Antona Brent Smith, M.Div., MBA.
I have been writing for as long as I have been breathing.
My late father put a pen in my hand and told me to tell my stories, write it down, so I did.
It was never imagined that writing would release my soul and be the path of my life’s work, throughout all the places my career has taken me, the universal thread has been the element of connecting stories. That has held true whether it was in the design department at a Chicago accounting firm, in championing equal opportunity and diversity in State Government, in developing product lines, brands, and strategies for a Midwest Greeting Card company, in lecturing eager young minds on advertising, marketing, and consumer behavior; in helping textile artists launch a new brand name and open a show; in writing press releases for a therapist; in representing designer furniture brands in an upscale market; in producing youth performances; in managing advertising campaigns for performing arts choir; in speaking before groups; in writing book reviews; in writing essays; in writing poetry; in editing a children’s book, in everything there is the storyteller.
I am often asked about my pseudonym and why I use it instead of my “real” name.
There is a story behind that also.
Only my late grandmother and elder aunts called me by my true birth name. Well, a nun or two did in Catholic school, but no one else. Not even my parents.
I was that all the way through growing up and into college and career, until, upon returning to school, I decided that I needed to be different. I became Antona, embracing what was my middle name for its uniqueness, its beauty, its creativity, its history.
Even cherishing the woman my mother honored as a friend, a Civil Rights Champion, and a pioneer, I hold her name with pride and have written under my name.
But it was Tayé that held my muse, my creative art, my energy, my essence.
My late father gave me that name after my one-year-old little sister could not say “TO-NEE,” it came out “TAAAEEEEE” and it stuck – only with my father. No one else would dare utter his pet name for me. It was special, like our relationship, developed in the painful shadow of losing my mother when I as only four and navigating the waters of an unkind step-mother from age seven until her death a decade after he journeyed on.
Tayé was whispered in the voice of a father who loved his daughter with the face of a woman who was creative, dancing, singing, writing, loving, and wanting so much more than MS would allow. Tayé was whispered in memory of a child formed in a marital love that defied expectations and custom, joining a family, and creating two more souls that were the embodiment of intimacy they knew would only last a short time. While death ended their marriage, the love continued and I felt every time he would hug me to his barrel chest and call me, his youngest birth daughter, “Tayé.” Every little girl should know that her daddy loved her unconditionally. I can only hope that my two young daughters feel the same for their father, that they see the dance in his eyes and the love melting any hopes of him ever correcting them for not cleaning their room.
I have always written poetry and creative pieces as Tayé. Some of my earlier pieces are lost in moves across state, hidden away in a journal somewhere or a portfolio in the decades before the Internet, Facebook, WordPress, and Google+ transformed how we share content, what is published, and how stories are experienced.
My full pseudonym is a homage to my mother and her mother, to the strength of the women who are my sheroes, my great cloud of witnesses who whisper their stories in my heart and compel me to remember. These free women of free women who stood against expectations and forged an identity that is still celebrated. These women who dared to be the keepers of their own stories, passed down through the generations, for me to one day sit at my desk and feel their muse.
Tayé Foster Bradshaw is as much my name as Toni Morrison is her name. We stepped into these creative places of ourselves and invited the world to join us there, live with us there, and recognize us there.
Like my mother before me, I am the mother of six, one is my angel baby. Like my mother, I have known the joy of love and the pain of love lost, and the unexpected joy in stepping into the water again. She and I share a birth month, a birth year ending in the same digit, and a life compelling us to live it fully for ourselves. My husband supports my endeavors, cooks a mean pot of spaghetti, endures my discussions outloud over some concept, makes it possible for me to hone my craft without worry of food, clothing, or shelter. He makes me smile and adorns me with jewels, surprises me with flowers, and give me space to think.
My four sons and two daughters have rested their bodies in my bodies, forming and becoming, living and breathing. My sons are the older ones and my daughters are the last two, the ones who make me laugh and dance, reach for my greater self, and dare to follow my dream of telling the stories. My sons are my strength and carry heritage in their bones, they remind me of the stories in the struggles, the encouragement to never stop writing, to remember even as putting meals on a table took the place of staring out at a forest to create something magical. As adult men, they are my towers of strength. My daughters are young women forging their way, both of them are writers and they are my inspiration.
We live in our birth city again, our life journey bringing us back to a place of profound architectural beauty, generational cultural history, and the world of possibility. As my city celebrates her 250th birthday, I step back to appreciate her even more for the stories she has yet to tell in the bricks the rest of the country covets.
In addition to my site, I was also a contributor to the book blog of STL Books in Kirkwood, MO for as long as they operated. I’ve written for Helium.com that was bought out by RR Donnelley. Digital/virtual communication invites us to consider our reach across time..