“My name is Yolanda Gates aka Quiet Storm. I am a mother, a writer, and a gentle gangster.”
Embracing Things for What They Are Born and raised in Chicago by her mother, Yolanda Gates grew up in a middle-class home where she was sheltered and very quiet. She learned that a lot of her lessons in this journey called life wasn’t experienced until she was much older. Her tight-knit family had a set of values that were normal for what most families would have wanted in the lives of their children: to get an education and a job. As she grew older, she realized her family was like everyone else’s – a bit dysfunctional and she believed she didn’t see the real inside of adults.
Her biological father wasn’t involved much in her younger years, and it was explained in her teen years that he was unsafe to be around because he was a drug dealer and a user; before this fact, she spent much of her childhood believing he didn’t want to be around. Her relationship with her father isn’t mended, she but acknowledges that he tries, and she fully understands that it has an impact on her life until this day.
“When all that came about, it was like a learning curve or like growing pains for me and it really altered me as an adult, like there was a façade when I was a kid and I didn’t really know my life for real, ” -Yolanda Gates
Embracing a New Talent Always writing stories, short stories, or jotting her feelings in journal entries – Gates was first recognized for writing when she won Illinois’ Young Author’s Competition with a short story entitled “The Sick Angel”. Written at only 9 years old, her mother read it and was surprised by the “gems” in the story about the angel.
“Basically, there was this angel who got sick and she stole medicine from God’s cabinet, opposed to telling him she was sick, so he could just give her the medicine. He already knew because He is all knowing.” -Yolanda Gates
She began officially doing poetry at 22 years old through a rough year of violence in Chicago. A very close friend was murdered, and she lost 20 friends within six months. Through her pain and grief, she began to write poems about things she saw in her hometown inside her Blackberry phone. One day she decided to call on her mom to share and recite a poem.
“Who was that on the phone just now?” her mother asked. “It’s me! “Yolanda replied. To verify it was her daughter, Gates’ mother made her come to her house to perform in front of her and admits that -that was the moment she knew she had to do something with her talent.
The first poetry performance was at a Youth Night at the Pursuit of God Church in the Frayser neighborhood of Memphis, TN. Nervous initially, she remembered when she recited, she was amazed at how she captured the audience.
“I hated talking to people at that time but all of a sudden it just came out. I shook people to listen. I realized people like to listen and it was a natural thing to me. People listened so I kept writing.,” -Yolanda Gates
Embracing the Pen & Quiet Storm No rituals, no exercises, no writing process, no structure -Yolanda said it is all free-flowing when she writes. The content she shares in her poetry shows that she is very passionate about people, fairness, and is non-judgemental. For example, Trayvon Martin case sparked her to write and perform a piece for him. She believes in a quote by Nina Simone that says an artist is supposed to reflect the times, so she writes in that fashion.
The name “Quiet Storm” was invented by her mother and goes by it when performing her poetry. She explained why her mother called her this: “Quiet” is the part of her that people were so worried about when she was a child. “Storm” comes from her poetry. The name didn’t come about until after a few more performances and she has a poem to show people where it came from.
Embracing Almost Quitting Like everyone, sometimes things happen, and we walk away from the things we love the most. Yolanda almost quitting poetry due to a complicated relationship with her son’s father, who is also a prominent poet in Memphis, TN. “We were going through so many changes. I wanted to run away from poetry because we weren’t working out. When the pressure gets too tough, I sometimes run,” Gates said. Eventually, she got back into the groove of writing, but then soon realized that her writing became angry.
Embracing Eye of the Storm Eye of the Storm was a book released in September 2016, which was a collection of journal entries from a teen up until she turned 25. After recognition from the Young Author’s Competition, she always had wanted to write books. She had tons of notebooks filled with her thoughts and feelings all while dealing with a drinking addiction. Pulling her pain together to put together the book, she said that writing it saved her life and if it had not been for this one, the new one would not be here.
“I put all my energy in my poetry at that time, because I know if I kept drinking, these types of platforms (bookings) would not be available to me. I was tired of the cycles of what I was going through, and I wanted to release,” Yolanda Gates
Embracing Women Like Me and others Dominique Christina is a poet who Gates admires because of her strong delivery and because she cares about the same things she does. She identifies with her because like Yolanda, Christina has four children and has a slow-to-speak nature. Other women Gates mentioned was Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, and Jasmine Mans who she actually opened up a for.
Their stories contain the overcoming of many obstacles like Yolanda and like them, she believes that because of what they went through, they’re not supposed to be where they are. They used that same issues she had experienced to propel her, and she refuses to stay stagnant because talking about it through poetry is her healing.
Before she began her own journey in poetry, she went to all the poetry events and F.W Love stood out to her because of the way he thinks, writes, and is very humble. Jasmine Settles wrote the forward in Embracing the Journey and to this day they push each other in their crafts.
Embracing the Journey Right after releasing Eye of the Storm Yolanda began working and preparing Embracing the Journey. She felt that she experienced more life after the first book.
“A lot of people don’t look for positive outlets to deal with things or to heal. In amidst some storms I been through, I wrote through it.” -Yolanda Gates
Since she had gotten through “Eye of the Storm”, she could now face new ones. In this book, she talks about the absence of her father, love, heartbreak, gratitude, being “womanly”, and more. Having to be vulnerable, she explained was the only hard part about writing the book and even reflecting on shutting down.
“I was afraid to tell about drinking, and loving someone that doesn’t love me back, and talking about my biological father,” -Yolanda Gates
Gates said that the book is important because she knows that women are complex and this is nothing to be ashamed of. The biggest take away she wants readers to get is to self-reflect. “Shout out to Eve for making us this way. Stuff hits us differently -we operate on feelings. We have to understand ourselves and this book is a look in the mirror.”
Embracing Teaching Outside of poetry, Yolanda enjoys singing, reading, and adventures. She also gives back and began The Writers Block– a 16-week, creative writing program with an influence of reading. “69% of 3rdgraders won’t pass, but this system pushes them anyway to collect their dollars,” Gates said.
Sponsored by Dress for Success she brings out creatives including singers, songwriters, poets, authors, bloggers, and others -to come out and teach their discipline as a course; she then comes behind them and turns it toward reading.
To catch events to see Quiet Storm perform, to order “Eye of the Storm” or “Embracing the Journey” please visit quietstormpoetry.com
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