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
WHAT is it about this time of the year that has many of us either going into overdrive, trying to tie up loose ends, or deeply introspective, meticulously evaluating the course of the year, to date? We increase productivity, we shop more, we workout out more, we connect with more friends and we eagerly anticipate the coming of a new year. But why? Are we lamenting over our actions throughout the present year and are in need of a clean slate? Have our sown seeds shown us what is to come in the next season, that we cannot wait for it to manifest? I wonder...
USUALLY, I treat my birthdays as my own Personal New Year. Even when I wish others a "Happy Birthday" - Disclaimer: I do miss birthdays here and there, and kick myself for it because I want to catch everyone I know - I try to include "Personal New Year" somewhere in my message to the one in celebration. It's one of the primary reasons I opt to travel on or around my birthday, to give myself permission to go inward, analyze my Journey, get to know me more and find out what about me is evolving. Then, when New Year's Eve comes around, I am the guy who is happy staying in the house, watching TV, meditating or pigging out. Don't get me wrong, I do still hold on to some of the ritualistic superstitions like: making sure all of my laundry is washed, or detail-cleaning the house the day before, and even making sure I'm going into the new year with a certain amount of money in the bank and on my person. But, I also find myself stressing less and less, the closer to the closing of the year that we get. Nonetheless, I am intrigued by the way we, generally, start to get antsy in the final month of the year.
THIS year's Journey has taught me how to surrender and to let go; and in a myriad of ways. I look back over my steps and I realize the patterns of walking away from certain situations without hesitation, embracing new ideas and values with open arms, even understanding the loss of loved ones gone too soon. I realize that none of it is in vain and each step has either been with fully conscious intent or subconscious dharma, always informing the next step and contributing to the overall mission. Even when I did not understand how - and there are certain lessons I still grapple with - I made the choice to lean more into Faith, instead of stress. I have learned that uncertainty is the greatest platform for opportunity. Now, I'm really starting to see that it is about the Journey, because the destination is a deceptive illusion that will have you chasing your own ego, before you get to taste the fruits of your desires.
PERHAPS, it is in my practice of silence and stillness that I have been able to reach this level of clarity. Perhaps, this very moment is the only one that should be getting all of my attention. Perhaps, I will stay on this effortless flow out of 2017 and step confidently into 2018, no rush necessary. Perhaps, I should challenge you to do the same. Until soon...
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blogspot #NewYear #rocksteady
To date, it has been 6 years, 3 months, 3 weeks and 5 days since I moved to New York; and as it closes in on the week leading up to my Personal New Year (birthday), I have found myself in a space of deep introspection. I have constantly been thinking about the course of my journey - which I would not trade in for the world - yet, also wondering how different it might have been if certain vital steps and opportunities were missed. There have been many a day when I would kick myself for not being where I feel I should have been - and honestly, from time to time, I still do. I have complained about things and circumstances, yet always find myself right back to a space of Gratitude and Humbleness. Those moments are my reminders that I am right where I am supposed to be.
Today, I sat in a cafe and journal-ranted about all of the elements that I felt were working against me, or seemingly holding me back. In the midst of that rant, I began to recognize the solutions/remedies for those same complaints. Literally, for every complaint I spoke of and listed, there were one or two solutions I was able to clearly see that would combat that thought process and challenge myself to turn them into opportunities. I realized that I was beginning to allow myself to get so distracted by the elements I wanted to see changes in, that I nearly missed the open door to those very changes. Mahatma Gandhi was right: Be the change you want to see.
Being present does not necessarily mean having all the answers. Rather, it means acknowledging where you are, what you feel and where the opportunities to modify and improve lie. It's all there, really. I am learning, every day, how to live in the now and how to see the light in every waking situation, step by step. Of course it is not always easy, but very much worth the effort, in the long run. Yea, I'm still figuring it out. Until soon...
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blogspot #FiguringItOut
Growing up, I often wondered what made people live in cities/towns that were prone to natural disasters. Having only experienced, at most, severe thunder-storms and blizzards, I thought that was enough to deal with. As I became an adult and started traveling, finally getting to know the world outside my own, I began to understand there was little difference from what I was used to as a child and how people in those areas see it. People can only be where they are. Those who leave are the ones who can; those who stay - or move to those areas - have their reasons, and they need not be questioned or challenged.
How, though? I wonder about the psychological effect it has on a community who might yearly endure the damage or loss of property, the seemingly daunting task of having to pick up the pieces and begin again. I do not pity these communities, but rather salute their resilience and resourcefulness in the face of elements out of human control. Those cities and towns I have been fortunate to visit over the years inspire me, because Life goes on. It must. It is a reminder that we are a part of Nature, whether we realize it or not. Having the gift (or curse) of will is not an exemption from the evolution of the planet we share.
The social constructs we feed into, and inevitably perpetuate, are merely distractions. They are ill-usions, compared to what really matters. Yet, despite it all, the natural cycle continues. Where and how we fit into that is based on what we choose to acknowledge and contribute to the evolution, be it helpful or otherwise. Nonetheless, we weather the storm, and we continue forward.
To those who are, have been and will be affected by the natural elements: You are forever on my mind and in my prayers. Stay strong, be safe and Live on.
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #Pray4TheNations
The flicker at the center of hopeful eyes
The base of the waves in the afternoon tides
The grind between jaws of determination
The heart of a nation
I Am anticipation, resilience, elevation
Of the Human Spirit, I Am
The roundness of lips professing Love
for the first time
I Am the reach in the strive for success
The assurance of a mind at its best
Rest for the weary, answers to the query
In search of a release
I Am Clarity at the precipice of Peace
Get to know me
The hug after a nightmare
The kiss in the midst of fallen tears
The missing heartbeat in the face of fear
Never defeated, I Am always there
The open palm of gratitude
The exhale of relief
The waist of lovers' cuddle time
Rest but never sleep on me
I Am the flex in a Freedom Walk
The confidence in Revolution's talk
The stand taken
The air that upholds the Fist of Justice
I cannot be held down because
I Am the ground that supports The People
But I cannot be walked over because
I Am the Future inevitably manifested
I Am the haunted Past
The part of hi(S)tory tried and tested
And I passed Evolution because
I Am the Present
The surprise in gifts God-given
The breath of the Living
The strength in Forgiving
The reason for Giving
Not to be dismissed because
I Am the storage facilitating memory
So miss me with amnesia because
I Am the analysis in every diagnosis
The decibels in every scream
The calm before the storm
The pulse of the alarm
I Am every thing and any thing in between
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blog #iAm
Loss (n): the state of being deprived of or of being without something that someone has had
Losing anything is never convenient; keys, wallet, a job, a relationship, oneself... Though a lot of these mishaps are only temporary, and many are avoidable to some extent, there is a piece of us that is altered/modified. Whether we believe it or not, something in our perception changes. Nonetheless, a lesson resides at the end result of the matter, be it when the item is found, a new job is had, the relationship is mended or at least civilized, the worth of self is rediscovered. Or the opposed...
Loss (n): death, or the fact of being dead
Perhaps the heaviest loss I have ever experienced, and undeniably the most traumatic, has been that of a very dear friend and former castmate of mine, not even a month ago. This dear friend and I recently shared the stage in the very play that our hearts were set on from our introduction to it - Kill Move Paradise - back in April/2016. A true bond was formed; and not solely covered in Art, but one steeped in the abundance of Life. I cannot readily admit that I have come across another being who carries such a Light and capacity for Love that it viscerally magnify's one own capacity. Even as I type this, I find myself having a quite difficult time understanding or fully processing his transition. True as it may be that his energy, Light & Love are significantly larger than the shell of his flesh that once contained it, there is the (selfish) part of me that wishes that shell could have carried his physical presence just a while longer, 30-40 years more. It's not fair...
My life has changed, quite literally. Every day, I wonder, I ask aloud, I sit in a cloud of confusion, trying to make sense of what I am afraid I will never fully understand. There is a part of me that is at a tremendous loss. Loss (n): a losing by defeat. We lost at battle with fate. No, it does not make me afraid to live, but rather determined to live more fearlessly. But it does hurt. Every day it does, and in a way that is different, almost newly compartmentalized; every day. This loss feels permanent, and I have yet to discover the lesson at the end result, because I am not entirely sure what that "end result"' is [supposed to be].
This past month has been an ironic balance of tragedy and triumph. While mourning loss, I have been giving myself permission to celebrate recent career strides, bookings and new friendships that have formed. It helps. I get that one can not understand the fulfillment of joy without the awareness of pain, yet these reminders only lead to more questions: (1) why this kind of pain? (2) why his life? (3) why now? (4) why? Again, the answers may be out of reach, right now, but I have to trust that they will come. Otherwise, I would go through Life at a loss of Faith, which is sure to be at my own demise, yea? Until soon...
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blog #SidikiFofana
Yesterday was the final performance of Kill Move Paradise, at The National Black Theatre (written by James Ijames, Directed by Saheem Ali). The final curtain also happened to fall on the birthday of Tamir Rice, who would have been 15yrs young today, and was greatly represented in KMP, as Tiny (Sidiki Fofana). For the first time in my career - and even uttering this feels strange - I honestly do not know how or what to feel. Closing shows can usually be a challenge - especially, when working one to be proud of - but this was not like any type of show I have ever done. I am not so sure the recovery, or "getting back to life" is or will be so simple. This piece is such a strong representation of Life that I began to notice when the world of KMP felt more like realism than the world I walked into when I left the building after each performance. What of that? How does one walk away from that?
The rave reviews - especially one such in The NY Times as a Critic's Pick - the cheers and standing ovations, the celebrity appearances have all been outstanding and truly humbling; however, what I have found the most gratifying has been the privilege to witness lives changed. Literally. Lives have changed in front of our eyes, and that is something that cannot be measured by ratings or applause. It is the way those eyes rest on the subjects before them, how they search for the right articulation while their spirit shouts monologues of gratitude, openness and liberation. It is the awakening in their energy that is so tangible that it can be held. I have never seen anything like that before, As Daz (Clinton Lowe) says in the show, "that's transformation." That's magic. That is the beauty of Theatre.
Today, I celebrated my 6th anniversary living in New York. With that celebration came the bittersweet taste of a job successfully executed, but passed. In the morning, I silently hoped for an email requesting a special encore performance, just so I can get back into that world and touch one more life, say their names one more time, be a part of the release that the is and has been much needed in our communities. I wanted one more time to stand up for and represent every Grif in America who carries - knowingly or otherwise - the burden society has place on their psyche, on their flesh. I wanted to cry, to laugh out loud, to shout, to get angry, then forgive, to play and feel hopeful of a better tomorrow. What I resolved to do, however, was to do every bit of that in Donnell's life. I resolved to be as free in my daily life as I was able to feel in Kill Move Paradise. I am going to claim my ascension on this earthly plane. The message and the purpose has not faded; nor shall my contribution to it. Isa (Ryan Jamaal Swain) said it best: "A little more work to do." Until the next Piece of Power...
Thank You, Sade Lythcott, Jonathan McCrory, Nabii Faison, Denzel Faison, Paris Campbell, Randolph Logan, Byron McCray, Cheryl Duncan, Gabriel Lawrence, Garlia C. Jones-Ly, Christine Jean Chambers, Kojo Ade, Chris Holland, Laksman Shapiro, Gregory Caldwell, Candace Leacock, Reynaldo J. Nunez, Alan C. Edwards, Palmer Hefferan, Ntokozo Kunene, Maruti Evans, Darius Smith, Darrell G. Moultrie, Adrian Alexander Alea, Christina Franklin, Saheem Ali, James Ijames, Ryan Jamaal Swain, Clinton Lowe & Sidiki Fofana for your Love and Being.
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #KillMoveParadise #NationalBlackTheatre #blackboymagic #blackboyjoy
Whew! What else can I say, having journeyed through two full performance weeks into our dark day? With only eleven shows left, and twelve completed - including the three previews - I Am increasingly humbled by the responses and conversations had, so far. Kill Move Paradise is truly changing lives and opening up people's minds and perspectives on how much needs to change in this country. It could not have happened at a better time, given the current condition of our nation and government. For too long, we have swept issues under the rug, to the point we can no longer hide the mountainous fabric of our impurities. More on that in another blog...
Those who have been able to experience the journey of Kill Move Paradise, will understand when I express my excitement in getting through our first two-show day of the run, on Saturday, June 10th. One performance night requires quite the lot of energy, focus and openness, as it is; two give that 110% twice in one day...like I said, I am thoroughly relieved to have been able to endure it, without over-exertion and fatigue. Many folks many not believe it, nor understand it, but acting requires such a level of athleticism - physical, mental, spiritual, emotional - and Actors are often under-estimated in that regard. Nonetheless, because we are so very passionate about not only our work as Artists, but about our mission as Storytellers. James Ijames has penned quite the message to communities, to this nation, that the four of us, the Crew and Producers all have a moral obligation to upholding every fiber of that message and ensure that it is told properly. A certain publication has acknowledged said message and humbled us with its perspective.
Yes, as if this Journey could not get any more gratifying, The New York Times came out and so profoundly reviewed Kill Move Paradise. Ben Brantley, Chief Theatre Critic of TNYT, evidently felt what many others have been feeling after leaving a perfomance and eloquently expressed it, encouraging readers to take advantage of the opportunity to see for themselves, while the show is still running. Last night's audience-surge was a result of his outlook, along with the ever-increasing social media postings and hashtagging. The Love and Support is real! It is truly a deep, deep honor to walk on-stage with my Brothers, my fellow Kings: Sidiki Fofana, Clinton Lowe and Ryan Jamaal Swain, every night, every performance, every Journey to a space of Healing. Don't miss out on the ride. Get yours. Until soon...
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blogspot #actorslife #KillMoveParadise #NationalBlackTheatre #Harlem #BlackBoyMagic #BlackBoyJoy #TheNYTimes
The Opening of Kill Move Paradise proved to be a monumental milestone in my career and creative experience as a whole. Not only was the show sold out to the point of having to encourage the folks on the wait-list to return another night for entry, but the house was filled with people who's work and journey I admire and am inspired by. It was humbly gratifying and soul-opening to share that kind of time and space. Words, words, words...there aren't enough to acutely capture what I am feeling. I Love my Journey. I Am grateful for its trajectory and embrace every step of it with open heart and Light. Thank YOU ALL who have stepped into KILL MOVE PARADISE so far! May the next seventeen (17) performances grow exponentially!
#SmithDonnellE #OnMyMind #blog #KillMoveParadise #NationalBlackTheatre #healing #transformation #blackboyjoy #blackboymagic
Donnell E. Smith