I turned 38 on June 2 and the week of my birthday was a rollercoaster of emotions for me, most of which had me feeling lonely and sad. Two days after my birthday I had my first rehearsal for Broadway Bares. Broadway Bares is a benefit performance for the organization Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and this year was my fifth year participating. I was a bit tired going into the rehearsal process after coming off of 10 days of serving on a Grand Jury during the day while also working full time at night with "Hamilton". As I looked at the coming weeks of rehearsals and performances for Broadway Bares I noticed that I wouldn't be having a day off until the beginning of July and my last day off was at the beginning of May. What I will say about Broadway Bares is that this year was the most overall exciting year I've had in the five years I've participated in the event. I was in a fantastic number with a group of people that were so much fun to work with and equally as passionate when it came to raising money. Asking for money, for any reason, makes me uncomfortable, but seeing the drive each person had to raise as much as possible was encouraging. That drive paid off for us, as we were the highest raising team for the event and we were half the size of some larger groups! A lot of energy, drive, support and even some shaming pushed us to dig our heels in so we could help those in need.
Broadway Bares would end on a Sunday and I would travel to Albany the next day to speak at the SPECTRUM conference in Albany, NY. It would be the first time I would give a Keynote Address and to say that I was excited would be an understatement. I'd been writing the speech for a couple of weeks and would actually finish it a few days before I had to be in Albany. To quote the website; "The summit goes beyond the baseline of compliance, with intensive training on prevention, and response, creating space to learn best practices, and the opportunity to engage in discourse on practical applications of prevention programming, and trauma-informed response for LGBTQ+ students and community members." Source: www.suny.edu I would meet some incredibly smart, compassionate and creative people at a dinner that was hosted for those organizing the event, as well as those of us who would be speaking throughout the conference and I found myself so humbled by the work that they do within the college community. After delivering my keynote, I was able to speak with just a few of the 600 attendees that were there and what each of them chose to share with me was such a gift. My largest hope is that by sharing my story as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I will allow someone to not feel so alone in their own story, or even for someone to be a place of support for someone in their life. I wouldn't be able to stay for the entire conference, so I got into my rental car and made the 2.5hr drive back to Manhattan and as I did I began to think about the kind and vulnerable words that so many people spoke to me and I cried. I cried from a place of healing, appreciation, astonishment and joy. What I had no way of knowing was that an attendee would have sent me an email via my website to thank me for sharing my story. Here is what she wrote: "Thank you for coming to speak with us at the SPECTRUM conference. I was too shy to approach you probably because I have a hard time admitting to myself as a black queer woman that I had been assaulted as well by another woman. She was my gf at the time and I didn’t even know another woman could assault me. Just like you I’ve struggled with vulnerability when dating. My new gf has been patient with me. I was struck by what you said about control. I kept thinking wow another person knows what it’s like. I would use manipulation to try and twist what part of me she got. But your talk made me realize I need to let her love me. Truly and honestly love me for who I am and that I’m worthy of love. Thank you for speaking today. I feel so inspired by what you said. I’m going to seek help in NJ. I hope to see you again and hear your stories. Maybe I’ll win the Hamilton lottery finally!"
I've been sharing my story for many years and what has been consistent is that we all know what hurt feels like. We don't have to be the same gender, race or even from the same country to know how hurt feels and how it affects us. And with that, we all know what hope feels like and when we can see the hope we want reflected in someone else that we can identify with, it lets us know that it's possible.
I would return from that speaking engagement and begin rehearsals for a dance performance for a different benefit event. I'd return to Manhattan on a Tuesday and have rehearsals that same Thursday and Friday for the event Arts For Autism. It would be my first time performing in this event, which is currently in it's third year. As stated on their website; "Arts for Autism is a one night annual Broadway benefit concert where the biggest names on Broadway join performing arts students from around the country onstage at the Gershwin Theatre (home to Broadway's production of Wicked)." Source: www.artsforautism.net Myself and 5 other accomplished theatre professionals would be dancing to the song, "Somewhere" from, West Side Story and it would be sung beautifully by a young woman who is on the Autism Spectrum. I was only able to see a few of the performances and what I saw was the beauty of theatre personified. I saw dozens of children and young adults expressing themselves with confidence, conviction, joy, and vulnerability. It was so incredibly heartwarming to witness.
And as if that wasn't enough, I would have the incredible honor of attending the Mayoral PRIDE Ball at Gracie Mansion, as a guest to one of my dearest friends who was being honored for his work as an HIV/AIDS activist.
I can say with all honesty that when I looked at the coming month of obligations penciled onto my calendar, I was not looking forward to the journey that would be needed to get to the other side. And now that I'm on the other side and looking back at it all, I know that it was worth it. I might have sacrificed every day off that I could have had from May 8 to July 2, but to be able to contribute to each of those events, in whatever way I could, has left my heart so full. I started the month at a rather low place emotionally and with each passing week, the lever got lifted a little higher and I was reminded about the importance of being present. If my focus, at any point, was on the sacrifice I was making to be where I was, I would have missed everything that was there for me to enjoy. #SoldierOfLove