October 14, 2022

Episode 2: Planting Seeds with Imani Nichele


In this episode, we dig into a conversation with Imani Nichele. Imani is a Detroit-based poet, rapper, singer, and songwriter. She is the 2018 Detroit Youth Poet Laureate. Her writing has been featured by the Heidelberg Project, Fox Sports, and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

In this conversation, we celebrate the work of Lucille Clifton (1936-2010). Clifton is known for her unique writing style that underscores ‘clear truth-telling.’ Her sharp, small poems employ understated yet imaginative language that invites the reader into the inner world of a Black woman.

We trace the interconnection between Clifton’s inner world exploration and Imani’s unique perspective as a creative who gives herself permission to be who she is, unapologetically. And who is charting her course through the history that’s being made in the here and now.  


In this episode, we talk about:

  • Art as a tool for empathy
  • Reparenting
  • The power of questions


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[00:00:00] Imani Nichele: A lot of times in writing, you give people answers or you come to some sort of resolution, but if you just leave someone with a question, it just feels heavier. Like you leave me with homework, like there’s work to do after your thought, right? Like I consider your point of view. And then I have my work to do, to figure it out for myself.

[00:00:28] (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.

[00:01:06] Together, we will explore what possibilities exist when creativity meets history, when we harness our creative power to unlock our purpose. I’m your host, Michaela Ayers.

[00:01:31] It is my supreme honor to invite you into my conversation with Imani Nichele. Imani Nichele is a poet, teaching artist, rapper, singer, and songwriter. She is the 2018 Detroit youth poet Laureate. Her writing has been featured by the Heidelberg Project, Fox Sports, and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

My first encounter with Imani was at the Room Project, not her person, but an image I saw of her on a poster.

[00:02:06] There she was, standing on a dimly-lit stage, eyes closed, lost in a moment of self-expression.

I was so captivated by her image that I had to learn more about her story.

Now, story is a word that I use to describe modern history. The history that is made through our everyday actions.

From this lens, I see Imani as a creative who gives herself permission to be who she is unapologetically and who is charting her course through the history being made in the here and now.

[00:02:49] In the weeks since this interview with Imani, I have been sipping on some of the juicy ideas that flowed through our conversation.

After taking some time to digest, there are two big themes that I’d like to share with you.

The first is, identity is not fixed. It’s fluid, always changing, different versions of ourselves die and are reborn every day.

[00:03:18] As you listen, consider who you were in 2016. How is that person different from the person you are today?

And second, is reparenting. I see the shadow of the Mother Wound in my conversation with Imani. It’s below the surface of terms like reparenting or unmothering, as Imani describes it. 

[00:03:47] In its simplest form, the concept of reparenting is the act of learning how to give yourself the love and support you may not have received as a child.

As you listen, consider how the tools that you are given may not always be the ones that you need.

[00:04:07] So, without further ado, let’s dive in to my conversation with Imani Nichele.

[00:04:19] All right. So I want to start with just like a warmup question because I’m curious and the warm up question is: how would your friends describe you? 

[00:04:29] Imani Nichele: Probably very straightforward and, I feel like I’m one of those people where you have to like, stay the course to get to know me. I kinda come off like real abrasive at first.

[00:04:41] I’m like, no, you’re really cool. You’re like kind of bitchy at first, but like, once I get to know you, you’re great. 

[00:04:46] Michaela Ayers: I’m curious. Are you a Taurus? 

[00:04:48] Imani Nichele: No, I am a Cancer.

[00:04:51] Michaela Ayers: Hmm. That was gonna be my second guess.

[00:04:53] Imani Nichele: Cancer, I have a Pisces moon and I’m a Leo rising.

[00:04:58] Michaela Ayers: That’s an interesting mix.

[00:05:00] Imani Nichele: Yeah, I be feeling stuff.

[00:05:05] Michaela Ayers: (laughing) I feel like that should be like the hashtag for all Cancers. Like that’s, that’s a great tagline. Well, awesome. Thank you for sharing that.

And I’m excited to get to know you more, and I want to transition into talking about, more about you. And so my question is, when did you start calling yourself a writer?

[00:05:26] Imani Nichele: I’d say heavily in 2016, that is when I sort of fell in love with writing, as opposed to just like jotting little things down in my notebook. I found a community in it. It felt like I took it more seriously that year, so since 2016. 

[00:05:42] Michaela Ayers: What was happening in 2016? What was the catalyst? 

[00:05:45] Imani Nichele: Oh, wow. I was a 16 year old.

[00:05:49] Really angsty, like falling in love, figuring out like my identity, where I fit in the world, where I didn’t fit. Just a lot of discovering happened that year. 

[00:06:00] Michaela Ayers: Yeah. I think of 2016 also as like societally, so much going on also.

[00:06:06] Imani Nichele: It was a big pivot, that year.

[00:06:09] Michaela Ayers: Yeah, yeah. So much being revealed, I think, culturally in 2016, whether it was from the election or whether it was the environment, you know, there was just so many shadows that I think about when I think about 2016. 

[00:06:23] And so I think that’s interesting that that’s when you really found writing as a tool to express yourself.

[00:06:29] Imani Nichele: (cut off) What are your—

[00:06:09] Michaela Ayers: Truly.

I often think about like, how will history remember that year or what will be recorded?

[00:06:38] I think about that all the time, but especially 2016 for our culture, in the United States, at least.

[00:06:45] And along those same lines, what themes do you explore in your writing? What kind of ideas tend to come up? 

[00:06:52] Imani Nichele: I write a lot about death and dying. And not even necessarily like the oh, skulls, X-over-your-eyes dying.

[00:07:00] I think about like seasonal relationships or like versions of yourself that have died. I write a lot about motherhood and mothering and unmothering.

And also about not necessarily like lovey-dovey relationships with men, but just where I have found myself fitting, like, as a woman, as a Black woman in relationship to a man and how that’s affected me.

[00:07:24] Michaela Ayers: Could you share a little bit more about unmothering? I’ve not heard that, and I’m kind of curious what that means for you. 

[00:07:30] Imani Nichele: So a lot of me writing about motherhood is my relationship with my mother, which is sort of estranged, and so a lot of the things or the tools that I was given to like be a functional woman in society were—I was like, misdirected a lot.

[00:07:46] And I think that the tools she gave me were the tools that her mother gave her. And so just the unlearning, all of the toxic things or all of the things that make me feel sort of untrue to my identity, right? Like, trying to undo that for myself. 

And you can’t go back and be five again, and then have someone unsay something to you.

[00:08:07] So it’s just like me being that mother to the inner child that was in me. 

[00:08:12] Michaela Ayers: Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate you unpacking that because it sounds like, a word that I use is reparenting, has that same kind of idea.

[00:08:23] Like, of course we can’t go back in time, but how can we reparent our inner child? What do we wish we would have heard, what do we wish we could have seen, that we can provide for that inner child?

Cause I know I’ve been going through that, you know, as I move through my thirties more and more, I’m finding myself reparenting myself a lot. 

[00:08:44] Imani Nichele: I appreciate you sharing that.

[00:08:46] Michaela Ayers: Yeah, absolutely. Well, and I’m curious a little bit more about your background in Detroit and how long have you lived here?

[00:08:55] Imani Nichele: My entire life. I grew up Seven Mile in Conant, right at the conjunction there. We did move out of the city for awhile when I was in my early high school years.

But then when I got my apartment, I’m back in the city now. So I’m sort of Detroit to the core. Yeah. 

[00:09:14] Michaela Ayers: Well, so if you could paint a visual picture of Detroit for listeners who haven’t been here, what would it look like?

[00:09:22] Imani Nichele: A visual picture. It’s hard to say, like, when I’m thinking about like an outside audience, because so much of what people come in and say is like, broken.

It’s the beauty that I find in the city, right. Sort of like, open lots to mean things to me cause it’s like, you would look at it and say, oh, a house needs to be there, but like on open lots in the summertime, we would have like cooked barbecues, right?

[00:09:44] Like, that’s our football field, liquor stores on every corner and churches, not too far from them. Those things feel like home. Even the abandoned areas, I feel like, bring some sort of homey feel to me. The graffiti, you have like art all around the city, it’s just a really beautiful place in my opinion.

[00:10:06] Michaela Ayers: What, when you close your eyes, like what colors come to your mind, even?

[00:10:10] Imani Nichele: I say like bright yellows, maybe like a deep orange feels like Detroit and also brown. Like a really earthy tone brown.

[00:10:21] Michaela Ayers: Yeah, that’s beautiful. And even in your reflection, I hear like the dichotomy, the open spaces that are empty lots, but are being reused and rebirthed into something else.

[00:10:33] So I see kind of that, that constant death and rebirth even, and how you’re talking about your writing and how you think about the city. So that’s really cool.

How has living in this community influenced your writing? 

[00:10:47] Imani Nichele: It’s influenced me sort of heavily, I feel, because community is like the word here, right?

Like even finding the writing community, I was able to sort of be confident in who I was as a writer or finding out who I was as a writer.

[00:11:03] And a lot of times people say like, oh, Detroit is tiny. It’s a tiny city. And like, it’s really huge, but you do get the feel of it being small.

Like everybody knows everybody, or everybody has this shared experience. So I think it’s influenced my writing because I’ve been able to be in community, in spaces with people who look like me and not necessarily have the exact same front-to-back story, but can look at me and be like, I understand that, or I can empathize with that.

[00:11:30] And so like, your voice is heard here. 

[00:11:34] Michaela Ayers: That’s really powerful. I feel like as a new Detroiter, I’m thinking about just like the openness of people. Like you can talk to anybody.

It has that Midwest vibe, you know, walking down the street, people say, good morning, people chat with you, you know, there’s this like accessibility to it that I really appreciate.

[00:11:52] And it also seems like a lot of people have some kind of arts thing that they’re doing on the side. And so. It’s been really cool to meet people and interact with them.

And their first question is, what do you do? Their first question is, what are you into? And that feels so different. And it feels like such an opening to your point around open spaces.

[00:12:13] Because I think that the possibilities for, you know, where the conversation can go next, I feel like it’s like disrupting that pattern of how are you? 

That question of how are you? It’s become somewhat meaningless, I feel like, in our society. So I really appreciate the community as a verb idea that I see happening here.

[00:12:33] Imani Nichele: Absolutely. 

[00:12:34] Michaela Ayers: Yeah. Well, and I think, speaking of stories that we relate to and people who we are looking to, I want to transition into thinking about your icon, who you selected: Lucille Clifton. 

And I came in contact with Lucille Clifton last year when we had Black Her Stories and literature. Shout out to Jodi-Ann Burey for putting Lucille Clifton on my map.

[00:12:58] But I want to know why you selected her. And what about her story stands out to you? 

[00:13:05] Imani Nichele: I selected her because, um, when I first started writing, I was in the InsideOut Literary Arts Project program as a student. And I remember being frustrated with myself because I felt like I didn’t have that much to say, but there’s like so many words bottled up of inside of me.

[00:13:22] So I was writing these really short, like five to seven stanza poems, very short. And I was like, Imani, come on. Like, where are your words?

And one of my mentors looked at me and looked at my writing and said, you know, this poem is really short, but it’s so beautiful. I feel like it says a lot.

[00:13:37] Your writing really reminds me of Lucille Clifton. I think you should look into her.

And him saying that, it’s just like a push to be like, Imani it’s okay. That your writing isn’t long-winded. And when I opened up her work and I saw that it was formless, and sometimes they were like really short, and I still felt moved by them, still felt like her work meant something and had like a weight to it.

[00:14:01] And so I gave myself permission to, even if I only had three things to say, like that was appropriate because it came out of my heart. So, yeah. 

[00:14:12] Michaela Ayers: That’s really beautiful. And I guess I’m curious. How, how has her identity as a Black woman, how is it revealed through her writing? Do you feel like you can pick up on that without necessarily having to like see an image of her?

[00:14:28] Imani Nichele: I feel like her writing is inherently Black, just because that’s who she is. Like if I hadn’t seen a picture, I don’t think that I would have been like, oh, this is a Black lady.

[00:14:44] I think a lot of times, when you’re a writer of color or an African-American writer, you feel like, oh, my work has to sound Black or be Black in some way, but just the same, if Lucille came in here right in about Starbucks and going dirt biking with her cousins, it would have been a Black poem because she’s a Black woman.

Now, I do feel like I feel mom vibes. Right? Like, I feel like even if she didn’t have children when she did, like I would feel like she had mothered something or struggled with that subject.

[00:15:16] But as far as being a Black artist or seeing through Blackness, I don’t think that you can do that.

[00:15:20] Michaela Ayers: Well, and I appreciate you lifting up that just by nature of being a Black person, your art is Black art or your writing is Black writing,

Because there isn’t one way to be Black. There are so many different ways.

And the thing that I appreciate about Lucille Clifton’s writing is yeah, she’s touching into motherhood. She’s touching into grief. She’s touching into loss from this lens of a Black woman who’s experienced a lot.

[00:15:50] And so I find her to be so relatable. And so like vulnerable to share it in that way. And I think her writing style kind of opens things up in a way that makes it feel approachable, which I think is really unique. 

[00:16:07] Imani Nichele: I agree. 

[00:16:09] Michaela Ayers: You mentioned you were exposed to her through InsideOut, but what was going on for you at that time? Was this around 2016?

[00:16:15] Imani Nichele: It was around that year. 

During that time, I think the first poem I heard from her or read from her, it was “come celebrate with me” and then “the lost baby poem.”

And “the lost baby poem,” sort of like, it sat with me as a 16-year-old, but years later, I feel like it fixed me in ways I didn’t know I was broken when I read it again.

[00:16:36] And that’s something I love about her work as well. She writes so simply. And so like my 16-year-old mind was just like, oh, this is a cool poem.

And then coming into my early twenties, you go back to it and be like, this, this is helping me heal. She was doing a lot of work here that I wasn’t able to appreciate then.

[00:16:53] And so, yeah, the lost baby poem was the first one that I was like, this is my girl. Like, I love her. 

[00:17:01] Michaela Ayers: That’s amazing. I love, I love that we can connect with artists in that way across different, across different times. It kind of transcends in that way.

And so, since we’re talking about her poetry, the poem “grown daughter,” you said it captivated you.

[00:17:17] So I want to know, what is it about this poem in particular? What is so personal about this? 

[00:17:23] Imani Nichele: I remember reading through, it was a book of her poems that hadn’t necessarily been published online.

And at the time I was feeling very unseen by my own mother, living in her house. And again, like coming of age, trying to figure out who I was, and this poem sort of grounded me in a way that like helped me step outside of myself and say, Hey, maybe I am a stranger to my mother right now.

[00:17:46] Right? Like, it’s not necessarily a setting that’s set in stone in the poem. You can infer that she’s in a kitchen maybe, but it just felt like some sort of vignette in my brain.

And I felt like when you think of like a mother-daughter relationship or a mother-son relationship, or any sort of familial connection, you don’t, you can get blinded by the tasks that the mother is supposed to perform, or the tasks that the daughter is supposed to perform.

[00:18:12] And when I read this poem, a flip switched, to me. I was able to look at my mother’s humanity in a way and take a step back and then be objective about, you know, how I was presenting myself to my mother.

And this just felt like a very intimate moment where, Lucille was contemplating in her mind who this person that she gave birth to is.

[00:18:35] And I think that even is a wild concept, like you came out of me and I don’t know who you are, I have to still learn that as, as a—it’s my job to learn who you are becoming, even though you came from me. 

[00:18:48] Michaela Ayers: Yeah, I think that’s a really powerful read too, because I think so often, especially with our families, we have this strong sense of knowing because they’re people that we have known the longest.

[00:19:02] And yet, there so much below the surface that we often don’t get a chance to know.

And so I appreciate this insight into that moment of recognizing your mom just as another woman, because I remember when I had that same kind of consciousness and it shook me, but you know, just seeing her as another person, it really transformed the way I was thinking about my relationship with my mom.

[00:19:26] And like the empathy for her and for me, you know, that we’re both just people, you know?

[00:19:3w] Imani Nichele: Yeah you’re, having a human experience right now. You don’t, you didn’t have a book. You don’t, you don’t know what’s happening. 

[00:19:38] Michaela Ayers: Right. Right, exactly. Wow. Well, I appreciate you giving me that poem as a tool. And I’m curious about how her approach to poetry intersects with your writing practice.

[00:19:52] Like we’ve already talked about it a little bit around the shortness, but is there anything else that you bring in that’s kind of like Lucille’s flavor? 

[00:20:00] Imani Nichele: I feel like Lucille asks questions a lot and I sort of have adopted that. Leaving the reader thinking like, wow, what did I know? Right. Like what did I know about the waters?

[00:20:13] That’s just powerful to me. Instead of like giving—a lot of times in writing, you give people answers or you come to some sort of resolution, but if you just leave someone with a question, it just feels heavier. Like you leave me with homework, like there’s work to do after your thought, right? Like I consider your point of view.

[00:20:29] And then I have my work to do, to figure it out for myself.

[00:20:33] Michaela Ayers: Yeah, well, of course that leads me to a question, which is, yeah. What are some of the questions you are exploring in your writing right now? 

[00:20:42] Imani Nichele: In the last poem that I’ve written, I started with the question; Does it matter, the health of soil, if everything inside of it is already dead?

[00:20:54] And so that poem was me exploring, well, originally I wrote it after one of the Office episodes. Cause I’m an Office freak, but it just triggered thoughts to me.

It’s just like, if your intention and something in your life where a relationship is not to grow something, does it make sense to plant or still cultivate it, right?

[00:21:15] Like, if I boiled the seed already and then I put it in the ground, why am I watering it every day? What, what’s the sense in trying to make something grow that will never grow? And is there beauty in that? Right, like, you have this thought in the back of your mind, like, I know nothing is going to come up.

[00:21:29] There’s no fruit that will come of this labor that I’m doing, but it just feels good to tend the land or it feels good to get dirty, right. So that was the last question that I’ve asked.

[00:21:42] Michaela Ayers: Pause with me for a moment.

Upon listening to my conversation with Imani, I found myself wanting to linger with this idea of tilling the soil of our creativity a little longer.

Instead of moving past this insight, what I wish I would have said is, tell me more.

I am constantly learning that my creative process is non-linear, imperfect, and a little bit messy.

[00:22:16] Luckily, I had a chance to have a follow-up conversation with Imani to expound on the wisdom that she shared.

Digging deeper into this idea of planting seeds that may not grow, Imani reveals a sense of hopefulness and a reminder that instead of being driven by outcomes, there’s beauty in returning to our practice repeatedly with the hope of someday bearing fruit.

[00:22:43] By blending hope with persistence, we strengthen our creative muscle memory. To me, this idea serves as a powerful reminder that we can find satisfaction in the pursuit of a process instead of being driven by the end product.

[00:23:14] Imani Nichele: Does it matter the health of soil, if everything planted is already dead.

I mean, can you taste the earth in handfuls, use your tongue to push and knead into a mud inside your mouth, feel the pebbles pop and sand themselves between your jaw. I mean, can you even list to dirt, the names of all the things that could be alive inside of it, daffodil, stalks of lavender, you. I mean, is it polite to lust atop barren plains knowing no fruit will come of it.

[00:23:55] Polite to bury me without proof that the seeds inside of my head cannot root down my throat and out, and up bloom through blades of grass I mean, would you pick the sprout from ground and think, say she still has something to say she is not finished, not dead and pull me out of the earth once more.

[00:24:29] Michaela Ayers: That was Imani Nichele, reading “the office, season nine, episode seventeen.”

[00:24:44] How are you watering your creative practice? 

[00:24:47] Imani Nichele: Currently, I’m allowing myself to explore mediums. I can chart the evolution of myself.

When I first started writing poetry, I wanted to be one of those poets on Button. I wanted it to be on the stage. I wanted to slam. And then I got into slam and I felt, this doesn’t feel very honest, but I do really love poetry.

[00:25:07] And then I got into page work. And so I was able to say more things without somebody being like, oh, it’s over the three-minute time limit. Right.

And so when I feel like I run out of words on the page, I started exploring music, which is where I’m at now. And so that’s where I’m sort of watering myself.

I’m not forcing myself into something like, Imani, write this poem. Because simply if it feels unnatural or if it feels like I’m forcing it, I know that I need to take a step back.

[00:25:38] Another way that I water myself too, is by consuming, because I feel like the best way to be a great writer is to read. The best way to be a great speaker is to listen.

So it is really important to just consume, consume, consume, like read the people you don’t like, right? Your friend loved this writer and you’re like, girl, it’s not sitting with me.

[00:25:58] Read it to see maybe why it’s sitting with her. And then you read your favorite writer’s favorite writer, like just getting all of the knowledge from everywhere. It’s a great way to water yourself and that’s sort of a resource I use.

[00:26:10] Michaela Ayers: I appreciate that reflection because I think it’s lifting up the, it’s really easy to stay in your box and the place where you feel comfortable and safe.

[00:26:19] And that’s not necessarily where growth happens. Like that’s not necessarily what you’ll always find inspiration. And I appreciate that call out to say reading things you don’t like or have conversations with people that maybe you don’t agree with.

You’ll still learn something as a result. And who knows how that could inform your art practice.

[00:26:39] Imani Nichele: Absolutely. 

[00:26:41] Michaela Ayers: And what, what is the motivation that keeps you moving and evolving in this way? Like what is it underneath the surface that’s really motivating you to put your art out into the world? 

[00:26:53] Imani Nichele: Honestly, I’m allowing my feelings and my questions that I have, and the love that I have, allowing them space to exist outside of myself.

[00:27:05] I don’t necessarily write or create to be like, ‘look at me,’ right?

It feels like a release when you’ve been able to articulate something that you’ve been grappling with, or when you hear a sound or you feel something and you want to get it out, it just feels like a great release. I can’t really describe it, but that’s what creating does for me.

[00:27:26] And so if people look at my art and say, I like that, that’s cool. It feels nice, but ultimately I think the root of it for me is saying, Imani you don’t have to keep this inside of you anymore. It’s a way of processing for me. 

[00:27:43] Michaela Ayers: And as a Black woman, like why does that matter?

[00:27:47] Imani Nichele: A lot of times we supposed to have it all, we supposed to just push it down, push it down.

[00:27:52] I’m supposed to be your sister. I’m supposed to be your mama. I’m supposed to not be angry. I’m supposed to do all of these things.

And I feel like art really does give us a chance to channel all of our emotions without fear of judgment. Like, I feel in my writing, I can be weak. I can not know things in my writing, right.

When in the real world, in the practice of me living every day, I feel like there’s a pressure to be on my pivot, like all 10 toes all the time. So, I can fall apart in my art.

[00:28:24] Michaela Ayers: Wow. I love that. And I guess, I want to think about people who are listening to us. 

I may be imagining someone who, maybe they have taken a break from their art practice, and they are looking for that motivation to pick it back up again. What advice or what encouragement could you offer them? 

[00:28:46] Imani Nichele: Everything that you have to say is important.

[00:28:50] If you want to write about the bag of Doritos that left crumbs on your bed, it’s important and it needs to be heard.

To go back on what I said about Lucille’s writing being Black because she wrote it, or being important because she wrote it, right. I think that everyone, as an artist should give themselves the same grace.

[00:29:11] There shouldn’t be like, oh, nobody will care about this. Or nobody cares that I’m grieving. I think just divorcing that will free you from whatever block you’re in. 

[00:29:24] Michaela Ayers: Yeah, that’s a beautiful affirmation around just letting go of the fear of judgment, perhaps, and the fear of like the doubt. I, it’s easy to catch yourself in those thoughts.

[00:29:36] And so I appreciate that just, reflection that every person is a creator. That’s like the human experience.

And so if we can take our art seriously, what kind of world could we live in?

I know we are coming up to our final moments together, but is there anything else that we haven’t talked about that you really want to be sure that we do?

[00:29:59] Imani Nichele: Nothing else is on my heart, really, except that, with this being Black history month and being a Black woman writer, I want to encourage other listeners that are writers to not necessarily feel pressure to write quote unquote Black content.

Because the thing that has been sort of upsetting me in the media is like, Oh, we have Black stories and then it’s freaking Roots or something like, I think when people are commissioning you for work and they’re like, ‘oh, can you write something Black,’ right?

[00:30:30] And that’s just sort of a synonym sometimes for write something that hurts or write something heavy.

I really want to encourage Black writers, my Black writers, to be free from those shackles, thinking that everything they write has to be some deep political statement or like we, it’s our job to police people on interacting with us.

[00:30:52] And while there is a lane, and that is a very powerful thing to be able to express through writing, as a Black person who has experienced being upset with myself because I felt like I couldn’t articulate the things that should make me angry as a Black woman, everything you say is the Black experience.

[00:31:10] And everything you say has some sort of weight in this world. 

[00:31:14] Michaela Ayers: Absolutely. I do think there’s that, uh, association between Blackness and trauma, and Blackness and pain, because of our history.

And I appreciate you lifting up that it doesn’t have to be that, you know, that there are so many other stories that we haven’t heard yet that are just as valid and just as powerful and just as important, to use your word.

[00:31:40] Yeah. Well, thank you Imani for joining us. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. 

[00:31:47] Imani Nichele: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate being here in this space with you.

[00:31:57] (upbeat piano music)

[00:32:04] Michaela Ayers: As I reflect on my conversation with Imani, there are a few bold ideas that stand out in my mind.

First, I want to lift up Lucille Clifton and Imani’s practice of questioning instead of providing answers. 

This insight requires us to change our relationship with knowing, opting instead to explore the unfamiliar and, at times, uncomfortable.

[00:32:31] This act of questioning, of thinking critically about one’s point of view, is a powerful tool that unlocks our potential.

Second, I’m noticing a pattern of creative consumption. Picking up where we left off in episode one, where we heard Phoenix share the idea of approaching your art practice like a creative contractor, Imani says that to be a good writer, you need to be a good reader. 

[00:33:03] We fuel our creative practice by feasting on the work of others. And we need not limit ourselves to our favorite flavors or the familiar, because difference sharpens perspective.

However, balancing on the other side of this creative consumption is the need to pause, to notice when we feel full, when things feel forced or unnatural.

[00:33:32] Rest too, is an integral part of the creative process.

[00:33:42] A special thanks to Imani Nichele for joining us in this episode.

If you’d like to connect with Imani, you can find her on Instagram as Imani Nichele. Be sure to check out our show notes, to learn more about her work. 

[00:34:01] If there is someone in your community who would benefit from our discussion about the act of questioning, please be sure to send this episode their way.

[00:34:11] 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 Simms.

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.

[00:34:40] Drop me a line at nourish.community.

And in the spirit of curiosity, I will leave you with a question: How are you watering your creative practice right now?

Thank you so much for listening. And until next time, please take good care.


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