Good day, arts and culture lovers!

As many of my followers know, I moved from NYC to Fort Lauderdale a year-and-a-half ago to explore my passions and heighten my sense of wellbeing. To swim more.

Some people doubted I could find an arts scene to rival the Big Apple’s, and I set out to prove the misconception. Alas, I am relaunching my Creativity Is Contagious blog to celebrate the people turning Fort Lauderdale into a cultural mecca.

Creative expression makes the world a better place. It contributes to local economies, gives people something fun to do, frees thinking, and helps the mind to wander and wonder. In each and every form, art also fosters empathy and multicultural understanding.

Given that Fort Lauderdale Fashion Week is taking place this week, it seems fitting to relaunch my blog today.

But before I go on to cover the latest fashions — from a group of diverse designers making clothes with multi-ethnicity in mind — let’s take a moment to honor the Muslims killed or hurt in yesterday’s  senseless act of hate in New Zealand.  I am reposting my poem Refugee, with a photograph by Jacobia Dahm. I hope you will read and share this multimedia form of compassion.




In my dreams I cannot climb the ladder to the divinely white diving board overlooking the Euphrates, or reach my parents who stare down at me from atop a mahogany spiral staircase, like the type you see in your Victorian period pieces. Nor can I run when men in black outpace me. My subconsicous assigns the heaviness of antiquity, now rubble, to my limbs.


On other nights I dream my arms are stuck above my shoulders, elbows turning my appendages into sideways V’s, more-or-less signs, one pointing left the other right, as if there were places to go. As if things added up. I cannot lift my arms over my head to remove my robe. A mass of fabric has settled on my face like a clay mask that gets itchy as it dries. I am an iron pretzel of flesh and joints, long sleeves, and seams. I cannot see the bed I once shared with my husband (he’s missing), or the wool carpet beneath my feet, although my toes — doing a high-wire balancing act in the wake of my torso’s paralysis — can feel the fibers.

If I could I would use screams to rip through the seams, even if I had to re-sew them in the morning to reappear a properly covered woman. Disarray. Order. Neither option helps me move.


And those are just the dreams.

We’ve reached European borders, how long ago I’ve lost count, a calendar is the least of our worries. Our mouths dry in the sun, our useless shoes cry inshallah in the rain, my daughter’s latest vocabulary word is patrolman. We are motionless. Backward forward it doesn’t matter — our horizon is a fence of wire, men and guns.

I’ve seen my daughter’s face fade from a summer blossom. I can do nothing about her mucousy nose, dark circles of worry, or lips so chapped they bleed. If only a kiss would heal.

Refugee is from the poetry series Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Other Tales of Love and Loss. Image credit: Jacobia Dahm. The Let There Be Art image accompanies Sally-Ann’s article on Fort Lauderdale’s art scene published in June 2019 by Lifestyle Media Group.

Sally-Ann O’Dowd is a freelance writer in Fort Lauderdale, covering the arts, health and wellness, advertising, tech, and pop culture for Lifestyle, South Florida Business and Wealth, Velocitize, and Think. This post also marks her debut as a contributor to Choose954.

Sally-Ann is the founder and president of Sally On Media, which provides comprehensive communications strategies, media relations and content marketing services to socially conscious brands. Instagram: @sallyodowd

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