A four year old me sat quietly in the back corner of my “Room 4" Preschool class, coloring, drawing, and writing my name on the wooden building blocks. Perfectly hidden behind the the mini play kitchen set. You see, I was tucked away because ‘What if I get in trouble?!’ But my urge to create took over. I drew and colored on three sides of the blocks, then on the forth side casually wrote my name. Topping the letter ‘I’ with with a circle for a little razzle dazzle.
What seemed like days later (I don’t know chile I was four), when my mom picked me up from school the teacher passed her a handful of colorful building blocks. Uh Oh! I’m busted! My heart sank to my little stomach. I just knew I was about to get in so much trouble.
“We found these blocks and at first didn't know who did them, but then we see her signature.”
“Aww Tifah!”, my mom said with a semi-smile.
Here it goes. The trouble…
“We love her artwork it’s beautiful. But we can’t have her sign her name on everything. So here’s the ones she did and some blank ones to take home.”
What!! So I’m not getting in trouble? Whew! And I get to take some home to do more!? Bet!
Fast forward to elementary school where teachers would send me home with art supplies almost weekly. I didn’t have art classes or attend any after school programs for art. So this was a help. I would go home and create, then bring my masterpieces to school to show my teachers.
But here’s where it got tricky at. Them damn kids would hate on me. Rolling their eyes when I’d bring in my work to show. Screwing up their faces when my work would go up on display, or even when I was chosen to design the senior t-shirts for graduation. I even had a kid tell me something like ‘We don’t like when you bring in your art. The teacher gives you too much attention.’
Excuse the F*ck outta me! 32 year old me would probably laugh, and check you. 8 year old me didn’t have the confidence to check this kid and keep going. And I hate that. I didn't get pep talks that would build my confidence. I didn’t hear, ‘Baby F*ck them kids, they just mad because you have talent! Keep going!’ That’s what I wish I heard. What I do remember is “Tifah this is nice”, “I’m proud, good job.” But for a quiet, shy (ugh, I hate this word), introverted 8,9,10 year old girl, it just wasnt enough. I needed a cheerleader. I needed a coach. Shit I needed a Donda West if we keeping it real!
After noticing the little haters and their remarks, an adult had the audacity to say to me, “Why would you want to be an artist? They don’t make an money.” I listened. I mean they’re the adult and knows what’s best right? Baby! I couldn’t be more wrong! But I wouldn’t find that out for another 20- something years. But this is a reminder to self and a statement for anyone reading: Just because they don’t see it for themselves doesn’t mean you can’t have it for yourself!
Latifah ShaDae’s artwork can be found on her website here: