Dear Friends,

At least the turn of a new year gives us a chance to re-imagine the stories we want to tell about ourselves and our work, the journeys we want to take into our futures.

One of the stories I am choosing to lean into for 2021 and beyond is to remind myself that the work I do shines when I let my artist self be more visible.

Work, and the idea/drudgery of it asks that we hide portions of ourselves that didn’t directly relate to a job description. My colleagues at Red Olive might get caught up in things quote-unquote not related to work and drop it. I would urge them to go back to the story they were telling, remind them that I believe it’s all related, and to relish in the places the mind wanted us to go for that moment.

Even as a consultant-collaborator, I am trying to embrace what it means to show up, wholly, for an engagement. In a non-work conversation with the team at For Freedoms, I had mentioned my own material creative practices in poetry, music, and quilting, and I could see they saw me differently. There had opened up new possibilities. Later, for a funder’s meeting, the team asked me to open the space with poetry.

At first I balked. It wasn’t the work of fundraising! We only had 30 minutes with Ford Foundation, I reminded them. They insisted we make space for art, and even my art, and so I read a poem to clear the way for the conversation that was to follow.

In introductions, the team had named me the resident poet not our fundraising consultant. And I realized that small gesture helped send a message more than a statement. The funders could see and experience For Freedoms as a team of artists. It happened similar to this at a Black Art Futures Fund learning call this month: I was leading the conversation about year-round fundraising and storytelling, and as an aside I mentioned my collection of poetry—I was continuing to consider the art I make as an afterthought—and a request was made that I share some poetry before we closed the session.

So I offer this new year opening newsletter with a few questions: Where are you not telling the whole story of the life you live in order to do the work you do? How can showing more of yourself give way to new visions?

In this newsletter you will find our 2020 Impact report for the whole of the Red Olive Creative Consulting Universe (a more full story), an expansion of Olive’s Classroom to include a course by our colleague Sharbreon Plummer, and an announcement of Black Art Futures Fund Cycle 5.

Let’s lean into the whole of it, together. We’ll get there.

In Black love,

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