A reflection on Monique Franklin's work, Mama'z Muezz, written by Savannah Parker, CD Forum's Intern.
There are many unleveled, inequitable, and unsettling things within the world, but how do we balance the manipulable aspects of life? How do we find a balance between the experiences that make life a bit lopsided?
On May 19, 2020, I sat down, via Zoom, with Seattle’s very own Monique Franklin. Monique is an accomplished poet, performer, activist, and scientist. She has been featured in CD Forum's 2018-2019 season of Artists and is currently a part of the 2020 season. Her most recent project is a one-woman play titled, Mama’z Muezz. The play captures the beautifully inevitable challenges of being a mother, and more specifically, a Black mother. Like many of her projects, Monique uses a variety of mediums to enhance the delivery and presentation of her work. She uses song, instrumental, dance, and movement to emphasize the message she intends to send to her audience.
While there were many aspects of our conversation that intrigued me, a recurring theme was the underlying thought of Balance. As an Artist, I often struggle to find a happy medium between the personable and community aspects of my work. For the most part, I end up feeling as if I’ve shared too much, or I decide not to share. Monique and I spent some time talking about poetry and the influence it’s had on our lives, and we similarly expressed that poetry is a medium that helps us process and communicates our emotions and experiences. During this part of our conversation, Monique began to discuss the difference between writing for one’s self and writing for an audience. She said, “There was a time where I’d write for me and somebody else seeing it wasn’t a possibility. There was another time, as an Artist, where I would write for me, and people might get to hear this one [poem], there also was a time when I was writing for an audience, which is very different… Poetry is an opportunity for me to communicate.” I believe there’s a general understanding that there are some things that are meant to be shared and others that aren’t. Art is a form of therapy, so when we as Artists express ourselves, we are walking ourselves through the aftermath of an experience, and within that, there is vulnerability. How do we ensure that we, as artists/individuals, receive healing from experiences shared?
As mentioned earlier, Monique’s most recent work is a one women play titled Mama’z Muezz. The play captures the raw experiences of being a Black mother. During quarantine, Monique developed new works for the piece, some of which touch on topics that remain highlighted during these times. She expressed she had to take into deeper consideration, whether she wanted to release work, that spoke of death, grief, and isolation. The release of such work would be an outlet of healing for her, but could simultaneously cause her audience to revert into a dark place. She explains, “Mama’z Muezz is also a healing for me, and as Black Woman, I often take the role of caretaker, so then I developed this internal conflict of, do I take care of my audience or do I take care of myself?” I was intrigued. It’s a question that I believe many of us, as human beings, consider. In moments of personal growth, do I care for those around me, censor or be cautious of the feelings I present, or do take care of myself by ensuring that all of my emotions are acknowledged and expressed in a way that enables me to release and heal?
Reflecting upon the moments where I decided not to share my poetry, I struggle to understand if I made those decisions, considering my well being or in spite of others. Did I choose to withhold my thoughts from the public eye, because I was afraid of what they’d have to say in response, and how that response would affect the authenticity of my thoughts or, was it out of consideration of not tarnishing or changing their mindset?
You may ask, why am I questioning myself? I generally think that some things are meant to be publicly unknown, while there are some thoughts and moments in life that we as individuals are meant to reflect upon, alone. I say this because it can be easy for experiences in our lives to become crowded with the projections of others, and it can cause us to miss the lesson or opportunity of self-healing. But, as Monique and I’s conversation continued, she explained to me that, a lot of the time, we don’t realize to move in a progressive direction, we have to endure the dimness of past experiences. She says, “This time has made me realize that people need an avenue to heal, and sometimes, in order to do that we need to have the tough conversations, and we need to go through the dark places, and having those conversations puts us in a better place, it doesn’t just leave us in a hole.”
Conversation and communication are an essential part of healing, and healing is a necessary part of being able to balance. If there’s something on one end of the scale that you’ve continued to hold onto, the scale will be unbalanced, and it will remain that way until you take the time to work through and shed the weight that’s dragging you down.
It’s important to consider that sometimes the message that’s communicated through your art isn’t always directed towards an audience, but instead yourself. How do you take what you have written down, to better center your emotions, and how you interact with the world? Often, I find myself so overwhelmed that I don’t know how to feel; that’s where poetry comes into play. Ultimately, when we share our work, those who are projecting may as well be in the process of healing. I think to create a balance between writing for yourself and sharing it with the world; you ought to set an intent. Setting an intention may help you hold the purpose of your art and the healing behind your writing.
A huge thank you to Monique Franklin for taking the time to converse with me, and essentially helping me to further evolve into the Artist I am today.