Those are the type of currency that very important and this is expressed in this interview.
How I met, Dess aka Affrica Spence, was while I was helping making a movie. But I found out about her before because of her Voetry platform.
I found her to be very inspiring while I spoke to her. I recognized a genuine vibe and spirit from her.
She’s already accomplishing so much. I cannot wait to see what she will bring forth in the future.
But don’t let me just tell you about her like this. Get to know this week’s Women Crushing It Wednesday… DESS!
So you go by Dess but your name is Affrica.
Yes, my legal name is Affrica Spence
Oh damn! I’m going to call you Affrica from now on.
You’re more than welcome to.
Alright! So this is a question I ask all the women that are featured. Every superhero has an origin story. What is yours?
Oh gosh! Origin story? I want to say something super cool but my origin is really rooted in the connections. A lot of the things that build me up are my social connections whether it be family or friends. These are things that give me life going from young. When it comes to storytelling, that is a big part of my life right now. It's those connections. Those connections with others, in many ways, literally saved my life. Specific people matter and that storytelling aspects of my life has been huge. I don't know if that was the right direction of your origin question. I'm curious what other people said.
No worries (laughter). When you were younger, what were your aspirations? What did you want to be?
Hmm I always had random things that didn’t always make sense. I wanted to explore galaxies and other things. I wanted to do some mediating but when it comes down to I guess the big thing, it plays off of that last point which was storytelling. From the moment I could pick up a camera and just start even capturing little things back then.
Alright, what age were you when you first started to think about doing storytelling?
Oh man, it goes back to elementary. As early as I can remember, I loved drawing and that was a method of storytelling. My mom, at one time, wanted me to have an outlet so she got me into journaling. So that even became an expression. So from as young as I can remember, even things like theater and whatnot. It's just just part of my life.
That little girl in elementary school, what would she say if she saw you now?
Oh my gosh, she would be so surprised because we just did a photoshoot. I was never in the forefront. I knew I had the capacity to be passionate. I guess I just wouldn't have known to what extent I would push myself to keep up the passion. For some people it's natural to not even think about what the consequences are. It's nice to see that person. It's nice to see me just open. I think I would like the lady I’ve grown into. I think I'm cool. This says a lot.
That's dope. You've traveled quite a bit. So my question to you is, would you say that you're looking for something as you travel?
Looking for something. It's nice how these questions kind of play off of each other. So when I'm thinking about me way back when I was in Calgary, I wouldn't have pictured myself jumping from city to city but it's kind of what happened. I love Calgary to death but I just didn't have a place there. I couldn't express myself in the way that I wanted. It's hard to say because nothing was fundamentally wrong but there were interactions that I wasn't feeling fulfilled. And just us talking just now it's like you get swept up in them and I didn't have that as much in Calgary. But I find it happens a lot more in Montreal and also here in Toronto. I can just ride on the energy of the people that I'm talking to. Maybe there's another city that's even better for it. Now I'm open and I like it. I think I haven't fully put my thumb on it because I don't know if this is my end destination but I just need to be fed energy. I think that's what it comes down to. If the city stops feeding me energy, then it's time to go. Toronto's been about 3 years now and I’m cool. I like it. It's not just about people either though. It's life.
Do you consider yourself a nomad?
In a way (laughter). As odd as that sounds. I've stayed in the places for good chunks of time, but who knows what's next?
With Voetry, you've given a face and some would say life, to spoken word. What inspired you to go into that direction?
Oh my goodness I've been asked this a couple of times. I think I have a better answer now. Like I said, storytelling has always been a part of my life. And then I started getting to the point where I was actively jumping on people's projects and helping out and doing pa and whatnot but I think it got to a point where I didn't have a portfolio of my own things and my own work. And I didn't realize how opportunities kind of were just really tough to come by, so one night I was complaining to my mom. She came at me with a really simple answer. She told me to just pick up my camera and go downtown. In my head, I realized how much I was telling myself that that's not how it works. But after she said that, I asked myself, if I was gonna just film something, what would I film? What would I say? What would I do? The first voetry I filmed was me filming myself which is very difficult to do. And I threw spoken word on it. And that spoke to me particularly because spoken word is not predictable. So when it comes to giving my voice on spoken word, it was an easy match. I didn't have to think too hard. If there's something that's worthwhile, capturing this is definitely one of them. This is something I can do. This will give me my opportunities and it resonates with me.
Awesome! Ok… Out of all the pieces you've ever written, name your favorite line.
Oh my gosh! It’s so hard! The sad part is I don't know if I can remember it perfectly now. It's a sexual poem. I’m very expressive sexually in my poetry. The poem delves from being introduced to someone and having this intense experience. It goes from clit to like spasm, to back spasm and then I just start going talking about secretive skin and touch and it just moves me sometimes. It sounds like you're boosting yourself. Sometimes, I get really into the wordplay that I do. I would have to pull it up because I don't have it on the mind right now. But I love that spoken word poetry, you're never just saying things for the heck of saying things. There’s always intonation. There's not always intonation, but in mine, there’s often a rhythm. When I do a lot more of my sensual ones, you will see my voice changes. Like the atmosphere too. It's just an alter ego.
Alright, let's get back to you. What is a misconception people have about you?
Misconception... I struggle very much with anxiety. And I've had a history of depression too. And sometimes it's just a little extra hard for some things. So um, people don't always know it. And it's good because I've had to grow out of being so self conscious that everyone can always pinpoint it. But it's hard for me sometimes when I'm in social settings. And it's really hard to explain because I can get up there on a stage, but people don't understand that. Even when I was starting off doing that, I would go to shows where I didn't know anyone. I didn't want to invite anyone and didn't want anyone to know me. And when I would say my pieces, I would kind of come off stage and just scurry my way out. I would leave the venue, even though people are kind of coming up and wanting to say hello. It wasn't natural to just really put myself out there. So it's weird because I have extroverted tendencies. Very much an introvert and I've been making it work more in recent years, in my adult years. It's finally kind of clicking, but nothing's wrong with that. I'll still be able to have a life and manage it. I think people don't always know that it's hard.
What would you like people to know about you?
That's hard. Um, I would like them to know my passion and I think they've been seeing more and more that I've been putting myself out there. I am a passionate individual. I'm in no ways perfect. But when you have my attention, when you have my work, when you have my effort, it's all in. It's creative. It's welcoming. It's loving. As much as those words sound so fluffy, I put my all into things that I believe in, and I think anyone can count on me to be a creative until the day I die. Because it's what I do. It's just what I do. And I haven't gotten into an aspect of making it my full time, everything that I do all day, every day. But that doesn't take away from the fact that it's part of my core. I don't know what I would do without expressing myself. So, um, who knows?
What's your legacy?
Voetry is kind of something that could technically go on forever. There's always a new poem. There's always a new aspect. Literally every episode is about an individual and unless individuals stop being part of our world, I won't run out, so I've really hummed about how to make it a little bit more permanent. Even if the project doesn't necessarily keep up later on, I think it would always be a personal project that I just can't see myself stopping capturing poetry. It just affected me so much. And like I said, like anxieties and depressions, creativity is just a whole nother realm that you can immerse yourself in and it's very literally gotten me through so much of my life. So legacy wise, I think this Voetry, this video poetry thing can actually really be permanent. But aside from that, um, Voetry also kind of grown into a bit of a community social aspect. I have writing groups outside of it. I have just connected with artists and been able to feature them and whatnot. So there's another aspect of it that should grow to that. I would like to be able to hold space. If I could make a space feel like something even after I'm gone, I think I've succeeded. If I can leave people with a feeling. It doesn't sound very big, but I don't know. That's where my mind goes, I can make you feel a ways, that'd be beautiful. That'd be perfect.
So this is my last question. Let's say you meet a young 18 year old Affrica. What advice would you give her?
Oh gosh. I had a similar question like this asked to me. I would say literally like the Nike slogan says Just do it. I don't know how simple those words are and how much we don't just do it and how long it takes me sometimes to get over myself. I'm really thinking about looking at myself and just reminding myself that I’m not losing anything. I’m not lesser for not pulling it off exactly the way I wanted to. Just do it. You have the time right now. You have the opportunities, you're not an idiot. Even if you think you might be average. Even if you were average, everyone got something to say. And so do you, so just do it.