The Phoenix Rising Collective’s Artist Feature, curated by Traci Currie, interviews women artists who use their talents and creativity to fully express self-love, build self-esteem, and nurture their own authenticity while inspiring others. Creative expressions may range from performing to painting to writing to travel and everything in between. Our goal is to share how these empowered women cultivate agency, healing, and happiness through fulfilling their passion.
This Artist Feature is Dr. Joyce Piert:What a difficult and easy article to write this month. Why? “Because we are of each other’s likeness,” the feature artist said to me. When you sit in the presence of your likeness sometimes you aren’t ready to see or hear a truth about yourself. Her name is Joyce Piert, affectionately known as Dr. P in the community in which she resides. I have spent some time with Dr. P this past summer, and the experience has been extraordinary. I begin by defining her as Limitless. Energetic. Overabundant. Infectious. All-empowering. Encompassing. Divine. Imagine being surrounded by this sort of energy: Pretty powerful!
We begin with age because she says it’s a vulnerable subject for her. She explained, “Society has predetermined that there’s a certain experience you begin to have at different ages.” We are constantly reminded of these expectations that shape our identity. Dr. P continuously destroys these societal expectations. Having been on earth for almost six decades, she has honed in on tackling the spirit of age in the body in which she dwells. “I feel a societal pull that says you should have 50 bottles of medication, concerned about your health, less active when you pass the half-century milestone. There’s all these expectations that aren’t healthy and wholesome, because it’s the downward pull that attempts to speak to me versus the upward mobility that I wish to actually live.” This vibrant woman is of many ages. At one point she mentioned being 35, 18 and 5. She had me recall what those ages were like. There’s a vitality and youthful glow surrounding our existential being. This is attributed to the innocence of our youth. She talked about experiencing a spiritual rebirth. “We tend to separate this spirituality from this creative way of living. But it’s only in spirituality that we can create. As a God-being we are creators. We create the world.” As children, we develop those skills to create. Moreover, the wonderment to creating is limitless in a child’s mind. Have you ever seen a child that wants to touch everything, go everywhere and say as much as possible in whatever language befitting to that child? Yes, that’s Dr. P.
She Shares Her Story: Mapping the Spiritual Evolution
I was in class talking to students and I said, “What is it you are passionate about?” They turned it around by asking me, “What is it Dr. P that you are passionate about?” And I said, “I create masterpieces. My masterpieces are people.” Once I assist people in finding out what they are passionate about then I assist them in that creation so they can create their own masterpieces. She gave an example. She referred to one person being a diamond hidden among rubble. It’s easy to discard gems that don’t look the part from first or second glance, which is why, she explained, it takes a trained-spiritual eye. This instance led to her sharing her journey as an artist-writer, educator, masterpiece creator and so much more.
I grew up in the civil rights era. It was in the 1970s when the Black Muslims opened a school and I taught 2nd and 3rd grade. I was 17 years old. I actually became a Black Muslim at age 12. I was considered the revolutionary in the family. At 14 or 15 I was a squad leader meaning I was a leader over a group of Muslim women. During this time I was being mentored to lead others who were older than I. At 17, I started teaching in our school and two years later I was married. The philosophy I lived by was Black Nationalism. It was being fused into my being daily. In my mid-20s Elijah Muhammad died and a transition occurred. I started to work in a factory and my views began shifting.
In my 30s I became Christian. I believe this was evolution. I was at a point in my life where I wanted something else and my attachment to Islam was diluted. There was a call in my soul for something, and people started showing up and coming into my life. But I was too radical for the church. For instance, I ended up being put out of two different churches because of my radicalism or energetic spirit. Bottom line, I had a strong spiritual connection through unction. I spoke aloud in the spirit and this made others uncomfortable or at least they felt I was disrespectful. My understanding was that I let my spirit speak. However, the two churches thought it was out-of-order. Interestingly enough, I was asked to come back to the churches – even to teach a class. There was a lot of growth and discomfort in this realization.
As I progressed and developed, my relationship with the Creator strengthened. I learned that the church was not the key to my direct connection to my Higher Power. My church was without walls. So, at this time, I am working at General Motors as an electrician and I recall through prayer I was told to quit my job at GM and return to school. I did and pursued education. During this period, I also had two children in high school. My children had always struggled in a traditional public school, although they were in a two-parent home, middle working class community, with everything being copacetic. Something wasn’t right, though. The other kids around them were struggling as well. I started volunteering at the school. As a volunteer I saw students get D’s and E’s, and I wept, because I was wondering how were they going to get into college with these grades. So I returned to my roots – “self determination.” I knew if this work was going to get done, I had to be the one to step in to help and do it. Also during this time I divorced after 21 years of marriage.
Once I got my bachelors I started a summer program that ran for 5 years. It featured language arts, mathematics, and African American studies. Then I remarried and moved to Shreveport, Louisiana and pursued my masters. These studies focused on charter schools. Soon after I returned to Michigan State University for Education Administration; that’s when a book idea came to me.
So here I am in my Ph.D. at Michigan State. I started to look at identity and who we are as Black people. My research looked at African American experiences in an African American centered based school model. In my research I wanted to find out if it was worth using this model. Over the years the research and application shaped this book I published June 2015: Alchemy of the Soul: An African Centered Education
I asked what present space she is in. She responded: I started this school, I AM Institute for Learning. It wound up being a school focused on consciousness and metaphysics. I had no idea what it would become. I simply listened to spirit. And it became a school that evolved as I evolved. It was reflective of my own spiritual journey. The people around me that joined me in shaping this school were playmates. They were having the same experiences I was. And they all found me. They evolved and are evolving at their own rate. Unlike traditional schools, there is no requirement or grade level, and there is no assessment. Wherever you are is where you are supposed to be.
I end the way I began; the challenge and ease in writing this article is linked to the question I asked her – “Why do you think we were drawn together?” This question is important, because I do feel like I am in a turning point in my life and it appears Dr. P stepped into my world very intentionally in a head-strong/heart-strong way. She said, “I called you forth and you came as a playmate. You agreed to come and play.” She’s right. I am in that playful phase in life. I have been serious for so long. I followed rules to a tee, even if the rules made no sense for or to me. There’s nothing to regret in my journey, even if there are moments I choose not to revisit. But Dr. P shows me that there really isn’t much to fear except fear itself. And that sort of phobia is frightening – the idea that fear simply shows up and hovers over your thoughts and abilities! She repeatedly says to me, “Stop overthinking. Stop. Stop. Stop. PLAY! Be passionate in your playing. Play and watch the world play with you.” Oh how I love to play in the world of ART. Because when I play I am at the height of my game – Unstoppable. Energetic. Limitless. Overabundant. Divine. It’s time to PLAY BALL!
About the Contributing Writer:
Traci Currie is a Communication and Visual Arts lecturer at University of Michigan-Flint, as well as a knit-crochet artist, writer, and spoken word performer. She has been a part of the art world for over 15 years as an art gallery board member; spoken word series organizer; performer, nationally and internationally; and published poet. She believes The PRC will help young women reach their highest potential. “This organization is about empowering women to take ownership of their lives, claim their identities and be the positive change they wish to see in the world they live.” Check out more of her posts.