A group of vocalists, musicians, and video artists recently paid tribute to spoken word performer Gil Scott-Heron at Symphony Space on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
The show was directed by BMCC alumna and Harlem native LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, a nationally published poet, independent curator, and visionary.
“It was a multimedia concert,” explains Diggs. “I’ve always been interested in creating platforms that feature emerging artists.”
Diggs has carved out a nice, artistic niche for herself in New York City over the years, and fondly reflects on her time at BMCC, where it all began…
After receiving her GED from LaGuardia High School, Diggs worked in retail then enrolled at BMCC in the mid-nineties.
“I was a Liberal Arts major. I’ve always liked to write, but Liberal Arts allowed me to take both creative writing classes and ethnic studies,” recalls Diggs, who also studied abroad in Senegal through BMCC, and also remembers the students who inspired her.
“I met lots of single moms who struggled to make ends meet, but still came to class and worked hard,” she says. “There was so much support all around at BMCC.”
Words of wisdom
Early writing advice came from Diggs’ former BMCC English Professor, Dexter Jeffries.
“On my first paper, I got a ‘D.’ Professor Jeffries encouraged me to stop by his office to discuss what I was doing wrong,” Diggs remembers, joking that, “He scared me in a good way! Professor Jeffries really made me work and advised me not to use a thesaurus just for the sake of it, but find another word to cover what I really meant.”
Jeffries calls Diggs one of his,"success stories."
"She has an infectious personality," he says of his former student. "She's a low-key person, but draws you in with her demeanor and was always very reflective in class. I'm proud of her."
Moving on from BMCC
After graduating from BMCC, Diggs went to New York University for a degree in education, and then to California College of the Arts (CCA) where she received an MFA in Creative Writing and Video.
Over the years, her writing has been published in various journals, including Ploughshares, Rattapallax, and The Black Scholar.
“I write mostly poetry, flash fiction, and essays, about a variety of topics, from my mother to anime characters,” she explains. “I’m currently returning to a manuscript; a collection of poetry called My Life as a Boy, which is forthcoming from Belladonna Books.”
“Being a professional artist”
Diggs admits she’s not a “nine-to-fiver”.
“It doesn’t work for me,” she laughs.
What does work for Diggs is matching people to creative jobs—especially in New York City. If she hears of opportunities that may be of interest to a fellow artist, she’ll reach out to them.
“I’m less concerned with getting my work out there all the time,” says Diggs. “It’s not all about me. I want to allow myself to help others.”
Diggs—who also sings professionally!—recently directed an experimental media project called Artificial Africa at Dixon Place theatre, and performed Water Scores, “a collection of poems, along with video and sound, loosely based on one's relationship to water,” at Illinois State University.
“To me, being a professional artist is finding different ways to be creative,” she says. “I’ve always been attracted to being on the other side of the arts as a curator and director.”
Close to home
Due to her passion for the arts, Diggs interacts with new people and new talent every single day. But BMCC is never far from her heart.
“I’m still in touch with all my BMCC friends,” she says proudly. “We all supported each other and even enrolled at NYU together. To this day, I think of BMCC as my alma mater, despite also attending NYU and CCA.”