ASFA-CW Senior Profile: Ashley Tate

Memory Lane

Ashley’s Cadence bios through the years:

  • Ashley Tate is the new black. (2015)
  • Ashley Tate: “My mission in life is not merely to survive but to thrive; and to do it with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” — Maya Angelou (2016)
  • Ashley Tate: I don’t wear outfits; I create looks. (2017)
  • Ashley Tate has never seen a thin person drinking diet coke. (2018)

Seven Questions: Past, Present, Future

What’s your first creative memory?

My first creative memory would be when I was in second grade. That is when I really got into reading any book I could get my hands on, which led to me writing. There was a field that the kids used to play in at after school care. I was lollygagging in the fields, not really paying attention to the people around me. I was focusing on the grass and the little flowers that were blooming around that time. I looked at a flower and saw a little ladybug, and I thought that it was the prettiest thing. I couldn’t stop writing little poems about that ladybug.

What are your Desert(ed) Island Five favorite books—you, a deserted island, just five books to read—and why?

Oh, good question. I’d first crack open Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler first because it’s an amazing novel that really catches my attention. The descriptions are amazing and would make my stay less painful. The next two books are by one of my favorite writer, Alexandria Elle. Neon Soul and Words from a Wanderer are two books I always bring to coffee shops with me. I can read them over and over again because of the beautiful language and the length. The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop is a book of poems from various authors of color that Ms.Ashley Jones introduced to our 2018 Advanced Poetry Workshop. It’s definitely something that would keep me sane and “cultured”, and even though I’d be the only person on the Island snapping, I’d be content with that. The last book would be Maya Angelou’s Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now. It’s something that would keep me refreshed along with the coconuts that would fall from the island’s trees.

If you could trade places, Freaky Friday style, with any well-known creative person, who would it be and why?

I would definitely trade places with the goddess herself, Nina Simone. I’ve been in love with her character and her voice since eighth grade when I first heard her music. She’s just an interesting  human being that I’d love to spend a day in the life of, just to get a little more background on who she is behind all the madness of the press and all.

What is your favorite ASFA-CW memory?

My favorite Asfa CW moment would have to be one of my first excursions to a few stores downtown. It was amazing just to get out and explore. It was my first year at ASFA so the excursion definitely made me less nervous to be there. Not only did I have a great time, but I was influenced by what I saw on that excursion and wrote a few pieces on those different things.

What’s the hardest thing you had to learn to be successful at ASFA?

The hardest thing I had to learn was to not compare my timing of success nor my style of work with others. I had to realize that I am who I am, which is someone different from those around me. Our writing is a reflection of who we are, so I had to remember that I wasn’t going to sound the same as others and that not everyone would like what I wrote. I had to learn that my growth as a writer would be different and even a little harder than those around me. It took about two years to grasp, but I’ve become much more confident in what I produce because of it.

What advice do you have for future ASFA-CW students?

Write for yourself and not for anyone else. It doesn’t matter who likes your work or who praises it, because it’s yours. It doesn’t have to be “perfect” or “right”, because it isn’t the type of writing you hand in for your core class teacher to grade for an A. What you write is a reflection of who you are and what you feel, and you’re the only person that gets to decide if that’s “right” or not.

What are your post-ASFA plans?

I plan to attend Howard University where I will be apart of the Cathy Hughes School of Communications majoring in Journalism. One day I’ll be writing for some huge publication, or at least I intend to. I’m working on publishing my first book of poetry, so keep your fingers crossed. I do want to carry out my passion for poetry, so I’ll write as often as life allows me to.

An Excerpt from Cadence 2018

Legalize Me, America

Ever since I was received
from the womb I was so tightly wrapped in,
I have been a criminal.

Brown skin,
an open mind,
and a strong voice
were too much of a crime to commit.
So I have become a convict, a threat to society.

I was too different to be normal,
and too powerful to be safe.
I ran fear into the hearts of the unshakable
and shook shackles on subjugated thoughts.

I wore the flag on my back and
let fallen stars train my heels,
but those bright red-and-white stripes
got confused with targets,
leaving me to be shot
from that American dream,
stranded on my spine
with my hands toward the heavens,
crying for the clouds to cover my wounds.

Legalize me, America.
Legalize my bold voice
and my blows of individuality.

Hold your hands out to aid me
while I drown in my own sacrificed blood,
and send gifts of empathy
while I ask for mercy upon my soul.

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