We had the good fortune of connecting with Maisha Azadi and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Maisha, as a parent, what have you done for you children that you feel has had the most significant impact?
My career and parenthood have always been concurrent with one another. My desire to be an available and actively engaged parent shaped my approach to my career pursuits. That meant I needed to schedule my time and efforts around my children’s schedule.  This in turn proved to be the most productive process in me figuring out a work/life balance early on. That need, also revealed that the best way for me to provide for them, was to invest in myself. Obtaining an education that would increase my value and help to secure a job allowing for optimal flexibility while commanding the pay I felt I was worth was priority. This track to ensuring I was the most educated I could be, in turn, led to the path of entrepreneurship. For my children, this then provided an up-close and personal relationship with what it takes to turn dreams into achievable goals. It provided organic learning (by process of osmosis really) of the successes and failures and rebounds after those failures that come along with running a business and committing to your brand. 

Believing in and acting on my dreams and passions is the most important thing I’ve done as a parent in terms of impact on my children. They are not only exposed to the process of idea development but it also gives me an opportunity to involve them with the work that I do as a filmmaker and educator. Whether it is including them on a shoot, getting their input on current trends or learning from their experiences in school, they are very much involved with the creation of my ideas. They are my muses and inspire how I want to support making this world a better place for them through God’s direction of my work. Lastly, making sure they know they are the catalyst, builds their confidence to be able to go out and do the same for themselves and their children in the future. It’s about legacy building. And about being intentional, knowing that my initial success and obedience will lay the foundation for my future generations.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?

I am an actor, educator, and filmmaker, and all that I do comes from a purpose-driven passion to transform mainstream media’s narrative of “black stories”. I’ve had the privilege of learning from phenomenal Black women artists. Women who were artistic firsts and who broke boundaries due to their ability to show up with empathy, compassion, and grit for the purpose of sharing an intimate and authentic view into our varied Black experience. Their art was their platform for the collective advancement of African-Americans in the greater community. I have been steeped in this idealogy, coupled with infusing “faith-based” themes and messages which hallmarks what I feel sets me apart.  I’m most excited about my continuing desire to walk in that legacy while teaching others about the importance of doing the same. For me, it’s done in a multitude of ways; it can look like embracing roles and stories that positively help us to re-learn ourselves while educating others about Black people through my work as an actor. Through my company SPARROW AND FINCH FILMS, it looks like creating content that helps us re-learn what it means be human, celebrating and exploring our differences in lieu of allowing them to be points of separation. My most recent short film, Zyquil was an official selection of the 2020 BHERC (Black Hollywood Education and Research Center) 26th Annual African-American Film Marketplace and my stageplay, Nina and Troyboy is currently in pre-production for its short film adaption after it’s delayed premiere with the 2020 Hollywood Fringe Festival. Both pieces utilize the unique perspectives of African-American women in stories that many can either relate or empathize with. As an educator and facilitator it looks like partnering with organizations through MAS DIVERSITY CONSULTANCY around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work. It looks like utilizing my abilities as a storyteller to address issues of social justice in a way that invites and creates space for people to fully engage with tough, challenging conversations in order to become catalysts for change. Professionally, patience and humility has helped me to gain clarity on the purpose of my passion. This continual process takes sacrifice to understand the goal of creating work that is not self-serving but collectively speaking and community serving. Balancing my career with building my family has not always been easy but it has in turn helped me to gain a greater perspective on just that. I’ve learned that working harder does not beat working smart and working smart is still hard work. I’m also aware that all the experiences I’ve had professionally and personally culminate into a deep well that can be drawn from for all my artistic ventures. I’ve always had to find creative and non-traditional ways to start with what I’ve had. I learned that I had to use what I had, (little it may) to create something that takes me to the very next step. The lesson was not to wait until I had everything lined up, but to start with what I have and target the very next step in the goal. I love to work with individuals who have found similar approaches to their work. I’ve found that it makes for a more enjoyable work environment.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love the outdoors so I would plan a hiking trip to the Los Angeles Forest and the Santa Anita Canyon where we would take a day hike to Sturvesant Falls. I would also plan a beach day and visit Zuma Beach in Malibu. If it weren’t during the time of Covid, I would have loved to take my best friend to the Holiday Ice Rink in Pershing Square. It’s so much fun to visit at night with hot cocoa and holiday music cued up and ready to go while you skate amongst the skyscrapers. We’d also visit the best Taco Truck here in San Gabriel Valley, a truck on Route 66 outside of the Michael’s and TJ Maxx plaza; they have the best tacos and mulitas. We would schedule a shopping day in Old Pasadena and check out the stores and historic architecture in One Colorado before having dinner and drinks at True Food Kitchen. Lastly, I’d make sure that I’d take her to CAAM, The California African- American Museum located in Exposition Park. Depending on the time, we could possibly catch a KCRW DJ night or if during the holidays we can experience the Kuumba Kwanzaa event.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to dedicate my shoutout to the late Lorna Hill and Dr. Barbara Ann Teer. They were both phenomenal actors, activists, and businesswomen who, through their art championed their respective communities to embrace the importance of nurturing African-American talent and the necessity of providing a place in theater where our stories were prioritized and celebrated. Their institutions, Ujima Theater Company in Buffalo, New York, and The National Black Theater in Harlem, New York provided a training ground for me and many others where art and social justice were forever intertwined. This shaped how I approach my work as an actor, filmmaker, and educator, using the arts to bring a greater understanding of one another’s journey through life.

Website: www.maishaazadi.com, www.sparrowandfinchfilms.com, www.masdiversityconsultancy.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/maishaazadi/
Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/maishaazadi
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maishaazadi
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDqgHWrlQkoS4qP3lDgTEUw

Image Credits
Photos by Amina Tourey Photos by T’rah Photos by Justen Blaize

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