For the past year my mantra has been “My black is beautiful” a constant echo to myself that all that I am is a gift to this world. No matter the adversity, my blackness is strong, is love, is culture (being 1st generation Nigerian American), and is my own as an individual and community.
This mantra served as my muse which helped manifest and propel the idea of showing other Africans like myself creating positive images of African men; shifting the stereotypes away from “African booty scratchers”, “scammers” – notably the illustrious (419) that most Nigerians detest, to creating new dynamics of prominence that paints a better light for African men. More and more you’re seeing Africans innovating the more ways to use their talents to tell their stories their way.
On Thursday November 24th, 2017 a group of young African men composed of different skin tones, sizes, talents; each gifted with their own individual styles got together, used Union Market in Washington D.C. as their canvas to illustrate vast collections of beauty embodied with a message.
The moment was truly an incredible experience. It was a great turn out, better yet it was amazing to take part in the camaraderie shown by on another. Some like myself who took part, we’re just meeting that day for the first time but you couldn’t tell though because of how much fun we were having.
The Africanist podcast, Kwaku, Femi, Hamid, and Yaw created a platform where they maintain a certain comfort level with who they are, as they present a different perspective on life’s everyday trials and tribulations, the struggle of Africans in America; reminiscent with the voices of an African household they give their listeners enough gems, laughter and hope to get through the week.
“It’ s such an ambitious niche we’re in, infusing, culture humor, comfort and style to the people.”
Founder of One Tribe Magazine, Ayo, created a publication for African creatives within the diaspora to create a global platform their demographic can relate and connect with.
“We’re giving you a platform to promote yourself”
Heading into the shoot, I thought about things we all tend to reflect as the year comes to end. How I did at work, outside of work, what goals I set, whether I accomplished them or not are just some of the thoughts that flipped through my mind. I thought about the things I’ve yet to process or things I’ve become numb to, like how much worse it’s gotten the last couple of years for people of color. Mainly because we’re used to it; what’s even worse is every day we’re reminded that our skin tone is still not considered human in most places. With all the bad that’s happened, there have certainly been great things that we continue to create and share to the world through television, fashion, art, music and entertainment. Nevertheless, we push through, we preserve and overcome like it’s business as usual.
“We’re at an age that there’s so much talent and people want to express it. I definitely think you should cultivate it… You have to be a creator man.”
As we wrapped up the shoot, I later sat down with each of the them to pick their brains and allow their audience to get a feel for their own sense style and fashion, their own goals for their brand, growing up in a African household and using their brands to impact the culture.
How would you define your own individual style?
Most of us have a 9-5 job, so with your platform what the goal?
How is your identity integrated into your work?
How do you distinguish yourself from other brands?
We’ve all grown up in an African household where we’ve been conditioned into a belief system that professionalism and success were being a doctor, lawyer, engineer etc. How do you think your brand and steeping out of that traditional mold impacts the culture?
My hope is that after you’ve read this you have something to take away from this; maybe you’re inspired to follow you own passion, or have a renewed sense of vigor balancing you 9-5 and side hustle. These guys are doing what they’re passionate about and better yet serving their communities as they do it.
To my African and African American brothers and sisters whatever you decide to do and be in life, be the best at it while being you. Not watered down, nor making yourself small for anyone. Just be your most unapologetic and authentic self and remember…
“OUR BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL”
A HUGE THANKS TO MICHAEL MEADOWS AND JULIAN THOMAS FOR MAKING THIS PROJECT HAPPEN.