"What are you excited about?" That was my opening question, in a speech I gave today, at an annual luncheon. Having asked this question in my first encounters with individuals, it has always proven to lead to very authentic conversation. Usually, it shows up in the person's eyes what moves them. It is sometimes the most simple questions that will lead to some of the most impactful answers and discoveries.
In 2013, when I was performing at The Vital Theatre (Upper West Side, NY), I came in contact with an organization who brought a group of children, in foster care, to see the show - "Show Way," written by Melody Cooper. During the talk-back we had after the performance, I remember thinking to myself, "who are these kids? They're brilliant!" I was so moved and became so interested in learning more about the organization, that I would soon come in contact with Linn Tanzman, the Founder of said organization, Culture For One. Over the next four years, Linn and I would stay in touch and I would finally take the steps to become a volunteer.
I bring this up because it was the small move then that has created one of the biggest impacts I've experienced, thus far in Life. It has informed how I interact with people in general, and how I navigate the work I do as an Actor. It empowers me to realize that it's all come full circle in a way that reminds me that everything we do, know and learn is somehow connected to each other; lends themselves to each other.
During my work with The Playwrights Realm on Jonathan Payne's "The Revolving Cycles Truly and Steadily Roll'd," this summer-to-fall, I made it a point to connect them to Culture For One, with the hope that they would be able to work out an opportunity for a group to see the show. Then it happened, and they came. It was such a powerful night! So much so that it compelled the Founder and Staff at Culture For One to ask me if I would be interested in being a featured speaker at their upcoming Annual Fall Luncheon. Thus, bringing me to today.
So many little events came together bring me to this big moment; one that I would not have believed was coming, back in 2013. And that is exactly what I spoke on, this afternoon, following my opening question. The thing(s) which excites us, then, motivates us to rise to our greater selves. From there, we find ourselves contributing to an extraordinary cause, or leading a monumental movement. I am immensely grateful that I took the steps toward Culture For One, am humbled by where it has brought me, and am excited to see what's on the horizon. Until soon...
#OnMyMind #blogspot #CultureForOne #LittleBigMatters
I remember when I was a kid, really young, growing up in Baltimore, my brothers and I would spend the day with my grandmother, while my parents worked. On this one particular day, during the summer, my grandmother took us to the downtown area of Baltimore. I recall going to Lexington Market to get a chicken box and twisty glazed donuts (my favorites, growing up). On the bus ride back to the house, there was a disagreement between this young man and woman, that turned into an argument. It was one of those situations where is was more annoying than threatening, but I was that nosey kid trying to see what they were arguing about. Eventually they got into a physical fight - I can't quite recall who started it. The woman ended up pepper spraying the man's face, which incidentally caused it to cloud an spread. Chaos broke out. Folks were coughing and shouting, scrambling to get out of the way of the fight and the mist of the pepper spray. The bus driver slammed on the brakes and pulled the bus over, opened the doors, yelling for everyone to evacuate the bus.
Getting off the bus, I remember being pushed and then pulled, the atmosphere vacillating between hectic and orderly, in rapid shifts. My brothers and I made it off the bus, but there was still a great number of people needing to come off. I remember crying, wondering where my grandmother was and if she was okay. Finally, I saw her appear in the threshold of the back door, crying, nose running, holding on to both sides of the frame, trying to step off the bus. A middle-aged man, came to her rescue, helping her off. Once were reunited, it was a matter of waiting for the police to arrive and the okay to get back on the bus - or on a new bus. I know it had to have been at least 45 minutes that passed before we were back on the bus. I cannot recall if one or both agitators were detained, but I do remember the man apologizing to my grandmother; being both ashamed to look her in the eyes, yet looking for some sense of forgiveness or acknowledgement. It was like he was a child again, apologizing to his own grandmother. I'll never forget that.
This memory struck my mind, out of thin ether, last weekend. At first, upon memory, I was like "where did that come from?," and brushed it off. Now, reflecting on the first full week of rehearsal of having been completed today, I can see how the memory might have been triggered from reading and re-reading the script. Ironically, during one of the rehearsals, we got into an in-depth conversation about trauma and PTSD: from the basic definition of both, to how each is diagnosed, treated and coped with. I brought up that story about the fight on the bus, to my peers. During that recanting of the story, I got teary-eyed and started reliving some of the fear I felt that day - mind you, it was over 20 years ago. This wasn't the only memory that has re-emerged in my psyche, but possibly one of the strongest since the start of rehearsals. I have no idea what other memories may be triggered in the process, between now and the run of the show, but I certainly hope that it will only serve as a platform for inner healing and a reclaiming of my peace with the past. I, too, hope that anyone who comes to see this show, who might experience a similar trigger of a past memory, will able to do the same. Until soon...
Season's Greetings of the Summer Persuasion!
I took some time to myself, to be with myself, given the fact that Sprout House went on hiatus as of June 29th. There was this idea in my mind that I'd flee to some vacation location for the month of July, where I'd reflect and regroup my Being, in preparation for a luminous return to the hustle and bustle of NYC; just in time for the next creative pow-wow. Then I was reminded that Life doesn't always go according to my plans.
To be clear, I wasn't necessarily disappointed with the absence of a vacation from the city. In retrospect, the diversion was exactly what I needed in order to check myself, in a new way. My impetus to leave the City for July was based on the recall of events from that time last year - those who know me, or have been paying attention to my entries, know what I am referring to. This was my turn to be very intentional about how I was to spend my time here, since I was going to be here. I had to be honest with myself about what I needed, and what I needed what to not be left solely to my thoughts and memories, for acknowledgment of my bouts of depression. True, it was a fear I had, that if I stayed in New York, I might isolate myself and go dark. I had to preserve and protect my energy.
I always speak on how important it is to flip one's perceptions, in dire situations; to transform the abyss of fear into the well of infinite possibilities. So, that's what I needed to do. My remaining in NY meant that I was to live in intentional joy, not allowing myself to fall idle, unless in a state of meditation, silent gratitude or prayer. That if anytime I felt myself drifting, I knew I could call on someone in my support system to lean on, laugh with and be reminded that Life is not meant for sorrow. This was where I discovered my Power, my Yes - I know this sounds all types of corny, like an infomercial, but I'm a certified cornball, so bear with me. I also opened myself up to getting a part-time job doing something that I enjoyed, because why not keep an income flowing, in the meanwhile, right? My goal became all about stitching new patterns into this quilt of memory.
Here I am, six weeks later, feeling like I've maneuvered triumphantly through the trenches of my mind, proudly emerging from the illusions of fear, with new Light. I've made some profound connections, rediscovered what this heart of mine is capable of giving & receiving, and have laughed more than I have in the whole year combined. My smile is earnest, not a product of expectation. Truly, I feel like a whole human being, able to embrace my every emotion and still carry the purest of Joy, without strain. I did finally get to leave the city and go home, on the weekend of King's birthday, to parallel the number one priority we always talked about: spending quality time with family. It was worth every waking second, too, much more than I would've sought to find in a month-long escape.
The lesson? Just Be. Those two words have taught me so much in this last year, and every day, I feel like I get to learn a little more of what that really means. It serves me little-to-nothing to try too hard, to force, to resist, stress, worry or fear. Many times over, it has been revealed to me that the best in Life occurs when I am just open to receiving it. After I've said "Yes" to Life and committed to Just Be. So, here I continue: until soon...
Memories of what I used to have fill my mental matter, as I long for what's to come. Maybe I keep myself busy, by counting the mistakes that have turned into blessings. Perhaps, I consider the times my smile was a transformation out of depression. I believe, then, that I will not wait for long. I'm smiling again, just thinking about it. Maybe everything that glitters isn't gold, but everything that rumbles isn't danger, either. That's how I learned balance. Now the ground that opens up isn't for me to fall into, no. I realize that it is for me to watch growth from the Earth; growth that will take me to higher plains. I guess that abyss of fear really was a well of infinite possibilities, this whole time. Just because I can't see but so far doesn't make knowing impossible. There is a reason I know now what I could not understand before. Time. How can I receive that which I am not (yet) capable of holding? Yet. Does that mean I have never really been without? That, maybe...just maybe, I have always been provided what I needed to do what I needed to do to get ready for what comes next? Then, I'm not wanting...right? I'm living and learning, growing and knowing which way is the way for me.
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #InTransitSeries #blogspot
He thought me strange, from the way I claimed my name. Like, foreign-like, but from the very land from whence I came. I almost puzzled myself when I professed the next few sentiments I felt. Like, am I attempting to defend the man that I am, to my own kin? He smirked at my confusion, as if I were an illusion. Bruised from the mental intrusion, I redefined my bravado, speaking accelerando, speaking honest sonnets and haikus, direct like the news, my truths. He was not amused; now whose confused. He straightened up like a militant, eyes focused like a diligent student. He was not amused. He was...intrigued. Believed that I might be the energy he needs to break free from his own degree of masculinity. He had it all wrong, all along. It's not about braggadocio, but how to use what you know, to prove how far you can go. He began to understand what it really means to be a man. The transformation was beautiful; and not unusual for guys who look like me. Guys who have to believe in something greater than what they see, to acquire this kind of reprieve. And all we ever wanted was to be free.
She looked at me, inquisitively, as though I spoke my truth exquisitely. My eloquent verbal benevolence caught her by surprise. She gazed into my eyes, as if to spot a glimpse of a disguise she must have been hoping lied inside. Her smiles archived files of the moments when words escaped her, before they had the chance to verbalize. She was coy, cute; curious to know the history. My story. O' the glory of her secret worry that I may very well not be who she was told I'd be, but something far more intriguing: authentic human being. Imagine the conversation with the rest of her population when it is discovered that lucid imagination, paired with ignorance and sprinkled defamation is what births the downfall of a nation. So, may the notion create a sense of devotion to Love and truth; proof that hi(s)tory can be told in a bold manner, without daggers, in an honest way to say, "Yes, his life does matter." That, I am not the narrative some thought imperative to paint on the walls of society, with compromised sobriety. I am not the monster under your bed, nor the voice of danger in your head. "I am just a soul, whose intentions are good. O' Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood."
But I'M BACK!
I had some technical hurdles on the digital home front, but I am back and here to stay. It never ceases to amaze me how often I am reminded about the Gift and power of patience and inner peace. The few days without access felt like an eternity, in the midst of it, but I look back and can see that it wasn't that bad. Such is life.
So much has occurred, since my last entry; where to begin? It's definitely great to see and feel more of the Sun. This past winter has been among the darkest for me, so I am absolutely committed to soaking up as much Vitamin D as I can. Roller blading, walks, cookouts, i'm up for it. Beyond that, is a blessing to live in the manifestations of my goals and passions. Mind blowingly - I know, it's not a real word, but I'm in a safe space - my three most recent major projects have all been recognized:
TIME: The Kalief Browder Story (Netflix) - Peabody Award Winner
Kill Move Paradise (Theatre) - Drama Desk Award Nominee for Lighting and Set
Sprout House (NBCU Kids) - Daytime Emmy Nominee
Like, whoa... Again, I'm just really grateful to be a part of projects with a powerful message and ones that speak to the communities. May I continue to do the type of work that I am eternally proud of, that speaks to who I am and what I stand/advocate for. Not only that, the fact that in each of these projects, I have been surrounded by people who were passionate about the work they put out, and the story or message(s) being shared; the makings of success.
Also in this time, I've been working with my fellow Producers on our short film, FAWK. Since we're in the crowd-funding phase, to help get through post-production, it's been crucial for us to be as present as possible. Now that this site is back up and running, you'll likely see more info and updates in the near future. For now, I have some other writing of my own to tend to...*wink* Until soon...
I aim, this quarter, to continue to be surrounded by only those who see impossibility as it relates to not trying, to not jumping openly in the abyss of, not the unknown, but infinite possibility. Last year (2017) taught me a great deal about the gift of Life and of myself and what I am able to manifest. I will not be deterred from the full actualization of that gift, nor should anyone I break bread with be denied exposure to it. I will not be hung up on trivial ideologies, nor will I cower in the face of opposition to my truth. I understand that my journey is not meant for everyone to understand. "They" did not buy my shoes. "They" did not pave my path.
I will continue to say YES to Life; to proceed with open arms, in faith that the elements which has brought me here, will take me so much further. I understand that I have only seen the tip of the tip of the iceberg and will remain focused on the Vision that has been laid out. I will continue with the understanding that nothing works against me, if I don't work against it. This means that there are no setbacks. The hurdles I face are not meant to discourage me, but to strengthen my legs and lengthen the height of my leap. I am not afraid.
I realize that in order for me to be the man I know I can be, I need to embrace the man I am today, without judgement. There is more work to be done and kicking myself is not a means to productivity. Apologizing for who I am is not an option, and seeking approval is null and void in the trajectory of my Life. I get to enjoy every waking moment I have, and I will not diminish that opportunity, for the sake of acceptance or normality.
I understand that this vow is not to anyone other than myself. I am aware that nobody but me can be held responsible for anything I've laid out in this publicly private entry. Here's to a joyously abundant 2nd quarter. Until soon...
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blogspot #2ndquarter #vows
I'm at the Equity building, waiting to be seen for two auditions: "Tribe" and "The Fabulous Stories of Hollywood Whores." I am #24 for the former, and #13 for the latter. Though I'm not really pressed for time, I was hoping to get one or both over with before heading to the 45th Street Theatre. We have to meet at about 1:45 for their audition and I figured I'd try to head to the [Drama Bookshop] afterwards. Then, at 6:30/7 is a soiree given by one of my contacts. I know this seems like a lot, but it's really not. I actually would prefer it to be that way. Full. Productive. Consistent.
At some point today, I'd like to get these videos for the Spain trip done. It literally will only take 5-min each, so there is no reason I can't get them done and submitted. I am really excited about [the possibility of] that trip. It'll be nice to get away from the country for a few weeks.
I think I'll head to the Drama [Bookshop] and look through Backstage, and maybe read a play before heading to 45th St. No need in [being idle] if there are other activities to be done.
AT the point of this entry, I had been living in New York for about five months and two days. Already, I fell into the rhythm of packing my days with to-do's, leaving little to no room for rest. While it developed into a strong work ethic - that which still holds, to this day - I would eventually run myself to the point of exhaustion, twice, which would learn me to listen my body and treat it with the utmost care.
Nowadays, I am very conscious about the amount of time I spend working and creating, as well as prioritizing time for meditation, rest, nourishment and sleep. I am no longer living in the illusion of competition. Instead, I am giving in to the passion of my Journey and am pursuing my desires with great intent, clarity and purpose. That, in and of itself, is what keeps me going. Oh, I didn't book that Spain gig, after all; but it was certainly worth the effort. It eventually led me to other travel/work opportunities, down the line. I'm excited to see what else comes up, looking through more journal entries. Until soon...
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blogspot #journals #reflections #nyc
ON the morning of June 23, 2014, I woke up, having slept in for a couple of hours. I cannot remember if I went right into my morning meditation or stalled for a bit, but I do recall my phone being on silent. Eventually, I checked my phone, noticing that there were a handful of missed calls - more than what seemed "normal." Then I noticed text messages, Facebook notifications, all wondering where I was, if I was alive and okay...say what? I then noticed a link attached to one of the messages. It turned out that a Donnell Smith had been shot and killed at a house party in Brownsville, BK, the night before. That shook me to the marrow. What are the odds? I had been living in Bushwick then, which was close enough to home, but the fact that the guy had the same name took me somewhere, mentally. I did a check-in on my life, and wrote this:
It Could Have Been Me
It could have been me
Showered by metal rain
Poured from clouds of rage
Anger, jealousy, envy
Or sheer miscommunication
of the underaged
Could have been me
In the blood
of my own flesh
I was lucky, I guess
Better cherish life today
other plans may be underway
It could have been me
Departed without reason
Gone for endless seasons
Sentiments in my head
As I lie in bed
I was sleep, but I woke up
Hold me now
I don't want to go
Not knowing if you know
What you mean to me
How your Love affects me
How my Love yearns for you
Until they take me away
I am here.
And I'll tell you every day
Deeply, passionately so
I need you to know
I love you, I Love you
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blogspot #Prayer
In full awareness of Women's History Month, I am inspired to kick my first blog of the month off with a poem that I wrote for a Female public figure, who I always looked up to, growing up. She was known as America's favorite Mom, for many years; but I liked to think of her as Auntie (no Mom outdoes my Mom). In 2012, I had the immense and humbling honor of experiencing three intersecting dreams of mine, all at once: (1) I got to meet this incredible Woman; (2) I got to work with this incredible Woman - She was Director, on the project I worked with Her; (3) said project was one of my favorite plays, A Raisin in the Sun. During this process, I was able to witness, first-hand, Her brilliance, magnificence, passion and humbleness. So, for Her, I wrote this:
O' That Woman
She visually whispers accolades
to my ambitions
Welcomes my presence
as a rite of passage
Into a new world, excitingly divine
Close enough to touch
But too precious to handle
with human hands
Ah, she...she smiles upon my intentions
Nodding approvingly that I have
fulfilled my purpose
Or at the very least captured
the essence of such a goal
She speaks miracles and revelations
to the village
And send them on
with her blessing, her peace
Her...piece of experience at which
millions have witnessed
And thousands seek to attain
She is the water that is fluid, soft
May I be all that she knows I can be
And more than I perceived in me
And from this day, I know it won't be long
I have reached the start
of an escalation to the dream
Made to bear its fruit
and nourish my longings
Today, she has already kept me
Already known me
Already given me exactly what I had
Thank You, [Gift of Dawn]
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #WomensHistoryMonth #ThankYou
I want you to know - no matter what you are going through, at this present moment - that no rain storm lasts forever; it will be very much worth the Journey to break through it and bask in the sunshine that is yours to claim. Every today is your gift and opportunity to make it that much better than yesterday. I'm cheering you on!
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blogspot #YouGotThis #iGotYou
CURRENT Situation: on set of my very first television commercial. I know right, WOW! Of course, I cannot say (just yet) what it is for, but I will say that 2018 is definitely showing me Love. For that, I am exceedingly grateful. It's a true testament to the truth that one never knows what is going on beneath the surface; so one should always keep going, yea?
AS of late, in my continual practice of silence and stillness, I am learning, more and more, the gift of Patience. It's actually like a Power...a Superpower; heeey, Wakanda! I digress *ahem*. The less I worry about what is coming next, and from where, the more surprised I am when something comes along, especially with a booking to sweeten the stride. It becomes less about the grind itself and more about meeting dope individuals who also love what they do. That alone increases the likelihood of more opportunities to come.
IF this is just the tip of the iceberg, in my journey of silence and stillness then,
. Until soon...
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blogspot #stillness #WakandaForever
BY the title of this entry, I get the feeling your head probably tilted ever so slightly, or you did that little scrunch-thing with your face. It's all good. Fret not, this entry is rated G. *ahem* Shall we?
THIS week has been chock full of blanket moments; experiences in which one feels like one is wrapped up in a warm blanket, euphorically elevated to one's highest vibration. It is almost spiritual. At least, this is my personal definition of it. Now that I think about it, I do believe that is among my own personal terminology. Ah, I digress...
ONE of the most highlighted blanket moments this week: Black Panther. Yup, last night's rehearsal was finished on the earlier side of the evening so I decided to see if I could land a ticket. What. An. Experience! That's all I will say about it; I try not to be the one to hype things up. I will add that I plan on seeing it again tomorrow evening...and possibly Sunday afternoon... It was a great experience that I would be delighted to wrap myself in.
NOW that I think of it, I have been in the midst of what I like to call Creative Hell Week. I know, I know, another one of my "terms." I am so gratefully in a vortex of consistent work that my current projects have met at a crossroad, this week. Added, were some solid auditions to keep the creative mojo strong. Overall, it has been a great week of blanket-worthy moments that I secretly wish I could stay wrapped in, (Wakanda) forever. Speaking of Wakanda, did I mention that Black Panther was a dope film?
*Reads above paragraph*
YES, I did. Well then, may your experiences be blanket-worthy. May you be so euphorically elevated to your highest vibration that you too desire to stay wrapped in its inspirational magic. May the Spirit of the Panther be with you. Until soon...
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #BlackPanther #WakandaForever #blanketmoments
UP until this very moment, I have been contemplating what I wanted to share in this first (and loooong overdue) blog of 2018. Earlier this evening, I read an email from a dear friend of mine, who wanted to express his gratitude for and to the people in his life. Humbled to have been on the receiving end of that email, that list of I Am's, I was inspired to happily oblige and reply with my gratitude-now list. I then wanted to continue these positive vibes and send my list to the people who humble and inspire me. Then, I decided I would do it in a slightly different way.
IN reading my friend's list, I realized that the very act of professing our gratitude brings about a feeling of renewal, and a fresh start, in that very moment. We do not have to wait for New Year's Day or life anniversaries (birthdays) or even the beginning of the week to begin anew. Every day we are given to rise from our beds, we are already new. We get to use today to be better than yesterday; that is our clean slate. No matter what occurred yesterday, it does not keep you from being your best You, today. With that being said, here is my gratitude-now list:
I Am grateful to have been a part of a dope email chain (re: dear friend's shared gratitude list).
I Am grateful that I get to have passionate people in my life who inspire me to be passionate about Life.
I Am grateful for stillness and silence.
I Am grateful for getting to wake up and make today better than yesterday.
I Am grateful that I have stepped into my Purpose and get to live in it every day.
I Am grateful for my Blackness.
I Am grateful for parents who support my path, even though they were afraid I'd be homeless or broke, in the process.
I Am grateful that I got to experience being homeless and broke during my time living in NYC - without it, I might not have realized how resilient and resourceful I really Am.
I Am grateful that I can find a way.
I Am grateful that I have found a way to maintain inner-peace, assurance and gratitude, in the face of uncertainty and bullshit.
I Am grateful for Love over fear.
I Am grateful I get to be a Happy Black Man on a show that little Black boys and girls will see and remember when they're grown.
I Am grateful that I no longer feel that I have to prove myself or have to fit into the boxes that society has created, just to feel like I matter (dammit!).
I Am grateful for Our stories, Our strides, Our history.
I Am grateful for my commitment to Happiness, no matter what.
I Am grateful for my own permission to cry, to get pissed, to need, to ask for help, to stumble, to fall, to cry some more and then to get right back up and be dope as shit - that felt good, right there...
I Am grateful that I know who I Am, and that much assures my stability in every situation.
I Am grateful for the ones who take the time to know me, the ones who understand me and all my quirks to know that my Love goes beyond words.
I Am grateful to those whose eyes have reached this point - no matter what you may have said about this long list, along the way - because it means that on some level, you believe in me and my mission. Thank You! Until soon...
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #newness #gratitude #blogspot #thankyou #iAM
Donnell E. Smith