Chinna Palmer – Flowering of Humanism and EnActing the Truth

It is through the young generation that structural change of the society takes place. Chinna Palmer is a new generation actress and activist, using the theater and performing arts as the means to activate humanity from within and inspire the quest for Truth from living a purposeful life. Chinna studied Fine Arts at Howard University. Straight out of college, she starred as Keisha in Woolly Mammoth Theater’s production of Fairview by Jackie Sibblies Drury. It was a beautiful show where her passion and vocation converged into a profession where she was able to work toward her mission to make space for people that look like her in the theater. In the year of COVID-19 shut downs, her bridging into film work earned her a nod with the National Black Film Festival selection for the web series, Perfect. The turbulent times of the past two years has given her great opportunity to reflect on her artistry. This interview is a meditation of that.

LEFLI: Entertainment industry is powerful in a way that it influences people’s perspectives through images, music and narratives. What do you perceive as the shadow of the sector that needs more light to shine on?

Chinna: The positive potential of entertainment to contribute to personal and social development has been under tapped. The symbiotic, psychoactive relationship between entertainment and us creates our mental construct and shapes how we interact with the larger reality whether we are aware of it or not. People’s innate desires towards beauty are met with celebrity marketing that aims to tie consumers to products and services – influencing purchasing decisions and modifying behaviors. I believe the over-idealization of celebrities that represent these brands and ideas are dangerous and being in pursuit of external ornament often means the internal development of self is overlooked. As an industry, a ‘chase-the-money’ mentality prevails and the flow of money gravitates towards whatever pleases the sponsors and pockets. I feel all of us on the receiving end of the entertainment need to recognize and use our influence to determine what kind of projects get funded to enrich our cultural life.

LEFLI: What do you think about the role of an actor and your artistic expression?

Chinna: Often the role actor plays on screen reflect the society and day-to-day life. I take my call as an artist seriously, because I know I have power to affect genuine change to encourage empathy, and cultivate shared understanding. For every person, there is innate quest for Love, Purpose and Truth; yet some either ignore or run away from those feelings and instincts. Television and films appeal to emotions and feelings that move us beyond rationality and reason to open our minds to different perspectives and truths. Modernists are, in many ways, disconnected from our own feelings and mechanistic societies often don’t prioritize or even disallow how we feel at school and work. Acting or any kind of artistic expression requires us to be in touch with our creative side that is internally childlike and authentic. Much unlearning needs to be done to reclaim that essence from which everything flows.

LEFLI: This articulation is so poetically powerful! How did you become so aware? Any practice you do to ground yourself as an actor?

Chinna: Thank you! I have a daily routine that consists of a show of gratitude, meditation and either talking or journaling with myself and God. The process helps by getting my ego out of the way and instead opening up like a vessel to an abundance of wisdom, opportunities and insights that I would have been too clutter-minded to see. The routine nourishes, inspires and deposits me at the door of creativity and openness to what’s happening, every day. Art is the irrepressible expression of human spirituality and any art form including acting is ultimately a spiritual endeavor. There is so much that art can do for spiritual renewal that is distinct from any other fields of human endeavors.

LEFLI: Could you please tell us what it is like growing up and any major turning points?

Chinna: Well, as a little girl, I loved dancing and singing. I was raised in an African Methodist Episcopal Church so God has always been a presence in my life, but my personal relationship with God came after a sudden break-up in high school. When I felt alone and like I couldn’t talk to anyone, God was always there, so that time became a major turning point for that clarity in the relationship, but also because it was my first time experiencing betrayal. That kind of pain opened a whole new range of emotions for me to use in my work. It made me a better artist.

Going to an HBCU also became a turning point for me because, outside of family events, I had never been so surrounded by Black people with the same goal to represent our very best in every field imaginable. College gave me the opportunity to travel the world and experience different worlds. I trained in Oxford, volunteered in Anguilla, and submersed myself in the culture of rural and urban South Africa. The people I met along the way shared their stories, and even opened their home to me, proving that kindness is a treasure worldwide. Another way I came to realize the sense of unity between all people was through psychedelic medicines - I say medicine because it has deep power to heal oneself and I don’t believe it should be used for recreational mindless fun. It is nature’s gift to us to be able to access knowledge and a level of consciousness that isn’t available in any regular day-to-day experiences.

LEFLI: It is very encouraging to know an actor like you is focusing on inner development so you fuse that elevated level of consciousness with the stories you play to reach the hearts and minds of the people. You are also vocal about trauma of being African American. Could you elaborate on that?

Chinna: We all know the history of the transatlantic slave trade. Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS) is a term coined by Joy DeGuy to describe the multigenerational trauma and injustices experienced by African Americans.

It is a condition that exists as a consequence of multigenerational oppression and centuries of systemic discrimination that we still see to this day. Many of these traumas are subconscious but show up in the way my people move through the world. Much of my inner-work is about becoming aware of these things and unlearning any habits that are not purposeful and loving, that are not honoring of my people, nor true to who I am. As an actor, I am a representation of only a fraction of what my people are capable of even through all of the unimaginable traumas that my ancestors went through. I hope to live up to my full potential of using my artistry to heal communities and create new embraces of empathy worldwide!

To get updates about Chinna, follow her at Instagram- @chinnapalmer