Where Honesty Never Ends.
Chantay Legacy Leonard
I Have Come Forth By Day, A Woman’s Evolution available at www.legacyleonard.com (Currently on Sale for $10.00)
The Review Board is honored to welcome Detroit’s own Chantay Legacy Leonard as part of the June Author Spotlight. Now gets down to what some inquiring minds want to know!
TRB: Is there a distinction between Legacy and Chantay? If so, elaborate.
Legacy: Once upon a time, there might have been a distinction, but in the last several years, I have integrated my stage name with my birth name, because Legacy is a vibrant part of Chantay. As a person, I encompass a diverse array of characteristics and quirks. Legacy is the righteous warrior, but she is also vulnerable, compassionate, and full of sensuality, mystery and some darkness. I am seeking to become a whole woman, so who I am on the stage is not separate from whom I am in daily life. What you see on stage is just one of my many aspects.
TRB: You have been a part of the literary community for many years. Why did it take a while to publish I Have Come Forth by Day?
Legacy: It took 10 years, a lot of trials, frustration, and motivation from the people who had my back through the writing, editing and publishing process. I tore apart the manuscript and renamed it several times before finally settling on the title I Have Come Forth By Day. Once that was done, it had to go through a severe edit, and more haggling over the subtitle for the title. At several points, I was ready to give up because it seemed so difficult to get the damn thing done. You would think the hardest part was the writing, but surprisingly, it was the publishing process that was the real headache.
Since I was releasing the book at a mid-career point, I wanted the book to be as polished and well crafted as it could possibly be. I do not believe in being mediocre so I gave it my best effort. Another reason why it took so long is that the concept changed several times over the course of the years, before it finally took the shape I wanted. Had it not been for my mother, sister, good friends, my publisher, and editorial staff I would not have been able to see the project through to completion.
TRB: What message(s) do you hope readers will gain from your book?
Legacy: The ultimate message I am striving to convey to readers is that there is LIFE after survival, joy after suffering, and love and freedom are real and possible no matter what struggles you have endured.
So many people, women of color in particular, talk about being a survivor, but what happens after you have survived the pain and trauma? I wanted to tell that story. The story about a woman who has grown to love herself despite her imperfections, who has triumphed over her sorrows, and embraced the possibilities of love and liberation. It does not mean all my troubles are over, but I am free to live and love on my own terms, not defined by hardships and the past. I want other people, women especially, to be inspired to do the same.
TRB: How much significance do you think online writing communities have on a person’s career? Do you think it helps gain more exposure or do you believe it stagnates you and doesn’t give one enough preparation in face-to-face interactions?
Legacy: I was deeply involved in the online writing community from the late 90s into the mid 2000s. It had a great influence on my development as a writer, and I received a lot of inspiration from various writers from different backgrounds, age groups etc. There were people whose words just blew my mind, and made me think seriously about my writing before putting pen to paper. It was a wonderful gumbo pot of creativity, but you had to take it for what it was worth. It was too easy to get lost in a fantasy world of anonymity and caught up in people’s “online personality” past their poetry.
On a more positive note, it definitely helped me improve and diversify as a writer, and helped me gain exposure and connection to other artists I would come to work with in the future. The online writer’s world was very resourceful in helping me to workshop; build a following, and gaining national features. I have forged some beautiful and long-term friendships with writers from across the country and world, and I am grateful we discovered one another.
TRB: Do you think all poets that write should do spoken word? What is the best advice you can give to those who are on the fence about performing their pieces in public?
Legacy: I don’t tell another writer what they should or should not do. There are some people that are more literary/academic writers, some are powerful performers and others are a wonderful hybrid of both writing and performance. I would not be pressured into doing either if it were not my desire or calling.
Personally, I don’t like being defined as a spoken word artist because I am both a writer and performance poet. However, I do not slam, and that too is another personal choice.
You have to be comfortable with your art, and at the same time not afraid to expand your boundaries. You also should be realistic about the scope of your gifts. Some people are strong writers, and some people are stronger performers. There is always room for development and improvement. Whichever you choose to do, just invest in your craft, improve your artistry, and strive to be the strongest artist possible.
TRB: How did you get the opportunity to perform with poetic icons, such as The Last Poets and Jessica Care Moore?
Legacy: It’s a funny story about me meeting Umar from the Last Poets. I was at a poetry night doing my version of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” and I completely screwed it up. I was so embarrassed and downhearted afterward. I went and slumped on a bar stool only to discover Umar Bin Hassan of the Last Poets was sitting right next to me and had heard my poem! He was so great about it, and encouraged me to keep writing and performing.
The Last Poets have strong relationships with several artists from Detroit — such as Third Eye Open Poetry Collective and jessica Care moore. They would perform here several times a year, and I had the fortune of being in circles where I could sit at their feet, talk to them personally, develop a relationship, and receive guidance and encouragement from them. One day Baba Abiodun asked me to open for The Last Poets in 2003, and I was so honored. It was one of my best performances.
As for the opportunity with Jessica, it came about the same way. We developed a beautiful friendship outside the poetry world, but she also recognized my talent as a writer and performer which lead her to feature me on different shows and publishing my book I Have Come Forth By Day, A Woman’s Evolution in late 2011.
TRB: How is the Detroit literary scene different from other places, like Philadelphia and New York?
Legacy: I could talk at length about that, but I will say this: like any other artistic community we have our ups and downs, but we are unique because we bring a rawness and distinct Detroit flavor to our poetry and performances, that you can’t find anywhere else in the Midwest or the world. It must be something about this city’s rich history, deep culture, movement history, and our go hard survivor mentality that influences our creativity, and we produce from a very pure and profound place in our hearts and souls.
TRB: Where is your favorite place to travel when performing and why?
Legacy: I love travelling, and I love doing on the road shows— some of my favorite places have been South Carolina, Santa Barbara, CA and New York. It was exciting and a lot of love and appreciation from the crowd.
TRB: Out of all the hats you wear (performance poet, writer, activist), which one do you take the most pride in and which one do you find to be burdensome (if any)? Elaborate on the response.
Legacy: I take the most pride in being an activist, period. I use my pen to help people think, and change their perspective, to motive their thinking on personal growth, social, community, and political issues. I work with a number of amazing individuals in my city and abroad, who are about educating and empowering people, saving the planet, eco-justice, animal rights, civil and human rights, LGTBQ rights, destroying the prison coop system etc etc etc. We are united in recognizing that any injustice committed on the planet, is an injustice committed against all human kind. We work in multiple areas and in different ways to support numerous causes that will contribute to the growth, development, freedom, health, and liberation of men, women and children on the planet Earth.
TRB: What other projects can we expect from you?
Legacy: I am currently working on my first fiction project. Stayed tuned for details.
And stay tuned we will! We would like to thank Chantay for taking the time out to be a part of our Author Spotlight.