We had the good fortune of connecting with Shedia Nelson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shedia, why did you pursue a creative career?
Innovation birthed me through love ’n storytelling lookin’ at/scattered showers warmed by the sun peaking through clouds/smiling in a rainbow got me reaching/for water streaming down my window pane/clotted in silence/ lost in thought like memories keep folding inward/creating more meaningful memories imprinting/a legacy of storytelling/film making photography ’n adding ink to paper/spitting’ lines in rhyme in rhythm/’n swelling of my heart expanded in love energy/cradling years of memories/caressing thoughts manifesting abundance/All that is me/all of my flaws all of my strengths/all of my beauty/I am more than enough/this love is overflowing/let this waterfall rain on me/wash me of all these emotional scars trying to heal/let this historic intergenerational traumatic disease/this public health crisis a genocidal pandemic/sound the sirens this over 400 year old state of public health emergency/choking on injustice/justifying reasons to place an inferiority complex/transferring across generations/stolen stem cells/injecting lies Like Tuskegee experiments/dissected Black bodies used to justify scientific racism/exchanging cells in bodies to bodies behind jail cells/masked with fear/trying to put masks on this sickness/Can you stop it?/Bleeding on concrete infiltrating the hood/with high concentrated doses of fear/ dropping Black and brown bodies/this disease can’t be stopped/by wearing a mask/wearing a hoodie/being unarmed/holding your hands up/driving,walking down the street/selling CD’s, jogging down the street/sleeping at home, playing video games at home/sitting on your mom’s porch/wearing locs or any natural hair style/this dis-ease fueled killings of/more than 260,000 Black men in America since 1980/it’s disrupting immune systems/opening hateful and confused hands hate laced in metal/ this is an STD/a Socially Transmitted Disease at my throat/called racism claiming unarmed Black people/with bullets aimed at Black men’s faces printed for target practice/knees pushed in the back of necks/’n every mouth to trying to breathe/and be Black/my creativity comes from within/to share stories of love, laughter/and provoke critical discussions ’n move people/‘n empowering young people to elevate their voice though multiple artistic expression.
I love seeing young people take control of their narrative while empowering their peers to do the same. As a teaching artist, educator, published author, poet, an artistic director and programs manager with URGENT, Inc. I am humbled as I am inspired to learn from dynamic young people by helping to cultivate young film makers and activate young entrepreneurs. The arts is a universal access entry point into the hearts and minds of young people to share their stories and help coach their greatness to see their potential evolve through innovation, growth and transformation.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The publication of my notable youth led three part play series, “She Kept Her Bra On: Chronicles of a Teenage Love Affair” promotes awareness on teen dating violence was produced by URGENT, Inc. and adapted to a film under the guidance of Jalen James Acosta is one of my exciting accomplishments. The play series toured Miami Dade County schools, universities, community based organizations and presented at Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Bendingall’s No More Broken Hearts event that promotes domestic violence awareness. As a creative I have helped young people discover their talents, build skills and have the confidence to share their creations for the last 16 years. With more than 20 production credits to my name, I have helped kids as young as five up to seniors in high school perform on stage, in short films, and in music videos. My students’ talents can be seen in poetry books, Public Service Announcements, comic books, t-shirts, African dance choreographies, art curation, short documentaries and even a feature film. And that’s not all, my students are winners and have been recognized at film festivals including the American Black Film Festival, Urban Film Festival, Elijah Wells iGen Film Festival, Miami 4 Social Change Youth Film Festival and at the Do it Your Damn Self Film Festival in Boston, MA. In addition, I published three volumes of poetry in January 2019 and a notable publication in “The International Who’s Who in Poetry”. In addition to being a published author, I am an accomplished dancer with Delou Africa and Papaloko Loray Mystik and toured internationally with Up with People that included a performance for World Youth Day in Rome, Italy before the pope. My recent performance in “Waking Kya” directed by Sonia Artwell and produced by La Fran Entertainment and written by Siobhan Fitzpatrick was a life changing experience as an artist. It was truly a journey of my love of theater and African dance cultivated by the rich storytelling through dance and a beautiful monologue performed by Linda Obasi. This experience pushed me to redefine my self confidence, perseverance, physical training and conditioning and to believe in myself by drawing strength from within. I am eternally grateful to both of the choreographers who believed in me. It means a lot when people can see me, my talent and my passion for the arts. I was moved to tears during the last performance of three performances right before the country shut down due to covid-19 as Linda’s delivery of the final performance moved me. I am honored to be apart of a dynamic supportive cast who became family. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to be apart of the “Waking Kya” family. I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication with a concentration in theater from Hawai`i Pacific University. There have been many life lessons along my professional growth that included learning to meet young people where they are through promoting shared leadership, identifying and recognizing hidden talents from young people. I learned a lot by listening and being open to learn from them. There’s always a teachable moment to grow and self-reflect on how I can improve and help them to see their genius. I quickly realized how I much I have learned and challenged myself to build skills to produce complex Excel sheets, youth development strategies, taking photos and editing photography and videos, art curation and virtual and in-person special event productions. I learned from accelerated learning opportunities and building a network of social capital, resources and series of trainings that supports my professional career and personal growth. URGENT, Inc. continues to be an accelerant to my dreams as a film maker, published author, playwright, screen writer, director, producer, data manager, managing programs, teaching artist in creative youth development and now a virtual event producer. Thank you URGENT, Inc.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
If you’re looking for some smack ya mama deliciousness, then look no further than authentic Awash Ethiopian restaurant that will take you to the roots of Africa where the first coffee originated. The love in this food will have you shaking your shoulders with every mouth watering bite served up with the sweet nectar of some traditional honey wine. The trip is more than worth it to stop in North Miami to get your plate with plenty of pescatarian, vegetarian and meat loving options. My favorite is the veggie plate combo and make sure to sop all the sauciness and collard green pot licker with fresh injera. Then take a trip to Haiti for some pescatarian, vegetarian friendly and meat lover yumminess in Little Haiti, Miami to Naomi’s Garden for some legume vegan or non-vegan option, rice and beans, picklies with a side of rum cake that will have you smiling ear to ear. For the poke` bowel lovers, you gotta try Crazy Poke made with love, fresh fish and made fast. I love creating my own bowl with brown sushi rice, salmon, spicy tuna, radish, hijiki seaweed, sweet and red onion, avocado with passion fruit and crazy nikkei sauce blend topped with furikake and lotus chips. Then stroll along the boardwalk in Hollywood beach for a chill vibe or for a swim and get fresh produce from the farmer’s market on the boardwalk or at the Yellow Green farmer’s market. Or get your sweat while immersed in culture and traditional African dance at Delou Africa’s community class on Sundays at Little Haiti Cultural Center or at our annual African Diaspora Drum and Dance Festival of Florida every early August. Enjoy a smooth cup of Haitian mocha latte made love, laughter and good times at the Little Haiti Cultural Center’s Marketplace. For an organization paving the waving way for young talented Black and brown film makers, check out URGENT, Inc.’s films at our annual Miami 4 Social Change youth film festival in July filled with educational and social justice conscious films, follow URGENT, Inc. on IG: @urgentinc or find us on Facebook or check out our www.vimeo.com and YouTube channel. Looking for for a smooth cup poetry to have your fingers snapping and head nodding, check out my books on Apple books or Amazon.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
These are the moments/To stop and breathe/Bleeding ink of my thoughts/Manifesting greatness/Of a masterpiece on canvas/Painting growth beyond words/These are the moments/To stop and stare/In the reflection of being imperfectly perfect/And say, “yes, I see you”/I see your greatness/I see your confidence/Believe I can ‘N dare to dream bigger, bolder/Watching the signs to pull kids in when they need help/coaching them to help them see their light in them/Here I am/Implementing rites of passage journeys for young people into adulthood/And having to draw on all skills, talents and strengths/Knowledge for all youth programs/Pulling out my high school program binders/This work draws every ounce of compassion/ Patience and more patience… and more patience with self/For the high learning curve called #urgentinclife/This life means removing self doubt/and tapping into self love/ And preservation/Embracing all talents and skills/I never knew I had to learn and be/Figuring out multiple online platforms/and download programming into my brain/ While in quarantine and continue to manage programming operations/Doing more than required Living less than greatness was never an option growing up/So you see/This life I’m ever evolving, learning, growing, innovating and transforming/Every day presents a new different/A different learning opportunity/To bend, be flexible and adaptable/Breathe through moving beyond my comfort zone/Of what was familiar/Taking on challenges and working on being a better me and asking how can I outdo myself?/I’ve seen so many young people transform in 6 weeks/and over the years/Parents in awe of their children’s greatness/Young people living on POP/ The first P stands for Power Learning/to stand in, live in and speak their power/Now the “O” and “P” go hand in hand/To Live on Purpose Not by accident/To fulfill their purpose on earth/You see… we all have a purpose to add value to this lifetime/So what’s your legacy? How are you going to live on POP/Live your Power on Purpose/From what started out as a temp position/’n 16 years and a bronze bra award later/Here I am/This year I received an award to remind me to continue to be that good bra to myself,/To all young people in our programs, those who aged out of our programs,/The grandparents raising grandchildren from our former program Intergenerational Project/who I continue to honor, appreciate and learn from/I would like to thank our dynamic URGENT, Inc. Team/It truly takes a team to empower young minds/To transform their communities/There’s nothing like an organization that believes in you/and supports your innovation, growth and transformation.
Saliha, I continue to be eternally grateful to be apart of URGENT, Inc. This honor of receipt of the bronze bra award this year means everything to me. The bronze bra was inspired with a bra fitting at Macy’s many years ago. One girl came wearing three bras at the same time and walked out wearing her new confidence and lovin’ the skin she’s in. She refused to take off that bra off. Hence, she kept her bra on! This sparked our campaign for girls well-being promoting teen dating violence awareness and 3 plays and a short film adaptation later, we’re still talking about, “She Kept Her Bra On: the Chronicles of a Teenage Love Affair” my published play series concluding with a film adaptation “Keeping it On” under the guidance of Jalen James Acosta and produced by URGENT, Inc. So be that good bra that provides guidance, direction, support and lift. So when you find that good bra that’s like a good friend, hold onto them. There’s nothing like an organization that truly believes and supports your passion while demonstrating its mission to empower young minds to transform their communities.
Photo of Shedia Nelson, “Photo courtesy of LaFran Entertainment, LLC.- Waking Kya Production.” Photo courtesy of Passion Ward, Joey Ashley, Deion Wynter and Shedia Nelson