So what am I doing?
I think for most of us, there comes a moment in life that your perspective changes. You realize that you are indeed an adult; you now officially have some mileage, baggage, and insight, maybe even wisdom. Perhaps you visited your family home and it not as big as you imagined in your mind’s eye, or maybe you too have turned into one of those people in your family swearing “I remember when you were only a baby,” or “when you were this tall,” to a younger member.
My experience has been an inwards looking out moment. I was plodding through life, asking myself who am I? what am I doing?, in search of the answer for the biggest question of them all; what should I be doing with my life? I did the obvious things; thought about what I liked doing, what am I good at, what natural skills do I have, can I really do this art thing? These questions are probably common fodder for creative types. You know you think differently than others, but sometimes it is hard to pin down what to do with it. Most importantly, would it mean anything?
Ultimately, during this examination of self, I decided to accept that I am who I am for a reason. I also decided that I wanted to find out how or why I am this way. Why do I not want to be tied to a desk, why do I think so differently? There has to be reason for that. So I started looking at the sources of my genetics and environment. I started looking at roots, my grandparents. I looked at all of them, maternal and paternal. I mean really started looking at them. So I had to talk to them, but no longer like that small grandchild, but an adult that is their grandchild if I wanted answers.
From my Grandmother Brown, the creative matron, I learned where the creativity came from. As a self proclaimed “latch-key” kid, my grandmother was left to fend for herself growing up. Her mother worked as domestic help, and was practically never home. Therefore, as a child she had to be creative almost out of necessity. She learned to sew to make clothes for herself and create a home with what little she had available. As a result, her children knew how to sew, and are very creative, much like their mother. The entire Brown family is stacked to the gills in creativity, in every generation. A lot are even making careers out of it and there is a new generation springing with creativity, clearly on the path to a life in the arts.
The Grahams, bring the spirit of adventure. In the 1940s, Frances had begun traveling as a teenager as part of the American Friends Service Committee and Benjamin was deployed to Germany after being drafted during World War II. Whatever the motivating factor, other than wanting the sense of freedom, together, they decided that they were going to begin adventures together, one way or the other, it was only a matter of how. They considered buying a boat, an airplane, driving tractor trailers together cross country, or being passengers on freighter boats to travel the high seas. There was even talk about buying a ranch and getting Tennessee walking horses, until my grandmother expressed concern about who was going to groom the horses. Ultimately, they decided to get a travel trailer as their mode of adventure.
During the course of talking to my grandparents, I fully understood that my decision to become an adult grandchild was one of the best decisions I made. My grandmother Brown passed away in the course of this process and I felt very fortunate that I had the time to get to know her, as a person and not just my grandmother. I have learned so much about them and myself in the process. I also think it was as important to them as it was for me. I think that they have enjoyed this opportunity to discuss their life and have someone listen.
Everyone But Two, is a documentary I began developing as an indirect result of the conversations that I have had with the Grahams. Each time I would speak to the Grahams, their stories became more interesting and I would ask more questions. Than the more questions I asked, the more resources I got my hands on from the Grahams to support their answers. Specifically, I began to focus on their travel. I had grown up knowing they traveled all over by trailer, but again, with a small grandchild mentality. I unearthed pictures, home video, and 35 years worth of travel logs that my grandfather kept. This all proved how extraordinary they were. I had finally had proof.
At some point, I decided to put these years of conversations with them, and now proof into some type of context and researched only to find that when they decided to travel and the mentality that they had when they left on that first trip, made them even more extraordinary, not as grandparents, but as people. The week they left, August 10, 1965, was the signing of the Civil Rights Voting Act and the Watts Riots. Both events were milestones in U.S history. When asked about their thoughts in regards to the timing of this first trip, I am still not sure if their almost nonchalant answer is more indicative of the their bravery or blinding quest for the spirit of adventure, or both.
It then occurred to me that I had the answer to my big question: what should I be doing with my life? My purpose is to tell this story. This is exactly what I am supposed to do. Once I made that discovery, I knew I needed to take it even further and develop the documentary and start looking for funding. I would eventually come across a great new artist project grant opportunity, The Rubys that the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance was initiating. I took a chance on this story and myself and applied and was extremely fortunate to be one of the artists selected in this inauguration round.
Everyone But Two, will be filmed in two stages. Stage I and II (funded by the Rubys Artist Project Grant) will map my personal journey retracing the 35 years of travel by the Grahams. I will visit at least one place in the 48 states that they have visited. A map and travel log will be completed for each trip using the same photocopied templates used by Benjamin, to record the details of the trips. Stage III and IV will map my journey traveling to Alaska and Hawaii, using an itinerary that I will create with the Grahams.
I am so grateful and appreciative of the opportunity that I have been given and wanted to thank the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, its staff, the review panel, and all those that have supported me along this journey. I share this with you….