By Princess Jones Curtis & Joanne M. Choi
“I come from a line of women of color who didn’t have the opportunity and the resources to teach their daughters about the value of their minds, bodies, and spirits,” explains poet, writer, and curator Slandie Prinston. “My life’s purpose is to break that pattern globally through my voice and my intelligence.”
This Women’s History Month, Prinston put purpose into practice by organizing Empowered, an evening of dialogue on women’s issues relating to mother/daughter relationships, mental health, self-awareness, and self-love. The event was hosted on March 7th with support from District Hall, Sister 2 Sister, and We Ceremony. Discussions were led by educator and activist Massiel Torres Ulloa; self-love motivational speaker Allgretta Alive; Keyona Aviles, a mental health counselor, who spoke on holistic approaches to mental health practices; and Tiffany Mangum, instructor and owner at Trupeace Wellness, who provided a talk about inner and outer awareness within the constructs of race and gender.
“It took a lot to put the event together. I had a clear and precise vision about what I wanted to create and what I wanted to share and teach. I had no curating experience, no project management team, and no extensive budget. I made it happen by believing in myself and following my intuition.” Following the success of Empowered, Prinston plans to organize a larger follow up event. She hopes to provide more spaces for women of color to celebrate themselves and learn at the same time.
Prinston remarks that Empowered was inspired by themes she explored her 2019 poetry collection, Denouement, from the French dénouer which means untying. Prinston’s poetry grapples head-on with the difficulties of depression. “I spent nights in the dark crying myself to sleep. I spent days in the light learning, trying, and failing. I spent months nursing and nurturing myself back to life. The journey was revolutionizing.”
“My work and my artistic perspective are deeply rooted in my spirituality and my self-awareness. Art for me is a universal language that stands on its own and touches each individual in a particular way,” she continues.
Much of her work is also colored by her experiences immigrating to the US after a catastrophic earthquake hit her native Haiti when she was fifteen-years-old. In many ways, Prinston owes much of her resilience and determination to the spirit of that fifteen-year-old inside her. If she could give that young girl advice, it would be to seek her true self sooner. “Dishonoring your true self [in order] to be accepted is self-betrayal. Define yourself. Explore yourself. Explore yourself through the study of others. Allow yourself to [be] reborn. In [the US], there’s definitely more encouragement to explore, and in that sense, I’m grateful to have made a stop here.”
Even so, Prinston believes that women of color are still unfairly encouraged to suppress self-expression. And Prinston is keen to resist that pressure. “To me being a woman of color in 2019 means being a walking, dancing, breathing expression of divinity. A free-spirited woman,” says Prinston. “In 2019 I’m choosing to celebrate myself, show up for myself, speak up for myself—verbally and nonverbally. I’m not waiting for validation or approval to take a breath and take up space.”
To keep up with Slandie Prinston, her art and events follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SlandieP