How I Received $200 to Fund My Garden Project (From Reading a Poem on Instagram Live)

MaKayla Lorick is a black freelance writer with tons to say about black identity & resilience, motherhood, writing, and apparently gardening.

I first created an Instagram profile in ninth grade where I would post 2-3 selfies with my furry caterpillar-like eyebrows a day. In high school, social media gratification did not exist at the forefront of my adolescent mind, and my reach (or followers) didn’t have the global context that it does today. For me, it was just about showing my face and using the tool without the sophistication of algorithms, explore pages, and reels.

I really began consistently writing and posting videos of myself reciting poems on YouTube once I started work with Goldie Patrick, a phenomenal writer, playwright, director, and actor located in the Washington, D.C. area. Goldie mentored (and continues to mentor) me alongside a small group of black girls from D.C. based out of her non-profit, FRESHH (Females Representing Every Side of Hip-Hop) which partnered with the Kennedy Center in D.C. from 2013-2020. We affectionately call her Sister Goldie as she taught us with a fierceness of civic engagement and cultural awareness through hip-hop theatre. 

Goldie made us believe we were beautiful and gave us an African diasporic history of which to be proud. She would introduce us to different members of her tribe, and we would call them “Mama” so and so or “Baba” so and so in a delicate way that forged us together as family. This piece is important because it is the foundation of my writing, but also, it gave me an important cayenne-pepper-like kick a few weeks ago that brought me here. 

Luisa Igloria, the poet laureate of Virginia, reached out at the beginning of 2021 through Facebook Messenger and asked me to submit a poem as part of an April series hosted by Slover Library in Norfolk, Virginia. She informed me that a couple of my professors from my alma mater, Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia recommended me to participate in a collective of Virginia writers for National Poetry Month. I screenshotted the Facebook message immediately and posted it on my story on Instagram. A friend from college who works for the L.A. Times responded: “You still write? Would you be interested in submitting here?” I responded, shyly, “I’d love to” — while thinking, “Once I submit, they’ll know I’m a fraud!” 

I almost had not responded to Luisa had it not been for my friends on social media encouraging me — “What is there to lose?” they would ask. “You BETTER submit” others would demand. “Don’t be afraid” they would affirm. A little voice I had turned off in 2020 crept back in with a mix of fear and a little courage — “There’s no better day to start sharing your writing than now!” at the beginning of the pandemic had felt like a slap in the face to my stalled artistry. But suddenly, that call-to-action seemed a tad less insidious and a bit more hopeful.

I submitted, fell asleep, and the next day Luisa emailed me back letting me know she would be using my poem “morningglory” in the project. Once that project became live, I instantly shared across my social media receiving several DMs. A lot were from people I had known congratulating this new step in my journey. came from Goldie, who wrote that she would be reading on Instagram Live that Sunday in partnership with the Kennedy Center and wanted me to read a poem. I did not hesitate this time, I just said yes.

I got on Instagram Live that day having not gotten dolled up. My four-year-old daughter was being a bit clingy that morning, so it was difficult to get ready and at a certain point, I knew it was just about poetry — not looks! I satisfied myself with tying my hair in a headscarf, because I knew my audience would not mind as much as I did. I listened to Goldie read in a captivating cadence, a familiar sound from my youth. When the time came for me to join her on Instagram Live, she asked me what I needed right before I read. I answered: community. She responded, “Aṣẹ.” 

I let them know that I would be starting something new, that this poem was fresh out of my heart and part of a series designed to help me reconfigure my untended Section-8 patio through a frame of writing. After reading she asked me to leave my CashApp handle in the comments. I did and received $200 USD immediately. I was floored, humbled by their willingness to invest in me and completely encouraged that they saw something in me that was beautiful.

I took the money straight to Lowe’s and began hammering out my vision, buying heavy bags of marble rock, soil, flowers, seeds, and pots. I continue to post videos on my Instagram documenting my process, to let folks in just a little. Since beginning the project, I have grown into a habit of writing which I think is a nod to the process of gardening itself. You cannot just pick up a shovel one day and decide “Hey I want to do a garden,” plant a bunch of flowers or produce, and leave them unattended for weeks. Creating this space became about nurturing my craft, my garden of poetry daily. It has resulted in a lot of trash, but also unending beauty. 

I implore you all to use a tip or two of mine today in your practice and to ultimately understand the value of your work. Bryan Stevenson, a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer, spoke at Howard University’s graduation the other day and said something that moved my spirit: “It won’t be your grades that measure your capacity to change the world, nor will it be your income. It will not be the job that you have post-grad, not even the ideas in your head. Ultimately it will be the conviction in your heart that measures your capacity to change the world.” When I feel overwhelmed, one saying I do not mind hearing my partner repeat over and over to me is “Start where you are.” 

Tips for Curating a Social Media Village:

Find your community, your village, your space. Engage with them continuously. You have something to contribute, find a place that welcomes your voice and challenges your creativity. For me, it was about reconnecting with Goldie and her tribe, which also became mine. They had seen my growth from a young age and were invested in my journey, even my stumbling. Search hashtags that you believe in, like #womenempowerment or #blackgirlmagic. Follow folks, reply to their journeys. I’ve done Live sessions with friends, workshops where I post content that came from the session. Whatever you do, stay connected in your own way.

Decide: Is it about distinguishing or telling your story in the best way you can? My focus was not so much on being different or influencing others, but on reigniting my creativity and sharing my willingness to learn. When I began my project, I was honest and told the folks after reading my poem, “Look this is only the beginning. I’m saving up to transform this place so it will be little by little.” In an age of social media where much is fabricated, it is exciting to be vulnerable and launch yourself into ownership of your story. Even mundane details are poetic, trust me!

Be realistic and have fun on social media. If you become overwhelmed by the idea of consistently engaging your followers, own how you would like to engage. Some people have the capacity to post every day, others biweekly, yours may be once a month. Whatever it is — be realistic and have fun! Never forget, art begets art!

Drop your CashApp. You never know who may be watching. $MaKaylaLorick