In this episode, we get into conversation with La Shaun Phoenix Moore. Moore is a Detroit-based vocalist, spoken word artist, activist, culture creator, and wife. She is the recipient of the 2020 and 2021 Creators of Culture Award by CultureSource.
Phoenix is currently working on a memoir that examines the complexities of the Mother Wound. The Mother wound is a type of intergenerational trauma that is informed by how we have experienced mothering. We unpack this idea in our conversation including how it is rooted in Phoenix’s immediate family.
In this conversation, we also discuss the life and work of Natasha T Miller. Tasha, as you’ll hear Phoenix refer to her, is a Detroit native, performance poet, LGBTQ activist, film producer, founder of the “Artists Inn Detroit.”
Natasha has been a member of four national slam teams, starred in a national Sprite commercial, a Shinola CNN ad, and she is a Women of the World Poetry Slam 3-time top five finalist. Natasha currently tours the world using her words to enlighten, create equality, and most importantly spread truth, and forgiveness in the tradition of so many great leaders before her.
I had never heard of Natasha prior to this conversation, and I am so grateful to Phoenix for introducing me to her. And I think you will be too.
In this episode, we talk about:
- La Shaun Phoenix Moore –
- Natasha T Miller
[00:00:00] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: When you change the world around you, you are automatically changing the world.
So, instead of focusing on solving all the world’s problems, start working through the world of you, however you need to touch that, and you will see the world, the rest of the world, fall in alignment.
[00:00:30] (upbeat piano music)
[00:00:37] Michaela Ayers: Hello there, and welcome to Black Her Stories where we tap in to the lineage of Black women, artists who inspire us and shape our stories.
Join us for nourishing conversations with leading writers, storytellers, and entertainers that center the lived experiences of Black women, past and present.
[00:01:03] Together, we will explore what possibilities exist when creativity meets history, when we harness our creative power to unlock our purpose.
I am your host Michaela Ayers.
[00:01:26] It is my supreme honor to invite you into a conversation with my new sister-friend, La Shaun Phoenix Moore.
La Shaun Phoenix Moore is a Detroit based vocalist, spoken word artist, activist, culture creator, and wife.
She is the recipient of the 2020 and 2021 Creators of Culture Award by CultureSource.
[00:01:51] Moore’s interdisciplinary work is infused with her love for the city of Detroit, hip hop, God, social justice, and her Black mama.
Phoenix is currently working on a memoir that examines the complexities of the Mother Wound.
The Mother Wound is a type of intergenerational trauma that is informed by how we have experienced mothering. I like to think of it as a kind of psychological scar that is passed down from one generation to the next.
[00:02:23] We unpack this idea in our conversation, including how it is rooted in Phoenix’s immediate family.
Now, believe me when I tell you that Phoenix lives up to her name. She is a fiery bright light. When you meet her, you immediately sense her warmth.
I first encountered Phoenix through the Room Project, which is a space for women and non-binary writers.
[00:02:55] In the weeks since this conversation with Phoenix, I have been chewing on some of the delicious ideas that came up in our conversation.
I see three big themes that I’d like to share with you.
[00:03:11] The first is vulnerability.
As a facilitator who holds space for hard conversations. I am always curious about the social conditions that empower people to be vulnerable. As you listen, notice how this behavior functions in individuals and in community settings.
[00:03:33] Second, I want to lift up the concept of multiplicity, this idea that you are more than just one thing.
Psychology sometimes frames this term as negative. But to me, multiplicity simply means that you have multiple identities that co-exist. That every human has the capacity to be good and bad, to be a hero and a villain.
In my mind, multiplicity lives across the street from intersectionality, and both of these terms offer us a more nuanced understanding of identity.
[00:04:10] Third is motherhood.
Phoenix’s work on the Mother Wound is explicit about the ways that our maternal connections shape our beliefs and behaviors.
Listen for how the act of mothering, nurturing and nourishing ourselves and our loved ones can help to heal difficult experiences and transform complex emotions.
[00:04:40] So without further ado, let’s dive in to my conversation with La Shaun Phoenix Moore.
[00:04:57] Michaela Ayers: Oh, I’m so excited to talk to you about, about all the things.
La Shaun Phoenix Moore: Thank you so much.
Michaela Ayers: Well, I want to start with you, of course. So, when did you first start calling yourself a writer?
[00:05:09] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: I got into the Detroit poetry and art scene in the late nineties, somewhere between ‘96 and ‘98.
I was just going to go and hang out at Cafe Mahogany in Detroit, it was hosted by, still, Detroit host Joel Fluent Greene, and he was hosting a weekly series.
[00:05:30] It was really beatnik poetry-ish. And we would just come out and do all of these kind of hippy pieces.
It wasn’t until I found myself in an abusive relationship in ‘98, that I felt comfortable getting on the stage, nervously, to talk about what that experience was.
And it was ultimately the Detroit community that gave me my name, Phoenix.
[00:05:59] And it was the Detroit arts community that helped guide me out of that abusive relationship.
So it was watching people get up and do vulnerable work, and sometimes cheesy work just to get girls, and that mix made me feel like I could settle in and tell the real story.
[00:06:19] And after I read my first poem, and it was received with love and community, and it yielded a ton of resources that I just didn’t know was available to someone who was going through what I was going through, that level of toxicity, I think that’s when the birth of truly writing with intention came.
I’ve been reading and writing since I was a kid, but I always had an issue with public speaking and would clam up, you totally can’t tell now, but I had an issue with public speaking and would clam up because we came from a family where children were supposed to be seen and not heard.
[00:07:01] And so, not knowing how to use my voice because I was living a life of silence, and then to walk into this community where everybody was talking about everything, things that I felt like, you know, we’re not even supposed to be putting Black people businesses out here like this, but this arts community was doing it,
[00:07:22] I felt a safety when it came to having to tell a true story. So I would say I became a writer in the late nineties.
[00:07:31] Michaela Ayers: Wow. Well, I can already hear this really powerful transformation that took place in your identity, when you put yourself out there as a writer. As a performer, actually, I feel like those two things are so intertwined, what I’m hearing you say.
[00:07:45] But could you tell me a little bit more about the themes you explore? Like what are you getting on stage to talk about? What are the things that you write about in your practice?
[00:07:55] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: My earlier themes definitely centered around my love of God, my love for Detroit, a lot of sociopolitical economical issues that were surrounding our city.
[00:08:09] Like straight-up traditional, current affair poet was kind of how my work initially came out.
I studied up under artist Khary Kimani Turner who is now some executive director, I think, for the Coleman Young Foundation, but he’s a hip hop poet, like, his poem got into Hamilton. So he wrote a rap for Biggie and that ended up in the Hamilton series.
[00:08:39] So he, he forced us to read. He said poets needed to be well-read and not just well-read of other poets. We needed to know what was happening in terms of current events.
And that also appealed to my forensics background in high school. I was on the debate team, and so, needing to know current events was already a part of my practice. But now as I fast forward it, I teach with inside-out literary arts.
[00:09:11] I do still make the kids do current events and be aware of the world that’s around them, but my personal work now has been very centered on writing the Mother Wound and examining how the tradition of silence has affected the women in my family. And I’ve been able to go back in researching this Mother Wound up to my great grandmother.
[00:09:43] I don’t have enough information about my great-great grandmother, she was a slave, but her being a slave definitely informs the practice.
But from my great-grandmother to my grandmother, to my mom, how the Mother Wound has been a generational curse on our family and the ways that it has empowered and disempowered women.
[00:10:07] So the, the bulk of my work right now has been centered on that. And the goal is to write a memoir that is filled with a series of essays and poems exploring my personal Mother Wound.
[00:10:20] Michaela Ayers: Hm. Well, what I am noticing about what you’re sharing is that you’re, you know, not only are you keeping up with what’s going on in this current moment, there’s also this time-traveling aspect, going back to look at, you know, what ancestral patterns are you picking up throughout your writing practice, which I think is really powerful.
[00:10:40] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: And the goal, the goal ultimately is, and I mean, I’m thinking of this right now in real time, the goal is ultimately if you know what’s happening in the world around you, and if, Sankofa. Like, if you know what’s happened in your past, you can heal things.
Like you can heal, we don’t have to carry generational curses. It can end with us at where we build a new legacy.
[00:11:07] And so in writing about the Mother Wound, my mother is still very much alive, my grandmother and great-grandmother have passed, this isn’t about demonizing or vilifying my mother. My mother did the best that she could with what she had, but what she had wasn’t enough for the little girl that I was.
[00:11:28] So I had to go and find that out in other communities just like she did.
And so learning how to look at my mother, not from the wounded place, addressing the wound, but not looking at her from a wounded place, looking at her as another woman who experienced this at the hands of her own mother, who experienced this at the hands of her own mother, and how healing in our relationship, as well as how this transfers energy to my nieces to come, making sure that we don’t duplicate that wound in the next generation.
[00:12:03] Because one of the outcomes of some Mother Wounds is that the woman who is experiencing it, the daughter that’s experiencing it, does not want to have children.
I didn’t want to physically birth children for fear of putting the wound in them. However, all of my work has been children-centered.
[00:12:22] I’ve been working with kids for 15 years now. So do I think that I would have been a great mother? In hindsight, yes.
But fear of passing down the wound that I experienced halted me. So I have a very treasured, deep relationship with my nieces, for my siblings who have gone on and decided to still have children, despite the way the wound shows up in their life.
[00:12:50] So just trying to be healing for my community in the natural and the now, and healing some wounds of the past so that we don’t hurt the generation to come, I think that’s the body of what I do in general.
[00:13:07] Michaela Ayers: I love the relational aspect, the reparenting aspect that you’re bringing and inviting into your work.
[00:13:14] And I’m curious about the community, specifically the Detroit community. Well, first, you know, how long have you lived here?
[00:13:22] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: I was born in Detroit. So aside from a couple of stints away at college and moving away, couple of short tours, 45 years, I’ve been here.
[00:13:34] Michaela Ayers: Well, so with this being your birthplace, you know, if Detroit could be a character in your writing, what kind of character would the city be?
[00:13:44] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: The city would always be what I find myself in my world. Like the city would be the protagonist.
The city is the highlighted work who is equal parts, hero and terror. The city does both.
Detroit is steel and grit and piston and rebirth and Phoenix, and Detroit is ominous and scary and difficult, and are we really going to get out of this situation?
[00:14:20] She burns. Detroit burns. And that fire can be healing and restorative, or it can be an inferno that destroys.
So I think that Detroit is the ultimate protagonist. And she reminds me a lot of myself. In our stories, we’re not, we’re not these one dimensional people. Like we’re not like monoliths. We’re more than just one thing.
[00:14:48] Detroit, she’s often perceived as a villain, but she is more of a hero than what the outside perception—she’s just loud.
That’s all, she just loud, big and loud like Phoenix. I mean, she just, she just big and loud, but she has heart and she has intentionality.
[00:15:08] And because of that steel and grit, it’s very difficult for negativity to really penetrate her.
She definitely lives from a more positive light, despite things that could be negatively reflected on her.
Detroit still shines, Detroit is genius, Detroit is protagonist, Detroit is hero.
[00:15:29] Michaela Ayers: That’s beautiful. And I love that you’re, you’re bringing her to life in this way, because to me what you’re saying, I relate to as a Black woman, you know.
[00:15:39] Like, the perceptions that are projected onto me, not necessarily me, not always me.
[00:15:45] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: Correct, right we don’t have to own that.
[00:15:46] Michaela Ayers: Right, but we’re coming in contact with that, you know, as we move through the world.
And I think that’s something, especially, I guess, in my experience, as a Black woman, that I’m pretty hyper aware of. And I think that’s just part of, you know, living this life.
[00:16:03] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: Yeah, it’s our experience, like.
[00:16:04] I mean, you already understand that sister, any show of strength can be seen as aggression. Any intelligence is trying to overthrow the establishment, you know what I’m saying?
And we’re just coming in with the same thoughts and ideas and intentionality, most times ingenuity.
We hold the world on our shoulders and on our backs and are often not praised as much as we are criticized.
[00:16:32] And so I can’t spend a lot of time focusing on what people feel particularly critical of.
I’m here to do God’s work and to die on empty, you know what I’m saying? Like, I want the fullness of my life to be used.
And so, like you said, we definitely get exposed to it, but I get to decide how much of that I’m actually consuming.
[00:16:58] Like, I don’t have to consume that energy.
[00:17:01] Michaela Ayers: Right, right. Well, and I feel like that celebration, like we don’t get that celebration and I feel like that’s so much of the intention of Black Her Stories is celebrating that creative ingenuity, that intention.
And so I would love to talk about your icon who you selected and talk about Natasha T. Miller.
[00:17:22] So why did you pick her?
[00:17:25] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: Natasha T. Miller is a Detroiter. She is one of my dearest friends.
When I thought about the icons past and present, I definitely wanted to make sure that my response centered around celebrating Detroiters, because that is so much in my work.
[00:17:47] And so, Natasha T. Miller is a Detroiter, she’s queer, she calls herself Detroit’s gay auntie.
She burst onto the scene, I think I fell in love with her in 2008, we were running the Women of The World poetry slam, and T. Miller came out of the blue. And her work is, simple elegance.
[00:18:16] She’s not using a bunch of 50-cent words, which, I love poems that do that as well, her work is extremely conversational and it’s transparent and it hits in all the right places.
Like she really kicks it to us like our favorite auntie. And it shows up in the wisdom, in the word choices that she selects.
I mean, like, she gets it and she is just as steel and gritty as the city requires. So it was, it was a very easy pick, to choose her.
[00:18:52] Michaela Ayers: Well, I love that. I love that Detroit’s favorite auntie, like that familial connection already. Because when I was doing the research about her and getting, coming in contact with her work, there was definitely that kind of, you know, this is somebody who, I don’t know, I’ve never met, and I felt like she was speaking directly to me.
[00:19:11] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: Yeah she has a spiciness and a snarkiness to her work that makes you feel like you’re sitting around kicking it with your favorite auntie.
[00:19:20] Her work reshaped my work in saying, stop being gimmicky. You don’t have to raise your voice like this. Just get up and talk to the people, keep it 100.
Make them think that you’re performing, but always be yourself on the stage, because authenticity and real stories are the ones that always come through.
[00:19:45] Her work lands every single time.
[00:19:49] Michaela Ayers: Yeah. Well, and I think the thing that stands out to me when I was coming in contact with her work and kind of what I’m even hearing you say is, this really strong intention to be yourself requires bravery, right?
Like you have to be willing to be vulnerable. You have to be willing to put yourself out there.
[00:20:08] You know, as a performer, as a writer. And I think that it takes just so much courage to be creative in that way, because it’s easier to fall into the gimmick.
It’s easier to say what people want to hear versus what she does, which is pouring into grief. Using grief as a tool to connect with her audience.
[00:20:27] And I loved learning about the connection between her relationship to writing and also her relationship to the kitchen in the work Butcher.
And so I’m curious if you could share more about, you know, what, what inspires you about her writing in particular and why it’s important to you.
[00:20:44] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: In Butcher, I think what is the most inspirational about this body of work, which has 100% informed how I am approaching my memoir, Tasha is talking about some really difficult stuff in this book.
She’s talking about addiction. She’s talking about death. She’s talking about self-doubt. She’s talking about coming out. She’s talking about protecting her nephew.
[00:21:18] She’s celebrating her sisters. But when you go back to some of the darker work that’s in here, particularly centered around grief and addiction, Tasha has put all of the family secrets out on the table without marring the family.
She has not destroyed people in telling the truth. The notion that the truth hurts, it doesn’t have to be that. Tasha’s truth doesn’t hurt people.
[00:21:54] And so when you start delving into the meat of the family, as Butcher is doing, Tasha is carefully preparing and curating those stories with the right amount of seasoning that does not sour the meat.
You are not soured thinking about her mom being an addict. You look at her mother with compassion.
[00:22:16] You’re not soured by some of the decisions that her brother chose. You aren’t soured by even the way that she has deeply processed grief.
You know, that you’re eating meat. But it’s not, it’s not rotten meat.
She doesn’t have to destroy the family to tell the truth. And that is what my work aspires to do.
[00:22:39] That’s the richest thing that she does in all of her work. And even the person who was the subject can sit in that audience and digest that truth and like, maybe accept it for themselves, not be hurt by it.
[00:22:54] “Ah, yeah. I was an addict. I had some difficulty taking care of my kid, but then when I look up and I see how well my kid is doing, my heart is full. My addiction didn’t ruin them.”
That’s how she stylizes her work. So when I think about my own work and writing this Mother Wound, I want to be clear that I do not want to destroy my mama.
This is a love letter to my mother about acknowledging the hurt that she experienced and how that’s passed. That, how it was a generational curse.
[00:23:26] This wasn’t her fault. I still love her, but this shit still happened. And I think that’s how Tasha curated her work. And I want to be this, like, this is, this is worth being like.
[00:23:40] Michaela Ayers: Mm. I appreciate that. I think what’s really interesting and what’s striking me as this, like creativity in the kitchen spilling into creativity in how she—
[00:23:53] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: (interrupting) And she can cook, girl, she can cook.
[00:23:54] Michaela Ayers: (laughing)
[00:23:55] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: If you have a chance to like really explore her Facebook page, there are a lot of videos of her just cooking some exceptional food.
And so she and I both share the love of the kitchen as well, but I just didn’t realize how, the way the Black people cook shows up in the other things that we’re cooking, like art and love and community.
[00:24:24] We are always cooking. She has a poem in her book called Chopped that talks about how Black people make it all the way to the dessert round. And then we’re not going to be kicked out because the government put hypertension and high sodium into our communities. They did that, so we are intentional with our seasoning is what the poem talks about.
[00:24:47] And she said, no matter what, Black people stay cooking, we stay cooking. And in that, we have learned how to take, I mean, even from the days of slavery, the things that people are enjoying now and thinking that they are delicacies like oxtails.
[00:25:05] Oxtails, where the scraps, they weren’t, they weren’t the fillet, they weren’t the best, they weren’t rib-eye, they were the scraps and the way that Black people take scraps and they cook them until it feels savory and wholesome, and it brings nutrients to your bones.
Nothing is worth scrapping. Nothing, nothing needs to be scrapped. There is nutrients and nutrition and wholesomeness and vitamins in all of this stuff.
[00:25:31] And if it needs to be found, Black women, in particular, are going to be the ones to find it. You know what I’m saying?
[00:25:28] So learning how to nurture through painful pieces of meat, through painful cuts of beef, through the ends, to get us to the best, to the point that, things that people were tossing to the side and not caring about,
[00:25:54] now, because we put our hands on it, which is the magic of Black women altogether, once we put our hands on it, everybody wants it now. Now it’s special.
And we were able to see the beauty in it from the very beginning, because we got to feed this community and we gotta feed these babies. So. So yeah, her book cooks.
[00:26:15] Michaela Ayers: (laughing) Well I, I think what you’re saying, I guess, to draw something out that I think is so true,
[00:26:22] is that the position of Black women throughout time has been to alchemize, to transform what has been undesirable, what has been painful, what has been hard, into something that can be digested, into something that we can metabolize.
And I think that learning about her, her brother and learning about the loss and the grief and, you know, the way that she seasoned that story.
[00:26:49] You know, the way that she butchered it, you know, into pieces for us to be able to see ourselves in that, through whatever experiences of grief that we as an audience have had.
And what I, what I see in her work is it is actually helping to metabolize that, to like transform that.
[00:27:09] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: Yes. If she put the whole slab of beef of grief on the table, it would be too overwhelming to digest. So she had to butcher this into pieces that we could eat and not just, not just be able to digest, but grow from it.
Like we can grow from this, we can bloom from this. It’s health to our bones, after we digest this. It’s healing, it can become a balm.
[00:27:39] There’s a lot of beauty sprinkled in the midst of all of this grief. And that’s, that’s a lesson too, that joy still happens despite difficult things.
Like the joy is still happening and that the grief is not always here to destroy us, but to invite us to learn a little bit more about ourselves.
[00:28:02] So, yeah, I could go on about, about, about what Tasha definitely brings to the table. And she’s, she’s created a table where everyone can feast at.
[00:28:18] Michaela Ayers: Well, and I am, I’m curious for you, when you come in contact with her writing, do you get a sense of Detroit? Do you get a feel for the place that she’s, where she’s from?
[00:28:29] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: I think the artists here are, we’re forced into rawness because Michigan winters are cold.
And when you adapt to chilliness, not just from the seasonal changes, but when other states and people are peering into your city and looking at you, like you were cold, you have to be able to bring out some of the warmest stories, despite how chilly it is.
[00:29:00] Although you can’t take the, you can’t take the bite out of your mouth and out of your work.
We’re not soft in, in the D. We’re not soft and fluffy in the D, as I sometimes imagine my Bay Area writers.
Like they are beautiful and transparent, but a lot of their work is filled to the brim with warmth. Filled with sunshine, lots of love poems.
[00:29:28] Some of my favorites come out of the Bay Area. In Detroit, the stories have to be a little bit rawer because it’s raw here. It can be grimy here sometimes.
And it doesn’t matter how polished or pristine we are. Everybody in Detroit got a little bit of bite. Run up on a Detroiter the wrong way and they will bite like pit bulls.
[00:29:51] But run up on them correctly and you’ll notice that you’ve been misjudging pit bulls the whole time.
And so I think that Tasha’s work is distinctly Detroit. Particularly, because it looks like Detroit as home, when you get the auntie vibes and the notions of cooking.
[00:30:12] It looks like Detroit as grit because she is telling some very difficult stories in this work, her brother was murdered. She’s talking about murder, she’s talking about addiction. So, she’s definitely talking about Detroit as grit.
[00:30:28] And then Detroit as humor. There’s always like the small underlying sense of humor that not just comes through the poems that are in Butcher, but in her regular life. Outside of the seriousness, Detroiters are funny.
[00:30:43] We, most of us have families that have migrated from the South. So it’s those wild cackles that we have. We don’t, we have hearty laughs and I think that that shows up in her work as well.
[00:30:54] So I think that this is distinctly Detroit. And when writers, particularly those of us that are in Detroit that connect to this, we feel a sense of home when we connect to the word.
[00:31:07] Michaela Ayers: Absolutely. Well, I want to dig into how this person, how their story intersects with your story and how coming in contact with her work, you know, how does that really inform how you’re putting together this memoir and your writing practice?
[00:31:24] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: So, first and foremost, I do a lot of reading.
[00:31:27] Tasha is definitely well-read. I’m doing a lot of research and workshops, essay writing, memoir writing, reading other memoirs.
One of the things that Tasha told me to do, she said, what would be smart is, if you want to write creative non-fiction, go into somebody else’s memoir that is on the subject matter that you have.
[00:31:50] Go into their work, look at how they build the story, look at how they’ve put up the walls, look at the foundation, and then learn those techniques for yourself.
So in terms of the practice, a lot of reading, a lot of learning as a contractor on how to build out a quality story.
[00:32:14] The second piece is authenticity, not being afraid of my sophisticated-slash-ratchet voice.
Like, not feeling like I have to fit into academia, not feeling that I have to be super street because I’m from the hood. Letting the work really embody everything.
Like, I’m Sophistaratchet, like just, you know. And letting that work be authentic because if I try to fake it, they’re going to be able to sniff it out.
[00:32:51] Again, going back to the notion of the gimmick being gimmickless, you know what I’m saying? Like, let them think that you’re using tricks and gimmicks, but you need to be yourself.
They will walk away feeling like, wow, I just really kicked it with my sister, my big sis, like that’s what’s up. And that’s the kind of work that I want to make sure that I’m presenting.
[00:33:13] And then another way that we’ve already sort of hinted on, on how she touches my work is that, it is important that you are not harmful with your work.
Carefully, though. In covering them, not hiding them, but protecting the fact that these are still human beings being human.
[00:33:39] You know what I’m saying? Like, well who is the perfect person? Not even me, you know what I’m saying?
Like, I mean, I still got this mouth Michaela. I mean, like this mouth was crazy, you know?
So, making sure that I’m caring for the traumatized people who have traumatized me. I think that that shows up a lot in her work.
And then making sure that I am putting out stories that makes the community feel safe enough to put their stories out as well.
[00:34:13] You only want to tell a story that makes a person feel safe enough that says, wow, that’s happening to me too.
Because like, the trick of the enemy is that we’re the only people that’s going through stuff, and that’s not true.
Like the thing that heals us is finding out that we’re not the only one, right?
[00:34:32] So, I want to write work where people know that somebody knows that they’re here, living, going through stuff, that we’re not alone. And that’s what Natasha T. Miller does for me.
[00:34:52] Michaela Ayers: That’s so powerful. And, I think what I’m sitting with is just how creativity allows us to unmask.
It allows us to show ourselves to reveal our humanity to each other in this way that we need.
[00:35:09] Like that is so essential to our existence in this world, because yeah, we’re not alone.
[00:35:18] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: We’re not alone.
And to, and to have somebody create a body of work that says, this is what’s going on in my life. And you look and you connect to it and you’re like, oh, I feel so seen right now. I feel seen.
I want us to be seen, particularly as we’re talking about Black Her Stories.
[00:35:41] When you come from some familial backgrounds where children should be seen and not heard, we need to be heard. We need to be seen and heard.
And I think what’s very beautiful about the work that you’re doing Michaela, is that you are bringing to the surface, all kinds of stories that showcase Black women in all of their glory.
It is important that we know that we’re not alone and that Black women who feel the responsibility to hold so much weight and to take care of everyone while not always taking care of themselves, for those girls to be seen.
[00:36:29] Like, sis I see you, you doing 99 jobs, holding a husband, being an auntie, being a grandma, taking care of a, of an entirely different fam—sis, I see. I see you and you’re magnificent and magical in your glory as you are. So, so yeah.
[00:36:50] Michaela Ayers: When you’re writing, does the process of writing make you feel seen?
[00:36:56] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: Sometimes. Sometimes I, y’all, candidly, still struggle with a little bit of imposter syndrome, particularly in writing about the Mother Wound.
[00:37:07] I worry if I’m oversharing, if I should put these stories out, should I tell the truth about what I experienced.
And so, I feel satisfied a lot after I have gotten an essay or a poem out of my body, but I still feel scared sometimes about putting the work out there.
[00:37:31] But I know what I’m called to do, so I do it anyway. And, like so many women with me and before me, scared or not, it’s still, like, the work still has to get out.
[00:37:43] And then I keep a bunch of quality women around me, like a Tasha Miller, like a Brittany Rogers, like an Ajanae Dawkins, like a Mars.
Like I keep powerful Black people around me to encourage me, to lean on, to guide the way, to get me out of my head.
Because we can’t spend all of our time in our work by ourselves. In the same way that I’m creating a not-aloneness for the community, I need to not be alone. So I have to refuel. And so that’s where, that’s where I take my breaks.
[00:38:22] Michaela Ayers: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:38:24] Well, I appreciate you sharing that because I think what I know to be true about my own creative practice is yeah, there is that light and shadow.
There’s like the excitement and the energy of putting something new out into the world, and there’s also the self-doubt and the limiting beliefs, whatever flavor they might be, you know, those are still in there.
[00:38:43] They’re, you know, they’re still in my inner world. And I think that, you know, that intention that, I’m going to do, I’m scared and I’m going to do it anyway, I think that’s something that I see as that creative power, that creative energy.
[00:38:57] And I think the other thing that I really appreciate about your share is that like, creativity is not a solo sport.
It’s the people around you, it’s the community, it’s the environment that supports you. And so I see the interconnection so strongly in how you’re sharing about your creative practice.
[00:39:16] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: Thank you. I think it, I think that it is hella important to keep a healthy mix of different kinds of people around you that inspire your life and, and inspire your work.
[00:39:28] And so when I use terminology like Sophistaratchet, I have got some of the most brilliant girlfriends in the world—I mean, brilliant, PhD-going-after-brilliant, who still listen to trap music and do hood shit. You know what I’m saying?
Like I have a circle of friends who will pray me through a situation. I have a circle of friends who will pull out tarot and get me together.
[00:39:57] I keep a broad array of beautiful, magical Black people around me as a refueling station.
La Shaun Phoenix Moore has done nothing by herself. Nothing, nothing.
My heart breaks for people and artists who say, oh, I don’t mess with women. I don’t, I don’t have no sister circle. I’m just doing earth by myself.
[00:40:27] I, I can’t, I can’t imagine a life without my community. I don’t know how one could build community without one.
So yeah, I couldn’t feel impassioned to do this work without having extremely passionate people around me, to remind me.
Cause like, in a solo opportunity I spend a whole lot of time in my head and could potentially talk myself out of goodness.
[00:40:56] So I have to be able to pop that idea out no matter how scary it is.
“Hey, I think I’m going to write a memoir about my mama, ‘bout to tell all the family business,” and having champions say, “Yes, go do it! You can do this girl!”
“Uh, but sorry, I’m talking about my mama?” and they like “Talk about your mama, we need to get these stories out into the world!”
[00:41:17] And so, we need champions. If I’m going to be a champion, I need champions around me.
[00:41:23] Michaela Ayers: Yeah, right? Yeah, absolutely. Well, I feel like that brings me back to this idea of being seen, right.
Where it’s like, you’re not just standing in a mirror being seen, you’re standing in front of somebody who’s saying you’re valuable.
[00:41:37] Like that idea that you have, the world needs that, like do that. And that affirmation being the fuel for that fire.
Why is it important for Black women in particular, to record their thoughts and share their stories?
[00:41:57] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: Michaela, the most important reason for us to record our thoughts and share our stories with you, as sisters, is because we are healed by the power of our testimonies.
[00:42:13] We have to tell these stories because we are not the only ones going through life. We need reminders that there are sisters around us that are just like us.
We need to get out of our heads. We need to grow. We need to be inspired to do things that we never would have considered unless we heard another sister talking about it.
[00:42:35] We need to have the magic reignited in us, if we’d forgotten about it. We need to have the doubt quelled, if we spent too much time in it.
And the only way that we heal is from the stories of other people. That is, that is the power of connecting in our stories.
[00:42:59] When I hear that Michaela, who seems to have all of her stuff together, super beautiful, how dare you say that you struggle with doubt or sometimes imposter syndrome? It looks like everything’s perfect. Okay, but if Michaela is still pushing through, I can too.
[00:43:18] If Tasha could lose her brother and still be in love with her mom despite addiction, there’s no reason why I can’t look at my mom with compassion, because she is a product of every single thought that she’s had about herself and everything that she’s experienced.
[00:43:41] A lot of us haven’t even really connected back to the tribes that we’ve come from because we’ve been a stolen people. But how do we get back to ourselves from the stories? From going out there to find the stories of who we were?
[00:43:55] That’s why it’s important. We need Black women to tell our stories so that we know who we are and so that we know the magic that’s housed inside of us and so that we can activate it.
We can activate it, we, we move out of the mundane. That’s why it’s important. We need to be inspired.
[00:44:15] Michaela Ayers: Right, I feel like I’ve learned so much through this conversation with you and I am, I’m moved by, you know, the creative power that’s within you, that you’re offering to the world.
[00:44:27] And I guess I want to tap into maybe somebody who would be listening, somebody in our audience who maybe does feel alone in their creative practice. What advice could you offer them?
[00:44:40] La Shaun Phoenix Moore: To any writer, aspiring writer, to any beautiful sister that’s out there, that’s listening to this podcast, which I hope you are listening,
[00:44:51] First of all, this is for you. We are doing this for you. You are powerful beyond your imagination.
So wherever you think you are in your power, that you’ve kept, you’re bigger than that.
Your stories are absolutely valid and important, and they inform who you are. We want to hear them, be it through writing, cooking, singing, dancing, painting.
[00:45:22] When you change the world around you, you are automatically changing the world.
So instead of focusing on solving all of the world’s problems, start working through the world of you, however you need to touch that, and you will see the world, the rest of the world fall in alignment.
So I would say continue to listen to her stories, be inspired by them to the point that you’re willing to tell your own.
[00:45:56] And it could be on a big scale like this, through a podcast, or it could be passing down some beautiful information to the loved ones and sisters that you have around you.
Change the world. You have that power, change the world.
[00:46:13] (soft music)
[00:46:26] I see you. And the if only legacy you leave behind is stories of your resilience, if it is only your children telling stories about how their mother was never given a crown, but still moved like a queen.
If you don’t have children and you just come from a lineage of women who sacrifice their bellies to feed this hungry world, that is enough.
[00:46:52] Let this poem serve as acknowledgement of your royalty. Let this poem be a reminder of how the sky would be dark without all the days you ground your bones to powder just to keep the lights on.
[00:47:04] Let this poem be the, “Hey sis, thank you, and I see you,” when you’ve become invisible to movements you’ve created.
When you’ve carried sadness two times your body weight yet still showed up to the function smiling.
[00:47:20] When you feel less than electric, yet somehow power others with your purpose.
Hey sis, I see you. Beautiful, even when you choose not to smile, with or without makeup, in board rooms, rocking skirts or pantsuits.
I see you as more than feast. I see you as more than temple or structure. I see you as magic.
[00:47:43] I see you as Black girl magic. I see you as me too, as time’s up, as our time is now. I see you in solidarity with your sisters.
I see you always fighting for others. I see you, sister. I see you mother. I see you queen.
[00:48:13] Michaela Ayers: That was La Shaun Phoenix Moore reading “I see you” by Natasha T. Miller.
[00:48:20] (upbeat piano music)
[00:48:32] Michaela Ayers: As I reflect on my conversation with Phoenix, there are a few bold ideas that stand out in my mind.
I’m coming back to this idea of vulnerability. Or emotional realness, if I could say it in another way.
More and more, I’ve come to understand vulnerability as a kind of social exchange. The more we see it, the more likely it is that we will embody it.
[00:49:00] In fact, something that I learned from Prentis Hemphill is that there is a direct correlation between your level of social satisfaction and your willingness to be vulnerable.
Now, there is certainly some alchemy involved in the combination of these ideas because we know vulnerability can backfire when it isn’t met with safety.
[00:49:23] Safety, being both physical and psychological, is another kind of social exchange that is co-created by the people and the environment that surrounds you.
[00:49:38] And finally, I want to lift up Phoenix’s practice of thinking like a creative contractor, inspecting how an artist that you admire puts up the walls and the foundation of their work.
[00:49:51] I’m learning that creativity expands. When we step outside of our typical routines, seek out different content and surround ourselves with different kinds of people.
[00:50:04] These intentional practices highlight the power of diversity to unlock new ideas, inspiration, and ways of being.
[00:50:19] A sincere thank you to La Shaun Phoenix Moore for joining us in this episode, and a special shout out to Natasha T. Miller. I am so grateful for your work.
If you’d like to connect with these artists, you can find them on Instagram. You can connect with Natasha at @natashatmiller and Phoenix at @detroitphoenix.
[00:50:43] Be sure to check out our show notes to learn more about their work.
[00:50:48] If there is someone in your life who would benefit from our discussion about the Mother Wound, please send this episode their way.
[00:50:59] This episode of Black Her Stories was produced by Lara Dalch and me, Michaela Ayers. It was edited by Jennifer McCord. Our music is by artist, composer, and my dear friend, Chris Sims.
For more episodes hit, subscribe, or follow wherever you’re listening right now. If you’d like to get in touch, I would love to hear from you drop me a line at nourish.community.
[00:51:32] And in the spirit of curiosity, I will leave you with a question: How is vulnerability playing out in your creative practice?
[00:51:42] Thank you so much for listening. And until next time, please take good care.