In what part of town do you live?
I live in Miami Dade. I was born and raised in the county of Dade.
Did you always think you would stay in Miami?
No. I recently moved back home because of the pandemic after living in New York for five years. I didn’t think I’d live in New York forever, but definitely in a place where I can have more artistic outlet and opportunities. California had been on my mind.
What are you doing now during the week?
I work as a birthday party performer and a music class teacher for the fabulous Jam with Jamie.
What is like to be a party performer?
It’s waking up early and warming up, as an actor prepares the body, the mind, the soul, the vocals. Then I go to somebody’s house or a open public park and I set up with my guitars and prepare to engage babies and toddlers in a 45 minute musical extravaganza. It’s part comedy show, part music class, and really it’s community building. I love to see a lot of the moms connecting with each other through the music class experience.
What is it like performing for babies and toddlers?
It was definitely a learning curve because I am an actor and I do ‘adult acting.’ I didn’t realize that babies have a short attention span and in order to grab their attention for a length of time, you have to be kooky and entertaining. It took a lot of like me digging into my inner Whoopi Goldberg, and bringing that comic out.
What other creative work is keeping you busy?
I am working on season two of my podcast. I have a podcast called As Scene By Us. It’s a podcast created out of the wake of the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd. It is a platform where artists of color come on and we do drama readings of plays written by playwrights of colors. And then we kind of just talk about our shared experiences with the scene we read.
Going into season two, what lessons from the first season are on your mind?
I’ve learned that people love to be able to hear each other out. I think it’s most powerful when you don’t assume a certain story or narrative about a person based off of what they look like or where they say they grew up. When people come on the platform and to read a scene and then talk about their shared experiences, it’s always really cool to be like, I didn’t actually know that about you or I wouldn’t have assumed that you were connected in that way to this piece.
When I got my degree in broadcast journalism, I was taught to prepare questions, to never go unprepared. But in this podcast, I’ve learned that the conversations usually flow the best when you aren’t that prepared. You’re really actively listening and you’re building off your own curiosity. You think about the listeners and what they want to know more about and go from there.
(A+W) That’s the same with these interviews. They always come out better when we don’t do our research.
I heard a sense of pride when you said you are from Miami Dade. Would you share about your Miami?
Yes. A fun fact about my family, I grew up in a family restaurant called People’s Barbecue – located in Overtown. The restaurant is currently undergoing renovations. My Miami is growing up in that culturally rich community, and also in a family business. It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of long hours, helping grandma stock shelves in the back with spices and sauces. I used to wash dishes in the back. I used to answer phone calls. When I would come home for college in between breaks, I would help with catering orders. I liked getting to meet a lot of different people. I love our customers and their loyalty. It’s fun to see them come in and they’re like, ‘I remember when you were three years old and you could barely say welcome.’
Which role in the business was your favorite’?
Definitely the kitchen, because I like to taste the food before it goes out. But, I definitely gravitate towards the front of the house too because I am a people person and I enjoy also serving. My great-grandfather, Dr. George Pickens Lewis Senior, opened the business first as People’s Drug Store in 1926. He was the first black pharmacist in South Florida. He called it Peoples because he said serving the people is most important. I think that I inherited that trait. I love creating an experience where it’s not only memorable, but they feel like they’re a part of our family.
Do you have a favorite dish on the menu?
It’s the barbecue chicken sandwich. It’s like too much sauce, but that slice of bread just like soaks it all up. I usually get the dark meat so it’s super juicy and some of the sauce is infused in the chicken too. It’s amazing with a side of mac and cheese and a side of cabbage with hot sauce.
You’ve been coming regularly to the drive through. What’s that experience like?
Honestly, it’s just so cool. You’re gonna drive up and you’re gonna say hi to people that are like your family, because they’re so friendly and warm and you know that the food or the smoothies that you’re going to get are not only helping out local organic farmers, but also helping your body out. Every time I get a smoothie, I always feel 100% better than I was feeling before I came to the drive through.
What do you get when you come by?
I always get a Rainbow Smoothie, Guacamole, the Turmeric Concentrate, and the Turmeric Bagels. I’ve been drinking the Turmeric like a straight shot, in the morning, especially when I have achy joints from a dance class or you know – old age in my thirties now.
What other restaurants or places do you feel a sense of family?
Red Rooster in Overtown. The original is in Harlem, New York. That’s where I used to live and would frequent Red Rooster all the time. I’m excited that they brought it back here to Miami, in the same community where my family’s restaurant is. It’s like your soul food, but with a French / New Orleans infusion. They have this amazing shrimp and grits, or an oxtail, which is to die for. They even have something for vegans, which is a plant based fried chicken appetizers which is amazing. I didn’t think I’d like it, but I do. And they have a DJ and it feels like New York.
Any other places come to mind?
There’s a place in Broward called Sirocco’s. It’s really yummy Mediterranean food. I love the tabbouleh and they have house made hummus and pita bread. It’s delicious.
What’s Miami’s best kept secret?
I think the Perez Art Museum, because that view is just stunning. You can park across the street at the Adrienne Arsht center for $6 versus parking inside the museum. You can just sit and relax outside on the veranda overlooking Key Biscayne, the causeway bridge, and the water. And, they have cool swings to sit and read a book.
What for you is a worthy splurge?
Anything dealing with self care. Going to a chiropractor, getting a massage, getting my nails done, getting a much needed haircut, or buying shoes.
What community groups are important to you that you might like to promote or share?
The Harriet Tubman Effect is a community that started in New York, but now it’s virtual for people like me that wanna just jump in and listen to their conversations. They are all about reallocating wealth and resources into small businesses and organizations, by means of including diversity, equity and inclusiveness, and curriculum planning. For example, they would get contracted from a school who would ask them to evaluate their curriculum for a theater class. For example. Is it diverse enough? Is it inclusive of all student learners? If not, how can we get there? Then we engage in conversation about what a more diverse and equal curriculum would look like for this school.
Is there a question, a challenge or words of advice that you might like to pose to the community?
I would love to say, give more love and kindness to strangers.
Is there a question that you would like to ask us?
(DL) What is the coolest part about your job?
(W) For me, it’s talking with people each day and continuing conversations from week to week.
(A) I love bringing the farm to the community and sharing what we grow in delicious ways.