Category Archives: Artist

Damali Speaks Art on A Monday

Hey Speakers, 

I made some new glasses! Check out more like them, or message me for a personalized pair!

https://depop.com/damalispeakz

Love Always,

Damali Speaks Xx

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In Search of My Own Gardens Podcast: Episode One – What is Voice?

Hey Speakers! The In Search of My Own Gardens Podcast is HERE! Check out episode one, and tune in next Friday at 5pm for episode two! Make sure to follow!

 

Love Always,

 

Damali Speaks Xx

The Contours of Voice: Meditations on Vocal Revolution

I’ve been a reader all of my life. I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read or didn’t pick up a book intent on sopping up the words written inside like a giant sea sponge. Books helped me to understand voice. As the descendant of enslaved peoples who were forbidden from reading as well as a grandfather who only went to 6th grade because he was needed to work on the farm but read the New York Times every week, my mother insisted that we read instead of watch television. Reading was revolution and believe me, we did it well. 

 I remember reading Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” one summer. I was 13 and had just gone through a traumatic rape the summer before. Unlike Pecola Breedlove, there was no unexpected pregnancy to broadcast my shame and I hadn’t told anyone, not even my mother or best friend. I remember sitting with this book in my hands and feeling as though I could escape to a better world. Was it true? I still don’t know. What I do know is that books have saved my life. In high school through to college and even now after “entering the real world”, I find myself caught and enthralled by the words of black women writers. Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Ntozake Shange, Toni Cade Bambara, L.A. Banks and Mia MacKenzie. 

What is it about black womxn writers? We’ve found a way to save ourselves, to continue to use our voices even though to know your own voice is revolutionary in itself, and to transmit that voice is power. But lets back up, because as usual, I fast forward when I talk about black womxnhood because I get excited. 

Reading is one thing, writing is another. I’ve never really been a good writer in the conventional sense. I hated writing papers but I’ve always kept journals from childhood to present day. Something about academia and the way it sought to stomp out my individual tone rather than build it up gave me intense anxiety. I am a procrastinator by lack of spirit at the right moments and while I intend to to do things in a certain fashion, if inspiration doesn’t hit, well then I’m stuck there in front of my computer wishing and waiting for the writing gods to bless me. I don’t do well with deadlines and finality. But isn’t consistency, key? In the polarities of life, how am I finding my voice?  

Voice changes. Literally. Our vocal capacities change with time. It’s proven. Sometimes our voices get heavier with time, raspier, etc. As our voice changes literally, does it change with perception as well, our artist voices a mirror of what our physical realities offer? Reading young Maya Angelou is very different from reading the seasoned woman. If we continue living, our views should continue changing right? We continue to adapt to the world around us or we die. I keep finding myself in states of aporia, where everything I thought I knew is actually what I don’t know at all. I’m constantly back to the beginning. I may not be a huge fan of old Socrates, but he was definitely on to something with the method of Socratic questioning that he learned from his African predecessors. Yes, I had to sneak that in there. 

Learning my own voice is a constant state of questioning. Nothing is final. What I love today, I might despise tomorrow. Everything changes just as the seasons do or don’t. #ClimateChange. But seriously, what is my style today? Who is it that I am today? What helps me to find my voice? In the midst of a world in turmoil, how do we, black womxn and on a larger scale, human beings find our voices? How do we reach those who need the physical help, and soul soothing needed during times of pain and struggle? 

Love Always,
Damali Speaks Xx

In the Quiet/In The Closet/In The Space: On Thoughts of Self, Success & Androgyny

“If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it” – Zora Neal Hurston

I don’t really remember the moment that I knew I was queer. I just know that I knew. I had a crush on Josh* and Helen* and I liked them both equally. I wanted to be close to both of them always, hold them always, play “Duck Duck Goose” during recess and all the other cute things that children desire to do with crushes. I remember being asked if I had a crush on Josh* and never being asked if I had a crush on Helen*. Queerness in whatever form it came in seemed to be something that was silently made fun of and only okay if you did it on the terms of straight people, if you adopted their ways, if you picked a side of either masculine or feminine presentation. I remember those silent and unspoken rules vividly.

I’ve always dressed weirdly. Kudos to those who find true expression. I love the feel of clothing, just as I love the feel of removing it. Clothing is expression to me. I’ve always loved the idea of androgyny and the reality scared me. I’m not shaped like a boy and most of the views of androgynous people that I see are with those who have a very “boy-like” shape. But my androgyny exists outside of those boundaries. I love experimenting with what my breasts do in mens clothes, and just how I can both accentuate and disguise my hips and ass in various wears. MY androgyny is based in inclusion and experimentation. Just how many new ways can I find to fuck up the binary?

The other day, I sat with a family member who asked me, “Why can’t you be Queer quietly? Why do you have to broadcast it?” In the moment, I rationalized the sting and said something rehearsed, but I also thought to myself about why I do “broadcast” my Queer, my Polyamory, my Self. Well, because that’s who I am. It is just as much a part of me as is my sex, my skin complexion, my eye color. Who I love, how I love is important because love is what makes the foundation for a world worth living in. Frankly, I’m out, because I can be. I love myself enough to be all of me, whether that’s privately or publicly.

With the invention of internet and apps, we have much less privacy now than we did 10 years ago. What’s your personal threshold? How often do you broadcast your life and what do you choose to keep to self? It’s a constant wondering for myself. I don’t like to put out all my business but I do choose to display some of it. Is there a right and wrong in that? Does it matter?

I’ve always been a creator. I would create clothing/crafts/songs/poems/plays/ etc. as a child and it all seemed to carry over into adulthood. I occupy space in this world as an actor/dancer/singer/director/designer/singer/songwriter/advocate/activist/writer/etc. I am the slash in a world where the slash is confusing. But isn’t that the fun of the all? How do we manage? How do we fall? How do we choose to fly? Confession: I have not gone a single audition in months. I have no desire to. There’s nothing that grabs my heart and truly makes me want to be a part of it. I am not just an actor. I’m an artist. I want to create space where there is no space. I remember being in school and being taught how to manage and maneuver auditions because it would be “so much of life as an artist” and I wanted to vomit. If Nina Simone had spent all her time auditioning, would she have written Mississippi Goddamn? Maybe, maybe not. Let me make this clear, I am not judging those who choose to audition frequently. I’m simply stating that for me, it’s not the way.

Currently, I’ve done a lot. I released an album, finished a play, started on two projects, got asked to do a few more with some wonderfully talented artists and am simply living, teaching and learning. I’m content with the world and growth that I see from my life. I can see a pattern, a place, a space to occupy. As a millennial, I feel that I have to make the space. I not only don’t want to, I am not willing to endorse the system that doesn’t work. If it’s broken, don’t hop on it and try to ride. I’m not here to apologize, to be nice, to participate in so far as abiding by rules that are clearly messed up. Be bold in seeking your truth. Be brash. Be loud. Make mistakes. Make corrections. Find new ways to love both yourself and others. I’m here to re-frame, to burst through, to hold space, make space and take space.

To all my wonderful fellow beings,

I see you. I support you. I live you.

Love Always,

Damali Speaks Xx

 

Meditations for Loneliness & Other Ills That Can’t Be Cured with Simplicity

I don’t like sleeping with (fucking) straight men.
I have never liked sleeping with (fucking) straight men.
But I pretended to, because that’s what was “right”.

I’m attracted to them in so far as they intrigue me, much like a flower grown out of concrete.
I like to watch them when they don’t know I’m looking.

I see the planes and plateau’s of their voices.

I see the way they hold patriarchy and misogyny as loaded guns to be fired.

I see how they smile with pearls of white and eyes of black and how it can make my knees weak.

I see how they grow and change with muscle and dream.

I see the stunted way that emotions are squashed further and further down to Alice’s rabbit hole.

I cannot see a future with them, being who I am right now.
Who am I?
I am sexually female.
I have a vagina and a working uterus, breasts and hips, a round ass and I secrete estrogen and testosterone at certain parts of the month, sometimes year.
I enjoy wearing tight dresses and loose jeans stolen from my brothers’ closets.

I’m attracted to people alongside and without the binary.

I love differently. 

But…I don’t feel like a “woman” because gender seems rigid even though I know that it’s wide and open, still something I could never quite starve myself into. Womxn…all inclusive.

Let me make this clear. I am not transgender.

I am balanced and I still need to explore what that means for myself.

Being called “Queen” used to make me feel good and now I hear it and want to vomit. I am not royalty. I am spirit.

It feels like a cage I don’t want to be stuck in. I want fluidity.

I hunger for satiating sex. It’s been so long, too long, forever. Bare in mind that I said satiating, not just sex. That, I had…last month. I wonder when, why and how but honestly, right now I just want to let go. With kisses deep and limbs entangled touching every part of me. I hunger for depth and someone that I won’t later regret. I guess that’s love. Is it? Maybe it’s just sex. I’m horny as fuck, pardon the pun and I do love sex. So good. Like real and deep and no matter how cool I am, a moment doesn’t lie and heat is telling. Good sex helps me focus like masturbation but lasts longer before I need another hit. I’m twitching.

I love touch. It’s essential and overrated at the same damn time. Where did I get those expectations? Explanations? I explained them like I expected them to be who they were not. Still, I tried didn’t I? Do I get points for that? Oh, this isn’t weight watchers. Yet, here I sit on this late night train with tired thoughts and mourning brain wondering when my body will be good enough. Strong enough. Thin enough. Thick enough. Held enough.

I guess the perfect feminine forgot about me, or maybe I refused to tag along. I got bored of always being too much of “something” and not enough “no-thing”. Now I’m rambling. I suppose that black, womxn and feminine couldn’t co-exist outside a lovely box so I made something up. Made believed it fit. The truth is that what you find sexy about me is the exploitative. Or the balance. You like my truth. But my masculine sneaks through when you least expect it and unleashes countless amounts of venom. This small book can’t possibly contain all my truths. I’d need more ink. But since this train is still going, I might as well too.

I’m having an existential crisis at 25.  My soul feels more like 2500. Years. Old. What am I doing here? I was told once that I have books in my eyes. That someone could fall deep into them and never want to come out. I laughed at the reality with diamonds in my throat. My soul is too old to comprehend Cubic Zirconia. Some times, all the time, fake isn’t better. Last night, I spent hours on the beach engaged in my books, my oldness, my youth, my wombanness in that my sex is female and I can create life from a womb and I stood with water tasting my toes on a warm and well lit night. I thought “Wow, this shit is wild and so am I. Who the fuck will get me? Does it matter? Am I one that gets got?”.

I continued to miss intimacy, not sex because I figured out that post my achieved orgasm, I want to try to be held. Something different than my usual vanish and disconnect. That gone girl happens when I sleep with (fuck) straight men and don’t come for various rules of patriarchy require my orgasm be to his own liking. With anyone else, it’s different. Without “straight” as an elephant in the room, I want close, I want to try. Maybe that’s maturity, growth or just loneliness. Maybe it’s some or all. I’ve been interested in the pattern of breath lately. The rise and fall.

How alive am I?

 

Love Always,

Damali Speaks Xx

I’m Insecure & Queer: The Importance of Visibility & Big Dreams with Even Bigger Plans

I’ve been glued to Issa Rae since The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl. I was in the early years of college or maybe late years of high school, I don’t really remember now. I do remember being glued to my computer screen thinking, “Oh shit! She knows my life!”. I loved everything about Issa, her style, her awkwardness, her confidence, her work. The joy I felt at watching not only that series, but the appearance of a whole YouTube Channel eclipsed anything else that I might have wanted to watch. My friends and I would call each other up or message each other post episode drop, “Oh snap girl, she finally gave White J some!” and we would launch into laughter and recalling of our own lives, sighing in relief that we finally were feeling and being seen. It wasn’t just a dream. There was nothing to wake up from.

When Insecure was finally announced on HBO, I remember doing a happy dance in my bedroom. I had moved on from being a semi-awkward Theater & Africana student to a semi-confident Education Intern at one of the best theater companies in the US and yet still felt like so many things were missing. I was one of the very few people of color in most spaces, including my living space and I was hungry. I oftentimes found myself in situations with either queer men of color who could and would shut me down and desire my silence or with white women who wanted to empathize but not actually do any work required for change. These people all wanted change to happen at a comfortable pace for them, but I needed to see and speak with people in the entertainment world who looked like me and who were visibly making change. I needed to know that it was possible, that all of it was possible. I didn’t have to choose between being an actor and writer. I didn’t have to only put down director or producer on my resume. But at the same time, I didn’t have a black theater/film fairy godmother to guide me along. So I looked to Issa. Issa always got me through. The first episode of Insecure, Season 1 found me hunched in front of my computer screen yet again, and having finished an entire bottle of wine, I don’t remember much, but I do remember screaming “TAKE THAT LENA DUNHAM!” and then falling off to sleep. As Season 1 rolled into Season 2, I continued to watch, joy filling me at the fact that the 20s are just messed up and I’m just normal and that black people look gorgeous in all shades, sizes, sexual positions and hilarious anecdotes.

But still, in all of that visibility and glorious blackness, messiness and realness something was always missing for me. I’m Black, Womxn, Queer, Pansexual and Polyamorous and I want to make work that highlights the art, realness, and humanness of the spaces that I find myself in. Most often, the shows and web series that I find center either white women or drama. The L Word, was the first show that I watched that featured queer women. I remember sitting in front of the computer in college thanks to Netflix and binge watching The L Word. Although it made me feel invisible because of my blackness, it made me feel seen because of my queerness. I’m not saying that the world of queer womxn of color isn’t dramatic, cuz it certainly can be at times, but people don’t need to be murdered for a following to build. So then, what’s the point?

The point is that visibility is possible in all it’s variables. We already know that POC make money. No one wants to see all white anything anymore unless it’s the Bordelons dressed in all white on Queen Sugar (Cuz that was black people magic on all levels). But the thing about production that bothers me is the who. No matter what, are we always engineered by white men because they are the ones with the bank? Literally. How many Oprah’s and OWN Networks are there? Right now? Oprah. That’s it. She’s got it. But even in that, there’s a closed door. I love Oprah, but Oprah isn’t queer, poly or foregoing the idea that GOD isn’t the end all be all for the black community. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up going to church, but at this point in my life, I choose to believe that there’s a lil bit of truth in everything but that doesn’t mean that I have to subscribe to it. So what’s next?

I’ve made it my mission to center varying art forms alongside black, womxn, and queer. I know that’s what I want to see. So why not make it? It’s hard. My biggest obstacle so far is capitalism. I need a team. I want a team. I want to work with artists who are just as hungry as I am. But most of the time, that means money and at 20 something, who has money? But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Right? If that’s my only obstacle, then I’m doin pretty damn well. I also want to highlight theater.

I don’t work loudly. I work mostly in silence. You don’t see that I’m doing work until the work is done. So often, my friends and I sit and dream and plan for our future world where there’s artist housing that’s cheap, studios to work in that houses various forms of art and a collective of beautiful people that just get us. Isn’t that the dream? As good as all this visibility and dreaming feels, how good will it feel when we finally get further along in our process? Maybe that’s the whole point. That it’s never ending and each moment is in fact a process to be savored. I used to say, “I’m the next Oprah”. Now, I simply say that I’m the best version of me, day to day, I’m working towards elevation and building and creation and art.

Thank you Issa for pushing me to be better. Thank you for being visible. I may never meet you and you may never read this, but know anyway, you’ve helped more than one black womxn to find her purpose, just by being you.

 

Love Always,

 

Damali Speaks Xx

Follow Me on Social Media:

Instagram: @blackgirlhope
YouTube/SoundCloud: Damali Speaks

 

Flash Forward Friday: Passage Five

Cora sat beside her mother in wordless bliss as they drove home to their house. Words became a welcome additive to their world of deep communication and love. After a long time of centering and remembering what it felt like to be immersed in a world of love and acceptance, Andrena looked across at her daughter, who it seemed had grown even more into a strong and beautiful woman that she always knew would be there.

 “How are you, my love?” Air hung between them as the streetlights glowed in a steady motion from darkness to light. The car wheels hummed along the road and the whole world seemed committed to a space held in familial love. “I’m well, mom. I’m really and truly well. I feel like I’m ready for this new adventure. How are you?” Cora looked over at her mother and for the first time, she realized that her mother hadn’t at all aged. Her face and physique were just as clear and crystal and they always had been for as long as she could remember. “I’m well. So tell me about these dreams you seem to be having.” Cora looked over at her mother in complete shock. “How did you know?” “I’m your mother, I know everything.” Cora had two options, she could choose not to tell her mother, or she could choose to engage in the spiritual moment that she knew would be exhausting on so many different levels.

As they pulled up to the house, Andrena looked over at her daughter and smiled. “You can tell me later if you want. You could use some rest.” Cora tiredly picked up her bags and walked into the house. The house they shared was one of the oldest on the block, dating back to the early 1900s and was separated into two apartments, one downstairs and one upstairs. Cora had the upstairs apartment, while Andrena lived on the first. “I went food shopping, so you’ve got some food up there. I saged some too, so the space is ready for you.” Cora mumbled a thank you and walked for what seemed like ages up the stairs and inside.

She opened the door and everything was just as she’d left it. As a teenager, she had decided that the apartment was her “Chakra Apartment” with each room representing a different chakra energy center. As she opened the door, she was greeted with a deep blue that reminded her to use her voice daily. To the left was the creative room where she did most of her painting, writing and music production for the Root Chakra and grounding. Walking through the house, various colors met her eyes and she soaked in the healing energy and remembrance that they came with. With each room, her pupils changed as though downloading information from the very walls. By the time Cora reached her bedroom that glowed with a light purple for wisdom, she had put down all bags, removed all clothes and stood naked before her bed. It didn’t even seem likely that in her body as she was now, she could fold back the covers and crawl into bed, but she did. Sleep enveloped her like a friend that she had missed for so long.

As soon as her eyes closed, Cora saw a great hall, never-ending and blurring. As she ran through the hall the years passed overhead, to her sides and even below her feet. “It’s a timeline”, she realized. No years marked the hall, only memories. She saw her face flash by continually through years and years of clothing changes, industry, enslavement, ancient times, and more. As much as she wanted to stop and discover each time, something was pulling her onward. Cora continued to run down the hall of time to the very beginning as a hole seemed to open in the wall and a wave of blue light emerged, sucking her inward and upward.

Cora “awoke” to the grass beneath her feet and the sounds of a village in front of her. She saw women and children, teens and young adults. Some were singing, training, cooking, making art and weapons, etc. As she looked around, one small girl stood out to her. The girl looked so much like she had at that age. Her skin was a beautiful bronzed cocoa much like her own and her hair was frizzy and beautiful with afro puffs on each side of her head. She had on animal skin clothing and cowry shells around her neck. Her eyes were big and bright and glowing bright purple. She seemed to be concentrating on something outside of herself and as the world went on around the two of them, she wondered if the girl was a part of her imagination.

Cora bent down and tried to see what the girl must have been seeing, but she saw nothing. In her head, she thought,” Well this is helpful. Where am I supposed to be going?”. The young girl lifted a finger and pointed to a small hut on the outside of the perimeter embraced by trees. “There?” The girl said nothing, but continued to point. As Cora moved toward the hut, the girl disappeared as though she had never even been there. “Okay.” Cora said. She took a deep breath and slowly walked up to the hut. It seemed so close and yet the walk there seemed to take ages. She took notice of how tall the trees were and how green everything seemed. She could feel the heat of the sun and yet it felt glorious instead of hot and sweat producing.  She reached the hut and as she put her hand on the door make of oak bark, she felt a great change in the air around her.