Kimani Fowlin

by | Nov 3, 2013 | What BWO Interviewees Say Now

Kimani Fowlin continued to pursue her love of dance, and she dances, teaches at a university outside of Manhattan, and is a choreographer.

Age: 45
Residence: Manhattan, NY. Harlem.
Occupation: Dance educator, choreographer, and dancer

What strikes you when you reread these passages from 20 years ago?
It’s interesting looking back and reading what I said. Oh, my god, I would have said it differently. But it’s interesting to see where I am now. My parents are fortunately still together. My grandmother, who’s 97, is alive and thriving. My brother has two beautiful daughters and I have an amazing child, Tamayo who makes it all worth it — with urgent truth.

I never expected my life to be where I am right now… Having my son, Tamayo, is an amazing gift. I had him at 42. He is incredibly intelligent and an amazing little human being. I must say Motherhood is extremely challenging and humbling and I feel blessed to be a Mother to this beautiful child. If I could do this again, I would be financially savvy. I am constantly needing reminders of what I’ve done so far: First in my immediate family to go to college and grad school, graduating with an MFA in Dance. Working as a professor of dance for 15 years. Doing great dance residencies in NYC public schools, dancing nationally, internationally and creating collaborative artistic projects with playwrights and dancers. One major pitfall is that I don’t have health care and no one living and breathing should be without healthcare coverage. I’m hoping that Obama’s affordable healthcare will change the insurance landscape for all people.

Time passes and relationships shift and change. My grandmother is an amazing woman who inspires me daily. I can’t complain when I think of her grace and fortitude at this stage of her long life.

I still wish that I had been closer to my Jamaican side. As it worked out, we usually all convene every 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas at my Auntie Joy’s on my dad’s side. Those are the nice big family get-togethers of the holiday season.

Have your attitudes towards race and/or identity changed or evolved since you were interviewed?
They’ve changed along with my environments. I went to a university with people from all walks of life, and there I felt deep connections with people that I still am close to currently. After our interview, I went to live in Peru for a year, and there I felt part of an international environment of racial complexity and simultaneously an observer of the injustices of this racism. It was a strange and uncomfortable place to exist. I worked many of these issues out through my art by bringing attention to the injustices. Then I came back to the United States, and today I live in an urban mecca of beauty: Harlem. My neighborhood is going through gentrification, which is clearly defining the classes and the races. I wish this process of gentrifying were one of building community and using our differences as strengths and supporting everyone across the board, but this is not the case — for now. Let’s see where we are for the next BWO anniversary. I will keep hope alive — always!

One of the most fascinating things is how some people perceive me: “Oh I didn’t know you were biracial. I thought you were a light-skinned black woman.” So I still don’t know what color I am. It’s hard for me to distinguish the many variations of Brown — I clearly thought I was brown, but for many I’m cafe au lait, yellow (I’m not fond of this color description), light skin, mixed and the list goes on… All I want is to show all of who I am: I’m black and white.

Something that’s stayed the same?
My mother and her feelings on color. She no longer has dreadlocks, she has short hair, and I feel as she gets older, she’s coming into who she is, embracing herself more as a unique white woman. People still assume my mother has some cultural and racial mix in her background.

Any more ways in which you’ve seen our society evolve?
Well, I see the process of evolution happening. You can’t avoid the presence of mixed race people as our world is increasingly becoming a jambalaya of mixes on a global scale. I live in our microcosm of NYC where the city represents this global scale of mixes.

What did it mean for you to be in the book?
I was excited and felt a sense of acknowledgement and belonging that was missing. It’s indelibly written and I like that sense of permanence. My/Our words will live on for future generations to read and feel. It reminds me of Story Corps.

A quick anecdote: I was sitting on a plane going to St. Maarten where I was an invited guest artist for a foundation Art Saves Lives, and I happened to sit next to an Orthodox Jew. We got into a discussion and I felt the urge to tell him I was Jewish and after those words were uttered something shifted. He suddenly wanted to know more about me and my background and how I grew up. It made me feel like I broke into the sacred and cryptic inner circle.

I still feel that urge with people, to say I am of your tribe and I want you to know that. I wish it were more obvious on the outside that I’m a mix of cultures. I embrace the fact that how people view me in the world is as a woman of color. I don’t fight it, but I wish that the mix were more obvious because I love my many cultures that make me. My son is Jewish, he is St. Lucian, Russian, and Jamaican. How awesome is that?!