Shawn, please tell us a little about yourself. Where were you born, raised and where you live now. Current career position?
I was born and raised in Madisonville, Kentucky. I attended Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro and moved to Nashville in 2008. I have a multi-faceted arts career. I write, produce and direct plays. I also act. I work with a nonprofit called Southern Word as a Poet/Writing Mentor, teaching creative writing to high school and college students. I also work on a number of special projects within the community.
I have 15-year-old daughter named Destiny, who is a phenomenal basketball player.
Your career revolves around the arts and educating. What inspired your love for the art genre?
My love for the arts has always been there. I don’t come from an artsy family, but they’ve always been super supportive of my endeavors. As far as educating goes, that’s something that evolved out of my work in the arts.
While in college at MTSU, you were very involved with the African American Student Association and the Urban Music Society and member of the Black History Month Committee. Why was this so important to you in your early adult years?
I’m a very active person so being a part of organizations is something I’ve always done. It’s always been important for me to contribute to my community, whether that be my hometown, college campus or here in Nashville. And culture and heritage are very important to my personal life and career.
You are a graduate of the Nashville Peace and Justice Center’s Leadership Institute. What is this? What other training, education have you received along these lines?
I’ve been a part of tons of training programs over the years. Some of them have been for activism and organizing, like the Leadership Institute and the Gamaliel National Leadership Training, but also for the arts, like the Executive Program in Arts and Culture Strategies at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 2020 you were elected to the Community Oversight Board by the Metro Nashville City Council. What does this board do?
The board provides oversight of the Metro Nashville Police department. The staff investigates complaints made by community members against the police. I’m not a part of the staff, but the board that helps guides the organization and its efforts.
You also completed the Metro Nashville Police Department’s Citizen’s Police Academy Training. What did you learn from this experience?
This is something I had to do as a member of the Community Oversight Board. It was a 14-week look into the inner workings of the police department. My most memorable experience was going on a ride-along, which was pretty intense.
You are a volunteer planner, mentor, workshop organizer/facilitator and content writer for Light of Chance, Inc. for over 15 years. What is this?
Light of Chance is a Kentucky-based nonprofit organization that was founded by my cousin Eric Logan. It serves youth and families in a number of different ways, through arts and wellness programs. Over the years, I’ve organized and facilitated a number of workshops for the organization. I also occasionally write some of the organization’s content.
Tell us about Rooftop Nashville and your role there.
I’m a board member for Rooftop. The organization provides rent and mortgage assistance for residents in Davidson County. The organization aims to prevent homelessness through compassionate giving.
Do you volunteer teach at Riverbend Maximum Security institution? What do you teach?
Yes, I’ve volunteered at Riverbend since 2014. The program is called SALT – the School for Alternative Learning and Transformation. We facilitate all types of classes and workshops for the program. We’ve done conflict resolution and mediation, genealogy and number of other things. I typically teach poetry and playwriting for the program.
You have long been an actor, writer, director and more for Destiny Theatre Experience. What is DTE?
The Destiny Theatre Experience is small theatre company I founded in 2007 and we’ve been going strong ever since.
You’ve received several awards thus far in your career. What are some that you are most proud?
The awards are nice, but they’re not what motivates me. It’s more about rewards, which include experiencing that transformational power of the arts. I’ve seen the arts literally change lives, including mine.
How have the arts changed your life?
Well, with theatre, every play I do is like a class and the script is my textbook. My castmates are my classmates. There’s always so much to learn from the script and the supplemental research you do to build your character. The time spent with others, learning and growing together, is invaluable. These experiences push me to grow in ways that I would not have, had I not had them. The arts — theatre, poetry and music — have helped mold me into the man I am today.
You perform “spoken words” for various causes and events. What is this?
Spoken word is performance poetry. I get a lot of invitations to write and perform for special events.
Why is it important is it for you to teach literacy at various schools, hospitals juvenile detention centers?
I teach literary through the powerful tool of spoken word with Southern Word. It’s important for me to be in those spaces because there are individuals there who need the therapeutic and creative outlet that it provides.
Your engagement as an activist is vast. What is your overall goal with all this involvement?
My overall goal is fairness, justice, equity and empowerment for all.
What are you working on currently?
I’m working on the Gideon 2.0 Project with the Choosing Justice Initiative, a nonprofit law firm. I’ve been working with individuals who experience injustices in Tennessee’s court-appointed counsel system to tell their stories.
Best piece of advice you’ve received?
I heard a community leader once say, to make the work you do contagious. That’s something that’s stuck with me for 20 years.