I am Nahshon Dion, a Black-American, writer, teaching artist and event producer from Pasadena. Since age 13, I’ve had a front-row seat to social injustice and state-sponsored terrorism. I was particularly affected after seeing the global reaction to my neighbor and family friend Rodney Glen King being beaten by the Los Angeles Police Department. Additionally, the 1993 triple Halloween murders in Northwest Pasadena jolted me with fear and made me take notice of the devastation gun violence had on my community. I became disheartened living in a world where hearing stories of young Black males being shot to death by other young Black males was commonplace. I hated the reactions gun violence provoked. A constant sense of gloom and doom stunted and thwarted my community. These collective experiences left me feeling like I was living inside a shooting range, with the constant sense of knowing someone else in my neighborhood would become the next victim of a shooting or state-sponsored violence.
My literature reflects the harsh realities of broken communities from a personal standpoint: survival at any cost its subsequent consequences, and triumphs over struggle. In 2013, I relocated to New York city and began writing a manuscript based on an assault that plagues me with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since then, I've received dozens of grants, fellowships, artist residencies, honors, and awards, monetarily totaling over $210,000. These funds provided ammunition and support towards developing and creating my forthcoming memoir, Shootin' Range. Being regularly subjected to traumatic incidents, and by extension, an environment of violence. The Shooting Range severely damages your self-worth. It can cause you to embrace a victim mentality and become an unwitting contributor, whereby one may inflict harm upon oneself via self-destructive behaviors. When this happens, it takes a combination of reaching a breaking point, harnessing self-determination, and finding a sense of purpose to escape the shooting range, which for so many is nearly impossible to escape.
Telling my personal escape story gives me a voice, affirms my humanity, and encourages others to transcend survival to seek and create a place of healing. I confront marginalized people's erasure by recording diverse histories and demonstrating how an underdeveloped skill can be nurtured and used as a catalyst of a change. Shootin’ Range expounds on anti-femme, anti-trans, anti-queer, and anti-Black sentiments that I continue to resist. My existence, resilience, and literature empowers and shows how all youth can shine with dignity when their rainbow is blurred.
Since surviving a life-threatening assault, the visceral compulsion to write helps me cope and create spaces for empathy, healing, and human dignity. Sharing my background ultimately challenges the "American hero" concept and provides a voice for unheard-of communities. Without visibility or representation, we alone are often held accountable for injustices perpetrated against us. Shootin' Range reveals the fissures in society and the leap from containment to expression. In daring to be visible and heard, I invite others to share their stories.
NADC has continued to be a source of financial support, increased morale, and enhanced encouragement, allowing me to navigate and aiding me in delivering a fuller expression of my artistic potential and attend writing residencies and arts conferences. During the pandemic, I continued to develop my work-in-progress memoir, Shootin' Range. I hired an editor to edit my book proposal, which led to a publisher at a Big 5 taking an interest. The ongoing support has provided me with the constant visibility essential to supporting my continued success.
NADC's unwavering support has assisted me in furthering my art career more than I imagined. I'm now a Teaching Artist creating much-needed hope in my life, extending my vision beyond the rainbow, broadening my social circle, and reinvigorating my sense of purpose. As a grant writer for over a decade, I've paid it forward by voluntarily assisting dozens of artists and entrepreneurs across the nation with obtaining tens of thousands of dollars in grants and funding.
In hindsight, my early exposure to violence and a front-row seat to an ongoing, ever-present shooting range forced me to learn to adapt to and detect malicious and predatory behavior. It ended up ultimately being the road to my success. As I increasingly gain recognition, I am encouraged to continue rendering stories in refined and thoughtful forms for the literary world's center stage. I also host a weekly hour entertaining chat titled TRANSBRATIONS on YouTube.