From the Desk of… Chezale Rodriguez, Multifaceted Teaching & Performing Artist, Creative Flowers Participant
By: Lauren Bays
News & Opps / April 7, 2021

From the Desk of… Chezale Rodriguez, Multifaceted Teaching & Performing Artist, Creative Flowers Participant

Creative Flowers in Bloom
Empowering Black Women in the Arts in Arizona & Beyond

From the Desk of Chezale Rodriguez, Multifaceted Teaching & Performing Artist

When I think of a flower and what it needs to grow and thrive, I think of healthy soil, sunlight, water, and nutrients as essential tools for its prosperity. And in many ways, looking back at the challenges of 2020, we as a community suffered some major droughts that we are still recovering from in 2021. Many of us felt alone in our struggles, so imagine what it would feel like to be poured into with “growth essentials” in the forms of love, empowerment, motivation, and inspiration from a group of professional and creative women who look like you and share many of your experiences. Last year, I discovered a unique opportunity to join a virtual Professional Sistah Circle as part of the Creative Flowers Initiative started by Unlock Creative — which seemed to drop from the sky and land in my email inbox from multiple directions! Creative Flowers’s goal is to address the specific needs and challenges of Black women creatives and focuses specifically on growing, nurturing, and keeping Black women in leadership within the creative sector, including the non-profit arts and entertainment industry. 

As a Black woman creative, Creative Flowers Professional Sistah Circle was one of the first opportunities I have come across that felt like they were speaking directly to me. After feeling such a lack of connection during 2020, I have yearned to connect with like-minded and professional women that I could learn from and with whom I could build a potential sisterhood. This was right on time and something I could not ignore. The Professional Sistah Circles are being run nationwide and the first cohort I joined, which took place virtually in the Fall of 2020, was geared towards those of us who reside in Arizona. We named ourselves “Fleur Noir”.

As of 2021, under 5% of the Arizona population is Black or African American (worldpopulationreview). I have been a Tucson resident since 1996 and have witnessed the ebb and flow of progression, complexities, and activity as it pertains to the Black community here. While there have been (and still are) great examples of unity and pride we still have to work harder to have our voices heard, especially as women and especially in the professional world. 

While 2020 has put great pressure on communities abroad, the pain-points of Black life and the Black experience were amplified as never before through global social unrest which lifted a veil from the eyes of many to the issues that have always existed (especially in America). To have an opportunity to be a part of a brave virtual space of professional Black women creatives with shared experiences and mutual needs was necessary, to say the least.

Unlock Creative’s goal is to build a mutual aid network of Black women creatives who can support one another to work within organizations throughout the creative sector and independently. The long-term vision is to collectively and relationally build a coalition that will establish a Black women creatives worker-owned cooperative. The incredible work toward this vision has resulted in the National Black Women’s Creative Cooperative which launches later this year, for us and by us. In addition, Unlock Creatives’ professional development opportunities also allow for a myriad of Black women to participate including single moms, caregivers, community college students, those from low-wealth Black communities, and those impacted by the pandemic. All are encouraged to apply and scholarships are available. 

Unlock Creative Founder Ashley Walden Davis and Co-Founder Candace L. Feldman

Unlock Creative’s Founder, Ashley Walden Davis and Co-Founder, Candace L. Feldman are two powerhouse women and visionaries who led the Creative Flowers Professional Sistah Circle. Their energy is contagious, pure, and completely on fire for their mission. I had the opportunity to hear from Candace and this is what she shared, ”Personally, it was great to be back in Arizona continuing the work I started when I lived in Tucson and that was to find, create, and build supportive, networking, nurturing relationships with the Black Community by way of the creative world we live and engage in. Arizona has a plethora of gifted, talented artists and I was grateful to be part of and engaged with Black Women all over the state that were and have been doing the work. But it’s more than support and professional development. It’s about sisterhood. Knowing you have someone on your side, has your back, will pray for you, help you, hold you through the challenges of being and living as a Black Woman in America, let alone Arizona.

This is Ashley and I’s life’s work. 2020 called for all of us to do our part and that’s what we did. Ashley quit her newly committed position, an opportunity she had coveted as a Philanthropic Program Officer and eight weeks later I left my job to fully invest in Unlock. We joined the movement by declaring that Blacks Lives are BEAUTIFUL and Black Lives MATTER. So does Black Wealth. We are committed to investing our talents (blood sweat and tears that we had given to white institutions and multi-cultural coalitions) exclusively into our Black Creative community to create and inspire change. Black Women are vital, necessary, and extraordinary.” (Feldman, 2020

Unlock Creative has been approved for 501(c)3 status under Unlock Creative Foundation Inc. For those who would like to support, you may donate here

You can also follow Unlock Creative on social media at: 

To learn more about my story and to hear me share more about my Creative Flowers experience with Unlock Creative, have a listen to my Artistories feature, hosted by Eva Romero via the Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona and KXCI!

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