Event Recap: Artists at Work: An Afternoon with Edwidge Danticat

Last weekend, Philadelphia’s Art Sanctuary hosted Artists at Work: An Afternoon with Edwidge Danticat. The event featured a panel discussion moderated by April Silver with panelists: spoken word artist Michelle Myers, visual artist James E. Claibrone Jr., bassist Jonathan Michel, and writer Edwidge Danticat.

A few insights I gained from the panel:

On speaking for/with a community:

I see myself as speaking as part of a chorus — the more voices that join, the more enlightened we are… saying that I am the voice of a non-monolithic, complex people silences other people’s voices. – Edwidge

Join the chorus. Don’t allow anyone to silence your voice and don’t attempt to silence anyone else’s voice.

When people lay claim, they sometimes want to dictate what I write about… – Michelle

I get excited when someone is able to put my thoughts into words but then sometimes I have expectations for them to continue to do this. It’s an unfair burden for artists.

We internalize negative images of ourselves [from popular media] and then celebrate it… [We need] to invest in and create righteous art/images – James

*a lightbulb moment for me*. When James made this comment I realized that countering negative stereotypes is not just about being accepted by the “other” but also about not internalizing negativity.

Advice to “aspiring” artists on the importance of study and discipline:

Study is paradigm to what we do…discipline comes from the love of what we do… Learn from the elders; we are not innovators, we are continuing the tradition – Jonathan Michel

I love Jonathan for this comment because it made me realize that my writing is bigger than me. Writing is something that comes naturally to me and I indulge in it as a form of therapy. But if I’m going to acknowledge writing as my calling then I need to recognize the duty that comes with it. *a true lesson in humility*

As a follow-up to Jonathan’s comment on learning from the elders: Study their grace, not just their work, but the way their personhood embodies their work. – Edwidge

This was an important message for me to hear. Though my name means grace I’ve let my ego and my insecurities create a version of myself that is anything but graceful and disconnected form my work.

*
This was originally posted on The G is for Grace

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