On Manifesting a Healthy Future
Ayanna in Co-op City, the Bronx
<em><a href="https://www.instagram.com/ayannathesinger/">Ayanna</a> is a R&B Singer-Songwriter from the Bronx. After performing in musicals around the city, Ayanna decided to focus on her own original music in 2016. She currently has two EPs on streaming services, <a href="https://open.spotify.com/album/08BPGFt1huJ4wWcTeDix0m">Delicate</a> and <a href="https://open.spotify.com/album/3CkUlIBwybLnGRWVGBXRtO">Love Box</a>. Her sound has been compared to Jill Scott and Mary J. Blige. In addition to sharing her joy of music, she also is an advocate for wellness and self-love.</em>
I’d love to hear you talk a little more about Co-op City, growing up there, and what you think of the community and the neighborhood?
I’ve lived here since I was five years old, so basically all my life. I always thought Co-op City was a beautiful neighborhood. We’re the biggest co-op in the world. I always thought our buildings were beautiful. I’m blessed to live on the 21st floor with a balcony so I get to look out over the Greenway that we have, the green trees, and even super far out you can see the city. So I’ve always had a cool view. The people are so nice. They are so nice here! I’ve had friends come from other places just to visit and they’re like, you really say good morning and good day when you’re in the elevator? And I’m like, yeah, I thought that was normal. People greet each other as they come out of the elevator. It’s a really chill, relaxed neighborhood. In all the time that I’ve been here, there hasn’t been anything too consistently wild. It’s still a neighborhood so things happen, but nothing too wild. People have the perspective of the Bronx as a whole, they have the perspective of the co-op as a whole. To me, living here has been really dope. Even in this pandemic, I stayed inside as much as possible, but I remember the first moment where I was like, okay, I gotta go to RiteAid and take a walk. Even with our mouths covered you still get a head bob from people. And that’s amazing, that we’re still keeping this positive nurturing energy. I don’t know if you heard about 7 o’clock, like when people clap? We went strong with that. We got clapping, we got pans and pots, we got blowhorns - they got too carried away with the blowhorn. But either way, it just shows the camaraderie and the care and compassion.
I’m sure on the 21st floor too with all those people that’s really something else.
Yeah, you can’t miss it, it's so loud. Even if you forget by accident, you hear it and are like, let me run out to the terrace!
Turning things to what you do: your music and your art. You can talk about that in any way you want to really, but specifically, do you see your music and your art as shaped by the community? Or is it part of how you connect with your community?
Yeah. A huge connection I had specifically last summer: in my community we do these concerts every Tuesday. And I got to do my first big solo concert, right there on the Greenway. It was so important for me to do my first full-on show, with dancers and live band and giveaways and all the stuff like that. It was important for me to do it for my community. Home is where it starts. Even if you have the goal to take care of the world, if you ain’t taking care of here, how are you gonna take care of there? I feel like my neighborhood has been my foundation. It’s a very lively Black and brown community. The type of music that we like, we all vibe with. Even just seeing music performances in the past come to my community, it’s always R&B, soul, throwbacks, even jazz, African. We just really celebrate our culture. So last year for me to get that opportunity to step up on the stage and be like, my home is right there! This is the closest performance I’ve ever done in my life. I got to do it for the people who helped raise me, through culture and community. That was amazing. I just carry the joy and culture in everything I do. Even unrelated to music, no matter where I go I’m a girl from the Bronx that loves music. So without my community, I wouldn’t have that same swag.
That concert sounds so cool!
It was so great! It feels so weird with this whole pandemic. We’re slowly reopening but everybody got hit hard. But artists? It was like, everybody revert to virtual concerts in your living room. It’s not as cool, it’s just not the same as being around people. Having that memory and that experience from last year and knowing that probably ain’t gonna happen this year is a little heartbreaking. But safety first, let’s be cautious first. If I have to wait it out to perform live again for people, I’m just gonna wait it out.
You mentioned Co-Op city being a predominantly Black and brown community. And knowing in this present moment how important it is to really show up and support those communities, how have you found ways to do that? Either as a person or as a musician and artist?
Unfortunately, everything going on, it’s nothing new. Things keep happening in different ways. I feel like the difference is that because we don’t have the distractions of our 9 to 5, it’s more in our face. I’ve chosen to support Black-owned businesses. I’ve chosen to do more research on politics in general. That kind of surprised me. I thought I would be like, singing Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On? I thought I’d be singing a lot more. I’m still creating music with my music partner, stuff like that. But the things I’m choosing to focus on are just educating myself and donating to organizations, and realizing that there’s multiple actions you can do at the same time. I’m also providing my services, in addition to being a singer, also being a mindfulness coach. You need to sit and meditate, because this stuff is heavy. We could do that together. If we need to do some stretching to release all the tension, let’s do that together. There’s a lot of things that we could do, and I’m just trying to do as much as possible what makes the most sense for me during this time, because there’s still a pandemic going on. We’re still recovering from a lot of the trauma just from that alone.
For sure. That’s a good point about mindfulness - that’s such a practical tool during times like this.
Our emotions! We don’t realize how our emotions impact us. It’s important to practice mindfulness and really be aware of it. If you’re consuming all this social media, it’s right in front of your face all the time, there needs to be a point where you can pause so that you can release all that stress, overwhelmingness, the sadness, and reinstill that power in you to fight the good fight. It’s skills that we gotta have. We have to have it.
What are some hopes that you would have for the future of the communities that you exist in now?
I mean, I’ve really gravitated toward manifesting and creating the future you desire. In combination with the actions that you could do, the internal work of believing and trusting. When it comes to the future, the first thing I was doing a few months back was just trying to manifest a healthy summer. I was like, please, can we at least have a fun, healthy, crisp clear summer? Of course it’s not 100% a healthy summer, but I will say I’ve seen the shift of people being more comfortable outside, the shift of people being more comfortable in exploring race, and accepting what’s going on and working toward change. When it comes to my hope now that it’s summer: a continuous healthy future, healthy across the board from this crazy-ass virus, to healthy emotionally, to healthy in terms of us people from different backgrounds being able to coexist without all this ridiculousness. I really firmly believe that in our lifetime we’re going to see the justice that people before us have been fighting for. I owe it to my grandma to fight the good fight, and I owe it to my ancestors to fight the good fight with everybody else. I feel like if you start to think things aren’t going to change and it’s always going to be this way, because it’s been this way for a long time, you’re allowing yourself to lose. But if you stay positive, if you understand this is complicated, this is challenging, guess what? We grow in discomfort. If you’re open to that, then we could bring our hope to make change.
What a great way to put it, and what a great reminder too. I feel like I personally really needed to hear that. Manifesting is such a good thing to think about. Particularly as I think about what changes and what growth needs to happen within me during this time, that’s such a great way to think about moving towards a future.
And also just being aware. That’s something where I had to catch myself. I could worry. I could be the most anxious person in the world. And before these situations are even happening, I’m already investing energy into what could possibly go wrong. I’m sitting there and I’m crying, I’m sitting there and I’m tense and tight, and this hasn’t even happened yet. I’m subconsciously creating these whack situations by accident, you know? So what if we put that power, what if we took that trust that things could be good and invest our energy in that direction, so that it could hopefully happen. It’s a lot of awareness, a lot of internal work, and it takes time. Once you’re on that path, everything just naturally falls together. And we can be hopeful, happy, and healthy.
Questions for Reflection: How can you combine action with internal work to manifest change on the community level? What moments of music or artistry have connected you with your community?
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