or Culture in walking for health? I’m not knocking the Movement, but really? Over the past year, I have felt like joining a walking revolution was just too much. Too much clutter and scattered lack of direction to be talking about GirlTrek and Lupus Walks and Harriet Tubman and Tribute Walks for one hundred minutes on a Saturday (when Saturdays are my most productive day for writing my novel and play!) all while trying to clearly and concisely promote my own CultSTATUS brand. And did I mention waaaayyy too many hashtags? Hashtag Harriet. Hashtag GirlTrek. Hashtag Super Hero Blue. Hashtag Walk It Out. Hashtag Harriet House Party. Can you say Hashtag Crazy???

No. I’m sorry. But the logistical side of me says “no.” Hell, if the Rabbits in my Mind don’t drive me crazy, the Hashtags in my Head most certainly will! I’ll click “Like” on their Facebook posts, I told myself. I’ll share their quotes. I’ll even send some groupie love to Angela Davis and Toni Morrison in hopes that they’ll join the Harriet Tubman tribute prayer service on Sunday. But I just can’t commit to anything more. That’s enough, right?

And yet. It’s like I said in that “Letting Go” post. I really do have so much more to give. Because that’s what the GirlTrek Movement is all about. That’s how Morgan and Vanessa got me. With the giving. I listened to the Friday night house party live stream and I heard the tearful emotion in Morgan’s voice as she talked about the challenges she and Vanessa have faced in their own lives. But then I heard her talk about how they channeled their personal struggles into motivation to help the next woman. I heard her reflect on Harriet’s loss of family, friends, and even husband in her drive to walk to freedom. But then I heard Morgan remind us that we women can commit to be each others family members and sisters. I heard Vanessa comment on some of the very feelings I’d been having – that this was all just too last minute and chaotic (The deadline to get #Harriet T-shirts was Monday at noon, and I pressed “Submit” on my order at 11:53. Talk about last minute!). But then I heard her inform us that GirlTrek had rallied women for this Movement from Okinawa, Japan to Oakland, California. And I thought to myself “Don’t forget Atlanta! You’ve got me here in Atlanta!” And just like that, I was hooked. Committed to this giving. Because what other choice did I have, really?

So, I woke up late this morning. Ran to UPS to print out my tribute letters. Walked up the block to Freedom Park. Yes, I am aware of the irony that I fought this Movement for so long and I have a Freedom Park right up the block from my house. Filmed a quick honorary video to make up for the fact that I didn’t organize a full seven woman team. And then set off on my hundred minute trek.

If this wasn’t an exercise in Team Last Minute, I don’t know what is! But I figure if I share this post and manage to get six other women to view and “like” it, then I’ve achieved a belated virtual team and that counts too. It doesn’t hurt that my Sister From Another Mister, Tracee Ellis Ross (The Rabbits told me we were related) has started her own hashtag craze to help make exercise fun. She wears makeup while she works out! Red lipstick to be exact. If I’m working on Showing Up and Showing Out, a little #RedLipFit is the perfect way to get the ball rolling. D’you think spreading the groupie love Tracee’s way might get her to join GirlTrek too? There’s only one way to find out. Watch out, I’m about to go Hashtag Crazy!

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#GirlTrek #Harriet #HarrietHouseParty #SuperHeroBlue #OkinawaToOakland #DontForgetAtlanta #Atl #FeeedomPark #WalkForFreedom #WalkForLife #WalkItOut #ShowUpShowOut #ThisGiving #MoreToGive #LetGoLetFlow #TeamLastMinute #SistersFromAnotherMister #AngelaDavis #ToniMorrison #TraceeEllisRoss #RedLipFit #ConstanceSherese #cS #CultSTATUS #PushOnThroughTheStruggle #LupusAwareness #LupusFoundation #LFA #LupusGeorgia #LupusWalkAtlanta #RabbitsInMyMind #HashtagsInMyHead #HashtagCrazy

Letting Go: What I Learned From Elizabeth Taylor

I’m working on letting go. I’ve been working on letting go for several months, actually. And probably – in recurring cycles – for several years. But letting go is hard. In part, because it feels so counter productive for accomplishing all the things I want to do. Which, I guess, is why I keep coming back to it.

I’m writing a novel. And a play. and this blog. I’m building my CultSTATUS brand with a website and Facebook page. I’m curating exclusive events in the Cultural Arts. I’m building a network of creative sponsors and contacts. I work a full time job. I make the daily effort to manage my Lupus and my overall health. I try to have a life. And every once in a while, there are those rare moments when I don’t just try to have a life, I actually manage to have one! I spend time with girlfriends and extended family and my husband. Oh dear lord, I Forgot About My Husband!!!! No, I didn’t really forget my Salomon. But there are those days when I worry that I’ve placed him last on my never ending list of To-Do’s. Please tell me y’all have a never ending To-Do list too. ‘Cause it can get really crazy in my head sometimes. Like, talking to myself in the bathroom for half an hour in my Bronx girl voice while the hubby contemplates breaking down the door to save me from intruders, only it’s just ‘lil old Me Myself & I in there. Yea, I’m a little crazy some days.

But every time I let go, it comes back to me ten fold. My sanity included! When I stop trying to fix, force, control, and pin down everything… It all falls into place. And then I feel boundless! ‘Boundless’ is my new word for the day, FYI. I used it in passing while I was on the phone with my dad earlier and it stuck with me. I didn’t plan it or strategically guide the conversation so I could use it in a sentence. Yes, I have done that before. And so have you – don’t lie! But seriously. When I haphazardly said the word ‘boundless’ today, it was the most inspired I’ve felt in a long time. I felt like I really am a novelist, business woman, entrepreneur. I’m reminded of a joke about a dog named Jett… Then again, never mind. Jett is a great dog, I’m sure, but a joke about a dog could never compete with the sheer genius of that one word. Let’s say it together. Boundless!

The bottom line is this: letting go makes room for more. And I’ve got so much more to give.

*Note* I’ve been fine tuning this post for most of the day. Crafting my Opus, if you will. That’s right, I said ‘Opus’. Opus is tomorrow’s word for the day. What? Anyway, (said in my Bronx girl voice) I got to the line above, in what had to be my fifth read through, and suddenly thought to myself ‘That’s funny. I said give…’

Now, like I said, I’ve been working on letting go for a long time. So, separate from all the spiritual and religious implications, there is personal value to be found in this process. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But it has to be acknowledged that today is Ash Wednesday (the start of the season of Lent) and this Holy Day among many Christians – myself included – is all about letting go on an even deeper level.

The purists would say it’s all about mortality. And the purists would be right. Sorta.

But there are a few images that come to mind when I think of Ash Wednesday, and the one that rabbit-in-my-mind ‘hops’ out at me the most is from a promotional poster for Elizabeth Taylor’s 1973 movie Ash Wednesday. I know. Elizabeth Taylor films don’t exactly scream piety or repentance. I mean, just look at the poster for yourself.

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Not a smudge of ash to be found on her gorgeous little forehead. And let’s not even talk about that string of pearls she’s so blithely toying with. My materialistic heart is beyond green with envy. Still, it’s dear old Liz that taught me the most about Ash Wednesday and the power of letting go. If you haven’t seen the movie, here’s a brief summary from Roger Ebert. Better yet, rent it on Netflix and see it for yourself. It’s not exactly an Oscar worthy performance, but it’s one of my true love’s as movies go, if only for it’s train wreck cheese fest of glamour and melodrama. Think Mahogany and The Way We Were.

The basic storyline though develops into the tragic conclusion that Elizabeth’s character never learns how to let go. Her husband is having an affair. She is aging. She doesn’t feel attractive anymore. So she decides to fix things. She has a face lift along with several other cosmetic procedures. She goes to a private resort to “get away from it all”. She has an affair to rebuild her self esteem. She sits and waits endlessly for her philandering husband to show up so she can make him jealous/ win him back. And in the end, she doesn’t even get the chance to confront him the way she’d planned because he arrives and immediately dumps her. He hardly even notices the changes in her physical appearance! When I tell you it’s tragic y’all. I mean it’s bad. Downright cringe-worthy in fact. But it’s like a train wreck that I can’t stop watching because I see the humanity in it. Separate from all the moral implications of her affair, and the “rightness” or “wrongness” of her choice to have plastic surgery. I really just want to give her a hug and tell her that she’s doing these things for all the wrong reasons. All the fixing, forcing, controlling, and literally pinning [her face] won’t make things right, because it’s already broken. She needs to just let go. And maybe if she let go of the diamonds and pearls [or maybe just the philandering husband] she could see that. The material things aren’t “wrong”, and who among us hasn’t held on to someone or something much longer than we should have, all in the name of “fixing” it? But it rarely ever works. And that’s what Elizabeth Taylor taught me about the importance of Ash Wednesday. It’s all about acceptance. Acceptance of the good, the bad, the passing of time, the aging, and even death (of relationships and people). Letting go. And the oozing glamour didn’t hurt either!

P.s. Liz’s birthday was this past Thursday, February 27, 2014. She would have been 82 years old!

P.p.s. BOUNDLESS!!!

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