AutumnJones Wants you to MEET: Daunte Henderson

Explain to the world who Daunte Henderson is… 
I’m a man that’s trying to do what God put me here to do. I’m asking the Lord everyday what that is and I feel like I get closer to the answer everyday. 

How old were you when you realized your talents?
When I was four or five my uncle introduced me to art. He would always draw this 70’s Blaxploitation character with this huge Afro and goatee named  “Brotherman”. I started to mimic his drawing style and eventually I started to develop my own style of art. My uncle was my original muse and inspiration for art in general. My visual art talents followed me well into high school. I was always in art programs, art contests and even featured in galleries across St.Louis. Visual art was my first love.  Me and my homies would frequently write rap lyrics to pass the time in class. I always had a way with words so it came natural for me to rhyme words and put logical concepts together.  These rap beginnings soon turned into poetry. My first poems were very sappy and mainly centered around my adoration for girls in my school.  

What incidents in your life stand out as triggers to your writing?
I think growing up as an only child and being introverted were my main triggers for writing. I have extroverted qualities but at heart I’m very much so introverted. I’m observant, curious and constantly dissecting and asking “why is this like this” or “who am I”. Growing up as an only child and having no one to talk to or interact with definitely gave me the space needed to “think”. I used to and still do spend countless hours in my room “thinking”. It sounds kinda weird but I’ve always been at home in my head. It’s allowed me to creatively reach levels that are indescribable. I’m at peace by myself. Even in a crowded room I found the great soliloquy of self, peaceful and serene. My mother used to notice that I would always keep things to myself. She told me “don’t be walking around like a ticking time bomb ready to explode” I took her advice heart and started to become more open in my writing. I needed an outlet because it was true; I did hold a lot of things in. Art was a way that I could express myself. Drawing, poetry and everything else creatively allowed me to delve deeper into the ever-looming questions of “why”. Self-discovery through creativity has been a big part of my life. Art allowed me to discover me if that makes sense.

Who are some of your inspirations and why?
I would say my mother because she had me when she was 16 and has given a great portion of her life to put me in the position to succeed and realize my God given talents. My uncle is also one because he introduced me to visual art and rap music. Rap music has been one of the BIGGEST influences because I believe my poetry style is heavily influenced by it. I’m a poet that rarely reads poetry . I don’t enjoy a lot of traditional poetry because to be honest “I don’t understand it and it bores me” I always loved rap because it was real, accessible and it spoke to my soul. Rap to me is definitely poetry. Artists like Tupac, Jay-Z, KRS-One, Chuck D, Andre 3000, Kanye, Common and the list goes on are all poets to me. Poets with a beat. I have this feeling that if I was more extroverted I would’ve became a rapper. Its one of my beautiful dark twisted fantasies (big shoutouts to Ye) Life in general is inspiring to me. I’ve found the greatest inspirations from the smallest things. A 3 word phrase someone said, a person walking down the street, and other small snippets of life have created the most vivid images in my head. Have you ever looked at your self in the mirror and tripped off the fact that you are a person? You should try it. Think about it, you control everything that you do. If you wanted to jump in front of a moving car you could do it (HYPOTHETICAL example used to illustrate an extreme but powerful point. I LOVE LIFE) . You are in control. Life has inspired me to take all the thoughts out of my head and make them a reality. My relationships with people in general inspire me. Everybody is different but all the same and that’s beautiful. The 4am conversations that I’ve had in college with close friends are some of the beautiful moments that you wish you could videotape. The priceless relationships that you have with other people show you new things, ideas and concepts about life. I love meeting different people(although I have anti-social tendencies).  My inspiration is life. I’m inspired by the people that started with nothing but knew “something” out there was better and they made it happen. I just wanna be successful like Drake Lol

How to you compare yourself or humble yourself as you embarking on territory that is beyond great and has had a huge effect on history and culture. You’re now one of those trailblazers that you were inspired by.

A co-worker of mine had to tell me “dude you’re an author”. Up until that point I wasn’t taking it as serious as one would think I would. I have been taking this new realization of my authorship and running with it. It’s a tremendous blessing to be given a gift that inspires other people to go after their passions. I’m excited about where this is going to take me. I’m using everyday as an opportunity to get better and enjoy the blessing that God has put in my life. It’s been an awesome experience.

Your love for pop culture and music are shown in several of your poems. How do you internalize the huge affects that it all has on some of your artistic thoughts?

I remember I was catching the bus from St.Louis to Chicago and I was listening to Rick Ross’s song “Veterans Day” and I immediately got this burning inspiration to write . I put the song on repeat and finished the conclusion of my book entitled “January 3rd.  The song has this eery type of feel to it. The samples used sound like a church choir kinda sorta, the beat is hard and Lil Wayne goes in on the track. The song in itself gets me extra amped.

This example is one of the countless memories that I’ve had with music influencing me to write. The artists that I respect the most are the ones that are the most vulnerable in their records. Sharing your craft with other people is like exposing your naked body to a judging stranger’s eyes. They can love you, hate you or have no opinion at all. That’s why Jay Z, Tupac , Andre 3000 and Kanye are my favorite rappers, because they always give you their entire soul on the track. They let the audience into their Pandoras box. I’ve found that as an artist you have to be honest and completely open when creating. The more you open up and be free the better your work gets . People find revelation in music because they see a side of themselves that they couldn’t articulate before. A side of themselves that another person was brave enough to talk about. I want my work to be a reflection of that idea because music birthed that concept to me.

How would you describe yours art to someone who has no clue who you are?
My poetry is autobiographical because its short snippets of my life. My poetry is a brief snapshot of a story that will never be completed. At least not until I’m cold and parallel to the ceiling. My poetry is real.

What’s your favorite poem ever written? And Why?
“Shed So Many Tears” by Tupac is one of my favorite songs. As I mentioned, I believe rap is poetry. In this song Tupac talks about his depression, lack of peace, fear of death, insecurity, disdain for the world, God, insecurity, paranoia and a host of other issues. Tupac gave you the whole range of emotion on this song. It’s a true representation of being vulnerable. It’s a brave thing being an artist. To express your raw emotions creatively and make it accessible to everyone is a beautiful thing.  

What is your writing process?
I write on my phone, notebook, computer, email, little scrap pieces of paper and whatever else I can get my hands on. I have a weird process with the actual writing part. I’ll try to explain it as best as possible. I write exceptionally well in very social environments (club, crowded trains, parties etc) BUT if someone knew or was aware that I was writing while in these environments then my creative antenna would go down. I cant write when other people know I’m writing because most of the time I’m doing a lot of observing and writing and if they knew I was writing then it would be an “observer effect” (GOOGLE THIS) situation.Other times I just lock myself in my room and write lol .

How has your demographic or geographic location played into your poetic life?

I’ve lived in St.Louis, Chicago, Peoria, Atlanta and now New York City. Living in these different places has allowed me to pick up on different types of slang, culture, trends and other nuances of each city. Traveling and experiencing new things opens your mind and soul up to forces larger in your self. Its kinda like the phrase “When in Rome do as the Romans do”. I have tried to embrace the energy and norms of each city that I’ve lived in. My book “Things I Learned While Walking” was heavily influenced by my brief stay in Chicago. “October 17th” was inspired by the church that I went to in Chicago. “Thoughts from 52nd and Ashland” was inspired by my former place of employment in Chicago. “Walk of Shame” was inspired by an incident that happened in Atlanta while attending Clark Atlanta University. “In Between Sips: College Edition” was inspired by this awesome annual party that happens in St.Louis. I just try to capture the personal moments that are near and dear to me. Wherever I’m at is my inspiration.

You’ve started your own foundation M.A.D.E.M.A.N.(Making A Difference for Each Man) for young men. Tell everyone about it and why you felt it was important?

My mother knew that as a woman she couldn’t raise a young boy to be a man. However, she made a point to surround me with other men whom she respected. I was always involved in youth mentoring programs as a kid. It was her way of communally giving me all the attention and training that I needed to develop into a man. I have had countless mentors and good people that have taken time with me to develop me into a mature and responsible young adult. The mentoring programs that I was apart of really inspired me to want to give back to my community. If I didn’t have that support system, I don’t know where my life would be right now. Positive brothers such as the men of St. Paul Saturdays helped young brothers realize their potential through mentorship, tough love and exposure opportunities. Their lessons on life have been invaluable to my development.

M.A.D.E.M.A.N. (Making a Difference for Each MAN) was started to give young men the opportunity to realize their potential through God. When I realized who I was in the face of God the accountability that I had for myself changed. I expected more of myself, I cared more and I strived for more. My confidence rested solely on the idea that “God believes I’m great” When I look at young men, especially young African American men I see a great lack of confidence in their eyes. Growing up without a father is a very detrimental thing to a young boys psyche. For one simple reason: you are supposed to learn how to be a man from your father. Plain and simple. Imagine growing up and constantly taking itty bitty pieces of each man that you meet because you are searching for wholeness. You are searching for an identity in other men when they don’t even have your same DNA. I have seen young men searching for answers from the wrong people who appear to be right. They constantly receive different versions of each man’s supposed “truth”. This type of wild goose chase for the truth isn’t effective and quite confusing. Young men have a hard enough time in society just being males and minority without having to search for their identity all over place. I’m not saying that you can’t learn from other people because God put these people on Earth for you to learn from them. I believe that if we have more brothers in our society who are spiritually sound we can change a lot of the issues that young men face. The educational gap, dropout rates, teen pregnancy, low self esteem, and countless other issues affect young men. M.A.D.E.M.A.N. wants to give young men another viewpoint outside of the school system, boys and girls clubs and other similar initiatives to give them a spiritual perspective on their lives. I believe that sense we are made in the image of God , we should come to God FIRST for our guidance.  I believe that counselors, mentors and teachers are important but having a spiritual perspective to guide your understanding of these people and why God put them here is even more important. My organization isn’t here to throw the Bible down your throat. M.A.D.E.M.A.N. wants to give young men the opportunity and space to grow in their faith. I know what my faith has meant to me. My relationship with God has made me see my pain,struggles, triumphs and happiness with a more positive and refreshed lens. My sense of peace is greater because of my acceptance of the Lord’s love. I want to help young men develop into responsible human beings with the help of the heavenly hands of the Lord.

You published your first book and you’re making huge waves for a newer published poet. I mean awards, nominations and the St.Louis Art Museum. How do you handle your new found success and the things that come with it?

I thank God for the opportunity. It’s a huge blessing to receive the fruits of a labor that I love and would do for free. Well, almost free lol. I pray everyday that God keeps me focused and that I stay humble and hungry. It’s an awesome feeling. I’m still getting used to the success myself.

What qualities do you think is need to be someone who can speak life into other with words? Because there are elements that not everyone can do.
I believe that you have to know what you like first and foremost. Ask yourself “what is it that inspires me” and what is it about that answer that makes it so inspiring? I believe that you have to be constantly in connection with other people to know what everyone feels. No emotion is unique to one person. Everybody is the same at heart. We have the same trials and tribulations. Its all about just being honest and open about what those feelings are that connect us. It take soul searching within yourself to create that level of enlightenment and confidence to write for other people. You have to be aware of the “moment”. That “moment” isn’t something you can teach someone to be aware of. When you learn yourself you will know what that “moment” is.

Your very spiritual. How does that add to your creativity?

As an artist I try to be aware of the “moments” when God is putting something in my path to be inspired by. My spiritual life is a very big side of me so I try to let all sides of my spirituality show. As you will see in my book “Things I Learned While Walking”, I struggle, I  rise and overcome my struggles with my faith in the book. Its all apart of the journey.

Do you find it easier to stand up and speak out now that you have an even bigger platform? Or is there still a struggle?

Since I’ve taken my craft more seriously I have to started to think more as an artist. At first I was a little timid to talk about my work and what it means to me. I believe I have matured a lot during this whole process of writing a book.  I don’t have a problem at all now. I have started to believe more in myself and where this dream could possibly take me.

What do you want people to take from your work?

There are a few things I would like from the people who read my work. I want people to appreciate the gift of expression. My countless hours searching for the answer “who am I” has ultimately given me the confidence to express myself on this level. I want people to feel so good reading my book that they get the courage to say to themselves “I too can do this”. Hopefully my work and my story will give others the motivation to reach for the goals they once thought unattainable.

Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

I would love to have my PhD in Africana Studies. Married with a few kids. Doing motivational speaking across the country. Pursuing my calling of the ministry. Hopefully starting or in the process of starting my own boys and girls club and of course writing.
For More information on Daunte Henderson and to purchase his book:


Anonymous said…
Great job Daunte, this was very nice interview. This is a really cool blog too! I wish you the best of luck.
Anonymous said…
I'm proud to be one of Daunte's former teachers. He's a special man who will touch the lives of many. Thanks, Autumn, for featuring him.
Anonymous said…
I am truly excited for Daunte. Great questions and heartfelt answers. The one answer Daunte gave resonates with me was when he said "I’m at peace by myself. Even in a crowded room I found the great soliloquy of self, peaceful and serene". I know we, as people, or me at least strive to be at peace with self.
WEALTHfaire said…
Nice tips on your writing process. I often do that myself. When in crowds I try to avoid the Observer Effect by just typing away on my BlackBerry and they simply think I'm texting! Love getting ideas out of just pure conversation. Keep up the good work Mr. Henderson!
Anonymous said…
I am inspired and motivated by your humility, determination, and success! I am so proud of you and I pray that God continues to allow you to be a beacon of light and hope in this world!

You Amaze Me...God's Blessing!!!!
Kamal said…
REALLY, REALLY, GOOD interview. Extremely insightful and telling. The only question I have that wasn't asked & answered is: WHEN IS THE NEXT BOOK COMING OUT?

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