For me, as a youth growing up in the projects of Lower East Side Manhattan posed a lot of identity challenges. I had a lot of questions: like, why did my parents drink and fight so much? Why are there drug needles and crack bottles all over the play ground? Why did people have to carry knives and guns all the time? Why did people defecate in the elevators and stairways of my housing building? Not a very pleasant picture I know. But these were the kinds of things I grew up around and was influence by. There was a lot of anger and confusion built up inside and, on many occasions, I lashed out on others. I struggled with inner turmoil and resentment.
Thankfully, I had enough desire not to be held down by these strongholds. Of course, I didn't rise up out of my struggles alone. In fact, if it weren't for some key people who cared enough to see me grow and reach for greater things, I don't think I would be here today.
I look back with gratitude that my middle school art teacher encouraged me in my artistic talent and invested her time to get me to apply to Art & Design High School. And a substitute teacher, whom I did not pay attention to in class one day, bought me my first art kit and portfolio. He said that he saw a lot of potential in me and that I should pay more attention in class. That gift and his kindness opened my eyes to a different way of thinking. There are so many others who encouraged me along the way to reach as far as I could to grab hold of life. Ultimately, my destination would be the pursuit of God's heart, and I truly believe art and creativity were used to get me to that relentless search for truth, beauty, and goodness.
Art was not just an outlet for me, it was a journey — a journey that still helps me to seek and discover the deeper things of life. This is why I have a passion to help others seek and find that wholeness, and I have learned that the creative process is a great place to start.