Today I am so excited that I am finally given the opportunity to interview and speak with someone in the city that is working to make BIG changes in Montgomery Alabama and in our community. Not only is she young, smart, beautiful, and intelligent; but this young lady is working very hard to change the world and how we view it when it comes to the important topics of civil rights, the youth, the community, music, and entrepreneurship. Ms. Shylanda Dawson is only the age of twenty-three, but her wisdom reaches far beyond her years. She has taken college courses at Alabama State University here in Montgomery, Alabama and will be continuing her education to earn her Bachelor’s degree in Biology. Shylanda was also excited about the opportunity to put the word out about an event that she is planning for the youth here in the community. She was more than welcoming with her knowledge and her spirit. So please welcome her just the same. When I met with her, she is not exactly what you would expect someone with the above description to physically be. Her head is full of naturally wild and curly hair with subtle tints of green and she is comfortably dressed in red Alabama sweatpants, and a black t-shirt and the “earth friendly” shoes they call Toms on her feet. She appears calm and alert this morning as she plays on her phone a little then looks up as if to say she is ready to begin…
Robin: Hi, I’m here with Shylanda Dawson, and this is the interview for the open mic event, and for the auditions here in Montgomery on April 12th. Good morning! So go ahead and state your name, your age, and where you’re from.
Shylanda: I’m Nana. I’m twenty-three years old, I’ll be twenty-four in two months. And I’m from Battle Creek, Michigan.
Robin: Tell us a bit about yourself and some experiences you’ve had since moving to Montgomery.
Shylanda: God…Ummmmm…as far as what?
Robin: Well tell us about yourself and how you feel about Montgomery and how it’s been different since you moved.
Shylanda: So me moving to Montgomery, it was a…culture shock. One hundred percent.
Robin: I totally agree
Shylanda: (laughs) And the situation I was put in to…moving down here was….was very difficult. My mom met a guy, she decided she wanted to marry him. And righteously…she moved down here just to get us out of where we was from. Cause if we wouldn’t have moved she believed we would have been worse than what we were. So to make a long story short, that marriage…she was with him for about eight to ten years. It was crazy…he was abusive. At the time, I became paralyzed and diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I had a brain tumor that took over sixty percent of my brain. Shit just got crazy…How you gonna write all this down?
Robin: I’m typing and recording it (laughs)
Shylanda: Oh…let me not…let me stay on what I was saying. And yeah so…damn do I gotta tell everything? Or just about when I was younger?
Robin: Just some experiences that would motivate you to actually do something like…this.
Shylanda: Oh ok…motivate me to do this? Um…culture shock, like I said. And seeing that people down here, even though people back home are crazy, some don’t have goals, some blah blah blah. My family specifically are crazy as hell and don’t really have goals like that. But I’ve seen it BAD down here. Like it ain’t no go-getter mind set. I met some little kids, they’re nine and ten years old, they were f***in’ and smoking weed and getting drunk. So I figure, somebody’s gotta become a role model for these kids. Somebody’s gotta do it. I ain’t perfect, but I gotta story and I can relate to what they have going on.
Robin: So you have this youth organization that started here because of all of that. Tell us a little bit about that also.
Shylanda: (laughs) Our Movement man…O.M. It’s basically a collective of everything that I wanna do. Like…as far as working with kids, music, me doing legal marijuana and making medicines and helping people. It’s everything I want to do. It’s that company in one. And the youth organization is for teenagers…preteens. So it’s basically to be that role model that they need. We ain’t like the Boys and Girls Club because…you can’t say everybody in the Boys and Girls Club can actually relate to what you got going on. This for the hood kids, man, that really ain’t had nobody…came up rough, everybody talking about they not gone make it. I’m not going to let them be statistics. It’s not happening. That’s what it’s about, uplifting my kids and making sure they be the best that they can be in everything they do…simple as that.
Robin: What does it all [the organization] consist of? As far as what it’s going to do for them? What can they look forward to? What does it consist of them doing as far as activities?
Shylanda: In the city?
Shylanda: Well, I work with a couple of people…they write books, and are big in literature. So, I’ll use them to bring our kids…our youth back in to literature. Actually start back reading and being able to comprehend and all types of stuff like that. So we got that. If they like the arts…cause most of my team, we all work in art, gotta be honest. I wanna help the kids push in to that man. I’m like, what they can look forward to is…you look forward to us giving you scholarships, working hard for you, make sure you go to college, do the open mics if you want to. Can’t make kids do nothing. You know what I’m sayin? We teach lessons for chess. We’re going to have a lot of summer events. Honestly…Just anything you can think about. For real.
Robin: What are the requirements for the event? Are there forms? Permission slips?
Shylanda: Well for the open mic, we’re having auditions. And for the kids that are chosen, yes you have to get permission from your parents. You can’t just be…”I’m going to do what I want to do.” I did lock-ins with my boys I was working with and we always had permission slips and stuff like that just so we can have permission ourselves as the adults from your parents and have that relationship.
Robin: How far are you expecting this organization to go?
Shylanda: Worldwide. To all the hoods in America (pauses then laughs)
Robin: (laughs) So I’ve also heard you’ve teamed up with other local businesses and a few entrepreneurs in the city also, who are they?
Shylanda: We are the new network. My homeboy John from Sweet Dreams at My Place. And his business partner Will at My Place. Then I got the little homie Torrey Davone about to graduate from Lee. Shout out to him. Lil bruh make moves man. My homie James. He got his own studio, he hard. Diego the Great. Uh…Who else? My business is Shylanjazz…my family business, you know they’re going to get in on it. Uh…Robinsoul is looking out. She always helping with us. Um…who else? Oh…-
Robin: Well those are who’s doing the with the event with you right?
Shylanda: Yeah, yeah…right. And then probably Ms. Tafeni too from Eve’s Circle. That’s my mentor man. She looks out for me.
Robin: I’ll actually be interviewing her next.
Shylanda: Yeah she looks out for me. Be keeping me A1.
Robin: Does it cost anything to participate in the open mic? To audition?
Shylanda: Entry fee is $10….$10 an act. We have to charge the kids cause one thing that I learned from one of the ministers I listen to is…if you don’t pay for it you don’t appreciate it. It’s crazy but it’s true, so you gotta make them pay for something. So it’s $10 a act. And then for the basketball tournaments we doing this summer, it’ll probably be $40 a team. So it’s going to be pretty cool. $5 a kid to get in. It’s going to be cool. We’re going to have fun, ya’ll are going to eat, all of that. We’re going to have fun!
Robin: Tell us about the Do’s and the Don’ts of this event. What they should do, what they shouldn’t do…cursing. (laughs)
Shylanda: What you should do…I’ll give you good news first. What you should do is go hard. Cause it’s going to be something that come with it. And what you should do is put your heart in whatever that you’re doing and bring the message out. What you shouldn’t do is act like you ain’t got no sense, come in there with all that profanity. I don’t even cuss in my raps, so ya’ll can’t cuss. It just ain’t happening. Dress appropriately. Women, little young ladies, I don’t want to see your butt and your boobs, you are a kid. And young men, pull your pants up. I don’t want to see your butt either.
Robin: So there’s a dress code and everything, they need to look nice.
Shylanda: Yeah! Just look presentable. I’m not being hard on the situation. Just look presentable. If the people from the news come out there and recording us, they need to be able to put ya’ll on t.v. If ya’ll looking reckless, we ain’t going on t.v.
Robin: Are you looking for extra help or volunteers and if you are, where can they contact you?
Shylanda: (long pause) Um…if you’re interested in what I’m doing you can email me at email@example.com. I’m not necessarily looking for anybody for this event. But for events to come definitely. And then you would have to be interviewed and everything. I don’t play with people when it comes to these kids.
Robin: So, background checks and all of that?
Shylanda: Yeah! For real I need to do all of that.
Robin: If I had a child that did want to be apart of it, what steps would I need to take? What is the process of actually joining the organization?
Shylanda: You can email me for that as well, same email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m more interested in THOSE emails. (laughs)
Robin: (giggles) Ok.
Shylanda: I’m in your kids schools. They probably be seeing me. Crazy lady with the big afro that wears tie-dye and stuff. (laughs)
Robin: So the location?
Shylanda: It’s going to be at Sweet Dreams My Place! 1055 Adams Ave. Pull up! The auditions are April 12th and April 19th. One to three o’clock. It’s a Sunday, and the open mics will start in May. It’s going to be cool. I’ve got some things in store for these kids! So let’s go!
Robin: Well I think we’ve got everything and thank you so much for joining me today and being the first and for being a big part of my blog “The Vision”! Keep doing what you’re doing for these kids and for the community.
Shylanda: One hundred. Thank you!
Make sure to also tune in to my YouTube channel at “The Vision Video Bog”! You can look it up by that name or by my email at Robinc19@gmail.com I will be LIVE tomorrow at 5 p.m. discussing everything with Shylanda Dawson once again. It’s an exciting opportunity for you to view us and watch us speak one on one about the auditions and know where to come for updates on anything POSITIVE going on in our community and even about topics such as these. DON’T MISS IT!!!