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When Blackness Blooms

Atlanta-based artist Tracy Murrell's work blossoms as she create art that speaks truth.

The password for this episode of Speakeasy with Denene is FLOWER. I share my experiences raising children, which is like tending a garden. I also talk with two artists whose unique masterpieces bloom right off the canvas. Finally, I hear from singer-songwriter Jillian Hervey, who has blossomed as her own woman and now leads the band, Lion Babe.

I literally teared up when I found a video of my girls as little ones, playing in the backyard on a swing set I saved up for six months to buy them. I remember that day—how happy they looked, pumping their little legs, giggling as they challenged one another to swing higher and higher. They were little flowers in an American family garden. An American dream. It is their voices that you’ll hear in the first segment of “FLOWER” as I contemplate how I parented my daughter, Mari, through a rough time in her early teens, when a lack of confidence in her appearance made her doubt her superpowers. I explain how I “watered the flower” to help my daughter grow into the confident, beautiful, intelligent young woman she is today.

My daughter Mari when she was 14. Back then, I let her dye the ends of her locs to make them stand out and looks more feminine.

It is that confidence in growth that I explore in the second segment with Tracy Murrell and Maryam Moma, two incredible fine artists who tell how they blossomed this past summer when they took their art to a new level—Tracy internationally and Maryam during a fellowship made possible by Tracy in her Atlanta-based studio.

Here I am with Atlanta artists Marryam Moma (left) and Tracy Murrell (right) at Tracy's studio.

Note: I’m thoroughly obsessed with Tracy and Maryam; each wields exacto knives like a conductor in the finest symphony, using the instruments to coax incredible pieces of art that tell gorgeous stories about femininity, blackness, freedom. I adore their work and was genuinely intrigued by what they had to say about their creative processes and, in Maryam’s case, how I unwittingly contributed to her work.

Flowers are an inspiration in Maryam's work with pieces, like this one. She made this using lavender that I had given her.

We round out the episode with Jillian Hervey, aka half of the dope group, Lion Babe. Jillian, renowned for her shock of red hair that looks like a lion’s mane, made some of my fave tunes this year on her group’s album, “Cosmic Wind."

Jillian explains how she blossomed out of the shadows of her famous mother, former beauty queen-turned-singer and actress Vanessa Williams to become a flower in her own right, running her own band, with her own unique sound and a colorful musical expression that’s caught fire in the world of neo soul music.

Of course, Speakeasy with Denene wouldn’t be complete without an awesome FLOWER playlist, with all my fav songs celebrating the way we bloom.

And if you haven’t listened to the first four episodes—password: LOVE, password: FLY, password: BEAUTY, and password BLACK—get to it! If you have already, thank you! You’ll love the “FLOWER” episode every bit as much as the others, I promise you. If you haven’t subscribed, now’s a good time. I don’t want you to miss out on all this fabulousness. Seriously. Get to it. It’s free. And it’s available on all podcast platforms, including StitcherSpotifyApple Podcasts and so many more. What more could you ask for?!