Daniel Beaty is an award-winning author, actor, educator, and poet. Daniel recently released his book “Transforming Pain to Power: Unlock Your Unlimited Potential.” This book talks of his story of growing up in a household impacted by his dad’s incarceration and how Daniel rose above those hard times.
Daniel was kind enough to chat with me about the book, his journey, and the impact Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had on him.
Art Eddy: Let’s first talk about your new book called “Transforming Pain to Power: Unlock Your Unlimited Potential.” For those who don’t know your story, you went through a great deal growing up. What were some of the key things you wanted to share with people in this book?
Daniel Beaty: I am the child of an incarcerated parent. It is a major issue in our country that no one seems to talk about. There are actually 2.8 million children of incarcerated parents. About 10 million children experience a parent being in jail at some point in their childhood.
My father was incarcerated for the first time when I was three years old. I talk about it in a poem I wrote called “Knock, Knock.” In my book I really talk about my past to really process that pain. That pain of abandonment. That pain of feeling like I was destined to follow in my father’s footsteps and the myriad of issues that come from that. In my journey through that pain I came out to a life that I really love.
AE: In life there are ups and downs. Everyone has them. For those who feel like things can’t get better what advice do you have for them?
DB: My advice is that I beat this pain to move onto a higher purpose. The very first chapter of this book is called “The Power of Pain.” What I mean by that is sometimes we try to resist those things that are hard for us. Those things that we are going through that we feel are unbearable.
Often it is the ability to look right inside those moments where we become furious about them. We start to investigate those moments and heal through them. From that we can get a sense of direction in life and gives us a unique take on the world that we can share.
AE: I read that when you saw Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech a switch went off in you to make a change and empower yourself. Was there a key part in the speech that motivated you the most?
DB: In the book I have a chapter that talks about the power of vision and faith. Dr. King is what I call a model of possibility. I saw this black man that didn’t look so different from my father and my brother, who struggled with addiction. Dr. King didn’t look so different from them, but he was on a very different path.
He was using words to inspire and motivate thousands of people. So he opened up for me the possibility through his impassioned words that I could choose a different path. I could model Dr. King versus what was being modeled in my house.
AE: Besides Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who also inspired you?
DB: I speak about people who I call angels in my book. One of course is my mom. My mother to me is a hero. I also talk about some teachers especially Mavis Jackson, who helped me write my first few speeches. There are also some great celebrities that came in my life who poured wonderful things into my life. Bill Cosby endorses my book. Sydney Poitier talks about the book that related to a story in his life. Now I am happy to share my book with others to help them out.
AE: As you mentioned earlier your poem “Knock, Knock” is very powerful and inspirational. How many times have you had someone tell you that your poem inspired them?
DB: I am amazed with what happened with that poem. I put the poem in my book because I was getting a lot of requests for a written form of that poem. That poem is used in churches, schools, prisons, and with social workers. So it is not just the individual clicking on it on YouTube, but groups of people watching it.
Not only am I having people stop me on the street, but I am getting emails literally from all over the world. There was a guy from the Ukraine who did the speech for his class. I had a boy from Zimbabwe do the speech for a poem contest. It has been amazing to comprehend this idea that is as unique as my story is there are people around the world that can relate. I like the fact that as people we might have a different story, but we can connect with one another and help each other out.
AE: You are a motivational speaker as well. When people hear “Knock, Knock” that alone can motivate people. What is the main message you give when you speak to an audience?
DB: My main message is this. Being able to process the different moments of life is complicated. People need tools. My main message is that we all have difficult things that happen in our life. It is just part of life. Some of those things feel like they can haunt us. I do feel that no matter what happened in that moment we have the ability to change that pain into power.
There are tools out there that are available if we can only access them. We can use those tools to tell ourselves that a situation won’t get the best of me. We can say that I do have the ability to chart my own course for my life for me and for those who love me.
AE: With all that you have experienced in your life what stands out the most to you?
DB: For me what stands out is that we as human beings are incredibly brave. We must be more gentle and affirming of ourselves. When I hear stories of what others went through and the tough times they had I am moved by the survivors that we are. Life is going to bring times that are tough because that is the nature of life. I just want people to know from the depths of my heart that we can be gentler to ourselves and others.
So when these tough times occur we can get through them easier than before. We are our number one champion in our own lives. We are too hard on ourselves. The main thing people should know is that we are incredibly brave and beautiful and we need to celebrate ourselves more.