Shelley Bruce’s purpose and vision is to use creative expression as a means of sparking significant world change. Her most recent projects are a publication of poetry entitled “On Blooming” released in October 2018, and a painting series entitled “Heaven Here” to be debuted in December 2018. We discuss:
Self-publishing your own book, and the meaning behind "On Blooming"
How to find mentors and spaces for healing
Embracing African Spirituality through Ifa/Yoruba and the Orishas
The intersection of healing, the arts, and social justice
get access to SHELLEY’S gift:
Poetry & Meditation Audio “Blooming” (MP3)
Also, use the code “bloom9” for a 25% discount
for the On Blooming book (valid until Nov 1st)
“I think in terms of self-publication, I feel like this whole project has been about self-love and I feel so much pride in myself. Because I was going through a time period in my life, which I've been probably going through for like a decade, but really significantly in the last year, where I really felt that... So many things, one was that I really needed to fall in love with my art again, I really needed to love myself and really understand who am I, who is Shelley? You know, what does she want to contribute to the world, what does she want to say? And I, as a poet, as a painter, as someone who'd been doing all these dabbling, doing these things for all these years, I knew that to up-level myself and to reach more people and to sustain my work, I really needed a book. And I also love that because I felt like it was so needed because in poetry, I do feel like I come from a very performance art background, there's a lot of open mics and spoken word. And some of the work that I write, i didn't feel like it resonated as much and I realized I wanted people to read it. I wanted people to hold it, I wanted people to read it over and over again in their own spare time.”
“There is enough space for me to put on a book release, to print it, to have all the resources. Almost the whole process, I did my best to work with folks of color, particularly black women, 'cause that's what I identify as, and putting my resources in that community. And so when I did the book release last week, I said, wow. You can do this on your own, and I hope that I get to say that to folks and as a testament that if you have a vision, even if you think it's gonna be small, it'll probably be much more than you even think it is. I thought about this being a small little publication, and then I'd go shop a publisher, and then I'd go do this thing. But in the process of it taking a year rather than a couple months to do this, I realized that there's already enough within myself to do this, there's already enough within my community. And I just needed, for my own self, to have something that physically represented my progress as an artist. And in that process, I really did heal myself. I wasn't sure where I was gonna be by the book date. 'Cause even a couple weeks ago I was like, what's going on? How am I gonna get up here and do this? But by the time I printed this out and held it, and people held it, and I had that reflection, I realized that there's so much power in deciding that you're gonna do something. Even if it seems small, but committing to it and completing it and seeing what comes from that.”
“You know, we are moving beings. Like something that is stagnant, why do they even call it a coma, which is a step before passing on? You know, when we're in motion, when we're going, when our muscles are growing, and the tree is growing. And our universe is constant motion, and I think in my depression, in my challenges this year, I knew I had to take that motion. And so in terms of On Blooming, it's like in process. I don't know when exactly the title came, but nature and the four elements, and plant references have been very powerful to me from my spiritual mentors in my own personal journey and what I see is needed in the world right now.”
ON BLOOMING: “You know, there's so many people talking about self-love and self-care. Well for me, blooming is a process. I'm not plant, I'm not gonna plant it. I'm not gonna bloom, I'm not bloomed. I'm not done. I'm blooming, I'm in process. And I think one of my strategies, and I think the paradigm I'm coming from I'm realizing as a person, as a service person in whatever way that is, is that I like to talk about being in process. Although I had my healing session yesterday and my healer was like, you are healed. You know, I felt like I came to, yes, a step in my healing. But we'll always be healing. And I think I want people to know that in their process, in their beauty, no matter where they are in their journey, they're still blooming. There's still more, there's still more to go. And it can be a beautiful process. And so I really wanted to say that in my confusion, in my hurt, in my whatever I'm working through, in the things I am concerned about in this world. And being a woman, being a black woman in love, you know. I can make this beautiful, I can make acknowledge that I'm in blooming and try to find beauty in every day because there's really never gonna be a destination. You know, we're still getting up, we're still breathing, we're still not really knowing. We really don't know what's gonna happen in a day. And so we can try to do our best to have a beautiful reflection of that in flowers and nature. You know, for me, such a beautiful metaphor.”
ON MENTORS: “At first it was through authors and through finding things online and I'll also say through what the universe delivered to me. I found Abraham Hicks, I found Paramahansa Yogananda. I found Marianne Williamson, I found Louise Hay, I would say around 2011. And I started to read and watch these videos and be like whoa, this is like mind-blowing, amazing, interesting stuff and as I started to kind of get obsessed with it. And I've always loved spirituality and prayer and I've always been interested in that. And as I've grown and evolved spiritually, I first found videos and then authors, and then online mentors. And then I started finding online mentors who were in my city. There's some amazing folks that had a group called the Love Mob that I found in 2013. It was a group of artists and spiritual folks and that was Preston Smiles, who still does a lot of great work, and Alexi Panos and Allison Kuda, who's an artist, and Mustafa, who actually starred in a show recently, Luke Cage. He was one of the villains, but he is also a spiritual poet, amazing guy. So I found these folks online that I also realized were local and i started going to those events. I think that's something that some folks do have trouble with sometimes, is putting themselves out there and going to spaces. I am a Sagittarius, Leo, whatever extrovert and I'm always ready to go out. You know, sometimes I go into introversion but that's something that I think I realized has been a good thing for me, and I encourage others to try is go to spaces that you can find. If they're not near you, find them online, like through Your Story Medicine. But I started going to physical spaces and then over time I grew these friend circles and I realized that I need to go into mastery. So now I'm in a space of let me go find people who are experts in their field. And moving and growing and doing different things, I've found folks. There's a couple named Food For Thought and (??) they're poets in Southern California. There was also Spiritual Healers, they're wonderful. They have a network and a creative group called Still Waters, you can look that online or on Instagram or whatever. And then recently, the last couple years as my practice guided me, I've met different teachers that I've worked with directly. There was a woman named Francesca, who was a prayer practitioner at Agape Spiritual Center, i went on a retreat with her. The woman I work with right now, her name is Queen Hollins and she's based in Long Beach, she has something called the Earth Lodge Center. And she's wonderful, she's studied Kundalini to Ifa, which is a West African spiritual practice. She does a lot with mainly with plants and nature medicine. Her art lodge has a huge garden, they do ceremony in her space. So I found her and I made sure that I just, I felt the call, that you gotta go to her. But I found these folks and I feel like I've just done my best to prioritize being in healing sessions and luckily, these folks sometimes often have sliding scales or are willing to work with you. So don't let money or whatever boundary you think there is, just ask. Just see, and if it's like okay, if you can't do it this month, maybe you can do it two months from now. Or maybe they'll work with you, maybe it's a trade, but I think having the audacity to take that step outside of yourself and find folks has led me to the place that I'm in now. And those folks really mean a lot to me as i see their reflection, but also get an opportunity to experience the things that they've mastered. Which can help me learn more about what I'd like to master, what i feel like i need to master in my path.”
ON IFA: “I had a friend, I actually went on a date and this guy, we were talking. And he mentioned this book and he mentioned Ifa. And i saw that folks were wearing white sometimes and I was like what is this? I'm not initiated into Ifa, I'm not a devotee necessarily of Ifa. But Ifa, or Yoruba, is a West African religion that came from Nigeria, Ghana, that region. And that was something that was practiced for generations and was something that stayed with our ancestors, that stayed with the Africans who were stolen during the slave trade and brought to all the different places in the Americas and the Caribbean. And in other places in the Americas, they've translated as Santeria, as Hoodoo, as Obe which is in Jamaica which is where my mother is from. But Ifa and Yoruba have become very popular in North America and it was a practice that was maintained through slavery. So in secret they hid their practices, which I think is the most bomb, badass profound thing. Especially, particularly in Santeria, the Christian saints were blended with the deities. So this saint would actually be Oshun, and this saint would actually be Shango. And they hid it. They hid the practice of that now. Even into the 1990s, people would go oh that's weird, that's Hoodoo, that's witchcraft. But now that we're more open to different spiritual practices, and not seeing it as so taboo, Yoruba has really become more popularized, even in like how people are relating to the deity Oshun, who is the goddess of sensuality and even Beyonce's Lemonade. People are saying that's an Oshun reference. So although I don't specifically practice Ifa, although I'm considering it in the future to really join, I've got really close friends who do. And for me that's been so powerful because Ifa, in my opinion, is a religion and a spiritual practice that combines so many teachings that I've learned along my path. But also it is in my bloodline and I think that matters. You know, i consider myself an African-American woman with a Jamaican mother and an African- American father. And I think about the things that maybe I would have done if my ancestors were not taken from their land. The things I would have done if those things weren't not allowed and suppressed. And I found that for me, Ifa and Yoruba are a beautiful metaphor that really for me blends with a lot of the teachings I've already learned but also is related to my ancestry. And I feel so strong through that and I think there's so many practices that we can find. And just relearning our history and the things that our ancestors did then, that have been working, and now people are realizing that they've always been working. You know what I mean? Going holistic andveganism, it's like let's talk about Rasta culture and Ital food. There's already vegan cuisines, and things that have already been being done for generations. So it's just really nice to find that and I encourage folks who are interested, particularly folks of African descent, to look into Ifa, I-F-A, or Yoruba. And learn. It's a very intense practice. There's a lot, but you can begin reading. You can begin reading and learning about it just to see what's up.”
ON HEALING, ARTS, AND SOCIAL JUSTICE: “Well yes, in terms of healing, I even shy away from using the word healer a lot. Because healer is to imply that something is wrong and that someone else can fix it for you. And that's okay to an extent, you know. But I think even when you asked me what my title was, I still don't even know what I'm doing in terms of the spiritual realm in terms of work and service that I feel like I can offer, but maybe more of it is a guide or a coach or a mentor. Because like Your Story Medicine is a perfect title; your story, your medicine. You have that within yourself…I will say a huge part of my impetus to do art has always been like Okay, what am I gonna make more art about? I will do art for Black History Month, I will make poems about certain topics, about feminism or about the Black experience. Because like as Nina Simone says, you know, if you’re not making art that’s relevant, then what are you doing? That’s your responsibility as a creative. Sometimes we’ve gotta make things, like On Blooming for me was partially something that I just needed for me. But at the same time too, you’d also be amazed at how it can also serve other people. So naturally, art, healing, and social activism became intertwined and I think they’re powerful tools. Because people love music, people love art. There’s already so much pain in our world, if we can draw people in through beauty, if we can draw people in through even photography.”
ON CREATIVE PROCESS: “I wrote this because I needed this. I needed to feel good again in a different way, and it’s amazing when you decide to create and complete and take action, how you’ll heal people. And you may not always reach people the way you think. Don’t create that huge pedestal for yourself; oh I’ve gotta reach this thing and talk to all these people. Even if I touch two, I got to a place and I was like, you know what? No one may like this book, no one may think it’s good. But whatever, I like it. And there will maybe be two people who like it. Luckily a lot of people like it, you know that’s cool, but I think just having the audacity to do something that’s true to your spirit and true to you. And knowing that as we grow, we’re working to be good people in the world and in live. Naturally you’re gonna make work that impacts people in a positive way. I think naturally you’re gonna make work that speaks to people, that speaks to your own healing, that speaks to other people’s healing, and that speaks to helping us grow as a culture. It’s all connected.”
ON PARENTS: “My parents didn’t always see it as this is a legitimate way of surviving and providing for yourself. And I’m at a point in my life where there is no other way. Like I will eat the can of beans, like I will stay in the small house because this is what I have to do. And I think there’s sacrifices that I’ve made. And I’m really glad that I’ve made them, because over the years of that consistency and dedication, I’ve made mistakes. But it’s paid off, because I’ve grown something. I’ve bettered myself as a creative and I’ve been able to put out a book, I’ve been able to get featured at places and get hired by institutions and colleges and grow a career that now is something my parents can realize, my mom even realizes. Like okay, this book is really a thing. It’s all gonna be the work you put behind it. And then in terms of my relationship with her, again I think it’s just been with her and my parents realizing that I’m an adult, that I’m an individual person, just like anyone else. And that they may not always agree with my path, but we’re gonna find a way to love each other and be in communication with each other, both of us, even though we have differences. And then the more that I’ve worked to own myself, and be confident, and really do good work, and make sure I’m being responsible and sustainable and all these things. That shining light for myself has allowed my mom and other people to see, oh this is a real thing.”
Righteous anger makes softness difficult,
I’m a woman existing.
Over-giving as taught,
Hiding while walking by default.
Being honey is an act of bravery.
My sweetness is a gift
I work attentively to give
to soothe the hearts of kings
and help ignorant ears listen.
As an active player,
I am golden, knowing Oshun.
Responsibility to all who came before
I remember the ways in which they survived,
and find reason to love more.
Life is divine and love is grand.
My sensuality is important and powerful.
I am safe to desire and be desired.
I am worthy of everything that I want.
Profound love is available to me.
I believe in my dreams.
I am worthy, beautiful, and more than enough.
-Excerpts from “On Blooming” by Shelley Bruce
(Special Thank You to Kaedan Clockwork for transcribing this interview!!)
Light Seed (Poem)
#bodypositivity #radicalselflove #onblooming #artlife #gratitude #heavenhere #poetry #spokenword #blackartmatters
Shelley Bruce’s purpose and vision is to use creative expression as a means of sparking significant world change. A 2011 graduate of Cal Poly Pomona with degrees in Ethnic Studies and Fine Art, Southern California has provided a platform for her to master various forms of self expression in the last 12 years. She is currently pursuing her creative career full time with a focus on conceptual painting, empowering spoken word, spirituality and community engagement. Her most recent projects are a publication of poetry entitled “On Blooming” released in October 2018, and a painting series entitled “Heaven Here” to be debuted in December 2018.
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