What do you do currently?
I’m currently an artist, primarily focusing on street art based here in Palm Springs, Ca. I partner with the Palm Springs Art Commission where we started a test pilot for public art with the street bench program last year that was approved by the city. This project is growing into its third phase where we are creating opportunities for other artists during this pandemic. I have been blessed to have my artwork on display here locally and across the globe. Some of my work has been featured on billboards in NYC while I’m currently fielding calls to do some mural projects in Miami, FL and host some of my work at the African American Museum in Washington D.C. I’ve been fortunate to complete a few projects in France as well. I recently signed with the Redwood Art group who hosts large event art shows nationally! Everything thus far has been a blessing and I am starting to inspire and touch people globally. Tysen Knight Scholarship fund is coming as well to award students an opportunity to pursue higher education in the artistry field.
Tell me a little about your background? Where you are originally from and how did that journey lead you to where you are located today?
I was born in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and move to Willingboro, NJ at 6 years old. I went through all my grade school years there and learned early I was naturally creative. I would paint on jeans and make business logos for my mother’s friends when I wasn’t getting into trouble as a teenager. That is how I found out I was artistic. Back then we did not have the internet, so you had a lot of time to be one with your own thoughts. By default, you have forced the manual way to be creative. At ten years old, I would read comic books and I would come up with my own comic book characters and write to the comic book companies about my characters and try to get feedback. I was always aware that rejection was there, but I never let it discourage me. All I needed was one shot! In addition, I would collect baseball cards and copy the stats and graphics on each card on copy paper. This was how I got my start into the arts.
What inspired you to be a filmmaker/artist?
My parents were incredibly supportive and encouraging to me and my siblings. They found out about the ACT-SO program by the NAACP and they encouraged me to enter the contest for the state of New Jersey. First place winners would receive an all-expense-paid trip to Houston, Texas where I would get to compete in the finals at the national convention against all the state winners. I enter the contest and won 2nd place! I was the youngest contestant at the age of 15 years old, and the panel of judges was so impressed by my artwork, they called and awarded me the opportunity to still attend the national convention. They offered to pay half of my trip! I was blown away by the talent of the other African American children and it inspired me! NAACP - Afro Academic Cultural Technological Scientific Olympics was the platform and it still exists today. https://www.naacp.org/act-so/
What are some of the things you love about filmmaker/artist?
“I like that I’m able to express myself in a way that is true to the essence of who I am” My main purpose is to help others and once I understood my purpose with my gifts, my whole world opened up. It took my mind to a whole other level.
What are some of the struggles and hurdles that you find in filmmaking and being an artist?
I don’t think I ever had struggles being an artist. I had enough struggles being a human being. For a portion of my life, my art suffered because of my life’s struggles. My art came naturally so it was easy to take it for granted in my early 20’s. I started getting into trouble with the law because I didn’t know my purpose. I knew I was talented, but I did not know what to do with my gifts. I was told there was no money in art! I let negativity consume my positivity and creativity. So, it led me down a path that eventually, gave me perspective and I then learned to appreciate my blessings the hard way. Once I was able to get my life on track, I started to mentor others, what to stay away from. My journey has helped me resonate with students in a special way, where some cannot relate.
Now that we have talked about struggles let’s talk about the opposite of that. What are some of the high points you have had in your journey so far?
People message me from all over the world that loves my work. Mainly from Africa! I don’t how they find me, but they do. I do not let all of this go to my head. I appreciate the kind words and praise, but I take myself out of it and question, what are they really saying to me? When I’m able to touch people and inspire them, that’s my high point! It fuels me to keep going. I can’t quit because I have too many people relying on me to be the best version of myself to inspire them to be the best version of themselves!
Do you see yourself being an artist & filmmaker for the rest of your life?
I can plan on that, but I am just going to do the work and wherever it takes me, I’m going to let it happen organically. I’m just going to do the work and let it fall where it may. My journey is going to be laid out for me and I will be exactly where I am supposed to be as long as I’m coming from a pure place in my heart.
Do you come from a gifted family as well or are you the only one?
I’m the only one with my siblings, but my uncle Theodore Wilson was an actor in Hollywood. He played a role in the famous show Good Times as ''Sweet Daddy Williams''.
What are your future plans regarding your filmmaking/artist career?
I see a lot of traveling in the future. I am very Intune with the universe so I’m basing it off of my intuition. Whenever I have thoughts they always come to fruition, so I am careful of what I think of. I feel somehow once a vaccine is produced; I will be in a whole new arena. I see myself changing lives in other places as I do here locally.
If you could go back and change or talk to your younger self, would you?
I would guide myself as my own guardian angel, but I would not change a thing. I wouldn’t share anything with my younger self. My 23-year-old self-needed to go through what I went through to get to where I am today. I would not change anything!
If you could give advice to someone just starting off in the movie industry/artist, what would it be?
Number one, your gift, and your purpose have to align. If your gifted and you get to a point of success in your life without a purpose, someone else is going to give you a purpose and it might not be in your best interest! Your talent and your purpose must align for you to be the best version of yourself.
Interview by: Samuel Thompson