We had the good fortune of connecting with Shaina L. Simmons and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shaina L., we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk taking is a integral step needed to achieving purpose, goals, success, and healing. I have taken several risks over the process of my career as an artists from moving across the country to attend grad school at CalArts ( or even pursuing a Masters in Acting in the first place), or moving to Thailand for five months. Risks have opened endless opportunities for me. I have met the most incredible humans from all over the world and been challenged in ways that evolved me into my destiny. I am currently pursuing my 2nd Masters in Social & Environmental Practice in the inaugural cohort at Prescott College. A program developed by Patrisse Cullors, co-Founder of Black Lives Matter. I took a risk applying, got in, and continue to take risks as I navigate how to afford the tuition in the middle of a pandemic. I started #KeepShainaInArtSchool to lean in on community for support as artists. Through the support this program I took the risk, releasing a visual poem in honor of Black women, Been Black. It has now marked over 2.2 views on Zandaya’s Instagram. As an artists whose lost her job, been forced to postpone a residency due to the unpredictable responses to Covid 19, I continue in my risks to create dreamtime and continue to pursue my purpose through the arts.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I use my personal experience as an organic archaeology providing insight into the history of race in America. Divulging into the anthropology of ritual performance in the diaspora, specifically exploring cultural connections within Black and Latinx communities. Projects like Afro Futuro and La Diáspora de Twerk, utilize social somatic approaches in NOLA Bounce, Afro Latin dance, and sacred feminine dances as a re-resignification of twerking. A reclamation of traditional healing movements that reunite Black bodies with the elements of nature and continue to inspire Black women to work through societal stigmas to decolonize our bodies. A recent release of my short film Been Black created a viral sensation that seeks to honor the contributions of Black women. As a Black woman in the arts I’ve found it challenging to obtain funding and resources to develop work and share my own story. Where I’ve seen other non-Black artists receive funding from major corporations to tell my story. I hope that by speaking about the disparities in funding opportunities for Black women in the arts will help create more support of our work so that we can maintain autonomy in telling our own stories.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
@MamaSunshineTreasures is my go to shop for natural hair products, body oils, and all things beauty. I also love to peruse the shops in Leimert Park. There’s a really great Caribbean restaurant named Ackee with great food and smoothies, right on the corner. Bookstores, clothing, art boutiques and more. You can end the day with tea/coffee and bites and live entertainment at Hot and Cool cafe.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Black women have continued to be the lighthouses throughout my life. So much so I printed a shirt for anyone who was wondering what grace is such as the Black woman https://teespring.com/stores/blackwomenperiod. I have found sanctity in the presence of Black women. The walking poem of opulence, triumph, and legacy is carried in the substance of Black women. I give thanks to the Black women who literally carried me through their journeys, the daughter of Lynette, who is the daughter of Lula, the daughter of Dean. To Mildred, Christina, and those whose names are deeply wrapped into the fabric of my being, I salute you. To the sisters, who stepped in and held me up. Black women, who often go with little credit or no recognition, I acknowledge their contribution and presence in my life. I think its time we all looked around us and gave acclaim to Black women.
Dre’s Gallery Dan Centofanti Andrew Wofford