Elizabeth: [00:00:00] Welcome to Creativists in Dialogue, a podcast about embracing the creative life. I’m Elizabeth Bruce.
Michael: I’m Michael Oliver.
Elizabeth: Our guests today—yes, that’s plural, “guests”—are Ricky Green and Anthony Watts. Old friends, both, lifelong educators of young children, men of deep faith, native Washingtonians, and beloved members of their communities, both professional and personal. Welcome Ricky and Anthony to Creativists in Dialogue.
Anthony: Thank you so much.
Ricky: Thanks for having us.
Michael: Now, I first met Ricky when, when our now 30-year-old son, Dylan, was in the preschool at CentroNía in Columbia Heights.
Ricky: Oh, yes, definitely. Yes. What a shy little boy that I saw.
Ricky: When I went to a play, I went to a play at a school, and he was not shy at all. He took charge of that program like a star.
Michael: Oh, that’s the show that he was in? Yeah.
Ricky: I saw him. [00:01:00] I said he took charge of the whole thing.
Michael: Yes, in his short-lived theatrical career.
Ricky: When he came out his self.
Ricky: I said, Dylan is not shy.
Elizabeth: In those days when our child was just a little tyke, it wasn’t called Calvary—it was Calvary Bilingual Multicultural Learning Center in Columbia Heights. It wasn’t called CentroNía as it is today. And it was in the old church on Columbia Road, and Ricky was a teacher there and was definitely one of our son’s favorite teachers.
Michael: I really got to know Ricky several years later when we did The Fate of a Cockroach.
Ricky: Oh yeah. Yeah. I was so happy to be with you all. That were awesome.
Michael: You were the, like, the minister.
Ricky: I was the roach. I think I was the minister. Yeah.
Michael: Minister cockroach.
Michael: And what a splendid minister you were!
Ricky: I had to say the word “political.” I had to practice that word. “Political.”
Elizabeth: And Anthony, too, is a lifelong early childhood educator with whom I have worked—with both these gentlemen for many years. Anthony has been working at CentroNía now for over a decade. Plus. [00:02:00] And both Anthony and Ricky are lifelong amazing colleagues in the Theatrical Journey Project that I created and developed at CentroNía. Both these gentlemen were part of a short film Michael and I created for the “I Contain Multitudes” section of Michael’s one-man show of Whitman’s “Song of Myself.”
Michael: So, this interview will cover the role creativity plays and has played in various aspects of your lives. Now, we always start off our interviews with a couple of questions. And the first one is this, in what aspects of your lives has creativity had the most impact or the strongest impact?
Ricky: When I was a little boy, I used to watch, in the fifties, The Lone Ranger. Remember The Lone Ranger? And I loved that song. I just loved that song. And I said, I waited for it to go off to hear it. And then we just, the teacher said, we’re going to the orchestra to hear some music. And I said, I’ve never been to a live orchestra before. I’ve heard it on the radio, but I don’t know where the music’s coming from. [00:03:00] And so when they started the [imitating the sound of the theme song] dun-dun-dun thing and they started the Lone Ranger song, dun-dun-dun-dun. And I’ve never seen an orchestra play in my life. And I was connected to music now. I heard it, but I never saw it. So The Lone Ranger, you know the Lone Ranger song, right?
Elizabeth: Yeah, yeah.
Ricky: And I said, wow, man, that opened me a door for creativity ‘cause I saw live instruments just playing the, all together. And the conductor, somebody didn’t play, and he stopped. “Somebody’s not playing,” he said. Out of 10,000 people, I saw somebody’s not playing. The ear. He said, I just stopped ‘cause I lost my place. Let me tell you something. Everybody’s important to this piece. If you don’t play, we can’t play. And he started again. He said, dun-dun-da-dun, boom. He said, excellent.
Elizabeth: So that was for our listeners, that was Ricky Green and, Anthony, let’s ask Anthony. Anthony Watts, our other lovely guest if—Anthony, so what are some [00:04:00] of the, what is some of the early role that creativity played in your life?
Anthony: I think ‘cause I’m not, like, per se an artist. But I think being able to be who I am allowed me to be creative. ‘Cause I don’t see creativity as being step one, step two, step three. I think it’s whoever you are, just be what you are and be what you be. And the creativity will flow.
Michael: Absolutely. And that’s actually, one of the reasons we’re doing this podcast is that creativity is something that everyone engages in.
Anthony: Everyone, everyone.
Michael: Whether or not you are an artist or doing, quote, “art” or not.
Elizabeth: Another part of our interview process deals with how our interviewees understand creativity itself. So gentlemen, how do each of you personally view creativity or the creative act—as problem solving or as expertise or other expressions of creativity?
Ricky: I’ll give you an example of creativity and problem solving, which is a part of education for young children.
Two children were playing with one [00:05:00] toy and they were bickering about it. And I saw them, and I had to find a way to intervene. And then [imitating the children] “I had a first,” “I had a first,” “I had a first,” “no, I had a first.” I said, “One y’all, one of y’all didn’t have this first.” So, I told them the eyes are the windows of the soul, I think, that’s, you wear glasses, somebody, they don’t want you to see the misery. Marilyn Monroe[MM1] . I said, “why don’t y’all look at me”—and one of ’em couldn’t look at me and the other one looked at me straight in the eye. I said, “I think I know who had it first.” And I said, “I’ll tell you what, boys, I will take a egg timer”—problem solving!—”and whoever had, I will turn it around, when you play five minutes”—as if they know the time—”when it the sand falls, then his, it’s his turn.” [Imitating the children:] “Okay, Mr. Ricky,” then, “that’s good.” I said, “Okay, y’all okay?” [Imitating the children again:] “Yeah.”
They were playing together. And no fight. So I gave them a two—the egg timer to give them some time to think about who’s next. So, I had sharing, I had language [00:06:00] development, I had communication.
Elizabeth: You had reflection.
Ricky: –problem solving, reflection. I had peace.
Michael: Yes, peace.
Ricky: I had peace. I said, now that’s the end of that. And I looked for another one. So, problem solving, problems, even in a marriage and relationship, you can find a way to solve the problem.
Elizabeth: This is true indeed. We were going to, we were gonna get to that. Okay. So, Anthony, do you wanna share about your thoughts about creativity as this or that or something else entirely?
Anthony: Again, I think creativity is innate. Because to me, I’m most creative in the kitchen. I’ll take the recipe, what they say, and I’ll add a little extra. And then just to see, just to see how change, just to see how it turns down outcome.
Anthony: Because if you do things—they say put one egg, two eggs, three eggs. Well, I put four eggs. So I think creativity is innate.
Ricky: It is.
Anthony: It’s whatever you feel. As long as it’s not disrespecting anyone.
Ricky: In my culture, we—I [00:07:00] guess other cultures too—in my culture, some of us measure by the book and some of us just take our fingers and pinch and you say, I don’t need the measuring cup. He needs a measuring cup. I don’t.
Anthony: I have to.
Ricky: If you don’t use it, it won’t come out, but I know how much time I take it off. I just know, innate.
Ricky: I know. So he could say that, I respect that. And he could say, timer. He put a timer. I’m like, I don’t need a timer. Timer. It’s ready to go. So anyway it’s innate. It’s inside of us.
Elizabeth: There you go.
Ricky: To be creative.
Michael: I’m gonna ask you about your cooking in a little bit.
Michael: Let’s touch on educate—‘cause you deal with young children. Yes sir. Yes sir. And how, what role does creativity play in the dealings with young children?
Anthony: Because if you see children, when they come in the classroom, they will go and they will just grab everything. And they wanna know why they’re dumping everything out on the floor. The teacher say, “No! Only get what you gonna play with.” But they don’t know how much they’re gonna play with. Maybe they want to dump it all out. And then when they see everything on the floor, [00:08:00] then that’s when they create these stars. Because children can take a Lego and make a robot out of it. You can’t see it, but they see it , right? So, creativity is not only just innate, but it’s whoever sees it and whoever’s being creative.
Michael: So, you just let the children just play out whatever they’re seeing without questioning.
Anthony: Right, because it’s not a, to me, it’s not, to me, it’s not a right or wrong when they’re dealing with creativity of children. They’re two or three years old. I had a little boy the other day, I had a wreath stuck behind the door, and it was a Christmas wreath. He took the wreath, put on his face and ran around and said, “Mr. Anthony, it’s Christmastime.” I didn’t tell him, “No, don’t touch.” I just wanna see what he do. Because sometimes when we stop children from touching and doing, you stop their creativity. Everything is already, abc, but sometimes you have to get out the box and just let children be children.
Michael: Sure. Wonderful example of creativity. And so, Rick–Ricky, obviously you must have seen—
Ricky: When we were in school, yeah, when we were in school, the teacher dumped, we [00:09:00] were in school, in college, UDC, studying for associate degree, which we finished, when we were in school, the teachers just dumped a bag of stuff on the table.
Anthony: Oh yeah. Ms. Fowler. Yeah.
Ricky: Ms. Fowler. I said, “What are we supposed to do with this?” She just dumped it. Didn’t say nothing, just sat there. And then everybody started to find what they wanted and they made something and they found that, and she said, “See, you don’t have to instruct the children. Let them create.”
So you have your mind open-minded, open-ended questions, open-minded. When you’re reading the story, you say, “What do you think might’ve happened?” You don’t tell ’em what happened. “Why do you think they gonna do it?” You ask questions for an open mind. Don’t, it doesn’t have to be one answer, like Anthony said, it’s many answers. What’s the outcome going to be?
Anthony: Only court knows.
Ricky: Only God knows.
Ricky: It was a science teacher. A science teacher. She said—she was a science teacher. A very professional lady from England.
Anthony: Yeah, yeah Lilian Katz.
Ricky: And she says, I would ask the children when I do science all the time, where do you think the [00:10:00] outcome’s going to be? Everybody will say something different, but it’s one little boy, he only say, only God knows. And I said, she said, he is right. Because we don’t know.
Anthony: We don’t know the outcome.
Elizabeth: We don’t know.
Ricky: Isn’t that wonderful?
Michael: That is, that’s absolutely wonderful.
Anthony: From the mouth of a child, from the mouth of a child.
Michael: Well, yeah, ‘cause I, some people would say that every child is creative.
Anthony: Every child.
Ricky: Of course!
Michael: And then some, is it Robinson?
Elizabeth: Sir Edward Robinson.
Michael: Sir Edward Robinson says the one of the—
Elizabeth: Kenneth! Sir Kenneth Robinson.
Michael: Sir Kenneth, he says one of the problems with schooling is that you drum the creativity out of children.
Ricky: Yes, that’s the problem.
Michael: Yeah. If you were giving some advice to teachers of young children, what kind of advice would you give them about how to encourage creativity as opposed to discouraging it?
Ricky: Like Anthony said, we don’t have to tell ’em what to do, what to put and what to put. Let them figure out what they want to do with it. They may want to do something else with it. Not what you said they have to do with it. There’s certain activities that you have to do certain things, even in life. Okay? But some things [00:11:00] you just go by the whim. Haven’t you done that before?
Elizabeth: Innovation, yeah.
Ricky: It’s just innovation. Somebody say, what you doing this weekend? I say, I have no idea. But it’s gonna be something I know. And then I create something. He’ll order pizza or and ice cream. I’m like, I didn’t know that was gonna happen this weekend. I love it. I love that. I love it.
Michael: That’s great.
Elizabeth: Speaking of creativity, and just to speak a little bit more personally, I personally think of life as a series of pivot points. These many, many forks in the road and choose which way to go on. Moments when a person considers where they are and what they wanna do next. So can both of you speak about some of the pivot points in your lives and what role creativity decided in the outcome?
Ricky: I never, I’m a person who never knew what I wanted to do in life. Have you ever felt like that before? Some people know exactly what they want to be, what they do, go to school for. I never knew. I just found out what I like and do it. And I don’t know about tomorrow. I plan [00:12:00] about tomorrow. I didn’t, I, retirement is here and I didn’t plan, I didn’t think about tomorrow. Did you ever feel like that?
Elizabeth: You live in the moment.
Ricky: I was in the moment, right. So I just, I don’t know, Elizabeth, it’s just, I never know about tomorrow. So, I’m not the kind of person who plans. But I’m trying to be good about what’s coming next.
So, when we went to school, it was five years, and I didn’t plan for that. But we did it and we finished it. And we knew today was gonna come. When they say your CDA degree, your CDA is not gonna work. You need a, what?
Elizabeth: Oh, associate.
Elizabeth: Yeah, this is just to let our listeners know. So, the CDA credential Child Development Associate credential is, has been for many years the entry credential to working in early childhood development. However, increasingly in Washington, DC and elsewhere, the new credential is an associate of arts degree.
Anthony: Right, yeah.
Anthony: And more and better.
Ricky: And even past associate degree, they want, they wanna what?
Elizabeth: B–Bachelor. Masters.
Ricky: Yeah. And I said, you know what, I’ll [00:13:00] go to my b-e-d.
Elizabeth: Your b-e-d bed and do some r-e-s-t-i-n-g.
Ricky: And rest because I’m so t-i-r-e-d tired.
Elizabeth: So, Anthony—
Ricky: Honestly, Michael, I did answer that.
Michael: Oh, I hear you. Masters? They really are looking for a master’s degree?
Ricky: I’m tired!
Elizabeth: This is a larger, more political discussion.
Ricky: I didn’t mean to go there.
Elizabeth: Oh, we shall see. Anyway, Anthony, talk to us about any pivot points that you remember that you would point to in your life and if and how creativity was a factor in those pivot points.
Anthony: I think the most major pivot point was when COVID hit.
Ricky: Ah, there you go.
Elizabeth: Good point.
Anthony: So, I had to move from,
Ricky: That changed…
Anthony: I had to move from working at home—working from school to trying to work from home. Managing, trying to get on the computer.
Ricky: Yeah. It was hard.
Anthony: I had a small computer, didn’t know what I was doing. The internet wasn’t working. It was just, I had to be creative, to find out how could I do what I need to do to get the work done. So, I said, okay, I know what to do. I’ll go to my sister’s [00:14:00] house.
Elizabeth: There you go.
Anthony: She’s got free internet. So, I would go to her house, stay all day, do what I have to do, and then my work is done.
Elizabeth: There you go.
Anthony: But sometimes it’s the, it’s, it is the reaction of the situation that causes us to pivot.
Michael: Sure, yeah. The situation causes—
Anthony: Yeah, because you have to even with the, the pandemic, with churches and things—
Anthony: —had to move from live service to streaming online. You have to pivot. You have to change.
Elizabeth: Have to pivot. Yeah, yeah. On a dime, no less.
Anthony: On a dime.
Ricky: Oh, yeah, on a dime.
Elizabeth: On a half a penny.
Ricky: That’s all creativity.
Anthony: So, you have to, you have to be creative—
Elizabeth: Gotta be nimble.
Anthony: —and think, how can I move–maneuver. In order to get what I need to get. But I would say that would be the pivot point.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Because you can’t, you don’t know it’s coming.
Elizabeth: You don’t have much to work with.
Elizabeth: And it’s like that pile of Legos, you gotta figure out which Legos you’re gonna use.
Anthony: It’s that innate creativity inside of you. You gotta create a way to try to make it work.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Yeah.
Ricky: I remember one moment when the internet was coming. Internet, no more [00:15:00] paper. You remember that? And I used to always write my lesson plans with my pen and pencil and now I’m gonna make a copy. I wrote it and I got it. I’m done. But then they said, oh, no more paper. I said huh? Key it, computer. I’m like, I don’t know nothing about a computer to make lesson plans, I’m gonna quit. I’ll work at McDonald’s.
Elizabeth: At least the food is real.
Ricky: At least the food is real, and I can eat free, and I don’t get enough paid money here for this. So, I was up, I’m about to leave and I said, you can do it, you can do it, you can do it. Come on, you can do it. And I said, okay, I’m gonna try. And I tried it and I worked. And I was printing out my lesson plan, making copies, and then more typing, more writing and typing. Only typing, but not writing. So, for me, that was a great struggle for me as a teacher. I said, my days are over. I couldn’t do the computer, but I learned. And I got over that pivotal point.
Elizabeth: Yeah. So those of us who are digital immigrants, yes. Unlike our kids who are digital natives.
Anthony: I said, I’m illiterate.
Michael: They’re, the [00:16:00] kids, you ask them to write that by hand, they go—
Ricky: Which also takes us back to using our minds. And being lazy.
Anthony: Because I remember when we was in school, you can, there was a search network engine called Jeeves.
Elizabeth: Oh, Ask Jeeves! Yes.
Anthony: Ask, [mimicking typing] How do I get—that helped. That helped a lot.
Elizabeth: I know. I learned to type on a manual typewriter back in the day.
Michael: So, let’s take a journey back to childhood. Now, I grew up around Richmond. Many of those years were in Goochland County. Yeah. Actually, on a prison farm.
Ricky: I’ve never heard of Goochland.
Michael: Prison farm, my father was a warden, assistant warden, so I was on the—
Ricky: Oh, that’s interesting.
Michael: Yeah. That’s another whole story.
Ricky: You’d be a prisoner.
Michael: Yeah. I used to get my hair cut by the, by some of the prisoners.
Ricky: You got the Guinea pig.
Michael: That’s why I cut my own hair now.
Ricky: Oh really?
Michael: Yeah. Yeah.
Ricky: Isn’t that interesting?
Michael: But again, that’s another whole story. Anyway, then Elizabeth, she grew up in a rural part of Texas. Gulf Coast.
Elizabeth: Gulf Coast, small town.
Michael: And then you guys, both of you guys are Washingtonians.
Ricky: I’m a Washingtonian.
Michael: How— [00:17:00] so why don’t you each of you in separately just describe maybe your childhood a little bit and how that might have influenced or shaped the way you think creatively.
Ricky: You wanna talk about it?
Anthony: Yeah. I grew up in DC. I grew up in a, with a, called foster home.
Elizabeth: Oh, okay. I did not know that.
Ricky: Didn’t know that.
Anthony: Didn’t know that, did ya?
Elizabeth: I did not.
Anthony: So, since I was two years old. My mom, I called her my mama. Yeah, because I always say you have a mom who raised you and a mother who birthed you, right?
Elizabeth: Right, right.
Anthony: So, I had a mom who raised me and my brother.
Elizabeth: Okay. Your twin, yes? Right.
Anthony: My twin. I have a twin brother. Yes.
Michael: Oh, you do? Okay.
Anthony: We’re not identical, we’re fraternal, but he wear glasses now ‘cause he can’t see. But we grew up in a home and it was a very good home. Got everything we—Christmas was wonderful. It was interesting. Only thing for me as a child growing up, I didn’t like the word “foster child.”
Anthony: Because it seemed like you were so—
Ricky: Something different.
Anthony: It’s like a light was on you. When they say, “Oh, who are you?” “Oh, that’s my foster child.” That kind of thing. [00:18:00] So I had to grow up like that, not knowing who my biological mother was until my mom, who passed in 2019, three months later I get a phone call saying, your mom looking for you.
Elizabeth: Your biological mom.
Elizabeth: Is that—because it was your foster mom? Who, whom you lost recently?
Ricky: That’s kind of weird.
Anthony: Yeah. Over 57 years.
Anthony: We grew up in the system. We aged out of the system at 21 but didn’t age of her life.
Elizabeth: That’s interesting.
Anthony: She was always my mama. Oh. I was, I don’t even wanna talk about it.
Anthony: Mama’s boy. So, I had to be creative in my way when I was a little boy, just go downstairs and play with my toys, play with my matchbox cars, my Hot Wheels and things like that. I’d be going outside. My momma said when I was a little boy, I’d be going outside and had the bowl and pen, pretending like I was a preacher. In the backyard, preaching to the trees.
Michael: Oh, you were an actor then?
Anthony: I didn’t even know it. Didn’t know it. Didn’t know it.
Ricky: He did a preacher in a play and they thought it was real.
Anthony: But I— [00:19:00] creativity, as a child, you had to grow up to be your own. Creativity.
Anthony: Not saying that everything was rosy, but I had to learn how to grow up and be pivotal.
Anthony: Do what I have to do. And as a result, I’m a productive citizen in the community. Because of that background that I had.
Michael: Do you still get a chance to play preacher now and then?
Anthony: Oh, I can show you one on YouTube.
Ricky: They was like, ah, amen, amen—
Anthony: I’ve been type-cast.
Michael: We can share that. We’ll put that on the podcast, at the bottom. The YouTube channel.
Elizabeth: Right, right.
Anthony: Take a little small—
Michael: Anthony as preacher.
Anthony: —clip it, small little clip as the preacher.
Elizabeth: Reverend Watts!
Anthony: No, it was a preacher from, it was called the Slap Town Convention. I was Reverend Big John. And my sermon didn’t make sense. The sermon text was, “He played upon a harp of a thousand strings–sperits uv just men made perfek.” Didn’t even make sense. It was hilarious. It hilarious.
Ricky: Even the priest was looking at him like, this man…
Elizabeth: He’s gonna take my job!
Anthony: It was hilarious.
Ricky: They called Bishop. Bishop—
Anthony: It’s [00:20:00] hilarious. It was hilarious. It was hilarious.
Elizabeth: Ricky, what about you? You’re a native Washington?
Ricky: Yes, I am.
Elizabeth: What part of town did you grow up in?
Ricky: I was born in Freedmen’s Hospital, which now is gone.
Elizabeth: Okay. Yeah.
Ricky: For blacks only.
Ricky: And I was in Northeast Tennessee Avenue. They call it now, the Capitol Hill Gold Coast. Because now different people have moved in the houses and the neighbors. Not like when I lived there, it’s not the same. I went by there and saw my house and I cried. They took me in the car to see it and I cried. It was just, my memory was right in front of me. My steps, the porch. I just cried and got back in the car. I wanted to see it as a grownup. You know when the movie Scrooge, when he take him everywhere he used to go.
Elizabeth: Oh, A Christmas Carol.
Ricky: Yeah, take him all around the past. I felt like that I was a grown man looking at my home I grew up in with my family. It was very interesting. And it’s still there, the porch and everything.
Michael: Oh, the, your home is still there. Not the hospital.
Ricky: Is still there, but we’re not, and then my daddy said too many of us and too much, and the neighborhood’s getting, like, real crappy. So, he moved us to North–Upper Northwest [00:21:00] Little Gold Coast. 16th street.
Elizabeth: Oh, the other Gold Coast! Yeah.
Ricky: The real one. Big house. The doctors live up there. And my daddy was a CPA. Accountant. Bookkeeping, record keeping. He had his own business called Shade A. Green and Company, which, we were the company. And I don’t think nobody else was working but us. I didn’t have a childhood. I thank Michael Jackson. Thank you, God. But that’s what it was. In Northwest we have, went to different schools. The people were different, the neighborhood different. The community was safer and my father felt better. So, I’m a Washingtonian for, through my heart.
Elizabeth: Speaking of your background, Ricky, if I remember correctly, and Anthony corrected me of this, you are one of 15 children. Is that right?
Ricky: Yes, you are right.
Elizabeth: I am astonished. That just beggars my imagination.
Ricky: And I am number nine out of the 15.
Elizabeth: I can’t, that, that—
Michael: That is, that’s a corporation!
Ricky: Yes! That means that, as I was older than the younger ones, when my daddy and mom was at work, I had to do everything. I’m telling you, I missed my childhood, like Michael Jackson. I had to cook. After school, get a cab, go [00:22:00] shopping, get the dinner for my siblings and my daddy and fix it. So, I was only went home to do that. And I did that every day. And I cooked, I learned to cook for my mom. I came to her and, “Well, how do you make this, how do you make that?” And she told me what to do. That’s how I don’t need a measuring cup.
And I do it now. She told me when you cook it, when the beans come up, rise, that means the other ones are ready. And where, collard greens need to be washed in salt because the worms could be in them. So ,I put them in a salt. I salted it, killed the worms. And then put the little water, water and salt—I learned all this stuff.
And I had to be the, and now they’re grown. They asked my brother, my, my niece and nephews, “Who raised you? You something.” “My uncle Ricky.”
Ricky: I said, “No, your mom.” She said, “No, my uncle Ricky raised me. He introduced me to music.” I played Streisand all day long. Hello Dolly. All the movies and songs of Streisand and they still know them. They sing. “Don’t rain on my parade,” they say,
Elizabeth: “Don’t rain on my parade.”
Ricky: They say, “I grew up with you.” I said, “Oh.” So, I did a lot. I was a wonderful [00:23:00] teacher. I wasn’t a teacher then, but I was, did—
Elizabeth: You were a teacher.
Ricky: I know, but I didn’t realize that. So, when I ran to school, I’m doing the same thing I did with my family.
Ricky: I’m a teacher at heart.
Anthony: If I might add, I do have two biological sisters.
Anthony: And then I have the two—I don’t call ’em foster sisters but the two sisters I raise, that raised—that grew up with me. And then I have an adopted brother, so it’s about five of us all together.
Elizabeth: Okay. So these are large families.
Anthony: Large families, yeah.
Elizabeth: 15 is larger than five, but five is a big family.
Anthony: And my twin brother, he has two daughters and three grandchildren. So, he’s a granddaddy.
Ricky: My daddy would take us shopping all at one time ‘cause he, if he did it individually, he couldn’t afford it. And if somebody grew out of their coat, you’d get it down. You get the coat, and the sleeves are so long like Snoopy, remember?
Michael: Yes. Yes.
Ricky: I had to grow into it. And I had a big clothes just hanging off of me. No new clothes. But when we all went together to get something, the people would, I remember sitting there waiting for him. The people would count, “one, two, three, four, five, six, [00:24:00] seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. “Is it, are those all yours”—my father named Mr. Green, Mr. Green, Shadrack Green. “All those yours?” they said. “Yep. All of them.”
Elizabeth: All of ’em.
Ricky: So, the income tax people say, “Mr. Green, you can stop now. You’re taking all our money.”
Michael: Yeah, really.
Ricky: One child. For child—
Elizabeth: Yeah, I can imagine the IRS must’ve been, “How did this fella… 15 children!”
Ricky: They said, “You can stop now. You’re taking all our money.”
Elizabeth: Speaking of family, you guys, you all, you, Ricky and Anthony, you all have been, like Michael and me—
Ricky: A long time.
Elizabeth: You have been together for a long time. Relationships as we, as you both know, and as you both reference, are really hard.
Ricky: They’re difficult.
Elizabeth: They’re difficult and they’re, but they’re still worth it. They truly are.
Ricky: Oh, they’re still worth it. I’m glad to know that.
Elizabeth: As it sounds like you and Ricky and Anthony are clownish, like basic buffoons.
Anthony: That’s the—
Ricky: The humor. I’m the clown.
Anthony: ‘Cause he makes, man, sometimes regurgitate.
Ricky: He regurgitate,
Anthony: He laugh—I mean, it’s—
Ricky: He [00:25:00] So he falls on the floor and I say, okay, let’s stop.
Anthony: Cause I can, can’t–that’s why I like taking him out so everybody else can get a chance.
Elizabeth: So, does your creativity in your relationship mostly come out through humor and through clowning and—
Ricky: And movies and we like movies and music and the same thing.
Anthony: Yeah. Probably more humor than anything.
Ricky: Yeah. I told somebody, Anthony is the one that’s, I’m the crazy one. I’m the most like, positive, but he’s the one that’s quiet and thinking and they say, “The emptiest barrels make the loudest noise.”
Elizabeth: Okay. Yeah.
Ricky: I think it’s me. And he just, so I said, if we have a car to get started, jumpstart, you know what you do? If you put the negative together with the positive, it will start. But you put two positives,
Elizabeth: It’ll explode!
Ricky: Oh. Won’t it? “So you must be the positive or the negative. And he’s a negative or positive. Which one of you?” You the positive. He’s a not negative in the bad word, as in the, it’s—
Elizabeth: As in the ground wire.
Ricky: Yeah, the ground wire. Yeah. So that’s how you can get, ‘cause if I put two of us together with it gonna be explosion.
Anthony: It’s, it’ll be like turpentine and gasoline.
Ricky: [00:26:00] We have and we have it sometimes, so we have to calm each other down and chill. It’s a lot of work. Yeah. At the end of the day, it’s worth it.
Elizabeth: It is worth it. Yeah.
Ricky: I’d rather have my friend with me that helps me when I’m down and low, in income, financially. I help him when he can’t do something. That’s better than anything.
Elizabeth: Sure. Sure.
Ricky: Don’t you think so?
Michael: Oh, absolutely.
Ricky: At first it’s rugged—
Anthony: And I think music helps.
Ricky: And music.
Elizabeth: Music! Yeah. You said you have music playing all the time?
Ricky: Yeah. And we have outdoor activities, we like the same kind of outdoor activities, so we do things, take a walk, go here, go to the party, come to your party, go everywhere. We do that.
Ricky: Because you’ll have outlet. And I have my friends still, even ‘cause I have my friend here, my, my mate here. I still have my cluck of friends. And they come around. I’m like, “Don’t get jealous.” Because I just love people. “Don’t get jealous.”
Ricky: I, you know how it is. Don’t worry, you’re in my corner. I love them, but when they gone, you the one.
Elizabeth: You the one.
Ricky: Isn’t that the way it is, Michael?
Michael: [00:27:00] Sure.
Ricky: Oh, he those, he’s a—
Michael: Let’s steer away from relationships.
Ricky: See? Where’s the sunglasses? Get the sunglasses.
Michael: Let’s revisit the, this Fate of a Cockroach moment here.
Ricky: Yes, I know about that very well.
Michael: And that, that’s a play by this Egyptian playwright.
Ricky: I know.
Michael: That we did, I think it was 2007 by Tawfiq al-Hakim.
Ricky: I remember everything.
Michael: Right, yeah. And there’s, the first act was all these cockroaches and the king cockroach and all the ministry cockroaches.
Ricky: Yes, and somebody fell in the bathtub and couldn’t get out.
Michael: Who was it that fell in the bathtub?
Ricky: The cockroach.
Michael: The king cockroach.
Elizabeth: AKA Michael Oliver.
Ricky: He couldn’t get up. He couldn’t turn around.
Michael: And yeah, I mean we worked on that for a, I guess a month or so at least.
Ricky: We were wonderful.
Michael: Yeah. And then we performed it in the Fringe.
Ricky: We were wonderful.
Anthony: At the Fringe. I remember that.
Michael: Yeah, at the Fringe. And we had six or seven performances I believe.
Ricky: Yes, we did.
Michael: And good audiences.
Ricky: Oh yeah.
Michael: We had very good audiences.
Ricky: Somebody said to me in acting, and I thought about it. We were cockroaches, and you were the king and queen, whoever, [00:28:00] the queen. But they said when you had, when you, and this is something to think about when you’re acting, when you didn’t have a line, you were still in perform of a roach.
Elizabeth: You were still embodying the minister roach.
Ricky: I was, I had when I was,
Michael: I didn’t stop acting like a roach for at least a couple of months.
Ricky: I’m telling you. I imagine in my mind that when you turn the light on, they scatter. But until then, they’re looking for something more.
Elizabeth: So let’s tell our listeners at this play, the Fate of a Cockroach by Tawfiq al-Hakim. It’s about a couple, the Egyptian human couple wake up and the husband goes into the bathroom and becomes transfixed and mesmerized by the existential struggle of this cockroach to get out of the bathtub. He’s just trying and trying until—
Ricky: Slippin’ and slippin’.
Michael: And that was the king cockroach.
Elizabeth: The king cockroach.
Michael: Who fell into the big lake at the end of that one.
Elizabeth: And, meanwhile, the other cockroach royalty off in cockroach land are despairing because the king has fallen into the great white lake—
Ricky: And he couldn’t turn over.
Elizabeth: And he can’t get out.
Michael: Right, now, I’ve always described acting as serious [00:29:00] fun.
Ricky: Yes, it is.
Michael: So in what ways was it serious fun for you?
Ricky: It was serious because I think about us murdering things and we don’t even know if they have a life, a feeling of anything. And we think they’re just roaches and bugs and pests. Of course they are. But do they have a family? Are they going back home in their little family? We never think about that human part of that, ‘cause they’re not human.
And I thought about that. It was serious to get a point across the co–the fate of a cockroach, which could have been the fate of something else, not just a cockroach. You can use it anywhere. And I thought about this. So, it when I finished the play, I was like always in my mind, we had bugs, you know, crawlin’ in the apartment, sometimes a lot. And when I went home, I couldn’t kill another roach.
Elizabeth: He’d sit and watch it in the bathtub all day.
Ricky: Oh, and I said, “No, no, don’t kill ’em. Don’t kill ‘em. He has a family go back to. He’s so—” Anyway, it bothered me psychologically ‘cause I couldn’t kill a roach after a while. Can you imagine?
Michael: That’s, yeah. That is serious.
Ricky: I, and he was like, get rid of ‘em. I’m like, no, he ain’t going [00:30:00] back to his family.
Michael: He might be the king cockroach.
Ricky: Yeah, I said—
Michael: His antennas are longer than all the—
Ricky: See, he’s the king He’s the king. So, I wouldn’t even, psychologically have some after effects of them in play. But I also remember that they really, they’re bugs and they’re germs, so I have to kill ’em. But I was not touching bugs for minute.
Michael: Yeah, you had quite a few lines, too.
Ricky: I had a lot of lines. And I said something, down the, you can’t turn over. You can’t, you turned over, you can’t get back on the upside way down the road down there. He fell. So anyway, it was a wonderful experience for me. My family came, he came, my niece, my, my mother-in-law, they were there. They said, “You were wonderful.” He said, “Y’all were wonderful. Y’all made us think of real bugs.” They said, “We love that play.” And they still remember where it was. “Right there. That’s what you did the play.” I’m like, “Yeah, it still there? That’s spot.”
Anthony: Seventh and–
Elizabeth: Yeah, it was Flashpoint. I think the Flashpoint Gallery downtown.
Ricky: Every time we turned, “Y’all did the play right there. Remember that?” I’m like, that’s years ago. And they’re still saying, yeah.
Anthony: [00:31:00] I didn’t know that was 2007. Wow.
Ricky: Can you believe that?
Michael: That’s a long time ago.
Elizabeth: Yeah. To just tell our listeners, we had masks, these giant cockroach masks that were made outta bicycle helmets and these long sort of bouncing
Elizabeth: Antennas, everything. And then they, all the cockroaches wore distressed tails. They all–
Ricky: wonderful outfits.
Elizabeth: They were, yeah. You looked fabulous. Just fabulous.
Anthony: A fabulous cockroach.
Elizabeth: So to stay on the theatrical area for a moment. Anthony, you, too, are a performing artist at your church. I remember you were a key part—I think maybe I you were the script writer of a production?
Anthony: No, I was, the one play was for it was for Black History Month. And I cannot think of his name
Ricky: On the railroad train.
Anthony: I had to do a monologue.
Ricky: On the railroad train. It was good.
Anthony: I thought a monologue was worse than doing a regular script.
Michael: It is.
Anthony: Cause you feed off each other all the time. But this my monologue, I had to learn the words word for word.
Elizabeth: Word for word.
Ricky: So long. So long.
Anthony: Word for word with all the accents. So, I was scared but I did it. I did it. But I don’t consider myself a artist ‘cause I never, even in high school, the junior high, element–I never [00:32:00] was in a play ‘cause I just consider myself just a natural clown. Cause I was, you know, mischievous in school, was getting suspended. School’s clown.
Elizabeth: Were you the class clown?
Anthony: I was.
Elizabeth: Oh, okay.
Anthony: I got, my mom said I got put outta kindergarten the first day of kindergarten.
Elizabeth: Oh no.
Michael: Is that right?
Anthony: First day of kindergarten.
Elizabeth: It must make you a much more empathetic early childhood educator.
Anthony: First day of kindergarten, they told her, come and get him because he’s outta control. Because I didn’t go to preschool. I just started right here.
Elizabeth: That was your first structured school—
Ricky: I didn’t go to preschool. Straight from five years old.
Anthony: Straight, so I didn’t know no school etiquette. I didn’t know what to doctor. I didn’t know not to tell the teacher, “You shut up.” I didn’t know.
Elizabeth: Oh, back in the day!
Anthony: I didn’t know that, but, but I really don’t, I didn’t really start doing that—
Ricky: Until now.
Anthony: Until I started in the drama ministry at the church. Did one play, got my foot wet. I said, oh, that’s pretty good.
Elizabeth: “I like it.”
Anthony: That’s pretty good. So, I try to read the script, read it, and read and read it. And then they want you to, after a while,
Ricky: You gotta remember.
Anthony: you have to remember the, yeah.
Elizabeth: Yeah, gotta be off book, as they say.
Michael: And do [00:33:00] you sing at all?
Anthony: I used to.
Ricky: Yeah. In the choir.
Anthony: Used to, used to.
Michael: Oh, okay.
Anthony: I sing solo now.
Michael: Oh, okay.
Ricky: So low you can’t hear him.
Anthony: So low you can’t hear.
Elizabeth: Solo, so low! But you have this beautiful baritone—
Anthony: But most time in most churches, they only have alto, tenor, and
Ricky: Bass and soprano.
Anthony: Bass, but they don’t have baritone. And I used to be in between tenor. But my voice has changed. ‘Cause some of the songs be too high and I can’t. I struggle with it, so I don’t sing as much. I sing from the pew.
Elizabeth: From the pew. Okay.
Michael: And then, Ricky, Elizabeth said that you were also a part of the Everyday Theater for a while. With Suzie—
Ricky: Oh yes, I was. We did Dog Eat Dog with Sarah.
Elizabeth: So, Suzie Saw—
Ricky: Suzie Saw. We did Dog Eat Dog. And we did Ghost Town, which is, people supposed to move back into their homes after they re–re–gentrification. I don’t know. What they did—what’s it called—and they say, they paid them to get out and fix it, then when they come back, it costs the arm in the leg.
Elizabeth: Right, displacement.
Ricky: In Southeast. Ghost town. I played the character that happened to him and I had to cry at the [00:34:00] end of the scene and I couldn’t cry, tell him yesterday. So, I had some eyedrops and before my scene I squeezed, and the tears was coming. You saw me yesterday. I showed you, like real tears. I think I was crying and I said, “We promise that we’ll come back. But they didn’t. It’s cost too much. What we going to do?” And then once the tears roll and the light went off, I said, “Ugh, God, I did it.” It was emotional.
They say live theaters like walking a tight rope without a rope. You feel like that sometimes?
Michael: Oh, absolutely.
Ricky: You’re out there, they’re looking at. Remember your line.
Elizabeth: Oh, it’s terrifying in a way—
Ricky: And if you—
Elizabeth: —few other things are terrifying.
Ricky: Yeah. If you mess up, don’t say it. Just make up something else. And say, oh yeah. They gonna say, you in the wrong space. I know. I’m making it up. You knowm you gotta ad lib, right? Ad lib.
Elizabeth: Ad lib. Yeah. So just to let our listeners know, Everyday Theater for long time Washingtonians, people would remember that as a, an ensemble theater company back in the [00:35:00] 1980s. Seventies. I think you used to get CIDA money. And you worked a lot with young people.
Ricky: Yeah, the young people were awesome.
Elizabeth: And didn’t you, didn’t the company collectively create new works.
Ricky: Yeah, they did. And there also was jobs for them. They got paid. They were very creative possibilities there. And they followed their work and they did very well. I was, and I love young people anyway. So it was good to work with them. And I watched them and they watched me work and I watched them work and I said, they’re very talented young people. Kept them out of trouble in the summertime. They gave ’em something to think about. Creativity.
Elizabeth: Yeah. I think that’s part of the—
Ricky: They got paid,
Elizabeth: SYEP the summer was employment program.
Ricky: And they got, we got paid and they got paid. Everybody got paid.
Elizabeth: Those were the days.
Ricky: Those were the days. When everybody, when theater was very important to people. But now they, that’s the last thing, it’s, is creativity and theater. They don’t really care like that. Some places that we live. In Paris, they do, and other places, but here they cre–art is what the word is, [00:36:00] right?
Michael: So now we get a chance to be creative with cooking. So, Anthony, why don’t you talk about your cooking and the creativity that goes into that.
Ricky: It’s good.
Michael: Is it with spices? It, was it with ingredients?
Ricky: It’s good.
Anthony: I think it’s with, spices, ingredients, ‘cause I play around with the– actually had a—
Anthony: Had a garden. So I used to take advantage of the oregano and the rosemary. And I’d bring it home and I baked chicken and—
Ricky: Make chicken. Tastes good. God. Woo. So good.
Anthony: Like Ricky said, you take sweet potato, collard greens and cook ’em. Some of ’em just, take ’em a bunch ’em up and put ’em in, but I take ’em and roll ’em. See you roll ’em, slice em.
Ricky: Roll ’em, slice em.
Anthony: And then put ’em in the—
Ricky: I saw that.
Anthony: I like taking the smoked turkey necks. Boiling them first. Then get the water, the seasoning. Then you put the greens in ‘em. Then you don’t have to worry about no salt.
Ricky: That’s the way
Anthony: ‘Cause the smoke Turkey makes the water.
Anthony: I just like being in the kitchen. It’s just, I like cooking shows like Emeril Lagasse. Bam. He got ideas. I can take ideas from him and just, add, just add my own little way.
Michael: So you do a [00:37:00] lot of experimenting with—
Anthony: At home? Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Michael: And when you discover something you really like, do you attempt to try to repeat it
Anthony: Sometime it goes, it doesn’t go the way that you do it the first time, but you keep doing it until you get it right. Just like my macaroni and cheese. For me the best way to make macaroni and cheese is put it in a Pyrex dish. And not—
Anthony: Not a regular—
Ricky: Regular aluminum.
Anthony: Because it’s—
Ricky: The glass.
Anthony: It, some kind way, it just don’t, I don’t like burnt edges. I like to see it brown on the top.
Michael: Oh, and the Pyrex prevents it from burning on the—
Anthony: For me, yeah. Some people just don’t—‘Cause I like presentation.
Ricky: It’s important.
Elizabeth: Isn’t the expression “Presentation is everything.”?
Michael: Oh, it’s the aesthetic.
Anthony: It has to be, the presentation is good. ‘Cause one time I tried to make potato salad for my job before I came to CentroNía. And the potato salad sat out on the table. You know how people go around. They looked at that they go, okay, no. So there’s certain things I can’t do. Can’t make potato salad.
Elizabeth: Can’t make, okay.
Ricky: Not a bunch.
Elizabeth: Of all the things not to be able to do in life, not being able to make [00:38:00] potato salad. You could, you could, most of us could live with that.
Anthony: But other, other than that, I can I can do some, I can do some baking. I love cooking. I haven’t baked a cake yet.. That’s something I’ve never done yet. But meats and vegetables and stir fry vegetables and, oh, I just, yeah.
Michael: Elizabeth was making a lot of banana bread.
Ricky: Ah, I love that bread. I love banana bread. I could eat it all day long.
Elizabeth: I live on my banana smoothies, but I don’t always get to the banana in time, so I gotta work on the banana bread.
Anthony: I don’t like bananas, but I like banana pudding. That’s kinda strange.
Elizabeth: Let me switch gears and just speak to you both, Anthony and–Ricky and Anthony, you are both men of deep Christian faith. Anthony over here prays for anybody I ask him to pray for who’s in hard times. And I deeply appreciate that. Can you both speak about your faith and how it influences your creativity and how creativity influences your faith? And do you both go to the same church?
Anthony: We both go to the same church. We are, we attend Carolina Missionary Baptist [00:39:00] Church. It’s in Fort Washington, Maryland.
Ricky: Pastor Anthony E. Moore. Make sure—
Anthony: Yeah, no, Pastor Moore. Anyway, we started out on Morton Street. Sherman Ave and Morton, right across from the Salvation Army. And the church grew, so they purchased land in Fort Washington. So, we got 19 acres of land. So we have a family life center they gonna build first and then been a group home and things like that.
But I grew up in church all my life. Ever since I was a little boy. When I first two, three years old, I was in front of church with tambourines and scrub boards and that’s me, all my life now. I ain’t been perfect. Ain’t nobody is. But that’s, to me, that’s cre–my faith causing me to be creative. Because if there’s something that I can’t do, I remember what the Book of James says, if you lack wisdom, ask for it.
So, I try to do that so I can make sure I know what to do, how to do it and say it. So, my faith, cause people are looking at you. They look at your actions more so than what you say. [00:40:00] They look at what you do. So, I try to, I’m not perfect. Nobody is. I’m working towards that. But we won’t be perfect until we go to the other side.
Ricky: I think I was in church since I was in the crib. My daddy took us to church every Sunday, all dramatically. Took us and packed us into two cars and we went and I played a lot. I didn’t listen too much, but as I got older, it started to become serious to me. Like church was serious to me. I’m like, this ain’t no joke, this is real.
And the parents—and I lived under that for a long time, and as I grew older, I started to get in trouble with a lot of things. And I went wild and I said I gotta find myself again. I can’t find my mama and daddy’s religion because that’s—I didn’t pick that. They picked that for me. But I grew up in it. So, then I had to find my way to my own, what [00:41:00] I feel spiritually, not so much as right and wrong, but the faith that I had about life and what a God is and trusting things. I had to find it for myself. Cause I went away from church for a long time. Did you go away too? We didn’t have a church.
Anthony: Yeah. Sometimes. I grew up in it all so long. You, sitting there, they call straddling the fence.
Ricky: It’s too much.
Anthony: You have to make, it’s called out of fellowship, they call it.
Anthony: You get outta fellowship. It happens to most of us.
Ricky: But they call it lukewarm, what they call it, hot or cold.
Anthony: You gotta know when you feel the tug in to put you back in.
Ricky: It’s, it is a personal journey. And I said, forget church. They didn’t help me when I needed help. The people help me when I was broke. They didn’t gimme nothing. Forget all that.
And the people I worked with, they brought me money and cash and food invited me to dinner and none of them went to my church. Well, I worked for their children. I was a teacher and when I needed something, they brought it. “You don’t have to pay it back.” “You sure? This is $200.” “No, Ricky just, maybe you can come do something in the yard or something.”
That was church for [00:42:00] me. Because church people didn’t do anything for me, and I didn’t wanna go and I went back and I found me. Not church. Because I think religion is very—varieties of religions, which you gotta find for you. Is Buddha, Ramadama, Holy Ghost, Christian, pedestr—what’s it called?
Anthony: Pentecostal. Presbyterian.
Ricky: But it has to be a personal thing that you believe in.
Michael: Right. It sounds like it’s, it’s not even the various denominations.
Ricky: It’s not.
Michael: Really it’s this personal, sort of, not that you create your own religion, but—
Michael: But you create your own relationship with God.
Ricky: And whatever relationship and whatever that God means. To me, when I was young, and I can say this about, it was a white man in heaven sitting in the marble chair looking down on me and judging me. I thought that, I thought that. Looking at me.
But it’s not that. It’s something… energy. It’s a form of energy. Intellectual [00:43:00] energy. Not a man, not a lady.
Anthony: It’s a spirit.
Ricky: It’s a spirit. It’s intellectual. Look at math. Who in the world can figure that out? Intellectual. Look at science. Who in the world can make a caterpillar crawl and then turn into a butterfly after you come out a dark cocoon? Who? Who? Who can make this sun rise rise even on a bad day? The sun is still there, but it’s cloudy. You ever thought about that? It’s cloudy.
So with the children, I tried to teach them those kind of things. On my flannel board, which I love, I put the sun. What kind of day is it? I put the gray clouds, the white cloud, and I would say, “What kind of day is it?” “It’s sunny.” So I put the sun. “It’s cloudy.” I put the sun and then put the cloud over it. I said, “It’s still sunny, but you can’t see the sun.” They were like, “huh.” Yeah. You’ll figure it out when you grow up. And then when you use science.
So that’s—God for me, is throughout all around me. It is not up and [00:44:00] down, it’s around. So I try to bring that into my life when I have difficulties. When he’s upset, I don’t say, when I’m upset, he don’t say nothing, but he knows my face. So we don’t put fire to the fuel, to the fire. No more flame to the fire. You already know he gonna blow up. So I don’t say nothing. He don’t say nothing and we make it work. That’s the way we do.
Anthony: Pray it away.
Ricky: He, don’t be praying it. ‘Cause I’m praying too.
Michael: When you guys were talking earlier just about working with children and having faith that, well, they have an idea they’re gonna do it. And it’s go—they’re gonna discover something. You don’t judge it beforehand. And then you mentioned the scientist saying, Oh God, only God.
Ricky: Only God knows.
Anthony: Only God knows!
Ricky: We have to answer every question.
Michael: Faith and creativity seem to be very intimately.
Ricky: There you go. It is close.
Michael: You’ve gotta just, because with creativity you’ve gotta trust that you don’t know what you’re gonna create.
Ricky: You don’t know.
Michael: You have to have faith that is gonna be fine.
Ricky: It’s gonna come out fine.
Michael: And the same thing with your relationship with God or—
Ricky: The [00:45:00] same thing.
Michael: —the mysteries of the universe.
Anthony: With a preacher, when they get ready to give a sermon, they have to figure out a creative way to get it over so that everybody can understand what they’re saying.
Ricky: Know your audience. Even doing the play. Know your audience.
Elizabeth: It’s very much like acting.
Ricky: Know your audience.
Elizabeth: You know, you as an actor, you have to be, have to embody this other character—
Ricky: You’ve got to know your audience.
Elizabeth: —and be in the zone.
Ricky: You’ve got to know your audience.
Elizabeth: Yeah, you’ve really got to—
Ricky: You gotta know your audience.
Elizabeth: —step into that, step into that role.
Ricky: It’s very important. Yes, it is.
Michael: Anthony, what you mentioned earlier about, creativity is just a vital part of life. It’s innate, it, and I’m not saying that everyone is always creative. I think a lot of times creativity is like, people try to snuff it out.
Recently, I met this person who had been in the corporate world for many years, and then several years ago, she left it because she just felt like her whole identity had become corporate. And it just infected her.
Ricky: Oh, no. No self.
Michael: On some level, yeah, it was just like, or coded over. And so she’s been in the process of just recreating herself,
Ricky: That’s good.
Michael: Rediscovering herself. And so, it made me think about [00:46:00] how important creativity is to the individual in terms of maintaining their own stability. And their own identity and their own sense of self and their relationships that are personal, et cetera, et cetera. If each of you could speak to how creativity has shaped who you are or shaped how you relate to the world and to people.
Ricky: When people are having a hard time, I always say this to them, if you have a lemon, which is sour, make lemonade. That’s creativity. In a relationship when something’s wrong, make lemonade, make it something else, order some dinner and get some cake in here and do something fun. Creativity is very important, so make lemonade. If you have, that’s the creativity for me is coming out of that.
The teachers look for the art which they want, the outcome, the process. Fire engine, a hat, a clown. They want the process. They want the product of it. They want to see the art of [00:47:00] the child. But that’s not important. They’re missing something, they’re missing the process. Because they have to touch it, squeeze it, taste it, move it, stir it, or whatever you’re doing, cooking, whatever. The, you’re missing the process is not the product, it’s the process.
So you making something, but what did they get out of it? Is there, but what creativity they did think for their selves. The lady watched the teacher working and she just took notes and she said, “Ms. Johnson, I love this class.” A nice performance. You stirred it. You put the sugar in, you tasted it, you cut it. But what did they get out of it? They drank it, but there’s no process. They had to get the process of sensory motor. The look, the taste, the seed, the stir. So what if it falls on the table, the accidents happen. Let’s clean it up together. [00:48:00] Some people just go, “Ah, look what you did. You made a mess! Your mother don’t teach you nothing.” And we do that with relationships. “Look what you did!” “Man, I made a mistake. Let’s chill out and fix it.”
Anthony: Without using a hammer.
Michael: Without using a hammer.
Ricky: Without using my hands, without using, without smacking something, throwing it. Let’s fix it. Let’s fix it.
So we have to look at ourselves. How you gonna teach children about getting along, communicating and at home you are a hell raiser? You’re teaching something you’re not doing.
Anthony: Not necessarily. You’re teaching, that’s what you’re getting paid to do.
Ricky: No, that’s right. But you not implementing. Teachers make lesson plans for hours, for many hours and then you put it on the wall for the parents to see. But if you go in the classroom, they’re not doing any of what they put on the wall.
Anthony: Sure, I never did what I did. I have a theme, a lesson plan, all the time I go on the floor to the children. Sometimes you can do it so every day, how many times you gonna talk about coats and coats
Ricky: You can change, you can change it.
Anthony: And clothes. And when it comes, they may not wanna talk about [00:49:00] winning clothes today. Be flexible.
Elizabeth: Well, so, and life is like that. The creating of your own identity. Sort of one long improvisation. So Anthony, talk about your improvisation of creating yourself.
Anthony: Like I said, creativity’s innate, even though I’m a twin brother. I’m my own self. My thumbprint is not the same as his. So whoever I am is me. And my creativity is my creativity. I’m not creative like he is. I’m not creative like you are. Everybody have their own strengths and weaknesses of, as far as being creative.
Elizabeth: That leads me to another one of our final questions that we like to ask people. As we’ve said, one of the main reasons we’re doing this podcast is because we truly see creativity as a vital, an essential life force. It’s just a necessary ingredient to a healthy emotional life. And we humans, I think we’ll all agree that the human race is desperately in need of some emotional health.
Anthony: The human race.
Ricky: Yes. Humans.
Elizabeth: Yes. Anyway. So what advice, do you have any advice that you [00:50:00] would give to people about the creative impulse, about sustaining it, nurturing it, developing it in themselves?
Ricky: Find out what you’re good at. And what you like the most. And be creative in that, whether it’s cooking, skiing, movie buff, whatever it is. Find out and trust your instinct that what you’re creating is something you want, not what somebody has to like. Something that you like, and maybe they’ll like it, but it doesn’t matter. If it’s creative to you. Trust it. Don’t, and you don’t have to name everything. Sometimes people with children at work, “Oh, you’re making a cat.” And, [imitating the child:] “Not again.” Don’t name everything. Just say, “Oh, it’s beautiful. How’d you make it? What colors did you use?” And you don’t know what they’re thinking. It’s their own creativity.
Elizabeth: So good advice to educators.
Elizabeth: Not to box in the child’s—
Ricky: Not to box in the child.
Elizabeth: –creativity. Anthony, what about you? What kind of advice would you have for people who wanna sustain or nurture or jumpstart their [00:51:00] creativity?
Anthony: The word is, like you say, you have to nurture it. You have to let it grow and then you have to let, every time opportunity brings itself, to use that gift or that creativity. Because that’s the way I am.
When I was at church, they wanted to be the play. I’m like okay, okay. I’ll do it.
Elizabeth: Okay. Yep.
Michael: So, we always like our guests to be, if there’s some event that you would like to promote or talk, tell people about. This won’t, we aren’t launching this podcast until mid-January. But if there’s something that you’d like to do, you have a website that you’d like to talk about, or, your church, you’ve mentioned your church.
Elizabeth: Yeah, this podcast that you’re—or the YouTube.
Michael: Youtube. You did YouTube, the YouTube channel.
Anthony: I wanna make sure that I’m legally correct in order to put it out.
Anthony: Is it publication things?
Elizabeth: Yeah. Copyrights. We will have, let’s, our listeners will know that on the, the posting of this, we’ll have a text that gives the web address for any kind of activities or events. So people may not hear it. but it will [00:52:00] be right there once we have all the information that sounds cleared and good for broadcasting. For sharing.
Ricky: That sounds good.
Anthony: Cause right now there’s nothing really going on.
Elizabeth: Both of these gentlemen, Ricky’s now retired, but Anthony is an early childhood educator at CentroNía in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC. Ricky was a, an early childhood educator for many years.
Ricky: My god, oh, many years.
Elizabeth: I was there for many years. So we are longtime colleagues. If you wanna know about CentroNía, I think you go to centronia-dot—c-e-n-t-r-o-n-i-a dot org. And gentlemen, thank you again.
Ricky: Thanks for having us!
Anthony: Thanks for having us!
Elizabeth: Thank you for your time. This has been just delightful.
Michael: Oh, it’s been wonderful.
Ricky: Did you learn a lot?
Michael: I did, I learned a lot.
Elizabeth: We need a cookoff here. Let the Anthony and Michael have at it in the kitchen.
Michael: There we go, there we go.
Anthony: There we go.
Elizabeth: Both are incredible cooks. Incredible gentlemen. Incredible teachers, incredible human beings. So, thank you, gentlemen.
Ricky: Thank you.
Anthony: Not a problem. It’s my pleasure.
Elizabeth: All right.
Michael: All right.
Ricky: Thank you.
Elizabeth: For more information about [00:53:00] Creativists in Dialogue or our other projects, please visit elizabethbrucedc.com or obh.c6d.myftpupload.com. This project was supported by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.
 Lilian Gonshaw Katz is a professor emerita of early childhood education at the University of Illinois at Urbana=Champaign, where she is also principle investigator for the Illinois Early Learning Project, and a contributor to the Early Childhood and Parenting Collaborative.
[MM1]Can’t catch what he’s saying here. This is what the auto transcriber “heard.”
[MM2]It sounds like he says a name here, but I can’t get it.