Quick disclaimer: I’m a storyteller & I know twitter is for short convo so I’m retelling the amazing experience I had during the #ARRAYNow tweet-a-thon, here. A very special thank you in advance for reading through if you stayed til the very end! Sections have headers if you’d like to skip ahead.
I’m writing this heartfelt letter of gratitude and thanks to everyone who participated and answered my questions & everyone elses during the #ARRAYNow Tweet-a-thon on 4/30/20. A special thank you to Ms. Ava DuVernay & The ARRAYNow team. I write this through fear of not wanting to be seen, but I also realize its something that has always held me back. The #ARRAYNow Tweet-a-thon inspired me to peek out from behind my little corner of the world and say,
“Hello. This is changing my life.”
I’m not extremely important outside of anyone who knows and loves me. I’m just a young black woman in New Jersey with a full-time job in pharma digital advertising in NYC. We’re all working from home now and isolation can be a little tough. But I found a little bit of time to escape during the tweet-a-thon and it was life changing!
Is 35 still young? My inner child is writing this since she’s a WHOLE lot braver than I turned out to be. She’s the only way I can share this story.
Inspiration & heroines
My brave inner self grew up watching beautiful movies with heroines who were the oddballs out on repeat, learning dialogue and melodic songs, life lessons from Annie, Pocohantas, Mulan, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Color Purple — so many movies with so many visions of strong young women who step out of the box to do something life-changing and different. I wanted to be like just them.
Through many obstacles, they each overcame impossible odds to grow into the courageous young women we saw at the end of the movies. The journeys are always rough. It takes courage to stand out because so often, you stand alone.
I fear many of us with big hearts are afraid to stand alone. That is a level of intense bravery and courage missing in this world. And when beautiful moments occur, they stand out from the rest. Change is soon to follow and that’s how I felt about Ava & the ARRAY Now tweet-a-thon. Change and history is happening in front of my very eyes and I want to be a part of it.
Quarantine. New Life. More Writing.
I’m usually off work late, but lately, with fewer distractions, I have just a little more time to do what I love. Write. Learn. Live. Laugh. Repeat…in my own corner of the country wfh during the pandemic. Something had inspired me to work feverishly on a TV treatment that I’m hoping will help to inspire the hearts of people around the world. I have no ill motives, no large connections, no aspirations of large fame. Just a big heart and a big dream that hurts so bad it won’t leave me.
Things outside of the #ARRAYNow hashtag are very sad and frightening. I’d been taking a break from social media because it was physically, mentally and spiritually making me weak. I don’t recognize this world at times and I often wonder who I am in it.
They say chose your heroes wisely
Like everyone else, I use social media but I try to control what I see and what I allow into my spirit. I don’t want to feel continuous anger and sadness so I follow things that bring me joy and inspiration. I only have twitter notifications on my cell for 2 people. Former President Barack Obama and Award-winning Filmmaker Ms. Ava DuVernay. Although my notifications are silent and I miss more than 75% of them, those are the people whose energy I choose to absorb most. I can feel the godliness and love in their hearts for the well being of all people, but especially for us black, brown, and women humans of the world.
Whenever I have time and energy (I’m having more now lately than ever #boundaries), I write tales of black and brown heroes and heroines rising up from the dust, remembering their cultural roots, writing a visual call to action to remind us of the ancient warrior spirits we descend from. I have to, that’s one of the only ways I keep myself from succumbing to all of the sadness surrounding me. Its to write my own hero story out of this mess through the heart of a young black girl that no one saw coming.
But as always, I work alone with no mentor to turn to, no one to ask questions. Just me, writing my own mini-revolution because I grew up watching the underdogs get their happy ending and I keep waiting for ours. The spark soon came in the form of a simple post from Ms. Ava DuVernay and I am forever grateful.
I chose to follow Ms. Ava because her life story says it all. It’s so damn inspiring and everything she continues to do amazes me. I wish I had as much courage as she does and those she works with. It’s weird admiring other people because it feels intrusive, silly even. I try to stay far away, hardly tweeting to people I admire unless I really feel moved to. I’m scared, but not scared enough to admire her from afar as a teacher in film and in life.
#ARRAYNow Filmmakers are heroes
I’m not a super fan of most but my heroes are the silent ones that get our hearts inspired, that share our hidden stories and inspire change. I love to inspire and I love to be inspired. That may sound weird but as a child, I was pumped with visions of great pioneers, revolutionaries, and leaders who were women who lead with their hearts. During this tweet-a-thon, we were granted access to chat with these real revolutionaries alive in our modern-day. Unhinged. I was so honored.
It was the greatest gift of all…using the greatest weapon of all, love. Love to me is being seen for who you are, for where you are, and embraced regardless of it all. Nothing was needed back in return. Just a simple kind gesture, and scrolling through the threads, those who were there — felt it. Its a shame it wasn’t trending in my feed. This was the most beautiful thing in the world, but so many missed it because of distractions.
Blessings of Manna from out of Nowhere
What Ms. Ava & her friends did for the spiritually starving creative community with that tweet-a-thon was such an incredible blessing it continued to overflow all day, night, weekend, and still continuing to for many days to come. The entire experience is immortalized on Twitter under the hashtag #ARRAYNow. Epic.
It has caused quite an immovable stirring in my spirit I just want to scream and cry at this priceless and selfless gesture, because this gives me hope. Always the optimist, I was running a little low.
Ms. Ava is my film teacher and she doesn’t know me but that’s ok. Because she’s the best teacher, the G.O.A.T to anyone who is paying attention. Her heart is as big and as beautiful as anything I’d seen in modern history, since of course the Obama’s and others like them. That’s why I follow them. They’re my anchors to what is still right with the world. Ms. Ava is one of my heroines in the dark.
#ARRAYNow TWEET-A-THON EXPERIENCE
So I’m changing some things around in my personal life to allow me more ME time to write my own lil masterpieces. No distractions, no deadlines, just me and my open imagination. It’s weird in here. Haven’t been in here in a while, so much to unpack, so much stuff to move around, so much growing to do. So much.
One night, just as I was really feeling alone without another creative soul to speak to (other than the BF), I get a random twitter notification from Ava DuVernay about the upcoming #ARRAYNow Tweet-a-thon on Twitter on 4/30/20. And I didn’t miss it. Wait.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I mean did she really just say she and 60+ of her friends are going to be online all day to answer anything we wanted? I’d lost my mind at that point. I knew I should’ve taken the day off but I still had to work. I was NOT ready or prepared for the steady flow, 1 after the other of epic filmmaker after EPIC filmmaker coming off the twitter press from Ms. Ava and ARRAY’s twitter accounts seconds and minutes apart.
I jokingly tweeted her out of enthusiasm saying that I should’ve taken the day off but that I’m a master multi-tasker so I’m ready. Ava liked it.
I didn’t let her down. I juggled my responsibilities and this tweet-a-thon like the thirsty creative, professional, life student I am. Ok, I was savage. I was on a mission in #ARRAYNow and I’d never felt so inspired and empowered in my life! It was overwhelming. Between every other question I asked, I posted my disbelief at what was happening and met some cool new folks along the way!
As my boyfriend kept me fed and hydrated throughout the day (because he loves it when I dream out loud), I rode that twitter hashtag #ARRAYNow like a super magical black bull with bottomless rides spinning around from thread to thread asking as many questions as I could possibly type.
Frustrating myself to make sure I didn’t have any typos and I didn’t sound stupid, I pushed through my greatest fears and anxiety to ask even just 1 question. I conquered MANY fears that day, 1 after the other. It was extraordinary. Each notification from someone I admired giving me more encouragement to keep going. Something here is working.
But these wonderful folks were only online for minutes. I needed a strategy. And I had multiple screens and asked specific questions to specific people based on their experience that came in the body of the post. I never recycled a question unless it was a burning one that hadn’t been answered yet. Just because you asked it, didn’t mean it will get answered and I asked those questions as if no one saw me, never expecting them to get answered. Leaving a trail of love and admiration along the way.
A tweet-a-thon is not for the faint of heart.
Any marathon needs discipline but I grew up with it so I’ve got that in the bag and off I went. Then, 1 by 1 my notifications began to light up with answers and likes by people I never would’ve had access to, had I not been following Ms. Ava DuVernay.
It was pure overwhelming bliss to get answers or retweets by filmmakers Matthew Cherry, Tiffany Tenille, Numa Perrier, Lisa France, PJ Raval, Victoria Mahoney, Diane Pargas, Steven Capel Jr….liked by Stephanie Turner……..AND liked 3 times on Twitter and once on IG by the heroine herself, Ms. Ava DuVernay. It felt like the eyes of gods were upon me. How does one hold in all of this excitement?? It’s impossible. I am self-aware AF, and I know the precise moments when I face my greatest fears and walk through them. There are no words, only tears.
Humble needs a new word
I have grown to have a horrible case of creative fear where I create in secrecy and I hardly show my work afraid my thoughts and big ideas won’t be as beautiful as the things & the people that have created the things that have inspired me. I’m also afraid of exposure, but I keep trying to work at it which is why I participated in the #ARRAYNow Tweet-a-thon. I forced myself to do what was uncomfortable and I loved and hated every second of it. It was beautiful.
I did self-publish a fiction novel a few years ago just to prove to myself that I could do something creative and special. I did it and was super happy about it but it was tough because I did it all alone. Writing, Design, launch, everything. Its got amazing 5 star reviews on Amazon and everyone keeps asking for book 2. Creative fear can sometimes feel crippling. Every day I’m working on it.
ARRAY Now Netflix film – Jezebel
After the #ARRAYNow tweet-a-thon, I created a list of #ARRAYNow films I wanted to watch. Almost right away I watched a movie that broke me down to the core. It was beautiful and raw. Something I realized I’d been yearning to see on TV, but never saw. I watched 2 black women bare their entire souls for the world to see in the ARRAY Now Netflix film Jezebel. I was so proud and ecstatic that they didn’t let creative fear stop them from making that film. I also recognized my own fear and it was both heartbreaking and healing at the same time. It was something I needed to acknowledge and release. I’d been ignoring it for far too long.
Growth hurts. I’d suppressed my creative spirit for years living that commuting-work-all-day-and-all-night-advertising life. I learned great new digital skills, yes, but I wasn’t feeding my creativity. I felt empty inside yet full of joy for everything else. For everyone else, always putting myself, my hopes, my dreams…last. The black women in my family are beautiful, talented leaders and strong women who continue to put themselves last. I’ve seen the outcome and I secretly grieve for us because I’m aware of it.
I was inspired when I saw Jezebel because it meant those black women put themselves first which is so rare and I applaud them. I am honored to have watched what I saw.
Gratitude for Jezebel
When I decided to emulate the courage of the ladies of Jezebel just to tell them how I felt from my heart, I received a reaction/mention from Tiffany Tenille & Numa Perrier by responding to and sharing my heartfelt gratitude towards them for having inspired me to bare my soul… simply by watching them bare theirs.
Healing was taking place within me and as I fought myself not to delete it, I noticed in myself I am my own worst enemy and she’s got to go and I simply just need to declare it. And I do. It’ll take a while but I’ll get there.
When I sought help to manage my stress, a healthcare professional told me that my wildest dreams of writing for tv to help the lives of black and brown people were grandiose ideas because I had no connections. I knew he was wrong about them being too grand, but right that I had no connections. It was something that stuck with me. What I needed most was a mentor and guidance from someone who is inspiring, someone who believed the impossible was possible, just like me. I’d signed up for a screenwriting class at NYU & did a little more research into my craft. I didn’t need him to validate my dreams. I needed to validate my own.
I watch the impossible happen every day around me and I secretly create my own possibilities when no one is watching, if I can just bust through this creative fear, I know I’d become unstoppable.
I’m Private AF, I’m funny AF and I’m weird too.
I secretly know I’m odd so I’m afraid to be seen. I’ve never been this way. Always the outgoing type, life has changed and me along with it. I died a lil bit every time someone I admire liked or shared 1 of my posts. I just want to create amazing, beautiful, life-changing, and inspiring pieces of art. I want the world to begin healing with love and I’m ready to create those lovely things, NOW.
The #ARRAYNow experience showed me that there ARE others out there like me, and I’m so excited because I didn’t know where to find them! Yet here they are!
My creative spirit is full of hope.
That’s a great Twitter notification couple right there. Barack Obama & Ava Duvernay, creative hope. People really should choose their heroes & heroines wisely. Soak up all that love, light, intelligence, boldness, and creativity. It’s amazing what you can create when you can put the pieces together if you know where to look.
From the bottom of my now full creative spirit, thank you Ms. Ava DuVernay, filmmakers, ARRAY Now, and everyone else who asked amazing questions that I can now go back and study. This just changed my life. Thank you.
XO ~ Toi P.