If there is one person who has played one of the most pivotal roles in my New York life which has been a major key to my becoming a Wild Magical Woman, articulating my life purpose, connecting with my core tribe and honing my craft as an artist, single-handedly, that person is you.
In my love letter to Tuan and Melly B, I share bits of the story. I had just moved to NY. I was working my Wall Street job and looking for new adventures. On my way home, I noticed a crowd inside of an African restaurant a block from my Brooklyn apartment. I went in because I’m curious and wanted to know what was going on. At that very moment, you had just come to the mic and started performing Poet and the Wolf.
(Side bar: I’m currently working on a book about the Wolf archetype and was going to credit an ex of mine with bringing that archetype to the forefront of my thinking. An Ex, that I’m going to mention in your letter because in a way you connected us. But he wasn’t the first to teach me of the Wolf. Shit. It was you! Now I have to change the introduction to the book!)
Ok. So you perform the poem and I am captivated! I stay and watch others, like Ainsley and then I go home and google you immediately. You tell me that you’re in a transition and you’re leaving poetry behind. This crushes me because I needed to consume your art. Luckily for me, you were moving into photography and you invited me to join you for one of your shoots. I wrote about that experience in a blog titled, “On Location: Wordsmith of Sirreal Photography.”
And then Dexter, I was fucking hooked. I just reread through some of our old emails and messages and OMG. I was a complete groupie…. almost. But I promise you it came from a place of knowing I was standing before a powerful and creative man and all I wanted was to learn and watch and support. And so I did.
We became fast friends and every day you taught me something new. You taught me about Fela Kuti. Whenever you’d come to my house, we would listen to his music or you’d play a portion of his documentary. In fact, soon after meeting you, you shared that you’d be featured in a new exhibit curated by Shantrelle P Lewis called, “Life After Death: A Multi-Media Analysis of the Persona that Was/Is Fela Anikulapo Kuti“at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diasporan Institute (CCCADI). Of course I went and joined you! Soon after, I purchased tickets for us to go see Fela on Broadway! That musical inspired me so much and you inspired me so much, that I even started taking Afro-Caribbean dance classes. That’s how I met my friend Yelena. (I wrote her a love letter too and talk about you in that letter!)
(There’s a few other weird connections to make about this. One, around this time I wanted to purchase a camera and become a better blog photographer and you suggested I go to a particular store. That store would be where I met a man I dated for three years. Coincidentally, when we saw Fela there was a woman I loved so much…and she was the reason I started taking dance classes. Come to find out that woman was the ex-wife of the man I would go on to date for three years. A man I met because you suggested I go to a certain store. This shit is weird but not surprising.)
Any who, through you I came to know Tuan X, Melly B, and Ainsley. All three are still very much a part of my life and matter a great deal to me. We have found several ways to intersect and grow from one another. From our friendships to collaborations and working together.
It was through you that I met people like Kia Chenelle the Photographer, Jason Reynolds the Artist and Guy Lockard the Singer. At one point I was close to them and I’m sure our paths will cross again.
Its through you that I know Kamau Abayomi. You were always sending me links or telling me things you thought I should know including things about other artist. So he and I connected and we connected deeply. We have been friends since 2010 and finally in March of this year I was able to meet him in person in Bali, Indonesia for the first time ever. You connected us on facebook in 2010 and in 2016, we met in Bali in a 150 year old nobleman’s all teakwood, Javanese, joglo. (I like weird details.) Its through Kamau that I met one of my mentors….however Kamau only connected her to me because I wrote about eroticism on The Sweet Spot website which is owned by Ainsley and the ONLY reason I’m close to Ainsley is because of you.
Do you see all these multi-layered connected and how all points go back to you?!?!
Hell, you’re even the reason I know the photographer Saddi Khali. The story goes as such. At some point you considered him a mentor and during one of your birthday celebrations he came, as well as Kia, Jason, myself and many others. That’s where I met him many years ago. He doesn’t remember though. Fast forward to 2014 and it turns out he and I are in the same travel group and therefore we become reacquainted. So much so, that last year while he was in town, we had dinner and had a long conversation about art, life and even you. He finally remembered, we were actually connected because of you!
More memories keep flooding me as I think about my life now and my history in New York. You’re the reason I became connected with a man known as The Artist. I wrote him a love letter too. So you see Dexter, my life as it is now…..so many points and connections are because of you. You were a catalyst.
And yet there is a bittersweet undertone to this letter because all these years later and we are not friends. Your name comes up though. I had a meeting recently with Ainsley Burrows and Laurielle Noel, as they are the CEO and COO of Burrows Inc. I work with them on many projects including our new magazine that’s about to launch. In our meeting Ainsley was giving me notes on artists that he knows he wants to feature in the magazine and he’s all, “Do you know, Dex R. Jones? I want his photography in the magazine.” I smiled and gathered my thoughts. “Yes, Ainsley. I know Dexter. He’s the reason I know you!!!! I didn’t even like your art and he kept insisting that I not rush to judgment and get to know you as an artist. He’s the reason I’m at this meeting with you right now because of knowing him six years ago. Yes, I know Dexter.”
So why aren’t we friends, Dexter? It’s because I didn’t have grace, patience, compassion or empathy.
I mentioned before I was enthralled and captivated by your work. And all I wanted to do was support you. I remember giving you full access to my apartment so that you could use it for your shoots. It cost to rent studios and I didn’t mind you using my apartment. (In fact, even Kia had keys to my apartment for unlimited access to shoot as well. Plus she was my friend and somebody always needs the extra set of keys.) If you had a show, I was there. If you needed anything, if it was within my power to give it to you, I gave it.
These are some of the things I told Ainsley and Laurielle. Laurielle looked at me inquisitively because of the passionate way I spoke of you. “Did you date him? Were you in love with him?” My answer remains the same. We did not date. In fact, at that time you were dating a firecracker and there would be nights when you both were welcomed to stay on my pull out sofa while I slept peacefully in my room. No, it wasn’t about unrequited love.
What it was….was that I wanted to do everything in my power to help you succeed. I could see your genius. Sure you were just starting out as a photographer, but I saw it. I knew you were about to unleash a beast and the world wouldn’t be the same. And you were young. You were able to be a photographer full time. You had every second of every day to work on your craft and through my own judgment I felt like you were wasting time. And that infuriated me. Again, this was my own judgment. I didn’t feel like you were doing enough every day. I felt like you focused on the wrong things. None of this was my call to make but I was impatient and I felt I couldn’t sit idilly by and watch so much talent “go to waste.” Again, this was me rushing to judgments. I didn’t like the pace of your growth. It was too slow for me at the time, so I felt the best thing for me was to distance myself. I wanted to be surrounded by people who were on the grind, giving blood, sweat and tears of every second to their passion..especially if they were a full time artist with a ridiculous amount of talent. And I made the assumption that this wasn’t you. That’s not true.
I wish I were half the photographer you were THEN with half the time you had at your hands and 1/4 of the connections because I would have ran with it. That’s what I would think as I focused on being a blogger and youtube vlogger at that time. Hell, this was before I even realized what it was I wanted to do with my life. I can’t say I was envious or jealous. I was just pissed because I wanted you to grow at a pace of my choosing and that was never my call to make. As your friend, I simply could have just been supportive, understanding and empathetic to where you were in your journey. Also I could have set boundaries. Boundaries such as…as a friend, our friendship was awesome. And with you as a growing artist…it just wasn’t my place to infuse my expectations and frustrations. I didn’t know how to separate the two at the time so I said goodbye to our friendship and told you I’d always be a fan of your work.
I’ve remained a fan. I’ve followed your work for years. I’m incredibly proud of you. And I’m glad, you lived your life in the way you chose to because from what I can see, you continue to grow into an exceptional man and an amazing artist.
I’m sorry I was impatient and unkind. It was never my intent but intentions are not enough. I believed in you so hard that I started suffocating your journey. I knew I was doing it and its why I stepped away. But if hindsight is 20/20, I see where I went wrong. I am very sorry. I’ve learned quite a bit about myself, about life, about art and more and I have evolved.
I have evolved into a Wild Magical Woman who lives in her power and in her grace. Who has learned so much more about vulnerability, grace, compassion, kindness, and the importance of nurturing. I’ve found my space in sexuality, sensuality, and eroticism. I have a vibrant community of friends and artist that I get to interact with on a daily basis. I’m an awesome woman, really. And being your friend, connecting to your community as you so selflessly shared and learning from my fuck ups with you…are exactly why I’m a Wild Magical Woman.
I wish you the best Dexter and I thank you from the bottom of my heart and the depths of my soul for being the Poet and the Wolf.
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#32LoveLetters is a 32 day blog post challenge leading up to my 32nd birthday, I am writing letters to the people in my life who contributed to me becoming fully myself as a Wild Magical Woman. If someone were to write a biography about me…which they will, it’s imperative that chapters are focused on these 32 people. They have had a profound, lasting and influential effect on my life. I can not tell my own story without telling you of theirs.