Stories

Ode to the Misfits – Visionary Awards Thank You Speech

On April 25, I was one of the recipients of the St. Louis Visionary Awards, which exists to “celebrate the numerous contributions and achievements of women who work in or support the arts in St. Louis. From established working arts professionals and arts educators to emerging artists and community impact artists, each year’s honorees are truly ‘visionary’.”

For the 2016 Visionary Awards, I was nominated and received the Community Impact Artist award, which recognized contributions I’d made during the past year(s) as a social practice and community artist.

Though honored to receive this award and recognition, I felt it would be remiss to simply “accept” it, as much of my work is not created only my me. Co-creation and collaboration–largely with other women and youth–live at the core of all that I do, so I decided to leverage and use this opportunity and platform to salute womanhood and the resilience, brilliance, and consciousness of the women who influence me. Below are my remarks.

 

 

Thank you all.

 

It is an honor and privilege to stand before you tonight in recognition of such brilliant, creative, and wonderful women.

 

I am truly humbled to be amongst you.

 

But I would not BE myself if I accepted this only FOR myself.

 

So I accept this for that little girl

who has not yet discovered

that her liberation

lives in the magic of her own hands.

 

I do this for the mothers–much like my own–

who go without and sacrifice their dreams and give their last

to build a generation of women who fearlessly

set forth to achieve everything they said we could not have.

 

For black women

who have reclaimed our magic and found our place in this world

by being bold, loud, curly-haired and unapologetic

In celebration of EVERYTHING they told us to hate about ourselves.

 

I accept this for queer women and trans women

who live their lives in bodies that have been

burned by hatred and and scorned by judgment

Rejected as reprehensible

Because of who we choose to love and be.

 

I do this for the misfits who dare to pave our paths using the bricks that have been thrown our way.

 

And I do this in recognition that

there are women on the frontlines of communities and movements

whose names will never make a history book,

whose strides are the foundation of our work

but whose feet may never touch a stage as glorious as this.

 

And there are women artists

Who bleed their all

into the expression of their souls

but are blocked from having the privilege

of dedicating their full lives to this work.

 

Where is their reward?! Where is their freedom?

 

It is our duty to fight for it.

It is our duty to win it.

 

And as we must uplift and support each other

we WILL lose ALL our chains

and wade in the liberating waters of equity, truth, and justice.

 

But it takes more.

 

We need more space for women to love on each other

and celebrate the strength and brilliance of all we do.

 

We need more resources invested in women

to create, to build, and craft our visions.

 

We need more hands extended to the women in the margins

to help us close gaps, shatter ceilings, and

break through the chains of patriarchy that hold us back.

 

Our glory must not come just in our final hours.

We must give each other roses while we are still here to traverse this earth.

 

So I accept this award as a commitment.

 

To uplift the works, the voices, and the contributions of women who walk and create with me,

who show me daily what it means to be loved,

Who influence everything that I do.

 

Many of you are here tonight.

 

Thank you for your impact on me.

 

I accept this for us.