Some people believe art and science don’t mix. However, in L.J. Garfield, they combine beautifully. Garfield impacts lives as health science instructor at the Pima Medical Institute (an educator of medical professionals, teaching anatomy and physiology, microbiology and medical law ethics ultrasound, radiology and pharmacy technicians, as well as phlebotomists, dental hygienists and others). She also transforms lives via gigs as a spoken word artist and radio show host.
The Philadelphia native, whose full name is Lakita Jana Nzinga Nabu Garfield, relocated to Houston 22 years ago when she received a scholarship to attend TSU, where she studied communications, before earning a graduate degree from Rice.
The Defender spoke with the host of All Real Radio’s (www.AllRealRadio.com) show/podcast “Word Bender,” whose stage name is Mami Wata Flow, to learn more about her vehicles for social change.
DEFENDER: Tell us about your role at All Real Radio?
LJ GARFIELD: I host a show called “Word Bender” on Friday nights from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Zin was the original founder of All Real Radio. He passed away in a car accident a few years ago, and his partner Denise Lopez took it over and reached out to Risky Cereal. Together, they are managing the radio show and they make sure we have 24-hour programming. It’s a web-based radio show. Then we make it into a podcast so you can stream shows after they air live. And we talk about everything. What I do is report about the things going on in our communities. I report about our leaders, our issues, and then we put a little twist on it, a little hip hop, sometimes a little poetry, a little spoken word. That’s how we intertwine the arts with current events. We just bring the information to the people.
DEFENDER: Can you speak to your work as a spoken word artist?
GARFIELD: I love poetry. Poetry started out as journaling for me. And I journal as a way to process my emotions. I’m a Cancer. We’re moody and I try to be a little bit more even-keeled in my life. That’s what journaling did for me. Then I noticed that I wrote in rhythms and I wasn’t even trying to rhyme. My journaling had a poetic flow to it. That’s how my poetry began. And my poetry name, Mami Wata Flow, came about because I was trying to get in touch with my African roots at the time, and the “Mama Wata” was all about femininity, healing the community and going with the flow, like water, instead of being rigid. I put “Flow” on the end of it because it was about a poetry flow. I used to host an open mic show at Ogun Wine & Art on Sunday nights. It was a fundraiser because my son was in private school and tuition went up and I was using my talents to get some money together. And it was amazing. A lot of the poets came through and we had a good time on Sunday nights.
DEFENDER: Can you speak to your career as an educator?
GARFIELD: When I got the scholarship to TSU, I was in the middle of a career change. I had been in healthcare for a long time and I liked healthcare, but it just wasn’t my jam. So, I came down here and I did my degree in communications, I was combining my two professions. I taught other healthcare professions. I’ve been doing that for 20 years. And even though my field of specialty is health science, because I liked writing, I moved into curriculum writing. So, I do a lot of behind-the-scenes curriculum writing. I realized that you don’t have to be a subject matter expert to write curriculum. You just have to be an educator to write curriculum. Because you’ll get the information from the subject matter experts, but the way you organize it, present it and gather the resources that they can use, I was good at those types of things. So, that’s what I did. When I went to Rice, I focused on social science so I could understand how people learn and the process in which people learn. And then I just kind of channel that into the curriculum writing. As a sidebar, poetry helps me balance the technical writing with the creative outlet. So, I kind of write curriculum, then write poetry, and then we talk about it on the radio.
DEFENDER: You do a lot of adult teaching, but you also work with children, right?
GARFIELD: I train adults, but I also teach the same material in high school in their health sciences programs. I work for Spring Branch ISD, in the CTE department. I teach health sciences and for that program. I train medical assistants, patient care technicians, phlebotomists, etc. So, what we try to do is when you see us out, we are trying to get my high schoolers community service hours, exposure to actually performing vital signs on people other than their classmates, getting exposure to real life scenarios. So, we go to community programs, health fairs or special activities. We set up shop and work like little medics, taking people’s vital signs or handing out information, depending on what is needed.
MORE ABOUT LJ GARFIELD
Why you chose to attend TSU: I’m a proud recipient of the Tavis Smiley Scholarship in the School of Communications. Our class was one of the first to be awarded the scholarship. So, I was super excited about that.
Favorite thing about Houston: The weather. I like hot weather.
What are you reading these days: I’m reading some technical books for this certification program I’m building. But my last social read, I was rereading “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”
What’s on your playlist right now: I like the Roots because that’s a Philly band, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu. But my son turned me on to Joyner Lucas, and I really like how he flows.
Mantra: From Frankie Beverly and Maze: “Each one teach one.”