Did you know I’ve performed at Lincoln Center? I grew up in NYC, in Bronx specifically, and when I was in elementary school, we had an amazing arts program. Each year, I auditioned for chorus or dance and that experience culminated in a citywide performance of all elementary schools at Lincoln Center.

I still remember being on that stage and my parents being in the audience. We all went together on a school bus to the “city” in the middle of winter. I distinctly remember one of those evenings when I wanted to wear my fancy sandals so my dad gave me a piggyback ride on the walk back home because he didn’t want me to sink my feet into the cold, slushy snow.

As a child attending a low income, diverse school, I still remember the excitement of hanging out backstage and we even got to be on the news the year I successfully got into dance. We sang and danced to “This Beautiful Land” by Nina Simone and wore homemade costumes of brightly colored sweatshirts representing the colors of the rainbow with paper streamers attached to the underarms. We felt like superstars.

Sadly the program ended under budget cuts by the time I was in high school as arts programs were the first to go. The powers that be must have seen an experience like performing at Lincoln Center as frivolous when they were deciding what to cut first. But reflecting back, I realize this was not an insignificant experience. It didn’t matter where our families came from, what color we were or how much money we had. The city felt like ours and we felt like we belonged. In those years, there was a belief that we mattered and that anything was possible.

That’s the thing about the arts. Whatever the medium of creation, in art we are all equal. Whether you are the one creating or the subject or the one viewing, we all have the same value and what exists externally doesn’t matter. Art is about how we feel and bringing that which we hold guarded deep inside to the surface. Art is about being seen.

We are all artists in one way or another because we all feel. Art encompasses all the ways we choose to take what’s inside and show up with it on the outside. It is how we contribute to the understanding of the human experience, in all of its complexity, to the world. But we don’t tend to these parts of us and put them last because we consider art as extraneous and frivolous. Nothing could be further from the truth. Art connects us to our deepest selves and through that process, we connect to each other meaningfully, no matter where we come from or where we believe we belong because someone, somewhere will see themselves reflected in it. That connection, from both the giver and receiver, helps us feel less alone, which helps feel like we belong and that in itself is healing.

Photography is my art.
Writing is my art.
My voice is my art.
My vulnerability is my art.

And all of these mediums began with resistance and an incredible fear of showing my insides to the outside. I was afraid of being seen but now, they are my power. What I put out into the world matters because I matter. We all matter, whether or not you believe it.

What is your art? And what are you afraid of putting out into the world?

Photo credit “Lincoln Center Twilight” by Nils Olander

This is from a personal journal writing shared in the newsletter and typically not shared on the blog. To read these, subscribe to the “I Matter” newsletter below.