Adah-Duval is a multifaceted creative working at the intersections of equity, inclusion, public education, and advocacy. Hailing from Atlanta, she’s managed tour campaigns, events, festival operations, and much more. After working in D.C., she returned to the South to continue rallying for LGBTQ+ rights and a more equitable Atlanta. She’s served as a marketing committee member at Actor’s Express Theatre Company, the community partnerships chair for Prism – Metro Atlanta Teach for America, and is currently the co-host of Folx Like Us, a podcast about being Black and queer in the deep South.
Aside from her work, Adah builds community through an array of gatherings—which can range from film screenings and theater to lively dance parties at the club. Bringing the culture together and providing a space for people who don’t have somewhere else to go is part of her repertoire. Adah joined Erin Washington and Toran X. Moore for a conversation about her waymaking.
What does your creative lineage look like?
My dad used to bring people together. My dad was in the military and he loved music and he loved people, he loved his soldiers. My house was always full of energy, I remember that. I lost my dad when I was seven. Just thinking back to entertainment, how he loved on people. The art of socializing is what I consider creativity. I also learned that from my mother, she was church royalty. She also sold Avon through her church relationships, so the spirit of entrepreneurship and the creativity that came with making a way.
How are you continually crafting your space and moving forward?
What I’m dedicated to is being free in all of my expressions and the ways that I choose to create, right? Because sometimes you create for capitalism, true life, you know, get your money. And then sometimes creativity is creativity and the money comes. And so being very mindful of when I’m operating between those two spaces, and I’m working through being okay with getting to my money through creating.
How have you balanced the various spaces you’ve been in?
Therapy. I ain’t gonna front, process. I’m on my mental health journey, I do well in talk therapy. I also have and I’m not opposed to taking medication. I pray and hope that everybody does what works for them. The jewel my therapist gave me during an extremely challenging time is balance is fluid. One day I might have had to balance a board meeting and taking my mother to physical therapy on top of 17 other things, but my priority that day was the board meeting and my mama because I still had to leave something for me.
You deposit into yourself first. I’m being intentional about calendarizing my time because of where I’m growing. I’m balancing work (9-5) with also engaging in or producing the concepts I really care about. In order to do it all, I have to take care of me first. I’m managing my minutes. That means I’m taking naps, delegating tasks, and building teams so that I’m not running myself ragged. I intend to show up in excellence for everything I dream up and the roles I’ve committed to.
How have you gotten out of toxic spaces, what did you take with you and what did you let go?
I’ve left several toxic spaces, and I got better as I got older. There was a situation where I hit a wall, being the only Black person in an organization full of white folks. And my mom said, if you’re gonna be a token, you got to make sure that you get something out of it. I was like, nah, fuck that. I’m having a conversation about my experiences and being tokenized. So I had a conversation. The conversation led to HR, I had to talk to lawyers. And so I transitioned out of the organization, a good face for them and peace and a good face for me. There was pretty much a complete overhaul of the leadership shortly after I left. So I feel like I left the truth for them to work through without burdening me any further.
In places where I felt like I could make a change, I made a change. I pushed, I had the conversations, I talked to people, I asked about language, I asked for new language, I asked for another draft of that language, I asked for the policies and the considerations for addressing the policies. But I’m leaving if I don’t think an environment will change, especially if it challenges my integrity. But if an environment doesn’t fill you, if it extracts more than it provides, I believe it’s best to figure a way out.
What do you envision for Black spaces in the year 3000?
Ownership. And it may not be stateside ownership. I just see collective action, collective power. We’ve been so immersed in the otherness of what’s dominant, the white dominant culture. And I see us being free of that. I keep saying no fear, I just hope it looks like no fear in whatever frame that is. Here in Atlanta, I’d be remiss to not acknowledge Southern Fried Queer Pride, they’re raising funds to open up a place for queer folks of every creed and color. A lot of times, in Atlanta, Black folks and people of color that are also queer and trans seek out community-centered entertainment or places to entertain where we don’t have ownership. Then those spaces where we frequently close, or we are made to feel like we aren’t welcome anymore. In our resilience, we pick up and move to the next place. So yeah, I envision our own sustained spaces to be and to enjoy being.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.