MarieElaine, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Black Woman

By Dr. Elaine Richardson aka Dr. E, Performance Activist, Ohio State Professor, Board Chair, Education Foundation for Freedom

Dr. E. interviews MarieElaine, a 17-year-old North Linden-based singer and poet, to learn more about her career as an artist. She recently performed and hosted at the 2021 Columbus Women&Girls’ Fest.

Dr. E: How long have you been singing and writing?
MarieElaine: I have been singing since the seventh grade. That’s when I met Caroline “Inspires” Bennett. Before I met her, I didn’t know I could sing. I didn’t know that was an ability that I had. I just knew that I loved to do it but it wasn’t something that I was trying to hone in on until I met her. I didn’t know that that was something that I could do. I always loved books and short stories, but I didn’t start writing poetry until I met Caroline. I was like 13. I started seeing the connection between songs, storytelling, how a song can be rap and poetry. It’s all connected.

Dr. E: Who inspires you?
MarieElaine: Caroline definitely Inspires me more than she will ever know. She is a poet, singer and activist. She has taught me so much. She has held my hand through so many steep hills, and storms and danced with me through the rainbows. And while she is my mentor I feel like I’ve gotten to watch her grow as well. I am beyond happy for her. She has a servant’s heart and deserves all of the many things I see happening for her. I aspire to be able to shine my light. Caroline introduced me to a community full of artists. I was able to witness the life-changing power of art. I decided to use my own to not only save and change my own life but to use it to change others. Other artists that inspire me are Liana La Havas—huge inspiration, India Arie, Jorja Smith, Emeli Sande and Lalah Hathaway. I have also been groomed by Eryn Hathaway and her Eryn Pink girls mentoring program. She taught me values, morals and I gained performing experience in her “Give that Girl the Mic” events.

Dr. E: What would you say is unique about you as an artist?
MarieElaine: Most of my pieces come from reflection. Every day I sit and take everything in and process the good and bad. I pray, cry, scream, laugh, dance and then words just begin to spill from me. I write about depression, molestation, the overwhelming expectations from family, the sanctions of society, loneliness, learning self-love. I cry because self-love can be hard, not having the best relationships with my parents, etc.

When I’m sharing or performing a piece I turn back to the emotions and thoughts that I harbored when writing the piece. That allows me to be utterly and completely vulnerable so whatever tone and pace is displayed is a honed authentic feeling.

Dr. E: What most excites you about being an artist and your artist journey?
MarieElaine: I’ve recently tapped back into songwriting which has also been super cool! I’m learning and growing, that’s the best part. Hanging out with Caroline, I have been given so many opportuntiies to grow and perform. I have performed and volunteered all over Columbus. I got to co-host, do spoken word and sing at the this year’s Columbus Women&Girls’Fest. Last year I performed as part of Black Girls Rising Poets. I have performed recently at 934 Fest, Churchella, Tiffani Inspires “Self Love” Fest, Maroon Arts series, the “With You” Hair Fest. Caroline featured me in her poetry workshop in Dayton. I want to be a mentor to youth when I graduate from high school. I want to go to college. I want to create a girls’ podcast to give Black teen girls a platform for us to talk about our experiences and what we go through. I hope to write a poetry book.

Dr. E: What’s the best thing about the Columbus scene for young artists like you right now?
MarieElaine: There are so many opportunities to grow and so many mentors! I’ve never felt more at home, surrounded by family than when I am with my community. I have so much support in whatever I do. My mentors never hesitate to teach me and share the wisdom and spread love. I am always receiving opportunities!

Dr. E: Anything else you want us to know about you as an artist?
MarieElaine: I am always looking for new opportunities and would love to step into new spaces!  People can connect with me on Instagram at @marieeelainee.


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