We had the good fortune of connecting with Sha’Na “Shay” Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sha’Na “Shay”, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I read somewhere that everything is a manifestation of our thoughts/beliefs, and every thought/belief is an affirmation in some way. I look at risk through that same lense. Everything is a risk. Staying at a job that is only paying my bills but killing my spirit is just as much a risk as taking a leap on faith, especially when my heart is calling for that.
If it’s in my heart to try and I don’t, I run the risk of never knowing. I feel very new to faith based living, but there’s also a knowing that I’ve come this far by faith, hard decisions, and a few mental breakdowns. The risk & the choice to walk in what my spirit is drawn to with as little concern as possible has brought me so much closer to my higher power. A truly personal power.
I don’t always call myself an artist/creative. I’m a being, and being is a risk. It often looks like nothing or not enough for the people who don’t trust in the guidance of true intuition. We’re conditioned to do. Doing, is how we, as American capitalists and descendants of people abused by these systems that uphold labor while disregarding humanity tend to find security. I acknowledge that creating is also doing, but when creation is an extension of my being and intended to serve the good of humanity, it’s different.
When I went to college at Prairie View A&M University I considered pursuing a “money making degree”. I knew Theatre was my path at the time, but being told that there’s no money down that path planted seeds of fear. I chose business as a minor because having a plan b was also encouraged, but I never felt a need for a fall back plan. I graduated in 2014 never taking a business class. If I didn’t realize for myself multiple times along my journey so far what felt right for me I’d still be running around trying to realize someone else’s dream, risking it all for nothing but false security. The artistic pursuit, even with all its uncertainties, gives me what I need to stay whole and in that my relationship with risk has been wildly satisfying.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m the founder of HerStoryFound which is a grassroots initiative raising funds and energy for Black & brown women led organizations that are doing work to assist in the spiritual expansion of Black & brown women & girls lives. FREEBLACKWOMxN is a what I’d call heart work. Very new and growing, but it’s a space where Black women artist are prioritized and celebrated from the past, to the present, with hope for the future. I’m a poet, writer, photographer, director, actor, painter, organizer, ect. It all works together, but none of it is easy. I do my best to balance it all and still make space to be a sister, friend, auntie, and date when that’s the desire.
Poetry, writing, photography, and painting would be considered passive creativity. Definitely passionate about them, but I tend to turn that direction when I need a break from the other work. I’m also an intuitive sound healer. Uncertified without plans of getting a certification, as well as a yoga student who doesn’t believe we should expect profit for teaching wellness. I’m still in the certification process, but I prefer the karmic approach. I have a poetry book I’ve been working on as well as a multidisciplinary project funded by The Idea Fund, Summon, which consists of a short performance, mural, and documentary in collaboration with Banke Awopetu, Arnea Williams, Jasmine Williams “Sabali”, & A Blu J exploring the relationship between spirit, matriarchal lineage, and creativity for Black American women.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m a homebody, but if there’s a market happening I’d likely take them there. Shop Local hosts dope markets all around town. Vintage Street Fest is a good time too. I host Vibez Galore Market with The Everlasting Vibez which will be popping back up in June. I like to check out live local musicians. The Everlasting Vibez (IG: @theeverlastingvibez) is a collective of multi talented musicians I’ve been blessed to work with. I went to college with a few of the members. I’d definitely take a friend to check them out. There’s dope stuff to do everywhere in Houston. Lately, skating with Soul Control at Skateworld the first Friday of each month has been a go to, and the “Saturdays” skate and dance events hosted by Daisies & Pancakes! There’s also an abundance of food options. I’m vegetarian so to make us both happy we’d pull up to Reggae Hut in Third Ward, but Lindiana’s food truck by TSU has the best southern comfort vegan food and it will trick the taste buds. Crumbsville or Uncle Otis at Earthy Goodness for Vegan ice cream are my stop for something sweet. Outside of that, we’d likely explore a gallery or find some nice outdoor space.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There’s a long list, but I’ll give this one to my Mama (Yolanda), my great grandmother (Effie Marie Smith aka Mommie), & my daddy (George) Leticia Contreras, Jalyn Gordon, & Tracie Jae for being willing warriors of peace and possibility. The Awakenings Movement led by Pastor Tia Norman for being a home for my curiosities along this walk with God. I find roots everytime I take in the teachings and people that commune there. Raveen Alexis for the life she so transparently lives and shares! Banke Awopetu for believing and trusting. Arnea Williams for being open and reaching out. Cristal Chanelle Truscott for her mentorship and mothering despite her reluctance to accept that title. The Everlasting Vibez for keeping the music alive. S/o to the tribe, and every woman, both blood and chosen that’s nurtured me when I couldn’t do it on my own.
Books: Alice Walker. In Search of our Mothers Gardens (a Bible) bell hooks for all about love. (It blessed me at a time when I needed it with exactly what I needed.) Toni Morrison EVERY WORD SHE’S EVER SHARED, (literally, for telling complicated stories with language that’s made me want to put the books down and characters that I couldn’t turn away from.) Ntozake Shange & Ai. Some of the first poets I instantly gravitated to. Look them up! & every person who’s been a parent to the lil girl who needed guidance.
Photo Credit-Carlton Perkins
Carlton Perkins, A Blu J