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Inspiring Women to be Self-Love in Action

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ARTIST FEATURE: The Artist’s Journey: From Grieving to Giving – An Interview with Eunice LaFate


Some artists are poignantly clear about their artistic journey. Sometimes it takes a specific experience for clarity to appear. It is most empowering when this experience speaks to the heart and offers compassion. This past June I met a painter who shared her story with me.

My mother and I went to the LaFate Gallery located in Wilmington, Delaware to see a friend’s photographic exhibition. While we were there we met the gallery owner, Eunice LaFate. She was preparing to paint but she stopped her preparation and began telling us about herself. Her sharing unfolded partially because she noticed my mother’s accent. She inquired where she was from and my mother responded, “Jamaica.” Eunice then shared she was also from Jamaica. She is from St. Ann, the largest parish on the island’s north coast. She came to the United States in 1983. She explained that she was a teacher in Jamaica. During the summer time she would travel to New York to visit family. However, one summer she visited a classmate who lived in Wilmington. She spent a week there. Days before leaving, Eunice’s hostess had a going-away dinner for her. She had invited a few guests, and one of the guests ultimately became her husband, Robert LaFate. They were married for 31 years. Towards the end of his life he suffered from prostate cancer. She explained that he fought the disease to the very end. She talked of him being active and having a healthy diet prior to the last four months. In the hospital she sat next to his bedside and received a vision to paint. She created a series that spoke to this painful journey.

Eunice talked about the night her husband died in her arms. “The night he passed, the CNA was off…He was struggling and coughing and I gave him water. I saw his eyes bulge, and then he looked at me and I looked at him. And I said, Don’t Go, Dear. Don’t Go. Then he said, Oh My God. And he took his last breath.” She painted a picture called Piercing Heart as a way of representing exactly how she felt when he died.


Eunice LaFate, Gallery Owner

The LaFate Gallery was born out of grief. Her son called it a “Vision Center.” She explained, “When my husband passed away, instead of putting my work in storage I had a vision to open a gallery.” Today she facilitates and teaches workshops in the gallery. She offers various classes that help others to develop compassion and love. One of the classes she teaches is titled, The Heart of Caregiving: Rebounding from Grief to Growth. Another class she teaches helps foster a stronger relationship between parents and children. Her classes are meant to support, heal and love.

Eunice has won numerous awards for her art. She has also gifted General Colin Powell one of her original paintings when he spoke in Wilmington in 1993.

What I learned most about this artist is how she channeled the grief she was experiencing from the loss of her husband. She created a sacred artistic space for others to grieve, grow and give back to the community, and ss she gives back to the community she simultaneously honors her beloved husband.

In recent months I am learning to channel emotions through various forms of artistry (i.e. painting, knitting and writing). Merging the various art forms and allowing myself to feel, on and off paper, is another form of letting go and acknowledging the power of artistic expression, especially during volatile times. When I am free in my expression, I provide a space for others to also be free and expressive. How vitally important this is in my teaching profession. Thank you, Eunice LaFate.

About the Contributor:

traci_currie[contributor]the phoenix rising collectiveTraci 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 women reach their highest potential.  “The Phoenix Rising Collective 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.” Read her latest posts. You can learn more about Traci’s work in creative arts HERE.

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ARTIST FEATURE: The Spirit of Intimacy: An Interview with Simone Savannah



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 Simone Savannah.


Writer and Poet, Simone Savannah

Bravery delves into those uncommon territories of one’s life. It’s the areas we do not speak of. The places we do not venture because they are painful, scary, or require us to be vulnerable beyond measure. This idea of exploration is often linked to walking into the unknown. We all know that common Star Trek theme: To boldly go where no man has gone before. My question is “What do you find when you go to places you have never been or have tucked away in your life?” Many would say, “You find yourself.” This statement describes the artist feature for this month: Simone Savannah.

I’ve watched this woman poet for over a decade – as early as her high school years to the present, as a doctoral student in Literature and Creative Writing at University of Kansas. What I remember most about Simone’s earlier years is her smile. Even when a situation was rough, she found room to chuckle, and there it was – white teeth rounded to perfection as a ray of sunshine. Yes, her smile!

Most recently Simone published the poem Like Want For Having with an independent press called Big Lucks. When I read her poem I found myself focusing on specific words that spoke to intimacy, desire and sexual prowess. Her words were concrete and abstract, bouncing between the two. I had a raised eyebrow because this was a side of Simone I did not know but had peeked my interest. When we talked, our conversation actually started with Simone’s mother with whom I share a name – Tracy. She told me about her mother’s death and I realized this was the focal point of Simone’s exploration of intimacy.


Photo Credit: Cover Art for Big Lucks, Issue #09

The deterioration of her mother, Tracy, started with the gastric bypass surgery. Complications from the surgery worsened her health – leading to a breast amputation, an affected leg and later surgery on her coronary arteries, from which she never recovered.

Simone’s mother died at age 37, and Tracy’s mother also died the same age. When she told me this I asked how this made her feel. “It’s pretty scary. I didn’t get a chance to meet my grandmother. I don’t see it as a pattern, though. I take it as a sign to take care of myself.” Simone’s mother battled anxiety attacks but Tracy’s mom dealt with alcoholism. My inquiry about Tracy’s anxiety led to Simone sharing that her sister (10 months older) had been given up for adoption. Similarly, Tracy was also adopted. She was depressed after giving Simone’s sister up, but then Simone was born and her brother noticed a change. He felt the adoption and her birth helped Tracy to create healthier relationships with her children and with men.

Simone explained she didn’t have the same abusive experiences her older siblings had with Tracy. She said, “My mom was my best friend when I was little.”

Our conversation transitioned. Simone began sharing Tracy’s troubling identity. While her mom was in the hospital she sneaked away to read her journals. “She was very clear about what people said about her weight. She was very clear about everything in the end. Men she had relationships with called her fat.” She never expressed these things to Simone but she wrote about these experiences. “It was odd because everyone knew her as a beautiful woman. She seemed confident on the outside but people didn’t know what she was going through. It hurt reading those journals.”

Simonepic1I began to understand Simone’s frustration. “It makes me so mad when people talk about my mother’s relationship with men because it was so negative. It revolved around sex and the fact that she had a lot of children.” She shared a tidbit about people mentioning Tracy using sex as medicine. She didn’t like the fact that there was a deviant connection to the act of sex versus the idea of simply enjoying the act itself.

I hadn’t pondered this thought because I have been told way too many times that sex is for something specific, often affiliated to religious doctrine. Granted, if you watch enough movies, you’ll get a variety of views on sex and its purpose. What we explored in our dialogue was the idea that sex fits into a box for numerous reasons – it is the topic parents don’t always want to address with their developing teenagers; the rules of what one should do when having sex (what’s nasty and what’s not); diseases connected to sex; the aftermath of sex; what sex looks like with or without clothes. And those examples aren’t even scratching the surface.

“I think it is funny to put sex in people’s face. I don’t see why we have to keep it private. I have no problem talking about exploring my sexuality publicly and the policing we do with sex.” She enjoys being funny in her poems but more importantly she likes contributing to a needed conversation revolving around sexuality, marriage and domesticity, especially when the discussion is imbalanced and it becomes one-sided or a double standard. She feels more voices should be included in this poetic dialogue. “My personal life and what I make up about it is almost always connected to something larger, something political like how we sexualize women and harass them on the street, or how we don’t give permission for (black) women to talk about their experiences as women, such as abortion or street harassment.” I related her comments to her poetry and why she writes. “Writing about these topics is very much about creating poetry – what can I do with these moments, these experiences? How can I write about them in a funny way or a serious way? How can I turn these moments into a page, a poem? Poetry is a place for me to be more creative…to try different things and to break rules. I feel freer in poetry. I can be anything I want in a poem.”

What I’ve learned from this artist is how important it is to acknowledge and even speak of the discomforts that block us from understanding why we do what we do and how our actions, as well as others’ actions shape our identity. But oh, how empowering it is to use the arts to address the concerns we aren’t always willing to face behind closed doors! Simone Savannah is walking this journey of self-discovery, both intimately and publicly. I give thanks, because from one artist to another, she empowers me to speak of the intimate things I have also tucked away in corners for way too long.


More on Simone Savannah:

Simone is from Columbus, Ohio. She is currently a PhD student in Creative Writing at the University of Kansas developing her interests in sexuality, Modern and Contemporary women’s poetry, and African American literature. She served as the Assistant Poetry Editor of Beecher’s 3. Her work has appeared in Blackberry: A Magazine.



 About the Contributing Writer:

traci_currie[contributor]the phoenix rising collectiveTraci 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.” Read her latest posts.