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Making the Best of a Creative Spring

Flowers are blooming. Birds are chirping. The sun is shining. There’s inspiration everywhere for any creative to craft the best art of their life. However, trying to hit the creative spark while the moment strikes can be overwhelming. Don’t worry about trying to capture the moment. The advice below shows what may work for you in making this best creative Spring ever!

Declutter and reorganize your space

Every artist has an organizational system. But sometimes, you need a little refresher to clear your mind. You can start by getting down to the bare essentials with some decluttering. Your supplies, tools, and a few extras are needed to get those creative juices going. Create organized accessibility with small bins and dividers to make your essentials available. Sketch/notebooks and small calendars are the perfect organizational companions to help you plan your projects.

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Plan out your spring and summer projects

Spring and summer are the prime times to plot out your creative endeavors. Sun, nature, and warm temperatures can inspire you to create art. But don’t forget to plan your projects to prevent being overwhelmed. Grabbing a sketchbook or calendar can help you plan out your next artwork. Plot out every stage, from pre-planning to the final stage, to keep yourself on track. Schedule some days off between projects for rest or catch up on long-term projects.

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Collaborate with other creatives

Warmer weather always brings out the collaborative spirit amongst creatives. Before jumping into a collab, think about the person(s) you want to spend time with. Discussing with them can make or break if you are the right fit. Joining forces with another artist can yield more comprehensive projects that are time-consuming alone. It can be beneficial for both parties.

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Change up your scenery

Sometimes, working in the same space can stifle your creative juices. Changing up locations may be the solution to get them flowing again. It might be as simple as going to a different corner of your studio. Other times, you need to escape and mingle amongst your fellow citizens. You can sit in another room or area in your home or your favorite coffee shop or have a nice day at the park. You can even make it a meetup with friends or loved ones to spark more artistic inspiration.

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Allow those creative breaks

While working on new projects can be cathartic, artist burnout is real. You can tap your creative well dry, which leads to frustration and anger over a lack of progress. You can avoid that by taking mental and emotional breaks from your creative work. Planning resting time between projects usually helps to alleviate exhaustion. If the feeling or mood persists, you might need to take an extended break from your projects until you feel the need to be creative again.

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Take what you need from this advice to make this the most creative Spring and Summer of your life.

Game Changers

Angie Thomas

Novelist Angie Thomas used her words to set the young adult world on fire. Thomas was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. Growing up in a violent area, her mother fostered Thomas’ passion for reading and writing by taking her to the local library. Writing allowed her to pursue her musical dreams as a teen rapper. Eventually, she set aside her music aspirations to pursue writing, majoring in Creative Writing at Belhaven University.

Her college studies led her to create her first book, The Hate U Give after a professor championed her to translate her upbringing into words. Her experiences, the Black Lives Matter movement, and her love for Hip Hop informed her work from then on. Her manuscript won her the inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant. The Hate U Give was a New York Times best-seller and adapted into a modest box-office hit with Thomas as a producer.

Thomas has since released two more New York Times best-sellers, On the Come Up and Concrete Rose, in 2019 and 2021. The former was adapted for the screen as a feature-length film directed by Sanaa Lathan. She most recently participated in the YA anthology Blackout, along with other writers Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon.

Her upcoming novel, Nic Blake and the Remarkables: The Mainfestor Prophecy, will debut on bookshelves and online on April 4, 2023.

Angie Thomas used her experiences as a voice for those without one. She proved Black writers could use their voices to address topical subjects without compromising their principles and morals. Despite all her success on multiple fronts, Thomas shows no signs of stopping any time soon.

Novelist Angie Thomas

Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. It means you go on even though you’re scared.

Angie Thomas

Tope Folarin

Writer and educator Tope Folarin used his experience as a first-generation American to shed light on serious topics. Folarin is the eldest of four siblings raised in Utah and Texas. His parents instilled a love for their native country in their children, sparking his fascination for culture and words. This love translated to him attending and graduating from Morehouse College.

His academic pursuits led to Folarin furthering his studies at Harvard University. He went further as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, where he obtained his M.Sc. in African Studies and M.Sc. in Comparative Social Policy. His work soon found him writing several short stories while opening pieces for notable publications like The Atlantic. His writings led him to win the Caine Prize as the first non-native African writer to do so.

Folarin expanded his work into publishing with his semi-autobiographical novel A Particular Kind of Black Man. His debut novel won him the Whiting Award for Fiction. His writings also garnered him a fellowship through the National Endowment for the Arts.

In addition to his writing career, Folarin has used his voice in the educational space for over a decade. He currently serves as executive director of the Institute for Policy Studies and Georgetown University’s Lannan Visiting Lecturer in Creative Writing.

Tope Folarin channeled his thoughts and words to reflect the differences within the U.S. His work championed Black writers to allow their voices to tackle serious subjects in a quest for change. Folarin is trying to change the world with every word.

Art became for me the pathway to, I think, achieving a kind of wholeness… And that was the beginning of my journey, I think, to becoming a more coherent individual human being.

Tope Folarin

Get to Know These Black Creatives

Patrick Alston

Abstract painter Patrick Alston

Abstract painter Patrick Alston is taking painterly abstraction to a new level. Alston was born and raised in New York. As a young artist, he had an affinity for gesture painting, materials, and psychology. He found inspiration in abstract and experimental artists like Raymond Saunders, Cy Twombly, Mark Bradford, and Basquiat.

His love for attraction led to him attending Wabash College in Indiana, where he majored in art and psychology. His studies and post-grad work focused on socio-politics, identity, language, and the psychology of color. After graduating from college, he began showcasing his painterly abstractions in various solo and group exhibitions across the globe, including the U.S. and the U.K. In 2021, he secured his first art residency through Gallery 1957 in Accra, Ghana.

Alston currently splits his time between New York and Connecticut, where he has a dedicated studio.

Amy Sherald

Portraitist Amy Sherald

Portrait painter Amy Sherald is bringing a fresh take on portraiture. Sherald was born and raised in Georgia to an upper-middle-class family. She had an affinity for art at a young age, drawing and doodling on her classwork. She found inspiration after seeing the work of Bo Bartlett on a school field trip. Despite her artistic interest, her parents discouraged her interest, leading her to enroll at Clark-Atlanta University as a pre-med. She eventually switched to painting after taking a class taught by renowned artist-historian Dr. Arturo Lindsay.

Following graduation, Sherald apprenticed for Lindsay, helping him organize and install exhibitions in Central and South America, China, and Norway. She eventually pursued her MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Soon, she put her art career on hold to take care of her ailing family. She returned to the art world with her first solo show in 2011. Her work eventually caught the eye of others, leading to some firsts. The portrait artist became the first woman to win the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition and the first Black woman commissioned to create a presidential portrait with her painting of First Lady Michelle Obama.

Sherald currently works in Maryland, where she has a dedicated studio. She currently participates in solo and group exhibitions while accepting commissions.

Brit Bennett

Novelist Brit Bennett

Freelance writer and novelist Britt Bennett gives a view into African-American life through a female lens. Bennett was born and raised in California in a predominately female household with her mother and sisters. Those relationships inspired her to write as she began crafting her first novel in high school. Her passion for writing led her to major in English at Stanford University.

Bennett decided to pursue her MFA at the University of Michigan before attending Oxford University. She first caught national for her essay “I Don’t Know What to Do With Good White People.” The writer eventually authored more notable works like “Addy Walker, An American Girl” and “Ta-Neishi Coates and a Generation Waking Up.” She soon ventured into publishing with her debut novel, The Mothers, in 2016 before releasing her follow-up, The Vanishing Half, in 2020. Both books became New York Times best sellers and were optioned for upcoming live-action productions.

Bennett was named to Time magazine’s Time100 Next. She recently published her first children’s book Meet Claudie: An American Girl.

Sophia Yeshi

Illustrator and graphic designer Sophia Yeshi

Illustrator and graphic designer Sophia Yeshi uses her work to highlight Black women and the LGBTQ+ community. Yeshi grew up in Baltimore as the daughter of a Pakistani father and a Black mother. Her affinity for graphic design began at age 12 when she scored a free trial of Photoshop. She took graphic design courses in high school before studying the discipline at the University of Baltimore.

After graduating, Yeshi interned for a few local firms before she started freelancing for companies like Converse and LinkTree. Soon, her work caught the attention of Refinrey29, which commissioned her to do some design work for the website. After that, the multifaceted artist created designs and campaigns for brands and publications like Instagram, Rock the Vote, The New York Times, Dwell Magazine, Comcast, Google, and UPS. She gained enough traction to secure a creative residency with Adobe and a teaching partnership with Skillshare.

Along with creating designs for multiple companies and brands, Yeshi also runs a blog highlighting other designers.

Tre Seals

Graphic and type designer Tre Seals

Type designer Tre Seals uses his work to elevate and amplify social causes. Seals grew up in Washington. D.C., where he lived on a farm. His fascination with drawing and writing began at age four when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. His love for letters became a legit creative business in the 5th and 6th grades. He designed his first font as a high school senior, which led to him majoring in graphic design at Stevenson University.

Seals spent his early post-grad career working for several design firms. Those experiences led him to want to diversify the design industry. He launched his company before founding his font foundry, Vocal Type, in 2016. His diverse fonts caught the world’s attention in 2020 when his font Martin became associated with Black Lives Matter murals after the killing of George Floyd. This attention eventually led to the type designer creating fonts for filmmaker Spike Lee and the Amazon Labor movement.

Seals currently works in Maryland, the home base of his studio and foundry. He recently published his first book, Dream in Color, while working on other non-type design projects.

Inspirational Black Artists, You Need to Know

Jacob Lawrence

Painter Jacob Lawrence

Multi-discipline artist Jacob Lawrence used his brush to bring African-American life into the art world. Lawrence was the eldest of three children moving around until they settled in Harlem. He found an affection for art by participating in art workshops run by renowned painter Charles Alston. At age 16, he dropped out of high school to support his family by working at a laundromat and a printing plant.

Lawrence kept pursuing art by studying at Harlem Community Art Center and the American Artists School while working at the Works Progress Administration. Following a military stint, he crafted some of his best-known works, including The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture and Harlem. His most famous panel series, The Migration of the Negro, made him the first Black artist represented by a New York gallery. While working as an artist, he taught at several colleges and universities across the U.S.

In his later years, Lawrence continued exhibiting his work at notable museums while delving into other art mediums. He started the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation with his wife Gwendolyn Knight, allowing young artists to create and study American art. The painter passed away on June 9, 2000, after a battle with lung cancer.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Abstract artist Jean-Michel Baquiat

Abstract painter Jean-Michel Basquiat put every avenue of African-American life with a unique style. Basquiat was born and raised in New York with a Haitian father, a Puerto Rican mother, and two younger sisters. He got his love for art from his mother, who encouraged him to draw. That affinity only grew after ending up in the hospital at age seven, reading the medical book Gray’s Anatomy. He attended the City-as-School, where he began doing graffiti under the moniker SAMO.

Basquiat left home in 1978 with a passion for the art world. He tried different artistic endeavors before landing his first public art show in Times Square. His work appeared in several exhibitions before landing patronage from Annia Nosei. He continued exhibiting his work across Europe and the U.S., at one period being one of the highest-paid artists. This period spawned notable works like Untitled (Skull) and Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta.

In his final years, Basquait continued exhibiting his work around the world. At the same time, he developed a heroin addiction, which led to his eventual death at age 27 on August 12, 1988.

Bisa Butler

Textile artist Bisa Butler

Fiber artist/quilter Bisa Butler used her fine art skills to redefine quilting. Bulter was born and raised by her educator parents in New Jersey as the youngest of four siblings. She first knew she had a talent for art after winning an art contest at age four. Her affinity for art led her to pursue her BFA at Howard University, majoring in painting.

However, it wasn’t until she pursued her MA at Montclair State University that Butler finally turned her focus toward fabric art. She began exhibiting her work across the U.S. in the 2000s. At the same time, she was teaching art classes in New Jersey high schools for over a decade. By the 2010s, she began exhibiting her quilt work in various countries, including Art Basel in Switzerland.

Butler continues to craft her fabric art for various exhibitions and other outlets like publishing and filmmaking. Her work is currently available in permanent collections worldwide, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Gordon Parks

Photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks

Photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks captured African American life through his lens. As the youngest of 15 children, Parks was born into a working-class family in Kansas. After his mother passed, He moved to Minnesota, where he went through multiple careers.

Parks’ love affair with the camera didn’t happen until age 28 after seeing images of migrant workers in a magazine. The self-taught photographer began taking photos, which led to positions with the Farmer Security Administration and Office of War Information. After working for the U.S. government, he began working for Vogue and Ebony before becoming Life magazine’s first Black photographer. During this time, he published several books and notable photo essays, including “Harlem Gang Leader.” He eventually expanded into other mediums like film and music composition, leading to classics like The Learning Tree and Shaft.

In his later years, Parks continued his photography and film work while venturing into writing and painting. He continued working until his death on March 7, 2006.

Faith Ringgold

Mixed media and textiles artist Faith Ringgold

Mulitfacted artist and quilter Fait Ringgold used her art to tell powerful narratives. Ringgold was born to creative parents in Harlem as the youngest of three children. Her love for visual art came from her mother to cope with her chronic asthma. She decided to pursue art education at City College, where she obtained her B.S. and M.A.

Ringgold started her career as a painter. Works such as The American People Series saw her travel to Europe and the U.S. before scoring her first solo exhibitions in New York. Eventually, she extended her artistic endeavors into performance art and sculpture, culminating in pieces such as The Wake and Resurrection of the Bicentennial Negro. She ventured into her beloved quilt art until the 1980s with notable works like Echoes of Harlem and Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima?

Ringgold has kept her artistic endeavors going by venturing into children’s literature. She spent over a decade teaching at the University of California until her retirement in 2002. The artist continues to work on new pieces with permanent collections at multiple museums.

Inspirational Black Designers, You Need to Know

E. Simms Campbell

Commercial artist and cartoonist E. Simms Campbell

Illustrator and commercial artist E. Simms Campbell was a trailblazer in the print world at a time where Black voices weren’t prominent. Campbell was born in Missouri to educator parents but moved to Chicago as a kid following his father’s death. Working for his high school newspaper fostered his love for illustration and cartooning. He attended the University of Chicago before transferring to the Chicago Art Institute.

Following his college years, Campbell’s caricatures caught the eye of Triad Studios, where he worked for two years. Soon, his work made waves after moving to New York, where he contributed illustrations to Life and Judge magazines. This buzz led to him working for national mainstream publications, including Cosmopolitan, Ebony, The New Yorker, Redbook, Playboy, and a twenty-year tenure with Esquire. He created the magazine’s iconic mascot Esky. His hard work paid off as he became the first Black cartoonist to have a syndicated comic strip with Cuties in over 145 newspapers.

In his later years, Campbell continued to work in illustration and design following his exit from Esquire. The illustrator passed away on January 27, 1971, from a brief illness related to cancer.

Thomas Miller

Graphic designer and visual artist Thomas Miller

Visual and commercial artist Thomas Miller was influential in the commercial design world. Miller was born and raised in Virginia to working-class parents. His love for art started at a young age after becoming fascinated with Leonardo da Vinci. After graduating high school, he attended and graduated from Virginia State University before joining the military in World War II.

Miller didn’t start doing art professionally until he returned from the war and enrolled in Chicago’s Ray Vogue School of the Arts. After graduating, he faced an uphill battle in finding employment before landing a position at the prominent firm Gerstel/Loeff. However, it was his 35-year tenure at the renowned graphics studio Morton Goldsholl Associates. He was instrumental in several major advertising campaigns like the 7-Up and Motorola rebranding. Outside his commercial work, he built a career as an independent artist through private commissions and gallery showcases.

After retiring from Morton Goldsholl, Miller created the Founders Mosaics for the DuSable Museum of African American History in 1995. In his later years, he kept commissioned independent artwork for other entities and displayed his work in galleries. The artist passed away on July 19, 2012, from natural causes.

Georg Olden

TV graphic and motion designer Georg Olden

Graphic and commercial designer Georg Olden was influential in commercial and motion design. Olden grew up the youngest of three children moving from Alabama to Virginia to Washington, D.C. after his father left for his civil rights work. He began drawing in high school before attending and dropping out of Virginia State University.

Olden’s graphic design began after enlisting in the military and joining the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). His time in the military was fruitful as VP of CBS Television Lawrence W. Lowman was his colonel and recruited him to be a graphic designer. From 1945 to 1960, he served as director of graphic design, where he and his team created countless network and show ids for classics like Gunsmoke, I Love Lucy, and Lassie. During this time, he became the first Black person to design a U.S. stamp, celebrating 100 years of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1963.

After leaving CBS, Olden worked for notable advertising agencies BBDO and McCann Erickson. The designer passed away on February 25, 1975, after being killed by his live-in girlfriend.

Gail Anderson

Writer and graphic designer Gail Anderson

Graphic designer and educator Gail Anderson helped to make type a force in design. Anderson is a first-generation Jamiacan-Ameircan born and raised in New York. She became fascinated with designing after crafting faux fan magazines for the Jackson 5 and the Partridge Family. Her love for design led her to attend and graduate from the School of Visual Arts.

Anderson started her design career by working at Vintage Books and The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. After working for both organizations, she spent fifteen years at Rolling Stone, going from assistant to senior art director. The graphic designer crafted multiple covers and editorial stories featuring celebrities like Gillan Anderson and Alicia Keys. After her Rolling Stone tenure, she worked for the advertising agency SpotCo from 2002 to 2010. During this time, she designed a U.S. stamp celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. She extended her design skills to multiple Broadway and off-Broadway productions.

Anderson has continued to work in commercial design through her agency Anderson Newton Design with Joe Newton. She continues to teach future designers as a professor at her alma mater.

Archie Boston Jr.

Graphic artist Archie Boston Jr.

Graphic artist and educator Archie Boston Jr. shaped the look of American advertising and commercial design for decades. Boston is one of five children born to a truck driver and caregiver in Florida. His high school art teacher encouraged him to enter a local art exhibition. Another source of inspiration came from his older brother Bradford, who was a designer as well. He followed his older brother to the California Institute of Arts, where he majored in graphic design.

Following his time at CalArts, Boston worked at Hixson and Jorgensen Advertising and Botsford Ketchum before forming Boston & Boston with his older brother. The design duo crafted notable campaigns for Beckman Instruments, Chiat/Day Advertising, and Concord Electronics. Eventually, the agency dissolved as he worked for Botsford Ketchum for eight years and started Archie Boston Graphic Design. During this period, he became the first Black president of the Art Director Club of Los Angeles.

At the same time, Boston was a faculty member at California State University, Long Beach, from 1977 to 2009. Since retirement, he delved into documentary filmmaking with the release of 20 Outstanding Los Angeles Designers and Black Pioneers of the Sunshine City.

Inspirational Black Writers, You Need to Know

James Baldwin

Author and essayist James Baldwin

Multifaceted writer and civil rights advocate James Baldwin spoke about race relations and intersectionality before it was a hot-button topic. Baldwin was the oldest of nine children growing up in Harlem, New York. He found his passion for writing by studying and reading at local libraries. He started as a preacher and a railroad worker before becoming a freelance writer.

Baldwin found his stride after moving to Paris and Switzerland, where he penned his seminal book, Go Tell It on the Mountain. His initial success led to other important works, including Notes of a Native Son and Another Country. This work during the civil rights movement inspired The Fire Next Time. Following the loss of his friends Medgar Evers, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, the writer left America and wrote the classic novel If Beale Street Could Talk.

In his later life, Baldwin continued his writing while teaching young writers. The author passed away on December 1, 1987, after a battle with stomach cancer.

Octavia Butler

Afrofuturism novelist Octavia Butler

Sci-fi novelist Octavia Butler set the tone for the thriving multimedia genre of Afro-futurism. Butler grew up in a strict Baptist household led by her single mother and grandmother. Her love for writing was birthed out of her intense shyness as she found solace at the Pasadena Central Library. She attended and graduated from Pasadena City College while working temporary jobs and on her writing.

Bulter found inspiration in the Black Power Movement to write her seminal work Kindred. She later found success with the revisionist series The Patternists, the sci-fi trilogy Lilith’s Brood, and the Parable series. After a successful run of best-sellers, she became the first sci-fi writer to win the prestigious Macarthur Foundation fellowship in 1995.

In her later years, the author suffered from writer’s block and depression but managed to write a few short stories and her final novel, the vampire-themed Fledgling. The sci-fi novelist passed away on February 24, 2006.

Langston Hughes

Author and playwright Langston Hughes

Renowned writer and activist Langston Hughes served as one of the prominent voices during the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes lived with his grandmother in Missouri before moving to Illinois to live with his mother. Living with his mother and new family in Lincoln jumpstarted his love of poetry. Following his time in the military, the young poet worked a series of odd jobs after one year at Columbia University.

Hughes’ work eventually found its way into major early 20th-century publications like The Crisis and The Nation. After years of publishing his poetry, he ventured into fields like novels, essays, short stories, plays, and operas. The writer founded several playgroups and outfits, including The Skyloft Players in New York and the Golden Stair Press. He also began teaching at a few colleges at the same time.

The 1950s and 1960s saw his influence wane over differing opinions with young writers, but he still mentored young talent like Alice Walker. The writer passed away on May 22, 1967, following complications from abdominal surgery. His final work, Panther and the Lash was published posthumously.

Walter Dean Myers

Young adult and children's author Walter Dean Myers

Children and young adult author Walter Dean Myers managed to merge Black youth culture with literature. Myers was raised in New York by his foster parents, which revolved around his neighborhood and church. He found a love for writing after a teacher suggested he channel his frustration about his speech impediment. He kept up this practice until he joined the military.

After working several odd jobs, Myers began writing for various publications before winning a contest, which birthed his first children’s book. His initial success led to multiple best-sellers, including Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and StuffFallen AngelsMonsterHoops, and Scorpions. His contributions to children’s literature and YA led him to become the first Black National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

In his later years, Myers continued writing books with illustrations by his son Christopher. He passed away on July 1, 2014, after a brief illness. Following his death, there were several posthumous releases, including Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History and “Sometimes a Dream Needs a Push.”

Zora Neale Hurston

Writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston served as one of the Harlem Renaissance’s prominent voices. Hughes grew up as the fifth of eight children in Florida to a preacher father and an educator mother. Following her mother’s death, she worked menial jobs while trying to complete her education.

After graduating from Brandard College in 1928, Hurston found success as a writer in Harlem. She had published several short stories and two books – Jonah’s Gourd Vine and Mules and Men – by 1935. The writer found her most notable success in the late 1930s and early 1940s with the release of seminal works Their Eyes Were Watching GodTell My Horse, and Moses, Man of the Mountain. At the same time, she continued her anthropology work while writing for multiple publications.

She published two final works – Dust on the Tracks and Serpah on the Suwanee – before moving back to Florida, where she worked menial jobs. Hurston passed away on January 28, 1960, following a severe stroke. Following her death, multiple unpublished works, including Barracoon and Every Tongue Got to Confess, were released.

Black History Month Spotlight: Ryan Coogler

Director and writer Ryan Coogler’s introduction to the public left a profound impact that is still found in his work today. Coogler grew up as one of three brothers to a community organizer and probation counselor. Originally born and raised in Oakland, CA, he spent much of his adolescence in Richmond, where ran track and played football. His sports prowess won him a football scholarship to St. Mary’s College.

While at St. Mary’s, the seeds for his film careers were sowed as he took a creative writing course. He eventually transferred to Sacramento State, where he took multiple film courses. After earning his bachelor’s degree, Coogler enrolled in the master’s program of USC School of Cinematic Arts. During his tenure at the school, the filmmaker creates a series of short films that prestigious student film awards such as TIFF’s Dana and Albert Broccoli Award for Filmmaking Excellence, the HBO Short Film Competition, the DGA Student Film Award, and the Jack Nicholson Award for Achievement in Directing.

As a USC student, the shooting of Oakland native Oscar Grant greatly affected Coogler. He put together a script by interviewing Grant’s family and attorney. Eventually, a chance meeting with Oscar winner Forest Whittaker led to the film Fruitvale Station. The film went on to be a critically-acclaimed sleeper hit, scoring multiple nominations for Coogler and frequent collaborator Michael B. Jordan. After the film’s success, he and Jordan teamed up with Sylvester Stallone to bring Creed to the big screen. The seventh installment in the Rocky franchise proved to a success – critically and commercially.

After helming two successful films in a row, Coogler was tapped to direct an all-star cast in Marvel Studio’s first MCU film with a Black lead – Black Panther. Released in February 2018, the film went on to become the highest-grossing film by a Black director. It garnered multiple award nominations, including an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. The hit film will be followed up with a sequel in 2022. Along with the Black Panther sequel, he will write and direct Wrong Answer, another film with Michael B. Jordan as well as Space Jam: A New Legacy with Lebron James. The director recently signed a deal with Disney+, which includes a drama based on Wakanda.

As a screenwriter, there are very few creators in the entertainment industry so inspire me more than the man I just profiled. I have admired his efforts to push stories of the Black diaspora. He spotlights many aspects of Black culture over different continents along socioeconomic, class, and racial lines. He (as well as a few other Black creators) have front Black cinema back into the mainstream conversation, and for that, I want to say thank to Ryan Coogler for pushing creative like myself to highlight all facets of my culture.

To recognize yourself in a character onscreen, and to connect with them, you gotta recognize their flaws; they gotta feel like a real person.

– Ryan Coogler

Black History Month Spotlight: Issa Rae

Multihyphenated content creator Issa Rae grew from a YouTube content creator to one of Hollywood’s most powerful Black voices. Rae grew up as one of four siblings to a Senegalese doctor and Black American educator whose careers took the family across different continents. Originally born in Los Angeles, CA, she lived in Senegal and Maryland before settling in California. It wasn’t until Rae entered high school that found her passion and voice – acting and writing.

After graduating from high school in Los Angeles, Rae went to Stanford University, where she received a BA in African and African American Studies. The seeds for her first series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl were planted as she met her producer Tracy Oliver. The two eventually took classes at the New York Film Academy after Rae completed a theatre fellowship in New York City. Her confidence in having an entertainment career wavered as she contemplated between law and medical school before Awkward Black Girl took off.

After contemplating quitting her career, she had her breakthrough moment as Season 1 of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl took off on YouTube. The series gained recognition through word of mouth and coverage online before the mainstream media picked up the series. This attention led to renowned music producer Pharrell to helping produce the second season. Rae even went on develop other successful YouTube series such as Black Actress, The Choir and First. She ended up scoring a development deal through Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland with host and comedian Larry Wilmore helping to develop a comedy series.

Despite the deal not working out, the series she developed with Wilmore led to a pilot for HBO. This deal eventually led to the acclaimed hit Insecure. Her work on Insecure has led to multiple award nominations as both an actor and writer. The series’ success helped to secure Rae an HBO development deal, leading to projects such as Rap Sh*t and A Black Lady Sketch Show. The creator continues to produce film and television projects through her production outlets Issa Rae Productions and ColorCreative. The success has translated to a big screen career as both a performer and producer with hit films such as The Hate U Give, Little, Hair Love, and The Lovebirds.

As a screenwriter, there are very few creators in the entertainment industry so inspire me more than the woman I just profiled. While I did catch a few episodes of Awkward Black Girl on YouTube, it was her efforts to push other underrepresented and marginalized creators that made her a source of inspiration. She managed to turn an acclaimed, poignant web series into a multimedia brand spanning television, streaming and the web. She (as well as a few other Black creators) helped to bring the Black experience back into primetime after a drought of Black television content, and for that, I want to say thank to Issa Rae for pushing creative like myself to highlight all facets of my culture.

My confidence comes from doing what I love to be honest, like to be able to create something from the ground up and to be able to… kind of walk in your purpose is a great feeling.

– Issa Rae

Black History Month Spotlight: Walter Dean Myers

Children’s book and young adult author Walter Dean Myers managed to merge Black youth culture with literature. Myers experienced a rough childhood growing up in New York. At age two, he was given to his foster parent Herbert and Florence Dean after his mother’s death. Adopting the middle name “Dean” to honor the love and affection the Deans showed him. His life revolved around his neighborhood and church.

Their love was needed as Myers’ speech impediment lead to some trouble at school. But a turning point came when his teacher suggested using writing to channel his frustration. He continued writing short stories and poetry into high school before quitting at age 17 to join the military. Upon being discharged, he went from job to job trying to find his voice until reading “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin.

Soon, he began writing for various publications before winning a contest, which leads to his first children’s book. Much of his work channeled his troubled teenage years and growing up in Harlem, New York. His exploration of Black young culture was unprecedented in children’s and young adult literature. He went to published best-selling titles such as Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and StuffFallen AngelsMonsterHoops, and Scorpions. During his lifetime, Myers was a five-time Coretta Scott King Award winner along with being a Newbery Medal, Hans Christian Anderson, and National Book Award finalist. From 2012 to 2013, he served as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, becoming the first Black person to be granted this honor.

In his later years, Myers continued to write children’s books and young adult literature with his son Christopher doing the illustrations. He passed away on July 1, 2014, after a brief illness. Even after his death, his work continued to be published with his last book, Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History, and the short story, “Sometimes a Dream Needs a Push,” coming out in 2017.

As a Black teenage male, I had very few authors who appealed to me outside of the few Black authors that were required reading. Discovering Walter Dean Myers’ works in junior high made me feel seen and heard in a way I had never felt before. He captured the experience of Black youth without pandering or being outdated. He made me strive to be better than some of the circumstances he wrote in his novels, and for that, I want to say thank to Walter Dean Myers for shaping my adolescence and wanting to highlight my culture.

Books transmit values. They explore Our common humanity. What is the message when some people are not represented in those books?

– Walter Dean Myers

Black History Month Spotlight: Toni Morrison

Author and educator Toni Morrison set the tone for many Black writers of today. Morrison grew up as the second of four children in a working-class African American family in Lorain, Ohio. Her love for reading and her heritage was stimulated by her parents telling of African-American folktales and ghost stories.

She turned her love for reading into her passion as she received her BA in English from Howard University followed an MA from Cornell University. She taught at Texas Southern University and Howard before getting Random House subsidiary L.W. Singer. While at Random House, Morrison became the first Black female senior editor, giving chances to many upcoming Black writers such as Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Toni Cade Bambara, Angela Davis, Huey Newton and Gayl Jones.

Soon, she began writing herself leading to some African American literature’s most celebrated works like The Bluest Eyes, Song of Solomon and Beloved. Her storytelling and celebration of Black culture sent a precedent for African American literature. With Beloved, Morrison became the first Black woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. In 1997, she became the second female and first Black fiction writer to grace the cover of Time Magazine.

In her later years, Morrison continued to thrive as a professor at both Cornell and Princeton University. She released her final work of fiction, God Help the Child, in 2015. She passed away on August 5, 2019, after a battle with pneumonia.

Some may not acknowledge this fact, but Toni Morrison is basically the turning point for African American literature. Her foresight and sense of awareness was able to push Black writers and stories to the mainstream in a way no one before her had even tried. Her contributions as a writer and editor aren’t celebrated enough, but for that, I say thank Ms. Morrison for all you did to create a space for Black voices.

If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.

– Toni Morrison
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