We had the good fortune of connecting with Melaina Williams and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melaina, what’s the most important think you’ve done for your children?
I am new to the parent club. My husband and I welcomed our beautiful, baby girl earth side of the womb in November of 2019. It’s been amazing to watch her grow and even more amazing to already see the positive impact my creativity has on her. For years, I have required myself to include my first book of poetry, “Bless Your Sweet Bones” on the coffee table where I place other books I love or am currently reading. I do so to remind myself of my worth, inspire my “inner child” to keep creating and keep my story before me. Now, my daughter picks my book up and studies the front cover; her late great-grandmother (who she is named for) and her mother. She then opens it and stares longingly at the words on the pages. I practice singing at home and she joins in effortlessly reaching each note. She is learning creatively and bonding with me and the history of her ancestors. None of this would be possible if I decided that as a mother, my creative life would have to take a backseat to “mommy duties.” I believe that is the myth we are given, whether consciously or subconsciously by society and familial experiences. The “once you have kids, it’s all over” doom speech has been shared too many times in my opinion. Now, don’t get me wrong, life drastically changes but not without great new awakenings to who you are, what you can do and the beauty of life itself. Having my daughter actually inspired me to be more, do more and execute it all with unwavering confidence. I am positively impactitng her life when I continue to live my art in front of her and with her. I’m not interested in her being me. I am committed to teaching her that she has the power and freedom to be and create in this world as she chooses. I can only teach that if I am living it myself. Creating is a part of healthy, thriving motherhood for me and it brings me great joy to see my daughter benefit from it.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a writer, vocalist and actor. I used to deal with great anxiety about being all three, especially with many industry professionals suggestions to pick one. Though I tried to pick just one, it never seemed “right.” It took a while for me to become quite clear that all of my creative strengths work together. I cannot perform poetry without acting skills. I cannot sing without having a deep understanding of the written words I am singing. I cannot act without the musicality of delivering lines. They all work together and I have the ability create content that is captivating because of it. I especially am more understood in these times where many artists now focus over multiple interest as a time. Pre-COVID-19, I had the great pleasure of in-person performances of poetry in grade schools, colleges, churches, poetry lounges, conferences and public events. I now provide those services through virtual events. As a vocalist, I am working on releasing original music. I also am a worship leader at Crenshaw Christian Center. As a writer and actor, I have been focusing on finalizing edits on my first two act play loosley based on the legacy of my grandfather who was a jazz musician and will be seeking to have it produced in the L.A. theatre scene. While the joy of creating art is unmatched and sometimes come with ease, the professional side of connecting the world to my art is not always easy but recognizing those who can help me is a game changer. Sometimes I can be a lone ranger. I have a vision. I know exactly how I want it executed. But I have learned that the the solo traveler can only get so far for so long and is a quick road to burnout. It works well in the beginning stages but when you are ready to expand, building a team that can see your vision clear is powerful. My art, my story is one of connection. I want to share the stories, the experiences, the feelings that connect us and remind us that we are not alone. I have a poetic view on life. Poetry makes the mundane things of life miraculous. It makes one inhalation of a breath and an exhalation of the same a momentous occasion. These are things, when brought to our attention admist the chaos of the world, that make our existence more than happenstance. It makes our lives worthy, important, purposeful.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
A good week for me would be: The historial Leimert Park is the heartbeat of art, activism and soul. From the World Stage Performance Gallery to Esowon Bookstore to Hot and Cool Cafe, you can’t go wrong. Visiting Dockweiler for a quiet beach day and maybe taking a bike ride to Venice Beach. Smoothies and Supreme Veggie Burgers at Simply Wholesome. Beef and potatoe burritos at Romonas. Blue Creek Trail for a walk and talk. Top it all off with gumbo and sweet potatoe pie at my mama’s house. As you can see, I’m all about the food. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many people who have and continue to support me as artist. I dedicate this Shoutout to my family, specifically my parents and husband. I am deeply grateful for my parents who never tried to deter me from studying Creative Writing in college. I never felt the weight of picking a profession or life path according to whether it made enough money. My parents affirmed me and my brothers in our creative choices and I am forever grateful. Because I felt “seen” by them, there was no doubt in my mind that my life’s path was as important as that of a doctor, lawyer or scientist. I also draw great wisdom and support from my husband who is often the first ears to hear a poem or watch a play with me. Art is not his lane but it is one of his loves. He also is my soundingboard. I am grateful for all the ways he challenges me in thought, in how I operate as a professional and how I show up for myself. I am so blessed we are able to walk this life together, sharing perspectives and love. Community Literature Initiative founded by Hiram Sims and The World Stage Press founded by both Sims and Connie Williams, were the organizations that gave me a platform to prepare my first book and then have that book published. The work they are doing for black and brown, Los Angeles writers is more than noteworthy. Having my book “Bless Your Sweet Bones” has opened so many doors of creative opportunities. I am honored to be among the great writers coming from these organizations. I am forever grateful. And to every family member, friend, mentor, coach, muse, artist, student who has encouraged, critiqued and inspired me, “THANK YOU! ” To the ancestors who stand with me now: because of your faith, resilence and power, I am still creating and striving to bring forth new generations of hope.
Sheldon Botler (image seated in chair, and seated with flowers in hair)