We had the good fortune of connecting with Diarra Imani and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Diarra, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
One thing that I don’t think people understand holistically is that choosing to be an educator, and especially an independent educator operating outside of the School to Prison Industry, we are in a constant state of learning. I dedicate myself to studying everything from cosmic philosophy to color theory. I read and listen to books and create curricula, when I paint I think about sight and perception and consequently create Think Tank workshops. It’s important to me that people, students of mine, and others truly grasp that my life is whole fully consumed by learning, understanding, deconstructing, dismantling, entangling, spreading, experimenting and failing and failing, and learning! It takes tenacity, innovative thinking, critical design considerations – my job isn’t just to communicate my findings in a way where others can learn. My occupation is to learn about a thing down to its anatomical, molecular core all the way out to its ethereal and energetic matter so that I can explain it’s overarching purpose in 2 slides or 30 minute workshops! I love what I do and I consider it a grand responsibility to take on. So, when speaking to other teachers (the delineation is important), I express to them that it is more than regurgitation or repetition it is a life oath that one must come to themselves before ever stepping foot in front of willing and open learners – young or old.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My creativity is a dynamic dialogue between self and cells, self and others, others and the ‘others’. I believe that humans are beautifully made contradictions and I aim to show that in my curricula and teachings, in my paintings, and my poetry/prose. I believe that it came to me as a vessel of expression – I went through some experiences when I was young that taught me the spectrum of ugly that exists even in the most beautiful of worlds. The unique aspects of my art forms and expression is that I create layers and layers of consideration – think pieces. When I started drawing it was out of need, I found myself without words for a long time, unable to truly express the expansive thoughts I was having, my fears and anxieties and so I would ‘doodle’ as I called it. What I didn’t realize was that I was also initiating art therapy, I was figuring out how to show what I couldn’t say and I think that sets my art apart. My art is about concepts and considerations opposed to pop art and that sets me apart and also makes it a bit more difficult to sell art and to explain my art. I overcome those challenges by curating my audience and tailoring my marketing – I want people to inner-stand, over-stand and understand what it is that makes us whole. One of the things that I think aids in my connection with my audience is that I have different dynamics to my expression. I communicate through poetry – my auditory learners tap in. I communicate through prose – my experiential learners tap in. I communicate through painting – my visual learners tap in. I communicate through curricula and yoga teachings – my kinesthetic learners tap in. I want the world to know my story and perspective but mostly I want them to know that my divinity comes in different forms and that their divinity does too, we are vast beings so allow yourself to be and become.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
In Pittsburgh, I wouldn’t say there are very ‘exciting’ things to do but it is a great place to find nooks and crannies of creativity. I would take them to Live Fresh for smoothies or fresh juices in the rising, we would have to walk through Homewood and stop at the African-American Music Institute (AAMI) and The Lighthouse is housed out of the YMCA. I would stop by the Community Empowerment Association (CEA) and introduce them to some of my past students and mentors but couldn’t skip over the Legacy Arts Project for some dance or drum classes later in the evening. I have a few tuck away spots that are a perfect view of the city but I couldn’t ever divulge that to the public or it wouldn’t be sacred anymore! We would also eat at the East End Food Co-op, Onion Maiden, B52, Salems Meditteranean Grill. For some art we would have to take a stop in Garfield and pop into Level Up Studios for poetry and more.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My shoutout is to my team, those who have held my dreams with careful hands, who have held my tears in their hearts, and those who hold me accountable to my greatness every single day. My lineage – thank you for thinking of me before I existed, teaching me everything I know and ordaining my destiny. My tight knit circle and team from Pennsylvania to Georgia, New York & California to Accra and Montego Bay to Texas, Florida and even beyond- thank you for expanding my knowing and blazing a trail of belief and hope for our creative beings. My parents – thank you for dreaming and DOING!
My sisters – thank you for being a bold and inspiring reflection and for keeping the contract!
My life partner- thank you for being my charge and my serenity – I love you thiiiiiiiiiissss much.