Hello everyone so honored to be part of this year state of black design conference. For those who don't know me, which is probably many of you. My name is George Garrison, Jr, a designer, educator, and a host of the works in process podcast, I focus on discovering how creatives work and share with my audience too many ways they too can learn about being and becoming themselves a creative individual. I'm excited. I'm excited to bring this live version of the podcast to you today. As part of this year's theme family reunion. I'm looking to revisit some previous guests conversations and find out what they've been up to. This is not only a way a way to catch up with them, but also I want to learn more about the people who we should keep our sights on. So today, welcome back to guests and dig into how they've been moving forward since our last conversation. First is my episode guest. My episode eight guests Dr. Muhammad Paco. Mohammed has entered interdisciplinary artist and scholar whose work combined observations on hiphop fine art and popular culture to address concerns around contemporary representations of black men. Through painting performance art in academic work, Dr. Piku confronts the performance of black masculinity and black identity, challenging explaining the reading performance and expressions of blackness. Dr. Piku is also the founding director of the African Dysport Art Museum of Atlanta. Yokohama, who'd you bring with you?
Yo, what's up Double G? Happy to be here and I brought my young shooter with me. The one and only miss airy Danielle superstar, breakout artists, amazing painter, super dope person all the way around. So happy to have her join us here. What's up every
so nice. Hi, I'm Ariel Danielle, I'm an artist based born and raised in Atlanta. I do portraits of myself self portraits. And my friends. I try and focus on showing black women in light that I like to see them in, which is a positive, friendly fun vibes type of thing. I guess just like keeping it close to what I am and my friends how we want to be represented and art.
Awesome. Awesome. Thank you for being here already.
Yeah. Thank you for having me. Thank you for Harmon.
And then we have my set episode 17. Guests. Mike Nichols. Mike is an Oakland based award winning creative director, book designer, visual artists and community builder. He translates ideas into visionary creative solutions utilizing 20 years of design experience and natural talent. Mike founded a number a media platform highlighting creative perspectives that matter, which has been recognized by blabbity, print magazine KQED, and Communication Arts. As a community builder Mike is an advisor to interact project, a nonprofit that empowers underrepresented youth through design. Through his work with a number he collaborated with renowned creatives around the world as just like Saul Bass, Tonya Rapley, souls of mischief, and Deanna Van Buren. So Mike, who'd you bring with you? Oh,
George was gone, man of what, uh, can I can today Ahmad, um, just just just a powerful to do. I've met him through a friend of ours. He is a Columbia. He is a Columbia Journalism Review. Fellow, and also Ida B. Wells fellow. And he's he's currently a freelance multimedia journalist and runs a clothing line called, are they the Shea um, he's from Oakland. And I'm just an amazing cat. You know, just just truly amazing and thoughtful and, and a badass, really, I mean, if I could say badass, but
man, I appreciate the intro, Mike. Definitely a pleasure to be here. Yeah, born and raised in Oakland. got put on to Number magazine and the visual work of Mike. Yes, like two years ago now. But what I do is a mixture of fashion design documentary film, and been fusing those two together. And so all my work is based on the continent. So the design, the weaving of fabrics that cut and sew process and manufacturing is all my home bases in Accra, Ghana, but I source fabrics from Mali from Burkina Faso from across Ghana like heavy on the West African side of things. So pleasure to be here. And I'm excited to jump into the conversation.
Awesome, awesome and pleasure to meet you both. So I want to take a real quick thing to just bring it back to something that I do at the beginning of my podcast. I do this thing really quickly to word association, right? What's the first things you think of when I say these words? These are all different words. So Mike and FAMU, you're not going to be able to say the same things you said last time. But because we have more people on this thing, I want to do it round robin style, right? So I want for Hamo to go first, then Ra, then Mike, then today. Alright, so let's say a word and you just the first thing that comes to your mind. For Hamo, you ready?
Let's go. Let's go. All right.
Black people. Ari, career driven. Mike design, Metro. Today, education betters, FAMU purpose. through it. Our opportunity seeker, Mike culture now and today, community
driven, cool, cool. Oh, she didn't say driven. I'm gonna say community member.
But you know, repeats, no repeats at all. See, everybody's getting along, right, quick. I mean, so thank you all, that's just like a nice fun way. I mean, I know, we kind of talked a little bit before the this conversation, but I like to just think about things that just start to, you know, percolate in your brain and stuff. And as we kind of revisit, I want to, I want to first ask my two previous guests, you know, kind of just some follow ups from our previous conversations. And, you know, listening back to our conversations and, and ending off with like, hey, what's the future hold for both of you? Right? I literally went back and tried to figure out and be like, Hey, did some of those things come true? Right. So let me first ask Mike, right. So when we ended our episode, you know, and I think it was in the, probably the beginning of 2021, right? And you were focusing on a crowdfunding campaign to grow umber. Right. And, and this empire, right, literally, this, this printing empire that you had, and this aggressive campaign to put all these issues out, and things like that, how did that pan out?
Um, you know, what it was, it was all about a pivot. I mean, that's really what happened was a pivot. And so, um, it was very ambitious to launch a publishing company that is based on print. And, um, what happened was, a lot of life happened. And what I did is, instead of trying to focus on the bigger vision, just just focus on the printed issue of this bad boy. And so have a wealth issue. Yeah. I got one. So that's so that was the, uh, so that was the focus is really just focusing kind of on one thing. And one thing I realized too, in the process of doing a campaign and trying to launch a number into publishing was I'm trying to narrow down how I see myself, right, and the kind of in the kind of work that I want to do. And really, managing a publishing company was not really the look that I was trying to do, I'm really it was about is really about being a creative and creating and being a visionary. And running a company was not, you know, published a company was just not in the cards as I, as I thought it was going to be. So what happened was, I really just like, you know, somebody raised some money for sure. I'm really what I do is I just focus on the meat of what ombre is all about is print. Right. And, and, and a wealth issue. And so, with that being said to, you know, this is the last one, right, you know, I'm saying so, so now, after, for the past five years, been self publishing, an Amplifying Voices, over 100 people around the world. I was like, it's tougher, it's hard for me to get amplified, you know, my voice, my art, my vision, and so on. So what I'm going to take a step back from number and try to really see what it's going to be if it's going to be anything, but there's some other projects within arbordale want to want to push but but since we're that software, really was, you know, was a wealthy, she was the focus. And we actually did another bigger publication that was printed too. So this big bad boy was also printed as well. And so, um, so yeah, so that was really the focus, I was like, let me just dial it back, focus on what is good for me and self care, and kind of like, you know, in a perspective of highlighting my voice, and if I do a project for some, you know, the next project, really try to have a team sort of, like, from the ground up, versus me being a visionary and creative, and the publisher and editor in chief, and all of the things, um, find a way to to be sustainable in my approach in doing media, and really try to try to focus on my perspective,
I mean, yeah, I can, and I mean, you know, I think I think that is a pivot and remember, anything last, you know, two or three years have taught us is, is self care is important, right, and taking care of objects, your mental, you know, capacity, and not overextending yourself is such a big deal. And, you know, I applaud you for you know, trying to go, you know, all in and figuring out that, you know, what, for mercy you to be all in is for you to kind of focus on yourself. And I think that is that is really empowering, because sometimes we let the work kind of just dictate what we need to do and not really focused on us. So I'm sorry that, you know, we were not going to have another printed issue. But with you figuring out your stuff, are you still focusing on like tactile things? Because print was is a magazine is tactile, right? It's not a website, it's out of this. It's like, it's a way you hold it, right? The the large format, and even that BPP that you show, right? It's a double wide format, it's like looking at the New York Times, like, it is an experience, that is very different. Right? If you look at today's screen, he's helping us, you know, visualize the size, right? I think, you know, are you thinking real quick? Are you thinking of, you know, keeping it in somewhat of a tactile format?
Yeah, I think there's gonna be some aspects of it that, because one of the, you know, this is, this is a scope, like you're the first person who does yours. So I think I've shared with, you know, with today and some other people on a personal level, is that if there's any iteration of armor that's in print, I rather just focus like maybe one one artists or one one particular person and do something with that, versus me having to manage 20 different, you know, folks involved with the magazine, and so, so that's one, that's one aspect, and actually, me and today, we're, we're, we're had a meeting last weekend about some, I don't think we're ready to talk about it yet. But there's some stuff that we're looking to kind of kind of collaborate on and merge his vision with fashion and in my vision, you know, being an artist and a visual designer, see how we can kind of merge that. So I think, I'm always going to be all about things being my tangible thing, I'm always going to focus on that and so, but, you know, if I do anything online, I really doubt it, if it is sort of not, you know, if it's online has to be something different, you know, whether it's in, in a tea spaces, or something that is just on a on the cutting edge of on the cutting edge of innovation, okay, maybe that route, but a print, you know, print is never gonna go away. But just in terms of me being the self publisher and manage the output of it, that is something where, you know, after,
yeah, it's not sustainable, you know, to have one person doing all of that stuff. So, you know, looking forward to hearing how, you know, the symbiotic relationship between, like, you know, design and fashion will will transpire in the future. Thank you. Thank you. So for Hamo. You, I think, there you go. Um, so, you know, you were one of my earlier guests, you know, I think you were in episode eight and and we had an amazing conversation, it was able to break up into two, you know, talking about just all your work because it was also just to catch up, you know, from from we haven't spoken in a long time. But when I when I look back at revisiting your episode, right, I think your idea was focusing on this concept of public scholarship. Right? And how do you get work out to the people who would benefit from it the most right, making it more accessible? How has that been coming along?
It's actually a really interesting journey to take. It's a I think it's a really provocative question, to think about accessibility when it comes to art, and especially fine art, right, maybe more so than design, which is generally Much more democratic. Right. But the visual art the the fine arts right have have historically presented a an inherent barrier to certain communities. And so really trying to think through those challenges has been it's been work, you know, that I think one of the ways that I've been trying to address that is very much through ADAMA, the African diaspora Art Museum of Atlanta. And this question of accessibility, as it relates to the African diaspora, and fine art is at the core of our mission at the core of our purpose. And one of the things that we've kind of taken into account, especially where our programs are concerned, is the the, the African concept of call and response, right? Like, how do you get your audience to like, you know, reciprocate, what it is that you are sending out what you're putting out. And so all of our projects and programs are very community centric, very driven from the bottom up, as opposed from the top down. So one of the programs that I'm really excited about is a series called permanent. And this is a project where we collaborate with other museums. Like, for example, with the High Museum of Art here in Atlanta, we go through their collection of African and African American art, and we select works by artists in those collections, and then create interdisciplinary responses to them, that are designed to create new pathways and new conversations around these art objects, right. So rather than just going and looking at a painting on the wall, we interpret this painting through dance through original music. And we create these films around those experiences that we are, we then share via via our website, you can also view them in the museum, which is also really interesting, too, because now you can go look at this film piece with dancing and music inspired by this painting, and then be able to go and look at the actual painting, and have a different kind of relationship with it. So, you know, these are the kinds of things that we are thinking about from the Adama side. But it's also a question that's very much at the core of my own personal studio practice.
So are you it seems like what you're doing with that concept of exploring, let's say, you know, permanent collection of a museum, it seems like you're bringing in this idea of like, experience, right, changing the scope of what, let's say traditional museums are where it's kind of just like, look, you know, it's not like, we it's not like interact, it's more of just like, observe, and then move on. Right? It seems like your Go ahead.
No, no, I was gonna say that's exactly, exactly the point. In fact, when we do projects, we don't call our presentations, exhibitions, we call them experiences. Because it really is about you know, creating something that is, is dynamic, multi sensory, you know, multiple points of entry. And I know we're not at this part, but I think it's a great thing. One of the great things that I love about Aries work, right? Like all of her paintings are like these, like snapshots of like moments from her actual life, right? So it's not even, like, something that's so highly conceptual that you can't get into it. It's, it's so personable, and it's so personal, that you feel like it's, you know, sometimes I'm looking at these paintings, I'm like, should I be here right now, you know, I mean, but it's that experience that I think is resonant for audiences, right? So when people look at these paintings, they have a different kind of relationship, like, you know, like, I remember early on when I will present some of my paintings and galleries and stuff like that it'll be like young black kids walking down the street and they will see my stuff and be like, Oh, this is art. Oh, I get this. I know what this is about. Right? And you know, Aries workers reminds me of that, you know, like, Oh, this is this this can be art to like I get this I can I connect with this. I I'm experiencing this in a way that I would not normally experience art in a museum.
So let's I mean, there's no there's no rhyme or reason to the conversation right? So since you bring up Aries art, let's talk about Aries art, like what, you know if this resonated with you, how did you think you came across her art? And is there a He's that stuck out to you. How did you you all connect? What we, you know, give us a little bit of insight.
Yeah. So when I first met Ari, she was working at one of the art stores here and in the city. And she invited me to an exhibition that she had. And, you know, I went to the exhibition, and I was immediately struck by one, the aesthetic in her paintings. She reminded why her name just flew out of my head, the artists that I'm trying to think of, I cannot remember my life right now, but I'll keep moving. But anyway, areas where it reminded me of hers, like, visually, like the aesthetic of it was was very striking. I loved the style of the paintings. But there was one piece in particular, it was a painting of like, a picnic scene, you know? And I think it was, you know, I think it was you with your, your husband, you know, and it was
just talking about that their day.
Yeah, I loved everything about it. Like even the perspective of it felt like you were in the student in that moment with them. Like, it didn't feel like you weren't an observer, it felt like you were very much a part of it. And that's been something that I think you've carried through in your work, even as your style has, like, evolved and grown, like you've kept that that core piece of connectivity throughout the work and I think it's really powerful. But you know, maybe Are you want to talk a little bit about some of your, your approach to your
work. I love hearing you talk about it. Keep going. Yeah, like,
I feel good to hear like somebody else describe your work.
It feels it feels great. It's funny, because I always liked Tom his work even before I met him, like when I met him, I knew who he was immediately when he walked into the store, I worked and I was like, gosh, I noticed that I saw I saw his work at the high so it now years later, it's really cool hearing you talk about my work. Anyways. Um, also, when you're talking about experiences, I was like that is so me like, that's exactly. The reason why I paint is to have that relatability of a simple experiences like the show I just had recently at Monique Melosh gallery in Chicago, like the whole show is about me and my friends in Atlanta. So I have like a painting on Edgewood, which is a popular street in Atlanta, Edgewood Avenue where you can like, get drunk and have fun. So it's, I always just try and have moments that you can look at and be like, This is so me. And it started off like that when I was doing self portraits, even before I was including my friends, I would have people see them and be like, ah, that's so me like I would so do that. And I just like that feeling done that I can create work that people like me specifically like black women, or like identify and women can connect to them. And even if you're not a woman you can but that's mostly how I make it. But you know, so yeah, so it's nice, it's fun. I love doing it. And I love just the vibes, have my friends come over, we have photo shoots, I paint them it's like a whole experience. So yeah,
I mean, that sounds amazing, right? I mean, you know, going back right to the to the idea I think FAMU you know mentioned that you know when he looks at your work and feels like you're part of the work not just observing the work and I think that's a talent in itself. How do you think you create that that atmosphere when you're painting is it something by just the way you paint your work? Or is it the way that you create the visual, you know, space that allows people to view your work?
I think it's just the environments that I choose to place myself and the other people in are just environments that everyone can relate to like a lot of them are in my bedroom you know, in the kitchen outside on the street at a picnic I mean at a what do you call them places where you have picnics, park park after yard not the art but I think it's really that I've placed my fingers in places that most people have been to or know
so it seems like that idea that for humble mentioned accessibility right like I know that place so is not in the ivory tower. It is literally at the park and is in a in a room in the kitchen. Now that I think that's great to be able to start to allow people to almost see what they're familiar with and also consider that as something it's hard. It's also reminds me of what FAMU talked about when When we first had our conversation when you were doing your magazine covers right and you would do your own photo shoots and stuff then you would just paint yourself right like you but you did these photo shoots like they're crazy. It seems like Arielle is doing the same thing. We're like, they're so intense. They're like their magazine cover quality shoots, but like I know Bahama was No,
no don't compare the two the homies are literally like photo shoots minor, like getting my friends in front of my cheap camera and we're just taking pictures. It's
been but there's no wrong right there's no wrong to that to it because Bahama doing it for himself, but you're doing it and the artwork is so what it resonates.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And
that's something I was gonna say to that I really love about like the the the steak by the way that the artists that I was trying to think of before is Alice new. Oh,
I was thinking that. But I didn't know if I didn't want to put words in your
first inspirations in college. Like when I learned about her and how she paints, how she painted. I was like, oh, like, I still get this because before I learned about her in school, I was trying to paint like more real realism, like photo realism. And it was stressing me out. And then when I learned about how she painted so loosely and freely, I was like, Oh, I can I can do that. And still, like acceptable for portraits. So she was a big inspo Yeah,
well, yeah, that's definitely Alice Neil's paintings were something that that really came to mind. But what I was gonna say was that I really love that aspect of your process, right? Like, it feels like, your photo sessions are like cell phone. So, you know, like, your paintings feel like somebody's just, you know, it's like swiping through your, you know, your photo album on your phone, and like, you know, coming, coming coming, like having these experiences. In to your point, Georgia, like, my stuff was very, very stylized, you know, in this is another I think, comparison distinction. Both area and I use ourselves as subjects in our work. But Aries are self portraits, and mine are not, right. Like, I'm, you know, playing a role I'm performing as a character. And so it's very much staging, which, you know, I think, Mike, you know, you both you and someday could probably get this to, you know, like, there's this idea of, you know, marketing and media, where you're, you're selling an idea versus the actual person, right. And so, my work has been, like an interrogation of that idea, like stripping that idea. Open and exposing the person behind the idea, right, like, and so that's been a really interesting thing, but I'd love you know, I love the idea of like, the magazine, like, that's such a powerful platform. And it says so many different things.
You know, as I'm hearing with you all talk, like, one of the things I want to explore too, is on my, on the artist side, so I went to, I went to sort of Atlanta, from from 94 to 97. So I live in Atlanta for three years. And, and I went to school for illustration first, and so that's my first that's my first entry is drawing, right? And so, I'm trying to think about what you know, doing more self portraits of me and use me as a, as a as a muse for my next phase of art. And because I think, to even when I when I'm doing a number, I'll do a number for myself. Right, let me give myself something that I don't see. Right You know, I'm saying so I feel like there's a way to where you you're you become your own like Muse but but Buhari just how you're talking about me as your as, as you're talking about? You're taking your your photo photos with your phone, or just a cheap camera, I'm thinking about almost like if your artwork was to be in a phone and you just kind of listen was, yeah, like swipe through and see oh, yeah, this is, uh, this is the image of, I don't know, I just thought of it as like a visual, you go to your gallery space, and you literally have to, like, swipe something and the next image shows in a phone kind of setting. I don't know.
I'm set. I don't think it makes sense for the paintings I do, since they're supposed to be like everyday like, it's like, you took the photo. Some of them some of them like if they're in the bedroom or something. So I probably wouldn't take this photo but it's still for the person to be liking I would. So do that about me.
Right, it's, it seems like you know, we're looking at how You know, we translate just images from different locations, right? I think for homies idea of units is also the times right in the 2000s. Right, the cell phone was not as readily available and as good of quality to be able to do that, right? You probably can do that now and be like, it's no big deal. Right? So for him, you know, working in magazines, like we used to, there was an official photo shoot you had to make, so to replicate that you would just in your head do it right. But now the tools are so much more accessible, and are is like, yeah, I don't need to do all that I just need to be able to, to do something, I think Mike is talking about the evolution of just how he thinks about what he needs to, you know, progress in and, you know, I see that we're talking about, you know, today, and today does fashion and writing, and all of these things, how do you how do you think just the way you work fits into the conversation of just like, what your aesthetic? What What kind of aesthetic do you bring to your creativity when you're working?
I mean, definitely on the fashion side of things, i Everything is heavily influenced by the continent, and specifically West Africa. And I think that's like, how I approach everything is for me, is about fusing cultures across the diaspora that I've come across. So beginning like when I first went to dawn in 2016. And just being exposed to more than just the very, like, you know, they're the kintail fabrics that are really contain these Ankara, wax print fabrics, a lot of which actually aren't traditional patterns, like a lot of them are printed in China and shipped to West Africa. All these things, there's that side of it, but then I'm like, Wait, what about all of the actual traditional fabric prior to the Dutch bringing wax print? And not the batik print? Which is different, but like the actual newer wave? And like, what are these woven fabrics with like, in Ghana and Burkina Faso, in Mali, what is like mudcloth or boglen look like? And then, but in the fusion of that the diaspora, it comes from what does like the West Coast Meets West Africa, in a fashion standpoint, look like. And so you know, a lot of times, we look at these traditional fabrics, and folks, at least from from where I'm from in Oakland, as I, like, you know, it's like shunned or is not viewed in a way of like, oh, this is something that can be high fashion, or luxury fashion, or urban streetwear, whatever is just like, that's like, the African stuff that you are wearing over there. So in approach, and then I was like, Okay, how do we actually fuse the two and bring these textiles that have so much rich history and culture behind them, and bring them into this different context of making pieces out of them that aren't traditional pieces, right? They're not captains, they're not boxy, curious, they're not like the longer flowing styles that are worn in West Africa that fit the climate over there and are very, like practical and functional. But now it's like, okay, I'm making trench coats out of my cloth, because I was living in Harlem at the time it is helico. These are freedoms and and these are big fabrics that I can live do that. So just being very practical about what it was that I was making, thinking about who, what once aware of them, but bringing in a very historical context. And for me is much deeper than just like, simply fashion and making things that people want to wear is, it's also about getting people more familiar with the content and people more curious, especially like Americans, like like myself, who had never experienced that. So I went there, this is an entry point to dispel a lot of the myths and negative perceptions and stereotypes that folks have over there. And so just trying to be a gateway and a bridge and folks thinking in their perception, but using fashion to do that.
I mean, it seems like everybody's having this conversation about accessibility, but also intentionality, right? Like being really intentional about the work that you create, and why you do it, right. Like the me able to bring the outside in and trying to let people know that the art world is not something that needs to be looked upon as as you know, something that's for the rich or the wealthy or, you know, people who have quote, unquote, you know, money that's it's how do you approach the idea that art is something that's accessible and and valuable to all and the way we look and perceive things is really important and then looking at, you know, Mike and today with the idea of, you know, making almost like a history lesson of taking stuff from the West African, you know, ideas and and fuses them with, you know, modern styles to make them more palatable. And, and not, you know, but not for a wide audience for, you know your people to be like, Hey, you should understand what this is, and I loved even the nuances of you being like, hey, even some of the stuff is made in China and shipped to us Africa, and then, you know, basically thought of as African and you're like, No, I'm not even talking about that I'm talking about before all that right. And, you know, that obviously takes a lot of effort for you to even understand that because that is 400 plus years of, you know, things going around and, and that narrative could have easily been taken away. And you've learned that right. And then Mike giving the options and opportunities, you know, for people to do printed word. And just, you know, making decisions of using only three colors, technically to, you know, are actually two colors, really just black and brown, right to make a magazine and all the different versions, right? Everything is intentional, it's purposeful, it's to create something. Now, let me ask you all of this, like, you know, because sometimes intentionality just happens. Or sometimes it's actually intentional. When you create your art, are you really thinking about just showcasing your skills and your talent? Or is there something behind you really focusing on, I have to do this extra work?
I'll just go first, though this already in it. But for me, I think the design process of what the actual garment looks like, it's more just kind of like, okay, I have an understanding of what these fabrics mean, their history, but also, what does my I like actually attracted to. And then the intentionality comes out of that. However, when it comes to the actual processes of how I make things, I'm very, very intentional about making sure that all of my production is done in Ghana, and is done in West Africa, because I can easily send stuff to LA in the garment district, like, I got fabric wholesalers from all of these different places to do that. But it's also about the ways it was there made and who was being supported in the actual manufacturing process. And then every step of Logistics is like, I want to be intentional about I know, where these fabrics are made, who's making them i correspond with these folks directly. I know who's doing the cut and sew all of that. So I think for me, it's a fusion of the two.
Oh, I was just gonna say, for me, it's, every painting I make is usually well, not usually it's intentional. Because like what I said earlier, I'm not making it. For me, I'm making it for people like me, because I know when I was younger, I would have loved to see paintings, like the ones I make. So every painting I do, it's I'm always thinking of like, either a friend or like, I have two little sisters and thinking of them, or just just anyone that can see it and feel represented positively. So yeah, they're always intentional.
Oh, from for me, is a little bit of both. Um, when I first came with the default number, um, I was like, you know, when I see these printed magazines, particularly like the heart, focus magazines, or magazines focus on graphics or layout. Um, I'm like, I don't I don't know if they are intentionally trying to trying to make a white magazine, they just highlighted their people. Right? So what if I just highlight of my people? Right? Most of my people are black and brown like that. This is not something I've Oh, let me make sure I know this person who is such and such like, I just know them. Well, I've known them for five or 10 years. So let me let me bring okay, you're dope your dope your dope come come and be my magazine. So that's really how I approached doing number and only thing I feel like I was intentional about is how wanted the content to be represented and petition about it being really focusing on the layout and illustrations and and the photography and a Thai faces like I was intentional with that. But with the people who are brought into the magazine it was like it was just my folks right and then whoever whoever else I didn't know it was because I was inspired by their work. Or somebody says Oh Mike, you should know about this person. And so really there was a mixture of intentional but the mixture of those also be a little bit organic just kind of what it is. And because I've always said um you know for me and I don't know if Joe's we said this before in a conversation in a conversation before is that I always you know recognize them black see them black but but Rocco me, hire me hire me because I'm a dope grab For this diner, like that's the that's the that's, that's it first, because then what that does is that opens up the opportunities to work on a whole lot of other stuff first, just being in one perspective of art, you know, I'm saying design and so, so I'm always on balancing those two, those two aspects of being intentional about the same time is being authentic with who I am, regardless of if I'm black or not. Like I just love fonts, right? That's his. That's his, you know, for me, even when, with fonts it became became a legacy of my dad as a visual artist, you know, so he was a visual artist. He was a fashion designer. In St. Vincent for Carnival, he did sign painting. He was a muralist and all of this work. And so so in some senses, what I'm doing is sort of infuse, infuse in me, just from him, him being that a visual artist as well. But so I feel like it's a little bit of both where it's like, yes, I want to be intentional with the output. But how it comes about is just, it just I'm being authentically me, you know, so
I'm not only intentional, I'm also deliberate, you know, in, in the things that I create, in the way that I approach in the way that I think, and what it is that I'm trying to say, and, and all of that is really because I recognize at a certain point in my own life, that even when arbitrary visual culture impacts us, right, like, even if I wasn't aware of the mechanics are the psychology behind those images, someone was somewhere, right. And as a person who is a maker, as a person who creates images, I felt I had a responsibility to use my talent in my gift to be intentional and deliberate into make a certain kind of image that's going to resonate with a certain kind of experience, right. And all of that really kind of came out of, you know, my love of magazines, in Double G, you know, this man, we, we used to study magazines back in the day doing graphic design, and like figuring out stuff, you know, all of these magazines that I was flipping through, you know, I would see these images that purported to represent black men, but it didn't necessarily feel like me, you know, like, it wasn't who I was. But I felt compelled to act like that, because that's what the, that's what everybody said, That's what society said I was supposed to be right. And so my work really evolved out of trying to redirect that narrative and to open up that narrative to make it palatable or acceptable to a variety of black male experiences. And not everybody got to, you know, grow up in the projects and shoot guns and sell drugs. Like, you know, that's not that's not every black person. But even now, as my work has continued to expand and expound on notions of blackness and incorporate, like, today, I incorporate a lot of West African influence in my own examinations of blackness. And I'm combining hip hop, and I'm combining West Africa. And I'm combining, you know, European art practices. And I'm bringing all these things together to make a very, very intentional and deliberate statement about blackness. So everything that I use, like this piece over my right shoulder here, you can see, like, if I use a mask, if I use a costume if I bring in an element, I need to know exactly where it's from, how it was used the context for it, right? Because all of that lends itself to my own statement that I'm making through the work. So I have to you know, I'm very researched and very intentional about the research that I do for the work that I created.
And that's Tina in your work like I I've heard your name before for homie but I haven't really like dived in and did after George made a connection like that's what everything you're saying. I totally see that in your your visual art. Right. And that's why I love about a tune day two is with tuna. Two is that he's very intentional with what he's doing with his with his fabric. She's very intentional with like, when you is almost like as soon as I was talking, I was thinking about hip hop, how hip hop in a way. I learned about jazz through hip hop. So hip hop was that Condor. For me to understand about jazz. I mean, my first hip hop song that I loved was rocket by Herbie Hancock Knowing he was a jazz artist 20 Some years in by that point, right. And so I think if somebody is buying if somebody is buying some clothing from from today, there's gonna be a history lesson attached to it. Right? If somebody is looking at, at your work for Hombu there's gonna be a history lesson attached to it. And like, like, almost like if they want to go to Wikipedia, like, wait a sec, this mask is from such and such, like, there's a way where you can kind of like, click it and you know what it means?
Yeah. Visual Wikipedia. Oh, my God, Mike, that would be amazing.
We get what what if somebody is, you know, so for hobbies, save just one of your paintings, right? We just have it there. And you click this and then oh, this, this proper shirt is the reason why he's wearing a purple shirt is because XY and Z, this hope graphic on this t shirt. This means bla bla bla bla bla, this mask is from this like, almost like, if you kind of almost like an app,
you heard it hear first man. Already here first. Nobody's nobody's stealing this idea. We heard it here first. You know, it was on this conversation, which are about visual Wikipedia.
And even just for visual just for the learning, just for the learning tool, particularly if you're dealing with black culture. You know, I'm saying there's this. Okay. Okay. So, okay. Everybody's worked. So far, your focus is? Alright, I don't know, if you really said it. Again, especially whatever is for black folks, right? That's the intention out to be like, I'm trying to show our show. Show us our community, this perspective. And when other people engage with who are not black, how do how do y'all the whole group? How do y'all How do y'all address that? You know, how do you like, okay, like they're taking this in? I ain't really like number right? Number isn't really like is, is our perspective as black or brown people? Anybody can read it, but it's really our perspective. But I'm always curious how for everybody here with safe say today, say if somebody who's rocking your, your garment? You know, I'm saying like, I don't know, just open question to everybody, like, how do you feel like what other folks engaged with, you know, the intentionality of your work is for black folks.
I mean, I get this question. Often, I have a pop up, I have somebody inquiring about something I'm selling. And, you know, again, like, I mean, this is like a more kind of, like, tone down my cloth that I have on now. But like, some stuff I make is a very traditional black, brown and white mug off that, you know, like, this is clearly West African. This is from Mali. And so I've gotten inquiries from non black folks. And I mean, really just from from white folks who have asked like, you know, I like this jacket a lot, like, Can I wear it that like, can I buy it in? So obviously, I'm like, I mean, I can't, you know, when I get online sales, like I can't stop anybody from doing anything, right. But when I had a conversation with them, I'm like, This is what I'll say you have to be prepared for whatever anybody will say to you for wearing this, unlike, regardless of what my viewpoint on it is, and not let folks know, like this is made for black people, by black people, for black people. And I appreciate the support. And I think I actually make a wide range of things. So that, you know, some stuff is just like, it's a traditionally woven fabric, but it's in all black. And I'll say like, you know, if you don't, if you're not fully comfortable, really, with yourself getting this and you don't want to have this attention on you that like he gets something more toned down that isn't super specifically, like, he knows in a bright kente pattern that folks is going he's gonna raise some eyebrows when you do that. And so, again, I can't just tell folks like, no. However, I just want folks to be aware and if they are going to purchase you really have a respect and understanding of what it is that they're getting themselves into an why regardless of your intention, and it's like you know, I love your work I want to support I love the background, I love everything. The production process, and all of that is just there's this other side of it, so
that's tough. Oh, yeah. Makes me think I just random like that about, like, when Black hairstyles like women hairstyles, and like a white girl comes in and she wants braids, and it's like you You're gonna be like, No Get out or you're going to be like, well, I'll do it. But be ready for people to probably drag you for having these like braids in your hair like it. That's a tough. That's, that seems tough. But for me, I don't really I don't ever think about, like what white people or other people think I'm like, when they relate, I'm like, that's cute. Like, I like that you like that. But I have like, tunnel vision on who my art is for. So I kind of only focus on that. But um, it's interesting when other people are like, that saw me and I'm like, Oh, okay.
Yeah, I think for me, you know, that question is, is one that that, you know, throughout my career, I have heard a lot. And my response is generally, that, you know, while my, my work focuses on is is is intentional, towards rewriting narratives around black masculinity. Ultimately, at the end of the day, what I'm talking about is identity. And access every one of us, regardless of what your identity is, struggles with questions of identity, right? Like, who am I? Why am I, what am I? Where am I? Right? Like we we all ask ourselves these questions. And so, as you know, this goes back to something you were talking about, for Mike about authenticity, right? When you are being authentic to yourself, it automatically opens you up for everyone else to relate, because everybody has the same questions. We all have the same questions and challenges. But the other part, the other side of that, which often frustrates me about that question is that people don't ask white people that question about the work that they create, like, you know, because of like, the history of living and growing up in the West whiteness is like the center like is the default. So everybody expects everything to automatically center, that white experience. And so when you do something that doesn't center the white experience, and people begin to take issue with it, or they feel like they can't connect to it. But that's, you know, it's a falsehood, and it's something that has to be, it has to be addressed. And the only way it can be addressed is by artists who are not coming from a white perspective, centering their own identities and their own perspectives in the work that they create. That's the only way you decentralize whiteness is by not making it to center. Mm hmm.
Yeah, I agree. You're familiar. So you're absolutely right. And I think there's a fight, sometimes there's a weight to the work that I do sometimes. And I don't know if you all feel the same way to. But there's sometimes I just want to just create and do the work that I want to do. And not have to have it always mean something and dislike it just sometimes the weight of it, it just is too much. And, yes, that's yeah, I mean, that's, yeah.
I mean, I was listening to everybody have a conversation. And Mike, you're touching on it right now? Is that like, responsibility of, you know, creating for your people, right to know that you have, you know, an audience in mind, and to make sure you do the right thing and your own perspective, and make sure you're representing it a certain way, right? That weighs very heavy, and you can just see how Mike was just kind of talking about it, right? That added responsibility of like, he can't just create, like, there always has to almost be some intentionality, right, even if he could, but there's like a thing in the back of his head, right? Which is unfortunate sometimes when you just want to be a creative, right? An artist, a designer, a fashion, you know, style, like all of these things, like and but you have to actually think about all of these other things that come into play. How do you how do you grapple with that? Anybody want to just share some things I really wanted to talk about, like the idea of struggle, but I think Mike's idea of just like, thinking about responsibility, is it actually more impactful one?
Well, I'll just it I'll follow up with just that because I was just thinking about I mean, for me, the like when I saw I've been making hip hop beats since I was in Atlanta actually, I learned Atlanta seven MC as a hobby for the past like like 20 some years. That's just for me, that's my therapy. I mean, I'm not doing it to make money. There isn't, you know, my identity is attached to in terms of like the music I'm inspired by to make my beats when I'm sampling a Aretha Franklin or Herbie Hancock or you know, Michael McDonald, whatever, right. And so, um, so that's my sort of my way of creating without it having any weight to it. Um, a lot of the work I do for clients, there's no weight for that, right? I mean, there's a little bit of freedom towards, like, somebody wants me to work in a logo, cool, here's your logo, pay me is done to serve app, right? You know, I'm saying, like, that's where I have that balance, you know, I'm saying so, and I want to actually create more work that doesn't have a weight to it. umber had a weight to it, you know, I'm saying, and so, um, a lot of it, the weight wasn't there, because I was passionate about doing design, and I love print media, there was no way in that. But just waiting to be where, you know, what, let me reverse the weight was ensuring making sure that any, you know what, wait a second. The one that was the only way was just being a self publisher, the only way of me just having to do everything, right. Um, and I think the only the way comes into what people are expecting you to do something, oh, you should do you should say something or you should, you should produce something because circumstances happening, that's when the weight comes into. But when I actually create, the weight is actually lifted, because I'm doing it the way I want to do it, versus doing it because somebody said I should do it a certain kind of way. And so, um, the weight is all is all sometime is the expectation that you should do such such and such because you are black, or because you're a woman, or because you are a person of color. Or you should say something, usually people are asking this and you're not, are not that person or not from that community, you know, I'm saying and so he has used the way his expectation, I feel like, you know, I'm saying for my, my levity is doing the work that I want to do, and I'm doing it my whole life. And the weight of a salami, just people just have the expectation that you should do something, or you should make a response to XYZ. So,
yeah, I think that's what that's, to your point. Like, I actively, actively avoid people trying to make me feel responsible for something, right. Like, I don't feel like the work that I create is a wait, like, it's actually quite liberating for me to make work about the black experience and push against these societal issues and things like that. Like, I really love that like it, it makes me feel like I know why I'm here. Right? Like, it's like, but the larger question of like, you know, the responsibility, especially when it comes to issues of like, race and racism and things like that, and people being like, oh, you know, like, especially in 2020, that summer of reckoning, everybody was calling me like, what should we be doing? I was like, Don't ask me. Not mean, like, James, what I love. James Baldwin is one of my favorite thinkers. And he talks about I'm not going to say the word here, but he talks about the the inward, right? And then the necessity of it. Right? And he poses this question. Why is it necessary? Like for white people? Like, why did you need to create this? Because you created it? That doesn't exist naturally in the world? There's no point show me an inward. Show me one. Where is it? Right, you made that up to justify something that made you feel good about yourself. So you need to ask yourself, why did you create that? Right? And it's the same thing I feel about like when you ask this question about weight and responsibility, especially when it comes to issues of race and people feeling like as a black person, it's my responsibility to change their mind or to make them feel comfortable, right? I don't do that at all. Like my work is very, in like I say, intentionally and deliberately black. I'm giving you this black sometimes I'm giving you this black with a middle finger like, like, I'm very, very intentional and deliberate as that's no punches held, you know, like, because I'm being true and authentic to myself, if you have a problem with it. That's your problem. You need to figure out what what that problem is for yourself. It's not mine. Yeah. Love it.
Yeah. I mean, that's so deep. I mean, both of it. Right. And I mean, intentional, deliberate. Right. I knew when I asked that question, you know, fine. What I was a toss up for you because I knew that what your answer was gonna be. I mean, you know, it was definitely this is what you've been doing, you know, for that whole time and I You know, and so the honestly, this conversation will probably go on forever. But I know we have time constraints and things like that. But what do you think? As you're all talking about your own intentionality and your own responsibility, and either outside influences or personal perspectives of how you create your work. If you could think about how to make it easier for the next person coming up behind you, what would you want them to know? What would you give them if they needed something?
I'm going to use my favorite and, and I've heard this story, but I haven't been able to verify, right. But there's a story that says there was this young understudy to Frederick Douglass, who, you know, we'll follow him, you know, assist him when he gave his speeches and stuff. And when Frederick Douglass was on his deathbed, you know, his understudy asked him, How can I continue the work that you're doing? But, you know, how can I, you know, make sure that your efforts don't die. And Frederick Douglass advice to him was agitate, agitate, agitate. Right. And that's what I would say, that's what I you know, if airy were to ask me, and she probably hasn't, I probably have told her this is agitate, like, don't take it easy on people don't soften the blow for anybody, like be real, be true, be authentic, be intentional, be deliberate, agitate, agitate, agitate, like I was, before I came here, I was given a talk at a at a school. And, you know, I was telling, I told the children there, you know, very, very similarly. You know, my whole approach to my work is never about trying to tell people what to think. I just want to make you think. Now, what you think that's up to you, right? But my job is to, is to toss that question and grenade into the middle of the room. Right? So that's me, agitate, agitate, agitate,
I liked that. I was just gonna say, be authentic, be yourself. Um, I think that's really important. And that's like, all I could say, I'm still learning. But I would say be authentic. Be yourself.
We're all still learning what you hear.
Always, always, it's hard for me to be like, This is what I would tell someone if they asked me because I always like, Oh, no, like, I'm, I'm learning to like wear I don't know, like, just be yourself.
But that's a beautiful answer. Right. Like, and this is this is true. You know, like, to that point, like, who wants to know all the answers?
But I think you saying you don't know is also power. Exactly. Yeah. Right. I think you being like, Yo, I'm still figuring out to let's maybe do it together. But I'm still don't ask me that question. You know, I think I think we, we sometimes maybe just feel that pressure to be like, Why need to have an answer to this question. You know, and I think sometimes you're like, Yeah, I'm still figuring it out. So, Mike, or work today, you want to take it?
Yeah, I would say, I mean, related to that my advice would actually just be to get outside of your comfort zone. And I mean that like, in a physical sense, because what even sparked me getting into fashion and clothing design was two very distinct experiences, none of which happened in my hometown of Oakland. So when I went off to college, I did my undergrad at Yale. So I'm in New Haven, Connecticut, but I'm from, from East Oakland, like really, for me. So I was born and raised here went to all public schools. And so the way that I was socialized and my understanding of clothes, and just how, especially in high school, like Chief Keef was popping, everybody wanted to have true religion, jeans, and a Gucci belt, and some Foamposites in a polo shirt, and all of that, but it was just like, we are 15 years old, we all broke, but it's crazy, that will save up this much money to, you know, buy into this image, but it's because of the way we've been socialized. And that's what we put value on inside of that community. And so it was just so crazy to go across the country and get dropped into New Haven, Connecticut on this campus. And what the moral of the story is, I looked around and I was like, Oh, wow, like, it allow for me to just like, reflect and be like, that's crazy. I was like, really how heavily I bought into this understanding that me and all the folks that I grew up with have bought into and now I come here and it's like, nobody actually cares about this type of stuff. Like there's Girls that is on Forbes list. And this dude's grandfather just gave $100 million donation, it was just it was just dropped into like, the wealth side of things, but also just symbolism and how much that's marketed to our community and how we present ourselves too close. And then the second one was when I went to Ghana, and just was able to just explore something new, like I didn't, I didn't grow up saying, oh, I want to design clothes and get into that it just so happened because I got to expose to an assessable way to do that by being in Ghana and working with tailors and having access to fabrics. And then it was just something so yeah, my advice would just be to venture out side of the comfort zone physically. Travel if if you have the means to do so. And it doesn't have to be far it could be from Oakland to Sacramento, it could just be you know, I'm saying anything is to broaden your perspective. And that's one of the things that I'm, again, actively learning every time I go in new places, just like learning the different way of life a different set of values a different way folks present.
oh, man, um, the word kept coming up for me is, um, um, his challenges, um, embrace your challenges is going to happen, people are going to tell you, No, you still do it. Um, that sometimes that's the hardest thing to like, try to put some out there. And, and somebody is say, Oh, I don't really like it. I don't know what this is. I don't know what you're trying to do. This doesn't make any sense. This is insane. Um, just be prepared for black people not really liking your stuff, or people not really understanding it or not people not really wanting to rock with it. And going to the next. I mean, there's so many, you know, the nose really shaped me. And what I'm doing the passes really shaped me. Not in a way where it's like, being resentful, or being like petty. But it's like, it just means that just keep refining what you're doing. And so and challenges are necessary, they are necessary, it should not be easy. If it's easy. I mean, oh, no, that's so easy.
I mean, the challenges are growth, right? That's how you go, right? You grow from the adversity, you know, you grow from the ability to, you know, you learn where to not go, and you know, which directions to go by, by knowing that there's an area you shouldn't be, you know, messing with. And so, you know, to end up on this theme of, you know, the state of black design or the state of creativity, because we have artists and fashion people right, not just designers on this, you know, call, what do you think the state of black design slash creative creativity is today, and should be in the future.
I'll say now, it's just like, I'm the newest to this space, haven't not necessarily grown up in artists or anything like just kind of stumbled upon this by doing. But I do think it is ripe with opportunity, and right with the opportunity to actually maintain control, not only of our narrative, but also of the ownership of our art, the distribution platforms, where it's shown, galleries, screenings, storefronts, like all of that, I just think we're at a very pivotal moment in history, where a lot of folks are thinking more about how can you be an autonomous community. But within this, the, the art space, like, I think is just very, very ripe for folks to really collaborate and work together. To build up that vision I think we all somewhat collectively have. And building that network, that framework, that infrastructure, to showcase everything that folks are creating.
Anybody else want to take this?
I'll just say, you, if you look around. If you look around right now, you'll see that there's been a massive, massive shift away from what has traditionally been our like media in visual culture, right? Like, you go into any bookstore and it's littered with like, novels and histories and biographies and, you know, things by black authors everywhere you turn on the television, everybody's you know, fighting for content that's like black stories and black content, right like the there's a great I think a great decentering of whiteness that is happening across all John moves in across disciplines, right. And I think in terms of where we're, where we're where we are, and where we're going. Now is really the time to really like, now's the time for ownership. And I think that that will be like, the biggest thing is, you know, because there, like I said, there's there's so much interest and focus on that right now that people are investing these dollars into owning these stories, because that is where the world is going. We have to own our own stories on our own platforms, right? Because God forbid, 15 years from now, someone decides that Asian stories are the big thing. And they start shifting all the focus to, you know, Asian starting in black people kind of get pushed to the back because we don't own anything, right. Like, now we're back struggling and fighting for visibility, as opposed to if we own it, we can sustain it, we can maintain it. And that doesn't mean that other voices don't get hurt, right. But ours just doesn't get exploited in the process. Right? So ownership prevents exploitation.
all right, I support
the t shirt. I'm making a t shirt.
Had one thing that I thought as thinking that I don't know if that answers the question perfectly. But I was thinking like specifically for the kind of art that I create that kind of more like mundane, everyday experiences, I feel like now and push into the future, it's got to be more of that accepted, like in the black culture around because I have artists friends that we've talked about how they worry about them, just painting, average black experiences being like not enough and not doing enough for our people. And I think we're starting to get to where this is something that's acceptable, that might not have been, like, looked at as powerful before. Um, and I feel like Caymanians had a quote, where she also said that she loves seeing how like, work like this is more looked at as powerful and not just like, mundane. So I think that's something to look forward to in the future is just accepting all types of work.
Maybe no real talk, you know, because to your point area, I think there's been historically like a, like, black people who have made it into the spotlight have been considered exceptional. You know what I mean? Like, you had to be damn near Superman, you know, to get to get recognition and to get attention. But now, like, it's, you know, we're starting to see more and more of like, just the normal, we're, we're allowed to be human beings. Yeah. And I think the more we create, the more stories we tell, the more images we paint, the more magazines we make. The more podcasts we host, the more human we become. And I think that that's a beautiful thing.
You're such a good speaker, like
a doctor for a reason.
Literally, like, unless you can just say what I'm thinking. So it sounds like that.
But then it wouldn't be the same. It was beautiful. Better.
Mike, you want to add? Are you good?
Yeah, no, no, me everything. I'll just say this. So resilience was first coming up. But after hearing everybody was everybody's saying like is push the state of like, design is the push. And then the future is like thriving, re thriving now. We will see more evidence of us thriving, and so um, resilience and push and thrive so.
Mm hmm. Um, thank you all. I mean, you know, ownership opportunity, you know, acceptance, you know, pushing thrive. I think these are great words and terms to end off with a conversation where I really, you know, this is the first time I was able to, you know, come back and revisit some of my conversations with with previous guests. And also I love that we're able to bring new people on I'm getting to meet you know, Arielle Danielle, and I could today Ahmed, you know, I really think that it's, it's a testament to just all of us in our ability to be close knit and keep each other close to be able to push each other forward. I think that's a great thing that we all tend to do. You know, and push each other All right, I think that is really where the power is, you know, into, you know, owning our stories, owning our narratives, and determining how people see us, right? And the more that we all do that, the more that nobody can take that away from us. And I really appreciate all of you being on this live version, this this, this kind of just visual version of my show, because it's usually only just an auditory version. So this is kind of weird, right. But, you know, I really, really think that this conversation was way deeper than I wanted to, and I think for Hamo and Mike definitely pushing those conversations because I love the way you're asking each other questions. And this is works in process, the live version for the state of black design. Thank you, everybody. And I can't wait for all you know, to see this conversation later on. Thank you, everybody. I appreciate you so much.