The Official Launch of Michael’s Daughter Foundation
I am so excited to announce The Michael’s Daughter Foundation’s launch to provide arts-based education and programs for at-risk youth across the US. I know the power of art, which is why I created this Foundation to inspire change and encourage greatness amongst kids and teens growing up in circumstances like my own. The organization launched in 2022 and continues to grow and expand with more workshops and resources to achieve this vision. I hope to promote a judgment-free and emotionally safe space fueled by artistic expression as we develop. In the process of hosting a variety of workshops, summer, and residency sessions every year, our goal is to foster hope and a renewed perspective for everyone, regardless of their current situation. Over the following years, we hope to expand into several cities and states so that the hope and creative engagement that so many former participants have experienced can spread without limits or borders.
Growing up in the 3rd ward neighborhood of New Orleans fostered many difficult and adverse circumstances for a young child to navigate. All around me, there were instances of drug trafficking and poverty. I watched as family members and friends fell prey to devastating drug addiction. People close to me battled with alcohol addictions that caused significant damage in their lives and relationships. My father was not excluded from these observations. His very own upbringing garnered lots of painful experiences that only the ease of an external substance could temporarily alleviate. Eventually, his coping mechanisms led to his imprisonment, which immensely impacted my childhood and teen years.
I wrestled with the impact this had on me. I didn’t know how to process this pain and abandonment as a young kid. I deeply loved my father and compassionately understood the immense challenges he endured ever since his childhood; he was a biracial child brought into this world as a result of an interracial affair in rural Louisiana during the early sixties. He used to tell me stories of seeing the KKK burn crosses in front of his white mother’s house. So it was natural for him to seek refuge in substances especially during the Vietnam and disco eras where drugs were regularly being experimented with. But when my father found himself incarcerated during my eighth-grade year in junior high, it was a very vulnerable time in my life.
I retreated into myself; never using my voice at home, just simply staying to myself. However, I felt drawn to the arts. I began drawing sketches, performing monologues, and singing my favorite Disney songs. I didn’t yet realize that I was using art as a coping mechanism. Amid such an unstable time in my life, art provided an outlet for me to express myself and feel important.
Because of my interest in the arts, I attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts throughout high school. While attending this performing arts school, I was encouraged to use art as a healthy outlet and coping tool. As I pursued this passion, I quickly realized that I wanted to pursue the performing arts after high school, which led to my career in acting.
One of the projects I’m most proud of is writing and performing a one-woman stage play called Michael’s Daughter, which compiles my life experiences and shares the story of growing up with my father in prison. While I see this performance as a highlight in my career and a personal triumph of overcoming my circumstances, it has also inspired many other families who have incarcerated loved ones. I performed the play in various parts of the country which included the Los Angeles Woman’s Theater Festival, American Conservatory Theater, and United Solo Festival in NYC.
After each performance, several audience members who, too, had loved ones behind bars would approach me with their own stories to tell. It was then that I realized that despite how personal this story was, it was also relatable to more people than I had known. I knew I had to do more with this than write a script. This was how The Michael’s Daughter Foundation began. What started as a cathartic creative process to work through my own journey led to a nonprofit that will help hundreds of people like me.
Throughout my career as an actor, I’ve also taught a variety of art programs to inner-city youth. What started as a side-project became a passion. As I developed relationships with my students, I understood just how many of them also had loved ones behind bars or family members caught in addiction. So, I was not just teaching them a fun hobby; I had given them an outlet to process their pain through. I want to continue to give the gift of storytelling to young people, especially students at inner-city schools who are hungry for a robust arts education.
Because of The Michael’s Daughter Foundation’s launch, I am excited to offer a wide range of programs that blend my experience as a teaching artist, actor, and writer. Through a unique combination of art programs, services, and charity, kids and adults will have the opportunity to discover their voices and express themselves. The programs that we’ve begun have been successful for this reason and continue to draw big audiences, returning participants, and new collaborators. I know the financial strain that addiction and incarceration can place on families, and I hope that this foundation will provide the resources to make the change that I needed as a kid. I am excited to see this program grow, so others growing up in similar situations can not only make it through but truly thrive as they create beautiful things from their pain.
If you’d like to make a donation or learn more please visit the links below. Thanks so much for reading! XoXo – CP