Over the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing a series of micro-interviews with our 2014 Create change artists!
beluvid ola-jendai, 2014 Resident: Harlem
Please tell us of an artist, curator, activist, or project that has influenced you or inspired you?
One of my most beloved artistic inspirations is Sekou Sundiata. As a singer-songwriter, I was always impressed by the intersections of poetry, music, and performance in his work which are at once art and socio-political commentary. I had the opportunity to meet him during a Cave Canem poetry workshop facilitated by Tracie Moore. That evening he shared a gem about his writing process that was indelible. It had everything to do with getting rid of the “box”… discarding one’s expectations surrounding what is good or great writing in order to be with the process and to allow what comes to surprise you. It is the one piece of advice that I use most to dislodge myself whenever I feel stuck in my creative process.
Please tell us about a place in your neighborhood that is personally meaningful to you, and why?
Morningside Park. My maternal grandparents lived off the park after moving to New York from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Before my grandfather passed and my grandmother moved the family to Queens, my mother and her seven siblings played in Morningside Park. Family lore has it that my grandfather wished one of his sons could attend and graduate from that school up on the hill, Columbia University. That son was my uncle Robert who passed just weeks before graduation in 1978 after being hit in a car accident. That dream passed to me and during my undergraduate experience, Morningside Park was often my access point to Harlem—my escape from the craziness that college could be. When I met my wife, she lived around the corner from Morningside Park and we took our first family pictures there.
What is your favorite book, film or song about NYC?
My favorite book about NYC has to be Motown and Didi. The book is written by my uncle, Walter Dean Myers who is an acclaimed young adult fiction writer. In my early teens, I tried to read any book I could find by him. After the Dragon Takes a Wife, Motown and Didi was the second book I read. It was a love story that took place with characters that looked and sounded like me with Harlem as a backdrop. As my uncle drew on his own childhood memories to inform his writing, reading Motown and Didi was also like getting a peek into my own family history through fiction.
Do you have a blog of your own or a blog portion of your website that you’d like to share with us? If so, what is the web address for your blog?