Unraveling Truths with Producer Inny Clemons

Every conversation I've had since December has been tainted by the beast lurking inside. It's attempted to define me, claim my identity, weaken my resolve, and control my movements. That is, until last Wednesday.

The context: My youngest son's end-of-the school class party.

The setting: A fellow parent's house.

My hubby was going to take him. I was going to meet a friend for lunch and a hearty conversation about the Mists of Avalon. However our plans changed literally 15 minutes before we were going to pick up our son and when that happens, I always embrace the change. Hubby beseeched me to join him and when I agreed I think a slight hop entered his gait.

We were the first one's there, but I had to work myself up to going inside and coax down the beast. I literally envisioned it and spoke to it in my mind's eye: You will not control me! You will not shape any conversations I hold inside that house for today we are two different entities.  Today, I need to see what "me," truly looks like these days.

The problem was that I hadn't been "me" since December and I I'd spent months wondering who "I" now was.  The beast had done a doozy on my self-confidence, my perception of myself, and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

We entered slowly, deposited our party contribution on the buffet table, greeted the host, and walked onto the back patio where a gentleman was sitting alone at a round table. He was lost in his technology and I knew that if I was going to hold an adult conversation, I needed an adult and he was the only other parent there. There were four other chairs at the table so I turned to my husband and said, "This is it. It's the perfect spot, out of the way, in the shade." I claimed a seat and let the threads of life unravel as it may.

Who knew that my first untainted adult conversation would be with producer Inny Clemons (best known for his work on Straight out of Compton)?

His name and job is irrelevant though, it was something that came out mid-conversation after I dipped my toe in the icy cold water (metaphorically speaking since it was in the mid 80s in Los Angeles this last week), which set this moment apart and helped me realize truths I'd been grasping at.

What was so grand about this conversation?  Why did it leave a lasting impression?

For starters, I'd been wrestling with my purpose for living.  Why had God saved me in December?  What had I missed the first time round?  Am I supposed to reenter the educational setting? Am I supposed to write?  Speak before others? What am I supposed to do that I just might have overlooked?

Inny spoke of growing up on the south side of Chicago.  The violence there, the disenfranchised youth looking for their purpose. He spoke of everything I'd dedicated my life to-helping the disenfranchised find their voices.  He talked of a program where actors go into prisons and use theater to reform inmates (Tim Robbins' Actor's Gang), giving them a second chance at life. He spoke of wanting to do the same for the youth, those that need that extra support to realize that they too have a purpose.

I remembered one of my babies then (for I have taught in the public school system since 1999, at four different socio-economically diverse sites).  One of the four sites introduced me to A (won't mention his name out of respect for his privacy). He came to me from the streets of Chicago, unwanted by mother and father, and taken in by Grandma in Los Angeles. He was transposed to Southern California and consumed by anger and hate. Grandma was frustrated at his slow academic progress. I was concerned with his social-emotional one. I spent months trying to heal that heart. I assured her that the other would come quickly when we healed his pain. We accomplished this on the basketball court one day, when I joined in his 3 on 3 pick up game. I matched him stride for stride, blocked, dribbled, shot... After that, after proving that he mattered, he began to emerge out of his shell, the real A.

This is what we talked about-giving back vs. sitting around and receiving, making a difference, and finding one's purpose in life-sharing the love.

Inny had gone into theater with a passion for acting, but in recent years, what he found most rewarding was working with novice actors, coaching them and shaping them into the people necessary to make a difference in our society. He loved this part of his job and wanted to expand more, to give instead of get, to change lives...

At the end of our conversation, I sat back, stunned. I had been terrified of leaving the house, entering the public sphere, participating in life, scared I had been brandished permanently, that people could look at me and see the "cancer" instead of "me."

However, God had different plans for me last week. I believe he wanted me to see that I have always had a purpose, and I have always walked on the righteous path, and that sometimes "shit happens to good people." It isn't the shit that defines the person, but the person within who defines his/her path.

Inny reminded me of my gifts, made me miss my disenfranchised youth, made me want to jump back into the arena and use my God given gifts to inspire and guide.

And when the afternoon was over and we had whisked our son to his next engagement- a black and white photography class offered at Barnsdall Art Park, I couldn't help but sit in the shade, look over Silverlake and marvel at the lessons I was presented that day and the realization that soon, very very soon, I will stand free of this cursed beast, healed, given a second stab at life, and ready to give as much of myself as ever before. For in so doing, I'm spreading ripples of hope and that is all I have ever wanted to do!

So from one disenfranchised soul to another, I just wanted give the warmest of shout outs to Inny Clemons, for seeing the problems in our society and wanting to change them with the gifts he's been given.

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Till next week, go live, thrive, have fun and do great things!

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