La' Tevin Alexander has a theory about spirituality.
"I do find it odd that the most spiritual people—if you look at historical figures—happen to also be the most confident people," he says. "If you really know that your god has your best interests at heart and will always look out for you, you do find a way to tell yourself that you're the greatest. It's a superpower."
That power is one of Alexander's greatest possessions. His faith and his confidence have helped fuel a career filled with triumphs—including playing his idol, Muhammad Ali, in Oregon Children's Theatre's 2018 production of And in This Corner: Cassius Clay and founding Confrontation Theatre, which is devoted to telling stories of the African diaspora.
Alexander sometimes mentally scrutinizes his work midperformance. ("When it happens," he says, "I am feeling what I'm doing, experiencing what I'm doing and analyzing it as I'm doing it.") True to introspective form, he looked inward as he discussed seven things that are meaningful to him. He spoke not only about people and places, but about the ideas that have given him the strength to do what he does best: create.
"I started in the Christian-Baptist church, but as I got older and I started learning more about the world and more about other kinds of faiths and spiritualities, my belief in God expanded and my idea of spirituality expanded. Now I like to say that I follow the principles of [the ancient Egyptian goddess] Ma'at.
2. Family and Friends
"I recently have been watching—almost studying—Game of Thrones. I could compare the love and the bond that my family has to the love and bond that House Stark has. We've had a couple traumatic events and tragedies. My grandfather lost both his sons in four years, and those were his only boys. Both were my uncles, my mom's two brothers. That was something that really, really has shaped our family, along with a couple of other things that happened before my lifetime that sort of pulled the older generations together."
3. Black/African History (Pre-Transatlantic
"I don't want to see another slave play. I don't want to see another slave movie. I don't care to see another Jim Crow movie. As much as I am hurt and mad and want to fight and want to protest and riot, I also want to make love. I also want to laugh. Being in this country, we have the tendency to disproportionately produce and consume trauma, rather than black joy and any other things that black people do and experience."
4. Historically Black Colleges and Universities
"Andrea Vernae, who was in School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, she's like my best friend. We both went to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, also known as FAMU, which is an HBCU. That was the place where I was truly exposed to black excellence on another scale. Black academic excellence, black athletic excellence, pharmaceutical excellence, judiciary, business. It was like walking into Wakanda for this first time and being like, 'Wait, this shit is real?'"
"When I do work [at the Blazers Boys & Girls Club], I usually work in the art department, and we do these things called club meetings. Once things get wrapped up, or if I'm trying to get the attention of the kids, I'll tell a story. I try to go in all different directions because they love it and we love it and oral history is one of our traditions as black people—sitting down in front of the elder while they tell you about a great person who lived, a traumatic event that happened or a love story that swept the country."
6. Sports and Games
"Basketball is my No. 1 love. Sports are one of those things—like family and sometimes like religion and spirituality—that bring people together. It goes outside of your ethnicity, outside of your nationality, outside of your faith."
7. "Freedom to be who I wanna be & think how I wanna think."
"Who is a baby to think that it can grow up and put restrictions on what I want to do and put restrictions on what I want to say? Being a person of faith and spirituality, I believe my soul is no better or worse than your soul. And because I know that to be true, I'm going to express myself the way I want to.