My name is pronounced like any ole other "Michelle," but I am NOTHING like any other Michele.
I am ratchet but well-written. A product of Mid-City Los Angeles, Watts, and Leimert Park, I’m the theory and the praxis. I am 30 years of dance experience, 20 years of community organizing, and 10 years of health struggles skating backwards in the sun to the sounds of Boys II Men and Biggie.
Don't try to memorize what I look like based on my hairstyle, because I change it all the time. I read constantly, learn quickly, and I know how to throw dat ass in a circle. I prefer my food pretty, my nails bright, and my kombucha ice cold.
While the paper itself means little to me, my Africana Studies degree and two years of film school gave me a sense of myself. I live at the intersection of arts and culture. I can produce an event with thin resources, create a strategic plan out of scattered thoughts, and make two geniuses from genes, a uterus, and dedication (shout out to my kids — Alek and Ella).
People pay me to make things pretty — logos, faces, costumes, whatever. I've designed apartments, planned events, written grants, edited films. Someone even paid me to decorate a wedding broom once.
When I became ill a few years ago, I narrowed my focus to just logos.
Both of my parents are dead, so community is everything, and I build them wherever I go. In my "spare" time, I start youth groups, rites of passage programs, host partnership retreats, healing circles, and I do a lot of organizing. Africana Studies departments 20 years ago always presented us with problems -- never solutions. I use my knowledge of the problems to galvanize people and put that degree into practice. I focus on the young ones because they still have the fire, but I've also spoken about praxis at Harvard, Dartmouth, and Cal State LA. I believe in small incremental progress and unspeakable amounts of joy.
It would eliminate an important part of my character if I left out the fact that I am a teacher. I taught 5th and 6th grade at a shelter for survivors of domestic violence for several years, and I homeschooled both of my children. The eldest graduated high school with two years of college under his belt, and the youngest joined MENSA at age seven. I owe my teaching abilities to my sister, who has an intellectual disability. I spent twelve years of my childhood trying to teach her to read basic words and count money. I owe my patience and teaching creativity to her.
My altruism is another story. In 1979 my uncle Linton was stabbed to death at Venice Beach in California while walking with his girlfriend. He sacrificed his life to save hers, and I am named after him. I’m told we have a lot in common. Though I am working to overcome my martyr complex, I don’t take selflessness lightly. It is part of the core of who I am.
They gave me six months to live in 2016, and I'm still here. I have FSGS (Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis), and autoimmune disease that attacks my kidneys and scars them. It hasn't been easy. I isolate a lot, wear masks, eat carefully, and stay away from sick people, because I'm on immunosuppressive drugs. I started a memes page about my illness on instagram, called The Nephrotic Diva. I use humor to cope (standup comedy is on my bucket list). When you see the word, “nephrotic,” it is referencing kidneys that leak protein, and if you ever see bubbles in your urine, go get checked!