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voices amplified: dominique gant

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thumb_OriginalPhoto-486928152.862835_1024 (the following post is from the series Voices Amplified, featuring the stories and voices of everyday people in our community).

I was the girl who…

I was the girl who loved to read, draw, science, modeling, and acting. When I was a girl, my grandmother “Essie” was my biggest cheerleader. My mother and my grandmother were both supportive of anything I showed interest in, whether it was acting or modeling school, they kept me busy.

My mother had me at a young age, but worked hard to provide for my brother and I.

I was the girl who loved to laugh, sing, and dance. I was a silly child with quite the imagination who enjoyed playing and making friends. October 24th, 1997 at 5:30pm, I lost my grandmother to complications of lupus. I was 13-years-old. My whole world changed that day. Even though that was my grandmother, I felt like I lost my mom.

1997 was one of the worst years of my life. I felt so alone. My family was very close and my grandmother held everyone together.

I was the girl who longed for her grandmother because I didn’t understand.

Now I’m a woman with children of my own who will show my daughters the love and encouragement my mothers (Grandmother and mother ) showed me when I was younger.

We forget what it’s like to be a kid again and often take moments for granted. I just want to take the time out to remember the little girl I was because she is who made me who I am today! I just want to be happy, I just want to be free!

I just want Peace.

Domonique Gant is a writer and mother. She was born March 19th, 1984 in Chicago, Illinois. She lives in Bloomington with her two daughters, Diamond and Gia.

  1. Janna Krawczyk is a fiscal year 2016 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This publication and the class during which it was created is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

 

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writing and creativity

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I have created a life out of Sharpie markers and blank pages. When I was in college and hanging on to my sanity and life, I wrote first as a mental health reprieve, and then as a visionary tool. I deconstructed the life I knew and constructed a life that resonated with my soul. Within thousands of pages over more than 20 years, I wrote my way to the career and life I am living now.

For my work, I create and teach writing curricula for many different purposes and populations. I teach writing for empowerment to single mothers experiencing homelessness, and I teach writing for personal leadership to undergraduates at the University of Minnesota. I teach fiction writing to youth and writing as a therapeutic modality to social workers and psychologists. Meanwhile, early in the mornings, I write young adult novels and essays.

Because of this work variance, I am in a constant mode of creation. In order to keep it fresh and inspiring, I must enter the flow of creativity with regularity—it is as vital to my work as breathing is to my body.

Creativity is where innovation is born. It is messy, non-linear, and inspired, coming from a place deeper than the intellect. It is the song of the child within and therefore needs wild and open spaces where it can play and discover. Creativity hates stress and time-constraints. It cannot be called on a whim and expected to show up to the party on demand.

Writing is a powerful tool of entry into this flow. It is physical, visual, and spiritual. It slows the brain and enables me to take a range of ideas, thoughts, and intuition and synthesize them into a clear and powerful vision.

For example, this past February I pitched an idea for a feature article to Mpls.St.Paul Magazine on bike dates. When I got the go-ahead to write the article, I had no idea how I would begin or how the article would unfold. So I began this creative process like I do every other—by clearing my desk of everything except blank paper, Sharpies, and a space of time.

creating a feature article

creating a feature article

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The random and messy thoughts on those blank pages evolved to became a six-page feature article in this June’s magazine.

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It’s a mysterious process, this thing called Creativity. Maybe because it is evidence of the Divine within that we all share. But we each must find a way to make space in our lives for its magic to occur, to lift our ideas and thoughts from the confines of our beings to become full-color reality in the world.

 

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fear and love

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I stood in front of a room full of undergraduate students hearing myself ramble through my introduction on the first day of our Personal Leadership in the University class at the University of Minnesota. I heard myself tell them about being a writer and an as-yet unpublished novelist. I heard myself talk about being a social entrepreneur, having created a career teaching the very thing that saved my life: writing. I heard myself talk about my teaching experiences over the past decade, and I may have even heard myself talk about being a mother of two children. But I’m not sure.

The truth is, I don’t know exactly what I talked about in my introduction because while I was standing in front of that room, I was experiencing an intense wave of nervous fear in front of 26 students, all eyes on me, on my and their first day of class.

What I didn’t tell them was that I have never taken a “leadership” class in my entire life, nor had I ever taught one. I didn’t say I was stepping on the pathway of this journey for the first time with them. And I certainly didn’t tell them that I really had no idea what I was doing, or where this path would take me.

Though this particular situation was new to me, this feeling of standing at the edge of myself, at the edge of my comfort zone, the winds of fear and uncertainty and the Unknown whipping around me, was not new. I’ve been there before, dozens of times, in dozens of rooms.

In fact, it has been on the shoulders of discomfort and fear that I have built my career and my life.

I grew up a blue-collar kid in a white-collar world. My house stunk of cigarette smoke and broken dreams. As I grew, I built wings with the strength I earned from the struggles I had experienced. With pen and paper, I lifted myself out of that situation and decided I would always follow my heart, no matter what.

The problem is, with love comes fear. They are the right and left hands of almost every decision we make:

We love to travel, but we fear if we will miss out on career opportunities.

We love our boyfriends or girlfriends, but fear they will not love us back.

We love racing, but we fear we will lose.

We love to create, but we fear we do not know how.

If we make the decision to follow what we love and step into the landscape of our dreams, we must know that we will meet fear along the way. And if we are to continue on this journey of the soul and spirit, we must make friends with fear. Because bravery does not exist without fear, and if we choose safety, to remain within the cocoon of what feels comfortable, we will never know the full extent of our truth and power. We will never know what it feels like to have reached beyond ourselves to see exactly what it is we are made of.

So the question to continually ask ourselves is, which voice are we following? Are we following love or fear? Are we leaning into life or away from it?

Though fear is uncomfortable, safety isn’t all its cracked up to be either. In fact, it is an illusion when considering the human journey and its true vulnerable nature. Anything can happen at any time. We could walk onto the street and be hit by a bus and become paralyzed from the neck down. Or we could lose someone we love in a moment. Or we could lose that job or that house or that lover or whatever.

And worst of all, if we side with safety and follow our fear, we risk extinguishing the very flame in our hearts that keeps us warm along this journey of life.

Though the path is always uncertain and I am still learning how to “teach” leadership, there is one thing I know for certain: inside each of us exists a still, small voice. It is the voice of our hearts, emanating from the deepest part of our souls. And if we listen to that voice, we will never have to look back on our lives and think, “I wish I would have…”

Instead, we will be able to stand firmly on the ground of ourselves and our lives and say, “I did.”

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a valentine

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unplug

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Dear Teachers,

Do we allow time for our students to give voice to their deep wisdom?

Do we listen?

Do we realize that when we teach, we are also students, and as they learn, they are also teachers?

Give your students a pen, blank page, and some time, and you give them power to make sense of their lives and find their unique purpose in this world.

This is what happens when we step aside and give one student ten minutes to express her thoughts in writing:

It’s a talent and a blessing to be mindful. Our generation is full of people, clones of each other’s brain-washed tendencies. Since when did Instagram likes become more important than telling someone in person what you like about them? Since when did Facebook statuses mean more than the message you carry to the world?

Imagine what we could do if we didn’t sit zombie-like, scrolling through meaningless social media. Time passes by, hours on end, of us tapping endlessly, in constant communication with others.

Since when did texting subside as a better alternative to face-to-face communication? Communication is key, the art of work spoken.

Time is ticking, look around you.

Look at the people, chatting. The trees waving at you with their long branches. Then clouds drifting by. Cars honking. Children playing. Look up! Observe, observe, observe even more. Life is beautiful. Stay mindful so you can be in the moment.

It’s a talent and a blessing to be mindful.

The world around you is alive and vital.   

-C., Minneapolis, MN

 

 

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never underestimate

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thumb_IMG_9467_1024This morning I left the house without my shell. Maybe I was overtired, maybe it was the rain, maybe I am hormonal, or maybe it’s just raining inside for no other reason than I am human, so open and vulnerable, that on days like today, I feel like I am a breath away from releasing a torrent of tears.

Why does it rain some days and others are full of sun? Who knows.

All I know is I walked into the room, yoga mats already covering the floor, with mine still rolled up in my hand, feeling like an a-hole for disturbing the people around me who actually showed up on time.

I stood, hovering above a tiny space of floor, when I heard the man below me ask, “Do you need more space?” in such a kind voice, I could have wept with gratitude.

Instead, I held back until Savasana, until the instructor put her hands on my shoulders and forehead, and I felt her love radiate through her fingers and into my being.

“Thank you,” I said, tears joining the sweat as they flowed down my temples and onto the floor.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all of those people in the world who use soft kind voices when talking to others; for the people who look you in the eyes, and then your soul, to say thank you; and for those people who reach down and offer to help you up when you are on the floor with your humanness.

Thank you.

This holiday season, forget the shopping malls and go to the streets–give compliments, give help, give your time, and give your attention.

Never, never, not for a moment, underestimate the power of giving kindness.

 

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