A week-and-a-half ago, I received an unexpected message from friend and author, Kwame Alexander. He was spearheading the Burke High School Teen Empowerment Conference, “Write Your Story,” and he needed fellow writers and artists to design and lead writing workshops for the kids. He asked me if I would consider being counted among the immensely talented individuals who were already slated to share their gifts.
I stared at the message, certain I had read it wrong. Kwame–2013 and 2012 NAACP Image Award Nominee for Outstanding Children’s Literature, author of seventeen books, a man who rubs elbows with literary giants–wanted ME to be a part of something so impactful and poignant? WOW! So, I did what any woman would do…I read it again. Oh yeah, and again…for good measure. After rereading the email, I determined I had, in fact read it correctly. He was requesting the presence of my gifts and talents.
And I said, “Yes.”
11 days later, I walked into the doors of Burke High and I poured my passion into the young ladies. To stand before this group of girls and share a part of myself with them was an honor. My workshop, “Finding, Defining and Sharing Your Voice,” was designed to empower these young ladies by encouraging them to create a written work in any genre that effectively communicated their identity, their voice. VOICE! My favorite thing in the world! I love Voice! The only thing I love more than Voice is encouraging someone else to share theirs.
Despite being shortened due to the threat of the winter storm, the conference was magical. The girls received me. They listened. They made eye contact. They asked questions. They opened up. They cried. But most importantly, they wrote! They wrote a lot!
The official t-shirt for the event says FREADOM across the front.
When you read, you are free. When you write, you are free. When you open your heart and mind, all barriers melt away. You recognize that you are in control, and it is liberating.
These girls shared, and they were liberated. For those 2 hours, they had broken free of the negative life circumstances that had them chained…if only for a moment. In their transparency and vulnerability, they found strength, courage and a way out. Their work was beautiful. Listen to a few samples below. If player doesn’t display, click HERE.
After the conference, I walked out of Burke High feeling like I had never felt before. I was on fire with inspiration. I was elated, moved, touched…forever changed. It was remarkable. And I had been a part of it all.
During my workshop, two of the young ladies asked me if I would be their mentor.
And, I said, “Yes.”
I thought back to 11 days prior…how I was going through so much. Husband. 8 kids. Writing obligations. House on the real estate market. Planning for a move. I could have easily said, “No.” I could have easily allowed my overly hectic circumstances convince me that I was far too swamped to put together a workshop. I could have easily allowed the accomplishments of the amazing visionaries who were involved cause me to feel “not big enough” to contribute. Yea, good ol’ self-doubt could have easily moseyed on in.
But I didn’t. I said, “Yes.”
One word…three letters. So small, yet so significant. That “Yes” changed my life. It has simultaneously created fullness and hunger. Fulfillment and the need for more. It has shaken up so much within me, creating a colorful playground for all my oxymorons.
In life, possibilities are endless…the difference you can make knows no boundaries…if you just say “Yes.”
12 days ago, I said “Yes.”
And, “Yes” never felt so good…