6LACK | Viper Magazine: Winter 2020

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 samuel.lai

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than the opposite.” - Nelson Mandela The Black community is experiencing unprecedented times in our history. In the words of Angela Davis, ‘This moment holds possibilities for change we have never before experienced’. But the Black community isn’t in mourning like the commentary many outlets are leading their headlines with. ‘Mourning’ neglects the fact that millions before George Floyd have died, and that the Black community have never left the state of mourning for brothers and sisters who have lost something in the name of racism. The fact that Ruby Bridges, the first ever black woman to attend an integrated elementary school is America is only 62 years old illustrates just how long the path to equality truly is. Protesting is not aimed at starting a race war, it’s about ending one. Black Lives Matter is not a call for reparations for brutality or slavery. It’s about equality, and speaking the truth to power. Skin colour, culture and identity should be a celebration of what we bring to the table, not what we take from it. Some see BLM as a hashtag or a viral statement; others a trend. But it’s more than that. It’s an understanding that humanity should be a symbol of unity, equality and freedom for everyone who graces this beautiful earth to be who they were born to be.

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Photo by Sali Mudawi

We cannot, and should not, stay silent about the things that matter to us or we hold dear to us, whether that be race, religion, an opinion or love.

year where we finally discover what it takes to make a change. With every single challenge to racism we make, we create a new chapter in history for our future leaders of tomorrow.

The Black community has become the driving force popular culture in recent years. Its influence has been undeniable and fundamental in the development of music, fashion and culture — the 3 main pillars of VIPER magazine today. Without it, the likes of VIPER would cease to exist.

This BLM issue features role models and pioneers of the black movement who never received the deserved recognition for the difference they made. Their work became a catalyst for changes that defined how people of colour are today viewed across the world. We also cover a number of local legends.

This issue marks the UK’s Black History Month 2020, in hope that we all bear the burden of equality and to become the change that we’ve so desperately needed. Black Lives Matter, just like Black History Month, isn’t limited to recollection of what black people have contributed, or how they have been mistreated. For every single day where someone in the world faces injustice or prejudice, we are reminded of the continual need to fight for our individual and collective freedoms.

It is with great pleasure I introduce the BLM edition of VIPER magazine, it was a true honour for me to have been part of this issue and the movement. As a topic that has remained dear to both myself and the community I represent, I hope you find it as enlightening as I found my experience as editor.

This year has taken its toll and many of us cannot wait to put it behind us. But as a strong believer that through adversity comes strength, 2020 may just be the year we’ve all been waiting for. The

Victor Davies

Happy Black History

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Lily Mercer

Victor Davies Scott Butler Lucy James Loach Eddie Cheaba Ola Busari Ema Morimoto Brianna Lewis

Editorial Office lucy@vipermag.com

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Photo by Mike Miller

The Goods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

Pink Salad LDN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102

the little girl is tired . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

Sunmo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106

My Daddy Changed The World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

Safehouse LDN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112

I Can’t Breathe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18

Michaela Washington Welch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118

London Protests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

Rick Frausto .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .124

Icons That Deserve Statues. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28

the morning quakes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .128

Viper’s Favourite Voices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32

Chadwick Boseman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130

UTCAI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

Black Owned Business Directory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .134

Cover Story: 6LACK by Mike Miller . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Manliness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 Telfar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82 Wale Adeyemi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92 Alex + April . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100

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It’s super rare to find a brand that combines two of life’s essentials: coffee and rap music, but that’s how Cxffeeblack caught our eye. But this is deeper than rap, with their tagline, “We’re taking cxffee back for the culture,” they’re creating a movement - pushing much more than beans and brews to the masses. In addition to coffee, this all-encompassing brand serves up music, podcasts and clothing. The Memphis-based company was founded in 2019 by Bartholomew Jones and his wife Renata Henderson, to reclaim the Black history of coffee and maintain its Black future. Simply purchasing one of their blends can educate and enlighten coffee drinkers on the significant Black history of coffee, as each pack explains how the coffee plant was stolen from Africa by Dutch spies. Music is deeply rooted in the brand’s foundations. At Cxffeeblack

 cxffeeblack


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not only can you find a blend named Gojimane - taking inspiration from one of the most iconic trap rappers the world has ever seen - the name also references the area of Ethiopia that coffee was discovered; Guji, one of the zones of the Oromia Region. Those appreciating this slick double-entendre can also hear an album by Jones on Spotify. Blending rap and soul music, the March 2020 album ‘Cxffeeblack’ features lyrics like ”Coffee stay Black, just like me. Don’t need sugar, don’t need cream.” In addition to crafting a great product, the branding is divine, with much of the graphic design created by Henderson through her company, @browngirllettering. As a musician, teacher and social activist, Jones uses the brand to educate and reimagine the significance of Black history in coffee cultivation. This is one of the only beverage brands that can educate you and expand your mind, all while pleasing your taste buds. Pour up, and head


Born out of a pandemic, Minetta Wax Co. is an NYC-based black owned luxury candle business. The brand was established by Anthony Lawson in 2020 in order to shed light on the history of Minetta Lane, a section of Greenwich Village once referred to as “Little Africa.” The small street gained this name after becoming a settlement for partially freed slaves who the Dutch colonisers charged a fee to farm the area. The name came from the Algonquin Indians word “Mannette,” or “Spirit Water” and what the Dutch would call “Mintje Kill,” or “little stream” - combining to form “Minetta.” After slavery was abolished in New York in 1827, the area became home to a large African American population. By the mid 19th century was known as “Little Africa” - a place where black people not only prospered but lived hand in hand with people of all different kinds.

Following over a century of gentrification, Minetta Wax Co. champions the overlooked history of Minetta Lane’s thriving black community, with a stunning array of hand-poured artisan candles. Each scent is named after the founder’s great aunts from Mississippi; Vignetta (Sandalwood), Lily Bee (Black Currant), Rosie Mae (Oud Wood), Girtrude (Vetiver) and Ruth Pearl (Fig). While referencing his own personal history, Lawson also makes a subtle nod to hopes for a future of unity through the aesthetics of the candle. Our line of artisan candles are a beautiful addition to any home; with a thoughtfully curated exterior and incredible scent permeation, Minetta Wax Co. will become a household favourite.

 minettawaxco


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B-Side serve up delicious drops for AW20, including the Dexter Bucket Hat with its gold or silver B-Side branded engraved puller. The brand remix the youthful headpiece, to give it a grown and sexy aura - perfect to maintain a cool aesthetic throughout the rainy season. With its quality piped drawstring cord with fishing knot detail, this £20 accessory has the power to embellish the simplest of outfits. Other notable highlights from thee new collection include the Project B Hoodies, in mint, grape and mango colour-ways. Referencing designer Wale Adeyemi’s iconic graffiti designs, the OG Graffiti graphic appear on tie-dye and plain T-Shirts.

 bsideldn


While a re-up of their Can I Live series, previously worn by Beyonce, is served up with the Vol. 4 design coming in a white sweatshirt or long sleeve tee and hoody in a marl grey fabric. The chest features the notable first bump graphic with red and green lettering. Other must-haves include the box logo white tees, with graphics in soft pink and vivid red. The B-Side website also features a B-Home section, teasing products are coming soon. We won’t be complaining about any further lockdowns, provided we can kit out our yards with furnishings as desirable as their clothing. Til then, get your hands on socks, face masks and more, via the the website.


We love punch almost as much as we love to see young entrepreneurs shining, so it doesn’t get better than Drip Punch! This group of friends started their company at the tender age of 16, while still attending school. Inspired by a recipe of their grandmother’s, these young men funded their company with funding they won in a competition at their local youth club. They began with 100 bottles, selling them at local food markets, business events and shops.

Citing their West Indian roots as inspiration, Josh, the CEO of Drip Punch says, “We believe in making premium quality punches, made with freshly pressed juices; whilst paying homage to our Caribbean heritage.” Naturally West London’s Notting Hill Carnival was the perfect location for their launch, where they sold 100 bottles of punch in just 20 minutes. Following this, the founders sent the punch for testing, got licensed and took Drip Punch to the masses. Previously enjoyed by UK stars like Stefflon Don and Nines, this premium punch brand is stocked in over 30 Shops.

 drippunch


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Music is deeply rooted in the brand’s foundations. At Cxffeeblack not only can you find a blend named Gojimane

It’s super rare to find a brand that combines two of life’s essentials: coffee and rap music, but that’s how Cxffeeblack caught our eye. But this is deeper than rap, with their tagline, “We’re taking cxffee back for the culture,” they’re creating a movement - pushing much more than beans and brews to the masses. In addition to coffee, this allencompassing brand serves up music, podcasts and clothing. The Memphis-based company was founded in 2019 by Bartholomew Jones and his wife Renata Henderson, to reclaim the Black history of coffee and maintain its Black future. Simply purchasing one of their blends can educate and enlighten coffee drinkers on the significant Black history of coffee, as each pack explains how the coffee plant was stolen from Africa by Dutch spies.

- taking inspiration from one of the most iconic trap rappers the world has ever seen - the name also references the area of Ethiopia that coffee was discovered; Guji, one of the zones of the Oromia Region. Those appreciating this slick double-entendre can also hear an album by Jones on Spotify. Blending rap and soul music, the March 2020 album ‘Cxffeeblack’ features lyrics like ”Coffee stay Black, just like me. Don’t need sugar, don’t need cream.” In addition to crafting a great product, the branding is divine, with much of the graphic design created by Henderson through her company, @browngirllettering. As a musician, teacher and social activist, Jones uses the brand to educate and reimagine the significance of Black history in coffee cultivation. This is one of the only beverage brands that can educate you and expand your mind, all while pleasing your taste buds. Pour up, and head to their website to discover more. blackisbeautifulstore.com

 blackisbeautifulstore





Born out of a pandemic, Minetta Wax Co. is an NYC-based black owned luxury candle business. The brand was established by Anthony Lawson in 2020 in order to shed light on the history of Minetta Lane, a section of Greenwich Village once referred to as “Little Africa.” The small street gained this name after becoming a settlement for partially freed slaves who the Dutch colonisers charged a fee to farm the area. The name came from the Algonquin Indians word “Mannette,” or “Spirit Water” and what the Dutch would call “Mintje Kill,” or “little stream” - combining to form “Minetta.” After slavery was abolished in New York in 1827, the area became home to a large African American population. By the mid 19th century was known as “Little Africa” - a place where black people not only prospered but lived hand in hand with people of all different kinds.

Following over a century of gentrification, Minetta Wax Co. champions the overlooked history of Minetta Lane’s thriving black community, with a stunning array of hand-poured artisan candles. Each scent is named after the founder’s great aunts from Mississippi; Vignetta (Sandalwood), Lily Bee (Black Currant), Rosie Mae (Oud Wood), Girtrude (Vetiver) and Ruth Pearl (Fig). While referencing his own personal history, Lawson also makes a subtle nod to hopes for a future of unity through the aesthetics of the candle. Our line of artisan candles are a beautiful addition to any home; with a thoughtfully curated exterior and incredible scent permeation, Minetta Wax Co. will become a household favourite.

 sunmosnacks


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the little girl is tired but she must keep walking 4 emmet till & Trayvon martin who can no longer walk she must stand tall and speak with all her might carrying on what Sandra bland didn’t get to finish speaking aloud the wishes of Malcolm’s & Martin’s heart the little girl is tired her arms are weary her knees aching but she cannot stop now her heart aches the pain is 2 heavy for her small shoulders but she can smell victory in the air freedom is near.

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By Kesensa’aakhut Mordi.

‘Vozes Mulheres’ by Ricardo Nascimento  @imaginetextos_

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Those were the words of Gianna Floyd which spread across the world like wildfire following the loss of her father, George Floyd, in the hands of the Minneapolis police department. In the hands of the United states of America. In the hands of the world. There’s no denying how the spotlight in America has shone across the globe. Through adversity has come solidarity, and our generation has yet to see a greater act of unity than what we are currently experiencing. 2020 will go down as the most defining moment of this era. This elephant has been taking up ALL the space in the room. THE





TELEVISED. So, pardon my French when I say fuck your social distancing “no groups of more than 6” pleas. COVID-19 has killed 400,000 people to date, institutional racism has killed millions and millions of black people over 400 years. Yeah, minorities might at higher risking of COVID-19 but some diseases, suffice it to say, are simply dangerous than others. This isn’t the end of racism… it’s the beginning of the end of racism. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” — Donald J. Trump We are ALL responsible for both the world we live in and the people who inherit it. In the wake of both peaceful and violent protests, George’s untimely murder has caused a cautiously optimistic shift in the way people of colour are viewed. And President Trump’s threats of military illustrate just how long the road to equality is.

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Photography by Zek Snaps

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Do that Donald, and you will see just how deep the blood in our veins flow. Because your army is only as powerful as the people it represents, and what they represent. “Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed” — Will Smith. Social media has provided us with the power to stay informed and learn about the world in ways we’ve never been able to. THIS is true wealth behind the counterfeit narrative social media has become. As it has shown us in 2020 alone, social media can be used to drive change. So, it should be used to share, talk, educate, debate, learn, promote and experience. Today we stand up, Not just for George Floyd. But for EVERYONE who has ever been affected by the experience of racism, everywhere. Anxiety, discrimination, prejudice, fear, unjust treatment are all consequences of racism. Each one of those things are reason enough to say ENOUGH is ENOUGH. Black people have become the voice of the unheard. The voice of the abused. The voice of the misrepresented. It is the responsibility of black people, through the support of all races, brands and organisations, to ensure these changes are policed and change occurs. May we all reap the fruits of our labour and make George Floyd’s death the catalyst for change we so desperately need. A rainbow is only beautiful when all colours shine together...

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I Can’t Breathe For the last few days, I’ve been feeling lost, scared, frustrated and deeply saddened by what’s happening in America and here, so on Saturday 5th June a dear friend and I went on the Black Lives Matter March. It was A peaceful and inspiring protest. The hope, courage, frustration and fear was evident in the energy of the youth around us. I felt proud to be there. Which is why I decided to send this. This year has unfolded a story that has been struggling to come to the surface for such a long time. The senseless, cavalier, nonchalant, bigoted, hateful, cowardly , mean, greedy, incompetent, thuggish and evil behaviour that has taken too many lives. What happened to George Floyd is not uncommon. Which sounds even more bizarre because it seems to be acceptable to kill someone over supposedly a forged 20 dollar bill! But thank god there are some brave and conscious people who are saying NO!This must stop, enough is enough. Question, is life, humanity meant to be this way, is it ok for the police to brutally kill someone because as far as they are concerned they can and no one is going to stop them. To me Their actions are the same as the person they are meant to be protecting us from, so who is the criminal here? In my eyes there doesn’t seem to be any difference except that the police get away with it. Now is the time to take a moral stand, to be strong and speak out for what is right , for what is wrong. I am a black woman but also a human being. Through my life I have defined my self more of the latter not letting hate stop me from being

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me, even though parts of my heart has been chipped away over the years by the throw away comments to mock the colour of my skin and told that I don’t belong. It’s frustrating to be misrepresented, it’s scary to be hated so much. The constant rejection because of the colour of my skin has rendered me lost and lonely at times that I would start to retreat. Sometimes it felt like everyone wanted to talk about something else. But now a gap has appeared in the universe that has allowed us to stop and take a look at the world we live in more closely. this cruelty is breaking humanity into two. Im scared, very scared that I and other people of colour will never be seen, never really be accepted. But I live quietly hopeful, because I believe the world is waking up and stepping out of their privileged bubbles and slowly acknowledging the suffering and the injustice. because this right here, right now is bigger than all of us. When you stay silent , the abuse never stops. There have been some extraordinary people in history who gave their lives to a cause and fought for democracy so we could have Freedom of Speech and equality ......but if we don’t speak out and stand together and say this is wrong then we lose our right to democracy, you lose the right to being human. I have witnessed and heard of injustice all of my life. That certain individuals, organisations, businesses, governments from acrosss the world have manipulated societies for their own gains, they feed on the vulnerable, the cowards, the hate, the fear. They feed on those who say, well it’s got nothing to do with me. But By doing nothing the consequences are devastating and it will continue, these hateful and evil acts on people, your friends and neighbours, because no one is safe in this. They will Continue to dominate, and destroy our ability to Love. Silence and fear is the biggest killer in this world. Now is the time to listen....to not turn away. Silence is accountable for what’s happening, for what’s crushing this beautiful earth. It’s not enough to send an emoji !. It’s action what is needed right here, right now. We could be so much more than this.. Because I’m so tired. I can’t breathe.. By Angie Dixon.

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In the days following the murder of George Floyd, crowds of young people of all colours and creeds converged in city centres around the world to support one another in the name of justice. Disrupting traffic across the city, they chanted, “No justice, no peace” for not only Floyd, but also Belly Mujinga, the TFL employee who died of COVID-19 following a racist attack in which she was spat on by a member of the public, who claimed he was carrying the virus. The names of countless victims of police brutality and institutional racism rang out, in between speeches around what must be done to end this cycle of hatred in our generation. Prior to attending the march, I spoke to a 50-something-year-old family member who told me they’d attended similar marches in the city at the age of 15. Ignoring the sentiment, I remarked, “And look, nothing’s changed since then.” Though Britain may be considered less racist today than it was in the 1970s, the presence of EDL supporters swamping London’s streets just one week after the BLM protests proved racial abuse and prejudice is far from obsolete in this country. Such ignorant acts continue to tarnish our society, leading to several violent attacks taking place on black Brits throughout summer 2020, including an attack on an NHS worker tasked with putting his life on the line to help on our frontline. Attending the marches, I was left inspired by so many young people taking a stand for justice in the face of a global pandemic. Though the violence and hatred perpetrated against black lives this year have left so many of us weary, the fight must continue. These images by Zek Snaps capture the power of those present at the protests. As Gil Scott Heron said, “the revolution will not be televised.” But 2020 has got me wondering, “how can we plot the revolution when all our phones are tapped?”

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Baroness Lawrence by Hannah Eugene ï…­ han_eugenius

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Baroness Doreen Lawrence

Margaret Busby

With more than 50,000 people signing a petition calling

As Britain’s youngest and first black female book

for a statue of Stephen Lawrence in central London,

publisher, Margaret Busby co-founded the London-

we also feel his mother deserves her own tribute.

based publishing house, Allison and Busby, with Clive

Baroness and campaigner for police reform, Doreen

Allison. Born in Ghana, she later studied English at

Lawrence founded the Stephen Lawrence Charitable

Bedford College, graduating with a BA Honours degree



at the age of 20. When Allison and Busby’s first books

and young people from disadvantaged and under-

were published in 1967, she became the youngest

represented backgrounds. Since 1998, the trust has

publisher, of which she said, “it is easy enough to be the

helped to transform lives and create a society in which

first, we can each try something and be the first woman

everyone, regardless of their background, can flourish.

or the first African woman to do X, Y or Z. But, if it’s

Born in 1952 in Jamaica, before emigrating to the UK

something worthwhile you don’t want to be the only... I

at the age of nine, Lawrence continued her education

hope that I can, in any way, inspire someone to do what

in south-east London before becoming a bank worker.

I have done but learn from my mistakes and do better

When her son was murdered in a racist attack in 1993,

than I have done.” Part of an impressive dynasty, Busby

she complained of unprofessional police work during

is the cousin of BBC newscaster Moira Stuart, and the

the investigation, citing incompetence and racism.

Ghanaian lawyer and consultant, Phyllis M. Christian,

Since then, she has campaigned for police reform,

who has been called “one of the most influential

being awarded the most excellent Order of the British

women in Ghana. Her aunt Clara Marguerite Christian,

Empire for services to community relations. In 2013 she

born in Dominica, was the first black woman to study at

was elevated to Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon, in

the University of Edinburgh.





the Commonwealth Realm of Jamaica; a rare honour, she was designated a location in a Commonwealth realm outside the United Kingdom. Today Lawrence

Fanny Eaton

sits on the Labour benches in the House of Lords as a working peer.

Born in 1835 in Saint Andrew Parish, Jamaica, Eaton and her mother emigrated to the UK the following decade. She appears alongside her mother in London

Lillian Bader

records, that state she was working as a domestic servant. Marrying James Eaton, a horse-cab proprietor

As one of the first Black women to join the British armed

and driver, in 1957, she entered into motherhood before

forces, Bader earned Corporal rank. Born in Liverpool

becoming a model for the Pre-Raphaelites brotherhood

in 1917 to a Bajan father and Irish mother, she was

of painters. She appears in pencil sketches by Simeon

orphaned at the age of nine and raised in a convent.

Solomon in 1859, some of the earliest images of her.

There she remained until the age of 20, struggling to find

Other notable artists she posed for include Dante Gabriel

employment due to her race. Bader said of these years,

Rossetti, William Blake Richmond and Albert Joseph

“My casting out from the convent walls was delayed. I

Moore. In a time of intense racial prejudices, Eaton

was half West Indian, and nobody, not even the priests,

challenged society’s expectations of black women. With

dare risk ridicule by employing me.” When World War II

people of colour stereotypically featured in Victorian

began, she followed in her Royal Navy father’s footsteps,

art as decorative figures, Eaton was an anomaly as she

enlisting with NAAFI before being dismissed due to

adapted the concept of models with idealised beauty.

the colour of her skin, and her father’s nationality. She went on to join the RAF, where she led a distinguished career. Initially she trained in instrument repair, which was a trade newly opened to women, then becoming a Leading Aircraft Woman. Becoming pregnant in 1944, she was given compassionate discharge, before receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree and becoming a teacher.

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Phillis Wheatley

Dr Shirley Thompson

Born in 1753 in West Africa, Phillis Wheatley became

Born in London to Jamaican parents, Dr Shirley

the first African-American poet to be published in

Thompson has led a distinguished career as a

Britain. At the age of seven or eight Wheatley was

composer, conductor, violinist and academic. In 2004,

sold into slavery and transported to Boston in the US.

she became the first woman in Europe to conduct

There, the family that purchased her taught her how to

and compose a symphony within the last 40 years.

read and write, encouraging her poetry based on her

Originally commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II, the

talent for writing. At this time, it was rare for a woman

composition was recorded by the Royal Philharmonic

of any race to receive such a literary education, and

Orchestra to celebrate one thousand years of London’s

unheard of for a slave. Her master’s son took her to

history. Throughout her career, she’s taken influence

London where she met with dignitaries and secured a


publisher. Even the first President of the United States,

Nelson Mandela and Jamaican leader of formerly

George Washington, praised her work when her poetry

enslaved Africans, Nanny of the Maroons, with her 2015

book was published in 1977. Named Poems on Various

opera Sacred Mountain: Incidents in the Life of Queen

Subjects, Religious and Moral, the book is a collection

Nanny of the Maroons, which was chosen to open

of 39 poems, making Wheatley the first American black

London’s Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival. More recently,

woman poet to be published. Though she was freed

Thompson was appointed an Officer of the Order of the

from slavery following the publishing of her book, the

British Empire [OBE] in the 2019 New Years Honours for

Wheatleys died shortly after. She passed away in poverty

services to Music.






and obscurity at the age of 31, despite her fame.

Diane Abbott

Jocelyn Barrow

For over 30 years, Diane Abbott has been the Labour As co-founder






Member of Parliament (MP) for Hackney North and Stoke

Discrimination (CARD) in the mid-1960s, Jocelyn Barrow

Newington. Her entry into parliament made history as

helped pave the way for the 1965 Race Relations Act.

she became the first black woman ever to be elected.

With the passing of this act, for the first time racial

Born in west London to a Jamaican family, she is the

discrimination was made illegal in Britain, leading to

longest running black politician in British politics. Prior

prosecutions for those committing racial attacks of all

to her career with the Labour party, she worked as a TV

kinds. In addition Barrow was the first black female

reporter, later becoming a press officer for the Greater

governor of the BBC, providing a black voice for several

London Council. Throughout her career, she’s faced

public bodies, including the Broadcasting Standards

heavy criticism and ruthless racism and sexism. During

Council and the Parole Board. Her role in CARD was

the 2017 election campaign, Abbott received almost

inspired by a meeting with Martin Luther King in 1964 as

half of all abusive tweets directed at female MPs. She’s

he was passing through the UK on his way to Norway to

been highly critical of controversial policies, including

receive the Nobel peace prize. Born in Trinidad, Barrow

voting against the Iraq War, opposing ID cards and

arrived in the UK in 1959 to study English at University.

campaigning against the renewal of Britain’s Trident

She was made a Dame in 1992, after decades of tirelessly

nuclear weapons.

campaigning to improve racial relations within the UK

Evelyn Dove

Pat McGrath McGrath’s legend is so strong, she was once called “the

Born in London in 1902 to Sierra Leone Creole and English

most influential makeup artist in the world” by none

parents, Evelyn Dove was a British singer and actress,

other than the high-priestess of fashion, Vogue’s Anna

often compared to Josephine Baker. The daughter of

Wintour. For decades Pat McGrath has been on top of

leading Sierra Leonean barrister Francis Dove, Evelyn

the makeup artist game, creating beauty looks for more

studied at the Royal Academy of Music from 1917 until

than 60 ready-to-wear and couture shows across the

1919. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, she toured Europe,

globe. In 2013’s New Year Honours list, Queen Elizabeth

performing in music halls, travelling as far afield as India,

II named her as a Member of the Order of the British

where she received a standing ovation. Throughout the

Empire. Her career began in the 1990s, when she met

War, she was employed by the BBC, becoming one one

iconic fashion photographer Steven Meisel, forming

of the radio’s most popular singers. It’s been said that

a firm friendship, they’ve since collaborated on every

she enjoyed the same appeal as the nation’s sweetheart,

Vogue Italia lead story. In 1999, Giorgio Armani hired

Vera Lynn. Despite her fame, following stints on the

McGrath to develop and launch a line of cosmetics. The

BBC and West End musical stage, the star of the 1920s

list of fashion houses she’s created looks for is endless,

struggled to find work after the 1950s. In 1987 she passed

and in in 2004 she became Procter & Gamble’s Global

away from pneumonia in a Surrey hospital.

Beauty Creative Design Director. Within this role she

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1960 with her family, Benjamin began working as an actress in the West End. In 1976 she began presenting children’s television programmes, with the best known being the BBC show, Play School. In addition to this Benjamin has an extensive list of TV and theatre credits. A former chairperson of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), Benjamin also won a Special Lifetime Achievement award from BAFTA. She’s a published author with many of her books aimed at children. Now used to teach modern history to young people, her memoir, Coming to England, about moving from Trinidad, was published in 1997.

Connie Mark Born in 1923 in Kingston, Jamaica, Connie Mark was 20 when she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), working as a medical secretary in the British Military Hospital. Promoted to lance corporal in six months, she applied for her additional pay as provided for in the British Army regulations but was denied. Even when promoted to full corporal, she was still denied, which she viewed as a racist decision. When Mark’s commanding officer put in for her to receive the British Empire Medal, she was again denied, which she believed was based on her refusal to clean the private quarters of British officer personnel. After marrying Jamaican cricketer Stanley Goodridge, who played for Durham, she moved to the UK, continuing her role as a medical secretary. While in the UK, she established the Mary Seacole Memorial Association, and worked to add women to the title of the oversaw Covergirl, Max Factor and also created Dolce & Gabbana: The Makeup. More recently, she also designed and launched Gucci’s debut cosmetic collection. McGrath launched her own line of cosmetics in 2016, with ‘Pat McGrath Labs’. In 2020 she made history as the first beauty brand to collaborate with the iconic streetwear brand, Supreme, creating a lipstick in their

West Indian ex-Servicemen’s Association. In addition, she campaigned in 1989 for the inclusion of West Indians and women in the celebrations of the contribution of servicemen and women on the fiftieth anniversary of World War II’s outbreak. In 2001, six years before her death, Mark was honoured as a member of the Order of the British Empire.

classic red colour. Thanks to the success of the company, she’s soon to be the first self-made Black British female billionaire, thanks to her cosmetics line.

Floella Benjamin Introduced


the House


Lords as

a life

peer, nominated by the Liberal Democrats in 2010, Lady Benjamin is an actress, author and presenter. In 2001 she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to broadcasting. Born in Trinidad in 1949, before emigrating to the UK in

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Novelist. Playwright. Poet. Activist. Today, it’s difficult being just one of those things. But to accomplish this in mid-20th century America, where opportunities came few and far in between, is nothing short of astonishing. From his novels and plays, to his short stories, Baldwin conceptualised and brought to the forefront the complexities of what it meant to be gay and black in America. His work explored the underrepresentation of masculinity, black politics, race, sexuality and class, bringing about seismic shifts in the way society viewed the disenfranchised blacks of America. I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO Baldwin’s work became a catalyst for change for the likes of the gay liberation movement and cultural radicalism. His narratives served to question the injustices he struggled to come to terms with and the prejudices that he became disillusioned by. His personal observations of race relations would later inspire the creation of some of Black history’s most renowned movements, writings and events that involved several his close friends, including Martin Luther King and Malcom X. IN ORDER TO LEARN YOUR NAME, YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO LEARN MINE. Ode to his own experiences, he fictionalised and cultivated numerous characters that represented his ideals, which at the time was a challenge to the status quo. His eloquence and passion of literature was unrivalled, his wisdom enlightening. James Baldwin’s intelligence and belief in knowledge being power became a key component of the exploration of racial justice and moral dilemmas. His belief was simple — education was fundamental for black people to revive a social consciousness that had been concealed for centuries.

“The paradox of education is precisely this that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” He used education to express his angst towards the box he had been placed in, to challenge inequality and the myth of the negro, and to illustrate that the future of society was dependent on the future of the oppressed. For Baldwin, the ability to educate yourself and others would unlock the segregation caused by ignorance. “It’s easy to blame the nigger, or the Arab, or the Jew. Or the dyke or the faggot… anyone that isn’t you. Because you don’t want people to see that you could be that person; that some of you are that person.” Baldwin taught us to question everything and place the faith in our intuition. His wisdom and themes bred unrivalled articulation that many writers and scholars could only dream of, and he used that to bring to life his social observations. There is a bit of James Baldwin in all of us. Refusal to accept the path set before us by our predecessors, the way we fictionalise the complex pressures and obstacles we experience as people of colour. The way we yearn to prove our doubters wrong; to teach them to love and accept us for who we are, and not judge us by their own reflection. A man before his time, Baldwin’s word lives on today and will do so forever. James Baldwin (1924-1987). Arguably the greatest social voice this world has ever seen.

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Like Baldwin, Langston Hughes was an activist, poet, novelist and playwright who grew up in an era that redefined the way black people are viewed today.

Known as one of the pioneers of Jazz poetry, Hughes became a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance, an era of the black cultural expression in the 1920’s widely considered as the rebirth of African-American arts. It was a time where, despite the widespread racism, black people in America began to stamp their mark on pop culture and arts. After dropping out of Columbia University, Hughes began to publish for The Crisis, the first official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). Langston Hughes’ pen game was so impeccable, gaining him recognition in Harlem’s creative movement before using his role at the leading black newspaper, The Chicago Defender, to document the civil rights movement through his in-depth weekly column. Langston Hughes’ aim was simple: to illustrate the socio-political effects of the disenfranchised black people in America. He often criticised the unjust divisions between blacks and whites, publishing a manifesto entitled, ‘The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain’ in 1926: “The younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual darkskinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased, we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly, too.” Black pride remained at the forefront of Langston Hughes’ work, and wherever possible, he would confront racial stereotypes

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that contradicted his ideals of human nature and identity of the black community. For Hughes, cultural nationalism and hate could not exist in the same space, for one would cancel the other out. One of the many lessons we can all take from Langston Hughes’ fascinating life was his sense of solidarity. He saw himself as part of something bigger, which meant he understood the role played by co-operation and brotherhood. For Langston Hughes, the future of black creativity and identity depended on it. Without fear, Langston Hughes documented the fine nuances and frustrations of blacks, and never failed to identify what it means to be black along the way. And he did so believing that his success lay in the way he embraced his culture and told it the way he saw it.

The night is beautiful, So the faces of my people. The stars are beautiful, So the eyes of my people Beautiful, also, is the sun. Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people. —Langston Hughes, “My People” in The Crisis (October 1923)



I grew up reading the words of Malorie Blackman, OBE. A lot of the black females in the public eye that I was used to seeing, were women that were continually objectified. Having what I would call a more reserved spirit, naturally I was drawn to this intelligent figure that let her words and stories personify her beauty both inside and out. Whether experienced as an adult, or a child still forming perceptions about life, I can happily say that I haven’t completed a book with an absence of an educative storyline. Lessons have been taught to me though the lives of each and every character, enabling a parallel self-development. As a young child, I was extremely shy and something that I despised was attention or any kind of communication or interaction with people that I wasn’t yet familiar with. I always created this guard that I would slowly let down as I got to know people and figure them out so reading was a great escape for me. Reading books meant that I could avoid awkward situations, not be disturbed and when people did try to converse with me, the dialogue would usually be steered by what book I was reading, an area that didn’t feel like effort or the immature exchanges of my peers. I got to a stage where I’d reached a bit of a stumbling block with reading, feeling like I had read everything that I was interested in. When I was in secondary school most kids were reading books like Harry Potter and Twilight. Now it’s not that these books were terrible but I wanted some sense of reality in my reading, which I wasn’t receiving from the books mentioned above. I can remember one of my friends recommending Hacker to me and being so hooked on the narrative. Subsequently I was lead into reading EVERY

single Malorie Blackman book that existed at that point, diving into this excitement that had been continually created in each book. I have read and enjoyed a number of books but it goes without saying that the stand out group of publications are those that sit in the Noughts and Crosses novel series. I don’t want to ruin the series for anyone that’s yet to read but the intensity of the love story created between two individuals from two completely different worlds, facing the divisions of race and all the complications that come with it, deserves so much recognition. The emotions I felt from letting the story unfold at an uncontrollable pace put me into a fraction of the world that the lovers in the story grow to know. Their normality brought out multiple ideologies and conceptions that I was unaware were felt by people other than myself as a young black female. No amount of words would be sufficient to describe the intricacy and beauty created by Malorie Blackman but I want to leave you with what I learnt. Race can be a delicate subject for many, holding a lot of sensitivities for all parties involved but do we have to really be forced to understand the reasoning behind two individuals falling in love? If those two individuals happen to sit in two different racial groups - do they really deserve to receive judgments from people outside their relationship when that relationship is a faction that has been decided by the two individuals?

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MALCOLM X To have such great magnitude and excellence, yet be so modest and clean-hearted, is a clear characteristic of a King. That is exactly what Malcolm X was. Described by pioneering African-American actor and civil rights activist, Ossie Davis, as “our shining black prince.” Malcolm X was a man whose words are still as applicable today as they were back then. He forced African-Americans - as well as the further African diaspora - to look at their ideas of themselves and their culture. “Who taught you to hate the colour of your skin? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair?” he interrogated an audience in 1962. This was only about two decades after Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark conducted their doll test to investigate young children’s attitude about their own race. It helps you understand Malcolm’s militant attitude and commitment to helping his people. Time was passing, new generations were being brought up in a society that wasn’t actually changing. Malcolm X’s journey is an extremely inspiring one. Born a child of vocal Pan-African supporters to the UNIA and respectively, leader Marcus Garvey. His father was killed by white supremacists because of their role in the organisation. Malcolm is a man who once peddled drugs, snorted cocaine, gambled heavily and robbed jewellery stores. This same man professed to us that “the most disrespected person in America is the black woman.” After his split from the Nation of Islam, during the last five months of his life, Malcolm returned to Mecca plus a few countries in Africa. This trip led him further down a path of Black nationalism and PanAfricanism. Malcolm was the first civil rights leader to denounce the plight of AfricanAmericans and discrimination they faced as a Civil Rights matter. He deemed it a human rights issue. An issue for the UN to help assist and solve. He also saw their problems and connected it with the oppression Africans in Africa were facing under colonisation from the West. Malcolm truly understood the need for the African diaspora to unify and work together.

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This is essentially the meaning of PanAfricanism. The unification of Africans all around the world. Brothers and sisters who were displaced because of our ancestors being held captive and forced to work over 400 years worth of unpaid labor. Slavery stripped many of lost Africans around the world of their identity but in the early 1960’s, Malcolm was ready to turn everything the right side up. Upon his return to America in 1965, shortly before his passing, Malcolm founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity. It is no secret that Malcolm’s life was cut way too short, a man only 39 years of age when he was assassinated. We shall remember that “he didn’t hesitate to die because he loved us so.” Malcolm X was a man of integrity with a tremendous amount of love for his people. A true king. February 21, 2020 marked 55 years since his passing.

Words by Kesensa’aakhut Mordi

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With his third published novel, James cemented his literary legacy, becoming the first Jamaican winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2015. Considered a modern classic after selling over half a million copies, A Brief History of Seven Killings spans three decades and breaks down the social and political tensions of Jamaica in the late 20th Century. Rumoured to soon be a feature film, the book focuses on the attempted assassination of Bob Marley and the political fallout that caused it. Demonstrating the impact of the CIA’s involvement in the country, as well as the legacy of the drug trafficking that dominated Miami throughout the 1980s, as James’ Jamaican characters mix with the Cocaine Cowboys and Griselda Blanco. Though I knew of Marley surviving an attempted assassination, I had no idea of the deep political ramifications of the attack, which took place in 1976. Reading James’ book allowed me to learn the influence the Jamaican Labour Party and the People’s National Party had with active gang members pushing their agenda through the use of violence. The political parties are believed to have supplied weapons to the gangs in order to enforce community allegiance to them. Growing up in London in the 1990s, in the midst of the media’s focus on Jamaican immigration and the pending threat of “Yardies,” it’s interesting to see how political the situation really was. Learning about Christopher “Coke” Dudus as he became America’s Most Wanted, upon his capture by the police in 2010, I became aware of his father’s influence. Dudus’ father Jim Brown is known as the founder of the Shower Posse, one of the deadliest gangs to come out of Kingston. In the Netflix documentary, I Shot The Sheriff, it’s said that Marley fingered Jim Brown as one of the shooters on December

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3rd, 1976. Though a fictional account, James’ novel does a great job of setting the scene of Jamaica in the 1970s and how tensions boiled. A prolific voice in Jamaican literature, James’ first two books are just as notable as his third. Exploring themes around spirituality and slavery. The Guardian called his second novel, The Book of Night Women, “Easily one of the best Jamaican novels ever written.” His debut, John Crow’s Devil, has been cited as Caribbean gothic, as it examines the struggle for identity in postcolonial Jamaica. Set in 1957, the story is based around two men who fight to be the town’s singular religious leader, with the tussle acting as a metaphorical battle between good and evil. James was born in Kingston in 1970, to two police officers who shared a love of literature. His mother later became a detective, and his father a lawyer, while James education saw him attend the University of the West Indies, where he read Language and Literature. Upon his graduation, James left Jamaica due to the rife homophobia in his country. Today he lectures at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 2019 gave the seventh annual Tolkien Lecture at Pembroke College, Oxford.


If inspiration could be solidified, patted down and sculpted into human form, it would take the shape of Dr Maya Angelou. You could trawl through endless lists of Internet logged achievements, Wikipedia type mentions or ‘most famous quotes’, but it seems like all these elements could never quite quantify the success of this particular woman. Dr Angelou’s success can’t be defined by the way she gracefully journeyed through various revolutionary career paths: from dancer, singer and writer to civil rights activist and director. Nor can it be measured by her lifetime of ascension despite the mountain of hardship hurdled her way. Growing up in segregated southern America, raised by an endlessly faithful grandmother and infrequently so, by a mother who she deemed “a great mother of adults, a terrible one to young children.” Her success can’t even be located in the violence; mental, physical, sexual and spiritual, that she endured within her lifetime and ultimately overcame. No, it’s none of this. The real success of this phenomenal soul - to me anyway - lays in her ability to have found love in the seemingly loveless planes of existence. To have encountered her own bright, radiant light, when everything else was coated in a sticky, all-encompassing darkness, that seems to consume everything it touches. The triumph of Dr Maya Angelou is that she developed the ability to find and revel in humanity, when it seems that all that’s left is the inhumane. It’s one thing to get through adversity, it’s an entirely different essence when you do so with transcendence, beauty and faith.

escape into, away from the hardship of this world. They are testimonies, with a real spine, formed from her own journey and realisations that followed. Expressions of what humanity can look like, when you choose to look into life and your environment with unfailing courage. As Dr Angelou often stated, “courage is the most important of all the virtues, as without courage you cannot practice any other virtue consistently.” What a statement to leave behind. What an incredible existence. Dr Maya Angelou reminded us, that in a universe that can home bigots, liars, cruelty and destruction, we all have the capacity to turn up for ourselves and the world we live in, everyday. With commitment, we can strive to know better, in order to do better. We can take accountability for the space we take up on this planet and use it as an avenue to invite some beauty, change and even romance into the world. And isn’t that what living is really about?

The stories Dr Angelou told throughout her lifetime, through her art, or her words are not hopelessly romantic or idealistic notions, to

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How many times has the word ‘Yo’ been ripped apart, desecrated by a teacher deeming it “not proper English” or used in a comedy sketch to mock an entire genre of music? How many times has the Hip Hop community been encompassed into a stereotype, a generalisation of all that is negative, immoral and corrupt within this world? Yet, amongst such superficial actions there is one particular voice that has clawed through. Answering back, and with such ferocity it has legitimised what some generations and cultural creators have sought to tear down. Tricia Rose, professor of Africana Studies and Director of the Centre for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University is this very voice. As a professor she has ceaselessly explored the topic of civil rights; as well as being credited with pioneering scholarship in Hip Hop. With books such as ‘The Hip Hop Wars’, ‘Black Noise’, ‘Microphone Fiends’ and ‘Women Longing to Tell’, Rose has provided a compassionate and sincere exploration of multiple facets of society, ones that are frequently disenfranchised, ignored or simply made into a joke. With her tender involvement and reflection on civil rights in the U.S, Rose brings the societal microscope onto issues of violence, the silence and abuse of women, masculinity, race within the media and the long held belief that violent rap narratives ultimately encourage violent subsections of society. It’s her approach in unpacking such ideals that brings humanity back into often outdated generalised understandings of the MC. Tricia Rose has recognised the importance of rap as a narrative, that does not encourage negative notions, but stems directly from a history of pain. It is the exploration of such a history and

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the development of art in response to this, that gives Tricia Rose’s books crystal clear insight into the persona and lyricism of many hyper-masculine rappers. It’s Rose’s underpinning of what human identity can look like, after years of trauma and neglect, that provides a map to ways in which we can respond. It’s her belief that rap music should be recognised for the poetry that it is. We take meaning, emotional resolve and immersion from poetry that touches us. If we view rap music in the same way, who knows the societal realisations we could reach. Within realisations, there can be understanding and from understanding, action.


The first time I read The Outsider, I was shellshocked. Many speak of Dostoyevsky’s Crime & Punishment with the same aghast reaction, as the reader witnesses the book’s narrator behave in an ungodly way, powerless to prevent any of the acts taking place. These are the novels that scar you, that leave you frozen with awe, years on from reading the book. In The Outsider, we follow the protagonist as he takes a rare leap of faith when he’s caught in a train crash in Chicago and given the chance to fake his own death. Leaving his life behind to start afresh, he falls into a new cycle of destruction, taking the reader on a conflicted journey. Born in Mississippi in 1908, Wright was born into a radical environment in which African Americans suffered discrimination and violence in the South and the North. His family moved to Chicago in 1927, just years before the Great Depression hit, causing him to lose his job as a postal clerk. This led him to socialise at the John Reed Club, where he met writers and members of Communist Party, which he joined in 1933. Writing poems throughout this period, his first book was published in 1938. Themes of race and class are dominant throughout Wright’s writing, as he sets the scene for life in 1950s America, with its boiling racial tensions. Books like this are some of the only ways for white people to get even an idea of the mistreatment black people often face. Though the book reflects society in the 1950s, many would argue that not much has changed, especially when it comes to the fear mongering that is placed on black male identity.

cities. Instead of looking at the base level of such topics, Wright examines the systemic causation that led his subjects to these depths. Without the distractions of blame, we can see how life’s pitfalls are formatted to apply to some races more than others. Speaking of the protagonist in The Native Son, James Baldwin once wrote “No American Negro exists who does not have his private Bigger Thomas living in his skull.” That being said, Baldwin was critical of the character, who he felt was a stereotype and not a real character. Though these critiques somewhat shadowed Wright’s career, he is considered by literary critics to be a writer that altered mid-century racial relations in America. He is also a notable voice in African American literature, with his 1945 novel, Black Boy, becoming an instant sell-out. Despite his disparaging analysis, James Baldwin was somewhat inspired by Wright’s career, along with Ralph Ellison, who was also best man at Wright’s wedding.

Wright has written several notable books, including The Native Son, which also describes the effect of racism in industrial American

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FATHERS. LEADERS. HEROES. Words by Victor Davies Photographs by Vincent Chapters As fathers, Jamaine Facey, Lee Russell, Chris Otokito and Patrick Hutchinson are the product of leadership, experience and change. In June, Patrick Hutchinson was heralded as the ‘hero of the protests’, with the image of him carrying an injured, racist, anti-BLM protester over his shoulder, sending ripples through the country. The significance of this act of kindness wasn’t about protecting the injured ex-police officer who had attended the protest alongside other EDL members to disrupt the progress of the London protests, but more so the protection of BLM and those who had come to stand side-by-side against racism. The highly memorable image of Patrick circulated across the world and would mark the birth of United to Change and Inspire (U.T.C.A.I), an initiative created to help change and be part of the new narrative of race relations in the UK and across the world. VIPER sat down with UTCAI to discuss how personal experiences serve as inspiration for the initiative and what their future holds.

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“United to Change and Inspire” — what was the

Chris: As someone from a corporate background, it

thinking behind the name?

was easy to identify the inequalities and unconscious bias that represent systemic racism. From school to

Patrick: We had a few names, ‘Fathers for Change’

parenthood, there are similar patterns. There are those

being one of them as we are all fathers ourselves, but

who ‘let bygones, be bygones’, but there are those like

we wanted a name that would be inclusive of everyone,

me who want to speak up. The challenge of unity was

including mothers. In the end, we opted for ‘United

the main reason for me leaving the corporate world.

to Change and Inspire’. On the day of the protests, we

Ultimately, on the day of the protests we all received

were UNITED as parents to oversee our children. As the

our individual calling. As fathers, martial artists and role

saying goes, ‘It takes a village to raise a family’. As one

models, we are here to continue to empower our people

big family, all youth present on the day we see as our

to believe in themselves.

children. We also CHANGED that negative stereotype attached to black people which we are hoping will bring

What inspires you to make a change? What has the

further change. If something would have happened to

experience of being fathers meant to you?

that man, the whole narrative would have been flipped on its head, with headlines reading: ‘Ex-police office,

Lee: Knowing my three kids look up to me because to

father of three dies at the hands of Black Lives Matter

them, I’m Superman, so it’s essential I’m a role model

thugs’. And finally, we hope to INSPIRE everybody, black

to them, especially my son. Every man wants a son, and

or white, to do good. And that brings you to ‘UNITED TO

like many, my father wasn’t around. It could be my son in


5-10 years time protesting on the same issues.

What have been your personal experiences with

Patrick: It gives you a greater since of purpose. I’ve got

regards to race, image and community?

four children; my eldest son is 30 and I had him when I was 19. I was on course to go University, but after my son’s

Patrick: It’s come with age. As a younger man in my

arrival I had to get to work. The main driving force for

twenties, I probably wouldn’t have done what I did that

me as a dad is to be a million times better than my dad;

day. Now that I see myself as an older, wiser head with

there’s nothing more important to my life than raising

more life experience, I’ve looked back at things I have

and providing for my children and grandchildren. When

and haven’t done in the past. It has led me to look at

I’m finally gone, what they say about me will define my

life from a different view, from a more philosophical

time on this earth and my legacy.

standpoint and see things from another side. What are the first steps for racial reform and how do Jamaine: Just look around you. Your family, work

we bridge the disconnect between young black males

colleagues, friends and you see the amazing things

and other successful role models in the world?

that they do, and as an individual, you decide on what inspiration you take from that. My father was around, but

Jamaine: We need to stop celebrating failure. Stop

not in my life so I learnt mostly from my older brother

celebrating our lack of concern for changes we feel

and uncles. I saw the effects my brother going to prison

don’t happen quick enough. The mentality that we

had on my family, so I decided on a different path that

shouldn’t vote for anybody because they’re all the same.

wouldn’t involve bringing police to my house. I moved

How can we expect policies to support or reflect our

up from Birmingham to Brixton and the environment

community if don’t we work to get more representation

was different; it lacked that community vibe that I

in politics? We need to support ourselves and unite as

had growing up — youth clubs, sports centres and

a community. Only then can we hold those we vote for

programs were lacking. I worked at Brixton Recreational

accountable to spread key messages of our community.

Centre and saw the positive effect it had on youth that

We need to instil faith in our youth that we can be who

could afford to attend. It was an alternative to getting

we want to be— to be the boss, not the worker. As the

involved in gang or street life, and taught youth to be

leaders of our community, we need to also ask ourselves

self-sufficient. In fact, there are still younger generations

if we’re doing enough to educate our youth before we

that remind me of what it meant to have someone who

see our first ever black prime minister.

looked after them, and it means the world. Through such initiatives such as this, we’d teach kids about issues

Patrick: The African community have been creating

that meant something to them — sexually transmitted

leaders for a while. Nine times out of ten, lawyers and

diseases, bullying, life at home.

doctors within our community are African, whereas people of Caribbean descent, I find are often encouraged

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to be athletes with education not quite at the top of the agenda. Jamaine: I think it goes back to the opportunities that have been historically available to us — cleaning, streetsweeping, security work, even though past generations have come over from the motherland with degrees and accreditations. Patrick: Our generation, we’re intelligent people who simply don’t have the same accessibility as the youth today and we must lay the right foundation and direction for them to succeed. Health and fitness is a major part of how you inspire. What does it mean to you? Patrick: The mental aspect of training is far more fundamental than the physical. It’s about mental fortitude and tranquillity, and without training, I feel it. It’s difficult to quantify the benefits of training and exercise. It’s also a great pathway to educating youth, especially young men who struggle to learn in the classroom. Lee: I agree. The main reason for getting my son into MMA at the BJJ school in Battersea was to give him, what all men need — an outlet. This current generation lack hobbies and interest which they can pursue. Patrick: Sports can be a humbling experience for young men and teach them the values of discipline. It’s also somewhat a form of release. Jamaine: I’ve trained over 500 fighters with the help of a community outreach program called, ‘Hands Up, Guns Down’ for people of all ages and I’ve seen the positive benefits of such a program. What was the response from the man Patrick carried to safety during the protests and what message would do you send him and likeminded individuals in the world today? Patrick: We were fortunate to be mentored by Lord Michael Hastings (CBE) who told us of a story of a young man called Daryl Davis, who through his work, managed to convince Klansmen to denounce the KKK. I am not Daryl Davis. I am not here to turn individuals who many consider too far gone, or hard-coded, to become racists due to their upbringing. Racism is their problem, not mine. My interest is the youth and those who have institutionally benefitted from racism. This is the world we live in today and I want those people to look at themselves and understand they can help others by calling out racism when they see it too. There’s only

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one race that matters, and that’s the human race.

departments, managerial positions in sport. Black people being given equal opportunity. It’s not rocket

Do you feel like the attention afforded to you guys is

science, it’s fairness.

genuine, or do you feel others have simply jumped on

Chris: No hidden agendas. We often find ourselves

the PR bandwagon?

in positions where we cannot communicate the way we want to, from our actions to the way we speak. It’s

Chris: That’s a good question. Numeration isn’t our goal,

traumatic having to conform in an environment that

but we’ve done about 30 interviews following on from

is not conducive of our natural selves. Our community

the protests, and out of those we’ve been paid for one. If

requires re-education, but I acknowledge that it is not

it wasn’t just for PR, our time would be more valued and

an easy process.

those corporations who earn millions from topics such as BLM would be more willing to compensate the time,

What are the plans for United to Change and Inspire

energy and resources we’ve put into this.

and how can people get involved?

You hear, ‘you must have made quite a bit from Men’s

Patrick: If anyone has a skillset that UTCAI could benefit

Health’ (which we were recently featured in), but I had

from, please visit our website at UTCAI.co.uk or simply

to purchase two copies of Men’s Health myself, although

donate via the site for any one of the various initiatives

they pay their photographers, media team, etc through

and workshops we create.

the profits they have made from the issue. Jamaine: Everyone knows where we started but we We are more than happy to help with the community

hope to go global. There are no topics or conversations

we represent, but these businesses also have a

that we don’t want to be part of. We want to use our

responsibility to set a standard.

platform to empower, teach and learn from like-minded individuals and organisations. Spread the world, buy a

What role does social media play in changing the


narrative? Let’s unite… We are all on the same team. Jamaine: It’s a powerful tool that can be misused. We now live in a society where people document things that

 unitedtochangeandinspire

happen, but don’t help. You see the situation in America; someone filmed the death of George Floyd and the acts of police brutality, but did nothing in the moment. Nevertheless, it does help to teach and educate, but it’s whether people choose to be educated. Black Lives Matter is me and you. Then there’s also Black Lives Matter the hashtag, the organisation and it’s difficult to differentiate the two for some. People are abused, disenfranchised and mistreated everyday — should we not march and protest for their cause too? I attended the emancipation marches in Brixton where people were very enthusiastic about black people’s rights, empowering anti-establishment speeches, until someone grabbed the mic and said, “We must all leave the premise by 5:30pm, or we simply won’t be able to run this event in the future. Please get home safely.” My immediate though was how could one go from Malcom X to Jesse Jackson so quickly? If what people say is real to them, it shouldn’t matter whether the camera is there or what others say to them in response. What does the path to ending systemic racism here in the UK and across the world look like? Patrick: It’s difficult to picture. We need to see black people leading boardrooms, the corporate ladder, police

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6LACK & PROUD. Words by Victor Davies Photographs by Mike Miller Editing by Kno One Styling by Danasia Sutton The city of Atlanta has played a major role in the direction of soul music with artists such as OutKast, Ludacris, Gucci Mane and Usher - who 6LACK credits as a major influence - paving the way for others to emerge, and leave their own legacy in music. Today’s industry has birthed more categories of music of black origin, enabling artists to branch into alternative forms of rap, hip hop and R&B, bringing together an array of artists from various backgrounds. But in this new age of music, true artistry should be defined by how you carry the name of your community, beliefs and culture into what you create, not simply trying to make the next Spotify number one. This has become the focus for Ricardo Valdez Valentine Jr. - or the world the world has come to know him – Grammynominated artist, 6LACK.

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Summer 2020 saw the release of the ‘6pc Hot’ EP, 6LACK’s first release in two years and the follow up to his 2018 sophomore album, ‘East Atlanta Love Letter’. Known to be selective when it comes to collaborations, trap god Future guests on the album, while the new school king of the sub-genre, Lil Baby, features on the new EP. Appearing on a prominent song on the project, ‘I Know My Rights’, the combination is stellar. Speaking on the creation of the track 6LACK says, “I started the song on my own and I drove around for maybe a couple of weeks listening to it unfinished, trying to figure out what I needed to add to it, until I came to the conclusion that I didn’t need to add anything, it was something for someone else to do.” When asked why Lil Baby he replies, “I already had in my head whose cadence would fit it, and the producers too. We didn’t discuss Lil Baby but everyone mutually knew Lil Baby, he’d just been on a feature run so it made sense. We’re both from Atlanta, I like putting people in a bit of a different world from what they are used to, or who they’re used to working with. And yeah, he killed it.”

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Both artists have risen to prominence in Atlanta in recent

But 6LACK, he seemed find a multitude of rationale for

years. While Baby has made moves in the trap scene,

why his name meant so much to him, something he’s

6LACK swiftly changed the sonics of R&B in his city and

embraced every step of the way: “I feel like it’s always

beyond. With his sparse, moody production, songs like

had different versions as I’ve grown up — you got the

2016’s ‘PRBLMS’ and ‘Ex Calling’ became modern day

colour, you got what the colour means to me, you got

classics that sent the genre into a new soundscape.

symbolism, you got what I am… I was born Black, I’ll

Things could have sounded very different. Born in 1992

always be Black, my art comes from Black culture, it’s

in Baltimore, Maryland, 6LACK and his parents moved

just a Black thing.” In retrospect, it made me wonder

to Atlanta in 1997. It was around this time that the

why no one had thought it about it before. Despite the

young Ricardo Valdez Valentine got his first taste of

various uses of the world ‘Black’ in the history of music

studio life, recording at his father’s studio at the age of

culture, there was just something genius about the

four. Becoming a battle rapper in his teens, he was first

simplicity. And when you add the stylisation, ‘6LACK’ —

signed in 2011 to Flo Rida’s International Music Group and

and what it means to the man behind the name — you

Strong Arm Records. In the early 2010s, he met fellow

begin to piece together the artist with his art.

musical mavericks EarthGang, J.I.D. and Mereba and became a part of the musical collective Spillage Village,

6LACK’s humble beginnings - from battle rapping in

who released their latest album, Spilligion, in September

Atlanta to leaving Valdosta State to pursue a career

2020. As a solo artist, he signed to LoveRenaissance and

in LA - have been anything but easy. His experience,

Interscope Records, before releasing his debut studio

above anything else, is something that has always

album, ‘Free 6lack’, which peaked at number 34 in the

determined the direction of his craft. “The journey has

Billboard Charts.

been a rollercoaster, there have been really great highs and really deep dark lows,” he reflects. “That’s where the

Staying true to your craft is also about staying true

music comes from sometimes. It’s become a little bit

to those who inspire you, and 6LACK’s affinity to his

more mindful but that’s a good thing. I’m always more

hometown is deeply rooted in the city’s music scene,

mindful of what I’m saying, what I’m doing, whether it’s

building his foundations with Atlanta-based record

message or growth-related. If I need to be polishing or

label LoveRenaissance (LVRN), which houses the likes of

learning things, or adding new things to the repertoire,

DRAM and Summer Walker on its roster. With his music

I just look at it as something to observe, learn from and

entrenched in various concepts of love, 6LACK’s sound

add new tricks to the book.”

very much aligned with the LVRN’s objective of making love cool again. Together, they created their own lane,

His perpetual love and commitment to his city through

as 6LACK explains, “I mean we kinda created our own

his music has remained a dependable source of

world and it was at a point where we didn’t really see

inspiration for 6LACK personally too. 6LACK welcomed

a place for what we were doing specifically in Atlanta.

his daughter Syx Rose Valentine in February 2017. Syx

There were a lot similar things going on in the time

appears on the album cover of East Atlanta Love Letter,

we came up in and we kinda took the other approach

an ode to Zone 6, the area covering the Eastside of

which was emotionally-driven with love. It ended up

Atlanta which is also home to many other legends of rap

working out even better.”

and R&B.

Life is a journey of discovery - a journey that begins with

As an artist who forges personal connections through

a name. VIPER asks for one difference between 6LACK


and Ricardo Valdez that people may not yet know.

parenthood has helped 6LACK further develop a sense

“Hmmmm, difference between 6LACK and Ricardo

of individuality that sets him apart from other artists.

Valdez Valentine? It’s just a name, really. If anything,

When asked what effect becoming a father had on him

Ricardo was in grade school and 6LACK just ended up

and creating music, 6LACK replies, “[I’m] more critical

being the adult in the situation. Everyone started calling

and more clear with everything that I do and say, if I’m

me 6LACK around seventh or eighth grade and that just

not clear or if I’m not making as much sense that can be

sort of ran through college until I dropped out of college.

made from it, then I kinda put the breaks on it.” He adds,

I would’ve been 6LACK regardless, music or not.”

“It’s the same thing being a father, like I can’t be in a






grey space with my kid, if she needs to know something Many musicians choose their stage names at different

I gotta be able to say yes, no or why it’s in the middle,

stages of their life or career: sometimes based on how

or why it’s in between. Being a father definitely helps

they develop as an artist, others outgrow and replace

you out with clarity, helps you out with maturity, helps

their monikers, and a select few prefer their birth names.

you out with decision making, helps you out with just

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being a better example, not just being for your kid

need to be outside experiencing something in order

but for yourself.” Even the most accomplished of us

to be able to contribute to the world. So, we just been

are guilty of falling victim to emotional vulnerability,

having to deal with the back and forth of wanting to,

and that’s no different for 6LACK, who is beginning

but knowing that it’s not the best for all of us to be

to master an almost effortless ability to deconstruct


candid reflections on paper. Away from music, the global pandemic has helped 6LACK celebrated his birthday with the release of

shaped the American response to the death of George

‘Float’, his favourite single off his debut EP, ‘6pc HOT’.

Floyd and the subsequent protests around the world.

Of the track he says, “it was just the most fun to

The outcry from supporters of the Black community

record, Ant Clemons helped me with that one and it

has led to a call for leaders, organisations and

was the most representative of how I feel right now. It didn’t get too detailed into what’s going on. But the overall mood was just, there’s a lot going on and I’m just trying to stay afloat. I think that’s my favourite song out of the ones on the EP.” Postponing the release in honour of the death of George Floyd and ongoing protests, the EP’s artwork pays homage to Atlanta’s culture and community. This year has been difficult for us all, including for 6LACK who up until now, has depended on his ability to produce an unfiltered account of his creative experiences. But we live in different times, days where many of us have been starved of the inspiration that leads us to create. “I get to make a bunch of different music and get super creative” but I had some dry spells. I think I used this time to learn a little more about myself and recentre and figure out what’s important and what I’m supposed to be pulling from this time, versus trying to make music just because I’m in quarantine. It was like, wait, stop, how do you feel? What do you wanna write about, when it is time to write?” There’s a lesson we can all learn from this - the inspiration






External pressures often lead us to feel a sense of






or we

may not yet be prepared for. But there’s much more to the art of creativity than meets the eye. “Instead of it being a moment where it’s just an automatic, creativity overflow, it was a moment of actual thought for me. I’ve been finding inspiration in different things. I will say that over time it’s only going to become more difficult.” 6LACK continues, “I think everyone’s itching for something whether it’s music related, entertainment, art related, at the end of the day we

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celebrities to use their platform to highlight structural

When it’s all said and done, 6LACK’s aspirations are

racism. But much like his music, 6LACK sees personal

simple. “To teach as much as I can teach and learn as

relationships as a means to initiate that change. “It

much as I can learn. And that goes beyond my career;

starts with conversation, I think that being able to

there’s no moment where I’ll feel like I’ve learned it

sit down and have conversations with the people

all and there’s no moment where I feel like I haven’t

who are in the positions that we’ve been having to

been able to give them to somebody else.”

reconstruct - I think having those conversations, having those meetings, having those community

Two words — 6LACK excellence.

things. I think that it starts with the community first and it starts internal first, then we can worry about all the external stuff afterwards. I think while all of this is going on, it’s easy to get worked up about so much and about everything but if we start it at home,


then everything will be better for us,” he states. “It starts at home, it starts with community, it starts with

 6lack

friends, family and peers, it starts with local electives


and officers. I think it all starts local and then we can figure out the hard stuff later on.” Given the global impact of the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s all too easy to expect immediate change. We must acknowledge that Rome wasn’t built in a day and the road to true equality is long. 6LACK shares this ideology, saying “We all should, I don’t think it falls on any one specific group or any one specific movement, I think that it’s great that movements pop up and there are things to be able to latch onto and champion. But it’s literally for all of us, it’s not a Black Lives Matter thing, it’s not a certain organisation, a these people, those people, it’s a me, you, everybody.” When asked who should be held responsible in leading the fight to equality, 6LACK’s response was as conspicuous as his lyrics, “We all should” he replied. “I don’t think it falls on any one specific group or any one specific movement, I think that it’s great that movements pop up and there are things to be able to latch on to and champion. But it’s literally for all of us, it’s not a black lives matter thing, it’s organisations, people; it’s me, you… everybody.” We’re all guilty of questioning the influence we can have on others, but in the conversation of racism, we all have a role to play. Micro-aggressions, bias and prejudice are all proxies for racism and they exist in all areas of society. Given the mass appeal of the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s all too easy to expect immediate change.

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What does manliness mean to you?

better decisions with your life. You’ll avoid doing things that make you unhappy because you know exactly who

Lucy: ‘Manliness’ doesn’t mean anything to me and it

you are. Identity is important for your own happiness.

shouldn’t mean anything to anybody. You could easily rephrase the question as ‘What does being an individual

O: It helps to ground me in my history, present and

mean to you?’ and you’d end up with the same answers.

future. It’s evolving and enables me to navigate the

The word itself makes it seem like certain attributes and

world I operate in with more confidence

behaviors are only appliable to specific genders and if a woman was described as manly it’s mostly received

Do you think you conform to “manly” social ideals,

in a negative light and vice versa if a man is described

how so?

as feminine. These words are pointless because all genders can exude similar behaviors.

L: I do but only to a certain extent which is largely due to who I am as a person as opposed to being

Omogbolahan: Manliness encompasses all the attributes

programmed to think ‘I have to do it because that’s

typical to men for me, but also, all the attributes that are

what society says’. For example, if I go on a first date

atypical as I am a man biologically and in my identity all

with someone, I’m splitting the bill since I don’t think I

my characteristics embody my identity.

should have to pay since it’s the first time I’m meeting her, however, if I’m in a relationship I’ll always get the bill

Abbas: It’s whatever makes me feel empowered as a

just because I want to, because I like the person.

man and true to myself. It’s a combination of different things which may change from time to time. Right now

A: Yes, I do conform to some. I often try to deal with

it’s being proud of my identity, exercising my physical

problems on my own, I hate asking for help and I can

and mental strength. Having emotional intelligence,

end up distancing myself from people as a result.

the ability to express myself and be a positive presence

I guess that’s something typically associated with

around others.

masculinity, being self-reliant. I don’t think there is anything wrong with certain “manly” social ideals

Why is identity important to you?

though because everyone is different. However, when they start to become toxic that’s when issues arise, it’s

Lucy: I think it’s just always good to understand who you

all about balance.

are as a person, when you do you’re able to just make

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How do the social pressures of manliness affect your

O: The pressures haven’t affected me as much as I think

life as a black man?

it has most. In terms of the spaces and people I move around, at times, it has perhaps brought out some

L: Hmm, all the “pressures” I experience are based

behaviours more than others. I limit my time in these

on me being too hard on myself. I rarely take in what

scenarios though.

society thinks...

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How do you think black men are portrayed in society vs How do you see yourself? L: It’s clear black people are portrayed negatively in society. Even with that being the case, I view myself as a superhero. A: For the most part black men are portrayed negatively, the media on the whole paints an ignorant image of black men which creates stereotypes that a vast majority will consume and take as the truth. I see myself in a very positive light and try to maintain that as often as possible, not in an arrogant way but more so to uplift myself. O: Aggressive, hypersexualised, athletic, entertaining, flashy and I believe I am some of those things but many other things also that are rarely seen in media and public discourse. In which scenarios do you feel pressure to conform to expectations of a man? O: Within relationships mostly and I suppose in very male dominated spaces like the gym A: I don’t really feel like I do need to conform in many scenarios. Honestly I feel that everyone has their own ideals and if they want to lead their life a certain way that’s cool, but it shouldn’t be forced onto anyone else. Do you feel that males are fairly represented in the media and the creative world? L: I think males as a whole are fairly represented in the media and creative world, yes, especially when you compare how men are represented as opposed to women. However, there are discrepancies when you start to look at the ethnicity of those men. A: I think men in general are fairly represented, especially in comparison to women. However, more specifically I don’t think black men or other ethnic minorities are represented fairly. What, if any, added pressures do you consider as a black man when it comes to manliness? O: The attributes, some positive and some negative of men in general are exaggerated for the most part for black men. Being sexual, athletic, confident, strong etc.


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A: I think there is pressure on men in general when it comes to manliness. For black men, I feel that society creates an added pressure for us to behave a certain way. Which can become limiting, sometimes certain experiences will be overlooked or dismissed just because we have been programmed to avoid certain things. For example, making sure we are aware of our mental well-being, and facing our problems with solutions or action. Talking about our problems or showing vulnerability can often be viewed as weakness. What tools do you think are needed for men to confront their own masculine ideals? And what tools do you think society needs? L: Understanding your own identity and being happy with that and knowing that all these “masculine ideals� aren’t your own. O: I think it needs to be challenged and brought into the conscience of children because that is when the ideals are being formed. Society needs more diverse representations of masculine ideals to brought to the forefront. A: I think society needs to encourage men to challenge their ideals, because this would lead to having more progressive discussions with each other. It really does come down to being at peace with your identity and being aware that we are able to create our own masculine ideals without having to follow what everyone else says is right.

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Telfar Clemens, a fashion designer hailing from Queens, NY,

exclusive product. As Telfar gained popularity, many people

has taken the fashion industry by storm this year. Although

had the same idea and began to purchase large quantities of

his clothing line and bags already had a local NYC buzz and

their inventory, reselling them to eager consumers at a much

idiosyncratic fashion shows overseas, 2020 saw his line transform

higher price. Telfar’s response to this came on August 19th 2020,

undeniably into the hot new trend. In the wake of police murders

when they debuted their 24 hour ‘Bag Security Program’. With

like George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, black owned brands

this program, consumers did not have to wait for the website

have experienced an unprecedented blossom in sales. Telfar is

to restock, they were able to purchase their custom color and

no exception. Its affordable prices and mission for accessibility

size for the same affordable price with a guaranteed date of

instantly made it a favorite among young consumers. This

delivery. By keeping their original mission of accessibility, the

combo quickly translated to Sold Out status. After restocking

brand cemented itself as a pioneer in the luxury retail space. A

their website, they would experience a full clear out of their bags

company capable of providing glamour for all.

and accessories within less than 24 hours; an unprecedented influence for such an emerging brand.

As online shopping becomes more of a necessity, luxury brands are finding it easier to remain exclusive by launching new

As we know from brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and the

products with limited inventory at any time. However, now that

coveted Hermès Birkin bag, most luxury brands thrive on

consumers know it is possible to pay less for a quality, luxury

exclusivity. Such brands often only make certain prints for

brand it will be interesting to see what changes larger brands

certain countries or strategically release their items for a limited

make to adjust to this new concept. In the meantime, shop

time in order to create high demand. Consumers are then

Telfar’s accessible, black owned brand below.

willing to pay whatever necessary to get their hands on the

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Danny Bowien currently resides in NYC and is an internationally recognized and celebrated chef. Co-founder of Mission Chinese in San Francisco which was ranked second best new restaurant by Bon Appetit magazine – he opened Mission Chinese in NYC in 2012. Most recently Danny is the main subject of the sixth season of the series The Mind of a Chef (2017).

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Va$htie: An American music video director, filmmaker, artist, designer, creative consultant and disc jockey, Va$htie has been active in the downtown New York City scene for over a decade.

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Selah Marley: The alluring model, musician and daughter of Lauryn Hill & the granddaughter of Bob Marley – accompanied Telfar to his CFDA fashion fund victory in 2017 and has already scored a major campaign with Calvin Klein and walked for Chanel despite only stepping into the industry a few years ago.

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‘fatfemme’ is the body-positive, femme empowering moniker of Jamal T. Lewis – an interdisciplinary artist, writer, and public speaker. Her work encapsulates life at the intersection of fat and femme identity and produces work around the body, specifically exploring and interrogating identity formation, race, gender, sexuality, desire, beauty, and ugliness.

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Ana Kras: A Serbian-born American Furniture designer, photographer and artist currently based in NYC

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Former music editor for DIS Magazine and current Creative Director for PC Music, filmmaker, model, and burgeoning musician Finn Mactaggart has worked with TELFAR in the past before directing the SS18 film “FAMILY” and “LEFRAK” documentary for the Spazio Maiocchi in 2017. His most recent and engaging effort is his EP “Love Me Still” as ‘PIG’ where he finds sincerity over icy, lo-fi production with visuals to match. viper - 89

Jorge “Gitoo” Wright: Nightlife staple and personality – Gitoo has modeled for big names across the board like Hennessey, Beyonce, and Givenchy. Outspoken and radical he uses his voice, perspective, and social media platform to influence culture in broad strokes.

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Jorge “Gitoo” Wright: Nightlife staple and personality – Gitoo has modeled for big names across the board like Hennessey, Beyonce, and Givenchy. Outspoken and radical he uses his voice, perspective, and social media platform to influence culture in broad strokes.

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Your designs became iconic very early in your career.

I remember buying Vogue in 2000 and your jeans were

What was it like going viral in the 2000s?

in there as art, which denim hadn’t really been before. Yeah definitely, it was weird ‘cause everyone was like,

It was kinda crazy because I was known for streetwear

“how did you manage to get your product to this stage?

and I worked a lot on the underground scene, so I was

Because you’re like the rest of us.” So it was like a ‘Them

working with a lot of unsigned acts that were up and

and Us’ kinda thing. So I think that’s why everyone

coming in the music industry. It was kinda cool so I

was supporting it ‘cause I was a regular guy doing

must’ve moved to the Brick Lane area in 1996 or 1997.

streetwear that happened to get a couple of good gigs

That area was really run down at the time, that was

and it worked for us.

where all the creatives were so there were musicians, artists, and so I was born out of that scene. Obviously

You’ve stayed in the Brick Lane area with B-Side, is the

at the time streetwear wasn’t really recognised as it is

area still inspiring for you?

now, as fashion. People would say, “he’s a designer, but he’s not a designer because he does streetwear.” It

Yeah definitely because for me I’ve seen it change so

wasn’t on the catwalks or anything like that, it was just

much. Originally I was living in west London before I

in the underground scene. So when it blew up, it was a

moved to Brick Lane and when I moved, everyone was

great thing. I think everyone felt part of it, who’d been

just like, “how can you go to east London, it’s dirty!”

part of the streetwear scene, or part of that music scene

Because it was the end of the end really in those days

in the 1990s. it was a collaboration of a lot of different

but that’s where a lot of the manufacturers were so I’d

celebrations really.

go there. I was living at my mum’s house and I’d come all the way back to West London and think I need some

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more fabric, I’d have to go back. So I thought let me just

call everyone up, “ok we’re gonna work all night tonight

get a place there and I got a place above the bagel shop,

to get this done,” so it’s a sense of achievement when

just opposite the bagel shop. It was a studio but my live

you actually finish it.

in apartment as well, all the musicians used to come there like M Beat, people like that. It was a good time,

Dressing Missy Elliott is definitely a bucket list goal for

but I’ve got a lot of history in Brick Lane and I’ve seen

a lot of designers!

it develop, it’s always a place I found inspiring because there were so many creatives in the area at the time.

Yeah definitely, I remember going into her hotel room and there must’ve been about 200 pairs of sneakers in

You’ve dressed so many musicians, is there one design

there ‘cause she just collects sneakers, like suitcases. I

that stands out to you as your favourite?

was just like, “wow!” This was the time when her videos were crazy, all the Hype Williams stuff. For me it was a

It’s weird ‘cause most of the acts that I’ve worked with,

real honour to get the opportunity to work with her.

whether they’ve been unsigned or they’ve been big stars, obviously the big stars have made the biggest

How do you feel about the way fashion has embraced

impacts - like the Beyonce’s and the Usher’s - that was

streetwear when it was previously so unwelcoming?

a great turning point. I think Usher was pretty amazing because he came to our studio in Brick Lane and was

I think it’s good because streetwear to me doesn’t just

on his way to MTV just to have a look at the stuff and he

mean rap inspired or that, everything comes from the

walked out head to toe in all of our stuff and went to TRL.

streets, all styles come from the streets, so it could be

He was really into what we were doing and had all these

skate, it could be rock, it could be indie, it’s more like

ideas. He said he hadn’t seen anything like this outside

culture really. I think it’s good because now it’s in our day

America, so that was a great time. There’s been so many

to day lives, it’s very commercial now. Whereas before it

to be fair, but I loved doing music videos like for Roni

wasn’t really that commercial, it was a really small sect

Size. Obviously in my early days I worked with Brand

of people that were into it. Even if you look at sneaker

New Heavies, when I first started which was more doing

culture back in the day before the Internet, there were

sort of tailoring stuff so I’ve done lots of things across

people that were into sneaker culture, they would go

the board. So it hasn’t always been pure streetwear, it’s

to certain stores or to the states to get their sneakers.

always evolved around music and that’s always been my

Also record stores, going to a record store and getting


records, it wasn’t as easy as the press of a button. But when I initially first started designing, and started selling

Is there a different approach when doing a music

clothing, I wasn’t selling in any clothes stores, it was all

video, like more custom pieces?

record stores because obviously I didn’t see myself as a designer in that sense. It was natural to go where the

Yeah definitely, I think when we were doing a music

people that I wanted to wear my clothing were going,

video in the past, you worked with a tight brief with

and they were going in record stores. So I was selling in

the director and the artist and then you just have to

a legendary record shop on Beak street, Unity Records, I

create to that brief. I remember I did Missy Elliott for the

used to sell in there and a few other places, that’s where

MOBO Awards which was really interesting. The label

I started and that’s where I built up my clientele base.

called me and said, “Missy’s in town and we want you

Then I had a stall on Camden market, and there was

to do an outfit for her.” But it’s always really quick - like

one stall where they used to sell Drum & Bass, which

lastminute.com and this was on the Friday and then they

everyone used to go to on a Saturday afternoon, they

said, “but she’s coming from Germany with the sneakers

used to play really loud music. People just used to hang

and the sneakers need to match the outfit.” So she got

out and my stall was dead opposite there, so again that’s

the sneakers, a pair of baby blue Adidas shell-toes with a

where I built up a lot of clientele. People used to come

navy strip. So she gave me one of the sneakers and I had

down to get records and they’d come to my spot and

to go round to the fabric shops, match the fabric and

get the clothes. It was a cool, nice little community, it

they gave me her measurements. Then I went to her

was fun times. I wasn’t really thinking about a business

hotel to do the fitting once the stuff had been made and

and stuff like that, it was just part of the culture that I

the MOBOs event was that evening, so that was quite

embraced and that I was part of and to see it changing

cool and quite mad. Sometimes that’s quite good when

and going where it was going was a good time.

it’s an adrenaline rush - you gotta get things done, just

When do you feel the change in attitude began? Were

I had, I would go there ‘cause I was absorbing so much.

you an early sign of the change of guard?

In those times, if you walked into a place and they said, “where did you work?” And you said, “Joe Casely

I think the change was probably about 2004, the real sort

Hayford,” it was like, “oh my god,” that was like saying

of change maybe 2005. I think it kinda went in stages

you worked at Vogue. I was very proud to say I worked

really, obviously at the time there was a lot of American

there and I was dedicated to what they were doing and

streetwear, there was the Karl Kani’s, the Sean John’s,

I was learning a lot, they had a lot of time for me, they

the Ecko’s, LRG, so there were mostly American inspired

were very patient with me, they put me on the right

brands. That’s what brought the serious global wave,

track in a sense.

obviously that was really big in places like Germany and around Europe. I think the British scene changed a little

Besides Joe, were there many black people working in

bit later because the British style was quite different. It

the industry at the time?

was still streetwear but it still had that British touch to it. What we were doing, how we were dressing, it was still

Yeah Joe was probably the one that was most influential

slightly different. So it had its own feel but yeah I like to

to me because obviously he was Ghanaian and came

think I was part of the movement and saw the change.

from the same background, so that inspired me. But

I think when I talk to people about their experiences of

then also there was another guy called Hassan [Hajjaj]

when my brand came out and what they were doing,

who had a label called RAP. He was really into the fashion

I mean we had a full window in Selfridges which was

and arts and stuff, and he had a store in Covent Garden

unheard of. A friend of mine was walking down Oxford

which was a beautiful streetwear store back in the day. It

Street and they were like, “oh my god, we’ve been in

was beautiful wooden floors, he had really nice expensive

Selfridges!” I knew they had the order but I didn’t know

leather jackets, everything was beautifully made. So that

what they were gonna do with it and she was like, “have

whole scene, with these guys being older than myself,

you seen Selfridges’ window?” And I was like, “No” and

they set the foundation of how things should be done,

she said, “you’ve got a full window!” I went there, they

so I was inspired by a lot of that scene.

had these massive live kids, cause I was doing kids wear as well as the time, it was really cool. So for me that sort

With your own brand, what was your entry into the

of time for streetwear, we hadn’t seen much like that so

industry like? Did you face obstacles?

it was nice to be part of that time in that culture. When I first started, I used to say yes to everything You got started in the fashion world working with Joe

and take offers and try to work out how to do things

Casely-Hayford. What were your early years of design

but I didn’t really see it as a job and as a business, it


was something I loved doing. So imagine if you just love making music, but you’re not making music to

Yeah that was one of the first places, I worked for Joe

become an artist, you’re just making music because

when they were based in Whitechapel and that was

you love it. I think that’s what happened to me on the

an amazing experience, I think that’s where I learnt my

fashion side, I didn’t go into it thinking I can make some

foundations of everything about how tough the fashion

money out of this. Before, I used to ride skateboard,

industry was, how hard you had to work, so that was

BMX, I used to dance and I would get bored of each

my schooling in a sense. If I hadn’t worked at Joe’s, I

thing, but when I got into fashion it just kept moving

probably wouldn’t be doing what I do now because that

and changing, because it kept evolving. Obviously the

prepared me for the journey in a sense and just seeing

more you learn, the more experience you have so that

how hard and how dedicated and how professional Joe

was the way I started. I wasn’t under the pressure like

and his wife Maria were, was a great example for me

I’ve got to do well, I’ve got to make a success of this, I

which I needed. I think I needed to see how serious this

was just enjoying the ride at the time. Now it’s different

was and how far I could take it.

because when people say they want to start a clothing line, they’re under pressure because they know what

How long did you work with Joe?

the competition’s like and they know what everyone else is doing. Remember this is before socials so I didn’t

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I started off as an intern then I worked there for two

really see what everyone else was doing that much, it

years on and off, doing summer holidays. All the holidays

was just about my journey and me and my friends. If my

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friends said they liked something then that was it, that

what led to the change in brand?

was enough for me, I was cool. It was a very different time, so I wasn’t really under that pressure of success.

So the first label I had was my name, the second one was B-Side because B-Side was the other side of the record.

Plus you stood out in the UK scene, as all the other

So basically, that was when I was getting confused

streetwear designers were American…

when I was trying to differentiate, the other side was

Exactly, cause even when I went to America first, I

a bit more clean, soft tailoring and styles like that. The

went to New York and showed them my stuff and they

other side, B-side was more street-style inspired. Going

couldn’t quite work it out. They were like, “it’s not really

back to that music influence, when people used to buy

streetwear but it’s not really hip hop, but then it’s in the

records, you’d get the A-side, then you’d get the B-side

middle.” And that’s why we described it as somewhere

which wasn’t often released by the record companies

between the curb and the boutique because we didn’t

but that’s the side that had the heat on it, the best track.

quite know where to put it, it didn’t fit in anywhere,

So that’s why I called this the B-Side, that’s where the

there would be a bit of tailoring in there, but a bit of

reference came from.

streetwear, But a lot of the streetwear brands were 100% streetwear, whereas mine was never really like that, it

Was it a new narrative for you as a designer? Would

was a mixture of everything.

you ever do that again?

Do you feel the streetwear market is oversaturated in

Oh 100%, I think sometimes as a designer, you need to


have certain guidelines or everything becomes blurred. For me personally, it’s very hard to segregate different

Not necessarily, because these are different times.

sections so when you come up with a different name,

I enjoyed the journey that I was on and I think things

and different concept under the same homepage, it’s

change and things evolve. What people are doing with

easier because you can say, that one doesn’t go in there,

their brands now on a small budget, in a short amount

it goes there. It’s still part of the family but you’re gonna

of time, is incredible. Everyone’s so far advanced visually

go in that room and you’re gonna go in that room. So

and how to sort concepts is great. So there’s so much

it helps you be a little bit more precise with your work.

creativity coming out of everywhere which I love. I think what’s good about it as well - it’s not just London,

 whereswale

New York, LA, Paris, there’s great stuff coming out of


everywhere which is healthy for everyone, to be fair. Plus people work harder to stand out when there are more brands. Yeah, you’ve got to be hard and work hard. I think since the lockdown and this whole COVID thing came up, I think it’s been good for everyone’s creativity, ‘cause me I was finding the pace too fast and I was like, “wow I don’t think I can keep up with this.” Every day was something new, something new. I’m not really from that school so you don’t really get to go through the process and that’s the bit I love, the process, going through the motions of creativity and living with things for a while. But now it’s like you do something on Monday, on Tuesday you post it on Instagram. But sometimes it’s not just about the product, it’s about the movement, the audience you have. It’s different times now, so you’ve got to try a bit of both. Launching B-Side after your Wale Adeyemi brand,

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Founded by British/Nigerian award-winning journalist

said “These are the women that inspire us to create out

and Creative Director, Didi Akinyelure, April & Alex is

there, in your face fashion pieces.”

driven by a mission to create contemporary womenswear that stands out. Describing its ideal woman as bold,

With feminine shapes that cater to working women that

edgy, independent, fearless, daringly innovative, creative,

don’t see the need to dim their glow in business hours,

extroverted, outré, April & Alex isn’t for wallflowers.

the clothes emphasise the boldness of the wearer. Their latest presentation took inspiration from the woman

Heading into 2021 with a bang, April & Alex recently

who pushes beyond limits, serving looks that combined

debuted its ‘Audax’ collection, taking inspiration from the

off-the-shoulder silhouettes, exaggerated sleeves and

Latin word for “bold.” Focusing on clothing that makes

ruffled details. April & Alex is perfect for those that seek

women feel empowered, the brand has a strong female

high-quality, contemporary designs at more reasonable

identity at its core. When asked about her muses for the


collection, Didi named Meghan Markle, Chimamanda Adichie, Audrey Lorde, Maya Angelou, Beyoncé and

 aprilalexshop

Michelle Obama. Speaking of these iconic women, she


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In the digital age of transient beauty trends and mass-

at 40.5% of Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) in the UK.

produced cosmetics, the clamour of brands fighting

Though it has been found that women start businesses

veneer tooth and acrylic nail to get their product to the

with around one third of the level of finance of their

forefront of consumer’s fingertips, is deafening. With

male counterparts, in every size and sector of business.

the UK’s beauty industry valued at £27.2 billion in 2018,

Given the obstacles this staggering statistic poses,

market saturation is amplified by millions of variations of

Stacy highlights the importance of seeing herself in

products in every shade and formula you could possibly

the faces of successful women around her; “Jackie Aina

dream of, making it harder than ever to break through

and Patricia Bright are really successful black women,

and shatter the glass ceiling.

their authentic approach was important for me to see they were unapologetically themselves, that’s a huge

Yet, amongst all this white noise, London-based beauty

inspiration for me.” She continues, “having a successful

brand Pink Salad Ldn (PSL) has seen incredible success;

black woman in my life, like my mum, is amazing

striving forward with a home-grown business model

because I look at her and I see that black women can

and an unparalleled engagement with their consumer

be successful and we don’t have to apologise for doing

base. VIPER sat down with CEO & Founder, Stacy Morris,

that, we can do what we do and we can do it well.” The

to learn more about what it takes and where it’s taking

same thread of authenticity Stacy sees in these women


is woven into the PSL culture, she advises that this is the essence of their success. Speaking to other aspiring

The embodiment of brains and beauty, Stacy started the

businesspeople, she says, “Let your personality shine

business whilst in her final year studying Mechanical

through your business persona, allow it to permeate

Engineering at University. She speaks on fusing

through your business and people will feel and love that

engineering with creativity, describing her childhood

authenticity. Be as authentic as you can and people

aspirations to become a “mad scientist with crazy hair

will naturally want to celebrate you, help you, push you,

and doing crazy stuff” and how her family’s love of

and support you.” Framing her advice with a sense of

Formula One sparked an interest in becoming an F1

perspective, Stacy goes on to explain how Small and

engineer. Adorned with striking hot pink braids and

Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) must be self-aware

sharing her latest ingenious inventions online, she isn’t

and self-assured, starting with a thoroughly methodical

too far from her mad scientist dreams.

approach in the logistics to a genuine belief in the goals, “You want to be able to answer any questions about

Taking her from the laboratory to the timeline, Stacy

your brand immediately and with confidence - to say

never anticipated her spontaneous 1am post on TikTok

who you are and what your brand is about, a really solid

sharing how to DIY lipgloss would gain the 41.5M likes

plan is really important.”

and 2.2M followers PSL has on TikTok today. Despite having no intentions of creating a beauty brand,

Fellow graduate turned entrepreneur, Grace Beverley,

viewers volunteered themselves as customers, asking

is quoted as another of Stacy’s inspirations. The TALA

her to sell the lipgloss; hence, she refers to PSL as her

and Shreddy founder is reshaping the fitness sphere

“accidental business.” Behind the unexpected and

with environmentally friendly alternatives and PSL has

unbelievable success, it is evident that PSL is a product

adopted similar values in their business ethos. Every PSL

of the founder’s determination, a true stroke of business

product is 100% vegan, the glitter used is biodegradable

acumen, and brilliance. She recalls the days of “working

and they endeavour to obtain mostly sustainable

for hours everyday for months, on both the business and

packaging. In addition to a concern for environmental

getting a degree,” accrediting the demanding nature of

factors, PSL is dedicated to the overarching pillars of

her chosen vocation and growing up with an insightful

sustainability, “it’s about combining environmental,

and driven mother, in helping cultivate her strong

social, and economical elements.” This is reflected in


their ethical working standards as PSL are able to offer their employees double the minimum wage in Poland

Entrepreneurship in the digital beauty era is a newfound

where their factory is based, “we want our staff to have

and ever-changing landscape, a tricky terrain to traverse,

a good life and live well, to be able to afford to do things,

let alone whilst sitting at the intersection of being

and that is part of sustainability.” In the initial scaling

young, female and black. The most entrepreneurial

stages of the business, Stacy was approached by various

female grouping is that of Black and Caribbean women

manufacturing companies offering to outsource the

production of her lip products, but she continues to

in 2021, starting with an exciting Christmas release and

create these herself with the PSL team, ensuring the

an upcoming shade which is her favourite yet, ‘Toasted

business maintains integrity of production and quality,

Velvet’, a similar gloss to the fan favourite ‘London Plum’

in addition to preserving a close relationship with her

which was discontinued earlier this year. Above all, if

customers. From naming the products, to requesting

you are to invest in just one product from PSL (firstly,

specific colours, customers maintain a vocal presence

that’s ill-advised as you’ll only go back for more), Stacy

throughout the process and PSL truly is a brand for the

recommends the Fre$h Mint lip oil; a hydrating formula

people from the people.

to tingle and stimulate the senses with a warm embrace, the perfect product to represent PSL.

In aligning traditional business values with her dynamic approach, Stacy has established PSL with refreshing

 pinksaladldn

distinction and we can’t wait to see what she has in


store for us next. For now, she teases an expanded range

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Who is Victoria Omobuwajo?

Describe how you felt the first time you saw Sunmo Chips in the likes of Sainsbury’s.

I am a passionate business woman who takes pride in all I put my hands to. I act as a speaker at events and young

Overjoyed! I remember praying to be stocked in

leader within the community this includes mentoring

Sainsbury’s stores and giving pitches to investors and

individuals and delivering business workshops for young

business peers that map out selling in Sainsbury’s stores

people in Hackney. I have undertaken various public

as our route to market. So to achieve my plans is so

speaking events in London including City Hall, London

amazing and it reminds me that I can achieve so much

BBC Radio, and Food Matters Live. I take passion in the

more and all that I plan for.

next generation and giving advice based on my current experience.

How has being a young black female leader in an industry affected your path to success?

SUNMO Snacks is the center of attention and is achieving great success in the snacks industry currently

Initially, I was told I shouldn’t show myself to be the

in the UK. Be sure to look out to see more of our new

face behind the brand because I am black. However,

product developments.

I decided to be bold and courageously put myself out there as the CEO and Founder of SUNMO. It has given

How did the idea of Sunmo Chips come about?

us a lot of publicity as people are shocked and often see the SUNMO brand and think it is run by an older person

Sunmo Snacks was originally formulated in my Mother’s

or already a huge corporation. I have had comments

Dalston kitchen, Sunmo™ Snacks were inspired by the

of people not believing I am behind the brand as I am

Nigerian cooking and flavours of my family’s heritage.

young. I have found being young, black and female that

Think me using every pan in the kitchen and my brothers

I am often the only young woman on panels or the only

being the taste testers shouting “more spice!” and you

black person, and experiencing this has made me even

get the picture. Now seeing Sunmo products produced

more determined to open the doors wide for people

in a manufacturing site is amazing. I wanted to share

who look like me to be inspired to enter. This has made

the delicious flavours and quality ingredients so many

me a lot busier, mainly because I often get asked to be

know and love and make them relevant to millennials.

a mentor to other young people and I have a passion for helping young people so I always agree to.

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Each pack of Sunmo plantain crisps sold provides a


meal for an orphaned child in Nigeria. Tell us more








about the initiative and the importance for you to give back to your community.

My advice for young entrepreneurs is to plan your journey and plan big. When I started SUNMO I knew

Giving to children who need it the most has always

we needed six-figure investment and I researched

been a passion of mine. So setting up the SUNMO

exactly how I would get it. So I created financial

foundation that makes sure each packet sold will

forecasts and calculated the costs of launching into

feed a child. Therefore when we sell 10,000 packets

the large retailers, then made a plan, and carried

this means 10,000 children fed, is exactly what keeps

it out. I also am a strong advocate for living in your

me active with growing the SUNMO brand. As soon

purpose so I would also advise making sure your

as I came up with the idea to launch SUNMO I knew

businesses are purpose-led.

I wanted to make it a purpose-led brand. Knowing the difficult situation that every orphaned Nigerian

What’s next for Victoria and Sunmo Chips?

child may go through it has always been in my heart to help them.

SUNMO is launching our Crowdfund campaign inviting people to have an investment in SUNMO

What does your heritage mean to you and what

and be part of the SUNMO community. This means

lessons have you taken from it?

as we grow their investment also grows. To sign up to become an investor you can pre-register using the

I’ve taken everything from my heritage and put it into

link in the bio of SUNMO SNACKS Instagram page.

the SUNMO brand. Being of Nigerian heritage, the

For me, what is in store is growing the SUNMO

name SUNMO is actually a Yoruba word meaning “to

product range, selling in the UK and internationally.

bring people together” and that is true to SUNMO as

Sainsbury’s have already asked us to stock more

we are bringing people together with food.

SUNMO products with them and outside of our Plantain Crisps and Sweet Potato Puffs we are also

What is your greatest fear and how do you channel

launching SUNMO Sport with our Protein Nuts

it into strength?

range and Lentil Crisps. SUNMO is also growing internationally with retailers in Europe asking to stock

As I’m a people’s person my greatest fear initially was

us, so there are many exciting things happening that

the transition from working in the finance industry

I can’t wait for.

and leaving the large office environment with a lot of social interaction for working independently as an

Final words?

Entrepreneur. So I channeled it into making sure my business and team grew rapidly over a short period

My business portfolio is expanding and the SUNMO

of time.

range is also growing. We are launching SUNMO Sport, SUNMO plant-based drinks, and more SUNMO

In your opinion, what is the future of Black-owned

Snacks. I am looking forward to growing as a leader

businesses here in the UK?

in the food industry and increasing the number of businesses I run.

I believe black-owned businesses are growing rapidly in number and profit here in the UK. As more young

 sunmosnacks

black people are seeing successful black business


owners in fields they are passionate about they are becoming inspired to build their own successful businesses. I want black-owned businesses to be as large and mainstream as the big names and I see this happening in the near future in the UK.

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What is Safehouse? To put it in a couple of sentences, the aim of Safehouse is to touch on the social class ideologies in working class communities. We want to shift that narrative to bring about positive change with opportunities that in my day would not have been present. The idea is to connect the dots between local people, emerging/high profile talent and offer opportunities within workshops, sessions, mentoring and so many different multi-dimensional events that bring young people to multiple safe spaces. With this we can make generational leaders from people that are well and truly deserving of it, rather than go down routes that they are usually convicted for. What are the stand out projects that you have worked on? I would say one of our very first projects was the collaboration with Hackney Empire, which was a very

thing in Nigerian culture, in my family anyway. My aunt

big thing for me because I used to go there growing

that introduced it to us, not even too long ago, we’re

up. We did a talk and among the speakers were a few

talking maybe 10 years. She started off with a turkey

of my very good friends - Ghetts, Femi, and people

and then we started with presents but more time it was

that I grew up with; a guy called Babs and a girl called

for my younger brother anyway. I wanted to share that

Ashleigh. Growing up where I grew up I had the blessing

selfless giving and bringing the community together

of meeting amazing people who are really sick at what

around Christmas. Everyone is always in a good mood

they do. I wanted to bring everyone together and just

in December for some reason, well we get why. I just

highlight them and almost allow them to share their

wanted a space where I could be able to give present

knowledge and give it to young people who are well and

freely and thought how can I do it? We did call-outs to

truly deserving but don’t know how to connect the dots.

the five or six different agencies I had worked at, as well

That event was based around filming, acting, music and

as my friends and they would donate presents. Myself

it was a chance for the speakers to briefly tell their story.

and my team would wrap them up and then we would

At the end, Femi was offering casting opportunities for

do an open day where people would drop by, have food

young people. It was a nice intimate crowd.

and everyone would leave with a present. There would be competitions that would happen and we got a few

Another one of my favourites would have to be the

local companies to help. Slider Cuts did a few haircuts for

Christmas Present Drive - we’ve done two so far and

some of the boys. It was just creating an idea of selfless

we’re going to do a third one this year. I was inspired

giving and putting a smile on young people’s faces just

when I was an intern way back when! I was dropping

before Christmas. That is definitely my favourite one to

gifts off to agencies and I would watch all the designs

do. I have loved every single project that we have done.

wrapped up beautifully. One delivery was very tight

The last one was the Ride and Dine event which we did

- my birthday is on the 21st December so I remember

last year.That was a collaboration with one of my really

Christmas was getting close - it may have been one

good friends called Temi. We did a crazy bike ride from

of the last days in the office. I also remember thinking

here to Lagos. A few boats were included in there but

that half of these won’t even get to where they need to

the majority of it was a bike ride. He had an amazing,

be. Some may do in January but these were gifts that

incredible and inspiring young story and I think a lot of

would be sent to people who already had the money

young people could relate to him. He was incarcerated

they need. I just started to think about some of the ways

and he came out of the other end. He’s doing so many

that people would react to certain gifts. Some were very

great things and he’s such a positive guy. You would

appreciative whilst other would say they didn’t really like

be surprised how much he’s gone through. That whole

things or ask to have something else. It was wrong and

idea of collaborating with people who I’ve grown up

I didn’t get it. When I was growing up my family didn’t

with and respect highly, I felt that young people would

actually celebrate Christmas because it isn’t really a

definitely respect him. It’s quite nice to see that a lot

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more people are getting on their bikes now. That was a

have always been rooted in giving back. As a young

really great one. We want to explore a whole social club,

girl I suppose I watched him. He would have many

not just restricted to the creative industry.

conversations with his friends and family, as well as my Mum. They’re both first generation in the U.K. and they

We started there because that is where a lot of my

were the ones who were always having to help their

background is in but as myself and my team are

families back in Nigeria or America, wherever they lived.

growing, we are looking to explore as many areas that

I guess watching them, I was really inspired by how they

affect people in communities. Being rooted in here, it

operate and how they move. I spent a lot of time in my

feels like the right thing to do. I don’t feel like an outsider

teenage years hanging around the square that was local

who is trying to look in and figure things out. I feel that

to me; we had water fights or we would go to adventure

for once I’m in a place where I feel comfortable doing

playgrounds. In the summer we would go to the youth

these things. In the industry sometimes I felt like an

club and there would be all these different activities for

outsider. It was all leading me to where I am now, to start

us to do. We would stay up and hang out on the famous

doing this and now I think to myself, two years down the

wall that’s outside my house. We would sing, dance and

line, I can’t wait to see what the next two or four or six or

watch videos. We would go to each other’s houses and

ten look like!

watch the awards because that was the only time we knew we could catch music. It was super super exclusive

Tell me how Safehouse began and your journey to

when we were growing up. We would watch things like


Nickelodeon, Disney, Trouble and all those channels. If you missed it you missed it. We spent time just being

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I started Safehouse in 2018. At the time I was still

around each other. It was a mixture of about 16 boys

working in fashion and music PR. I was almost swaying

and girls who used to roll together. I really felt like I

into consultancy. I guess one of the main parts of my job

leaned towards the males. That’s not to say that I wasn’t

I love is watching seeds grow, whether that be projects

interested in the females but with females we usually

or people. I like to start at the grass roots and watch

learn to manage and deal with things. Boys trap a lot

things beautifully transpire. I’ve lived in Hackney all my

of things inside themselves. It’s not to say that I don’t

life. My family are Nigerian and my Dad and his family

go through things or my female friends don’t either but

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we’re a lot more likely to talk to each other about things

things to be paid for. Also it helps removes stresses

whereas guys, they don’t - or the ones I grew up with

and unnecessary aggravations so you can focus on the

didn’t really. I think I used to try and read people and

job. If you know you haven’t got to worry about a bill at

the easiest way to put it is that someone may have said

the end of the month then you can work on amazing

something to me and laughed about it but I knew deep

projects and if you can help people, then your mood is

down that they’re probably going through some shit. All

immediately different. You do need money to be able

these things started to piece together.

to pay for things that you need so that you don’t feel stressed. We decided to start a GoFundMe and we have

I got to a point after working for about 10 years in the

almost reached half of our goal, which is great. That will

fashion industry and thought, what am I doing and who

at least cover our venue hire for now until the end of the

am I helping? I was blessed enough to do many many

year. It also generates expenses for hospitality, resources

things that a lot of people in my area wouldn’t have

and equipment for things that we need to make it look

been able to do but I thought, I’m coming back here. At

aesthetically pleasing because once again quality is very

a point it just wasn’t fulfilling me, it was very superficial

important to myself and my team. Also just things like

and it wasn’t enough. Aside from that I worked with a

our website, our social media, all these things that we

group of young people from church and my brothers

forget need to be paid for. Within registration, there are

were present at a gathering. We had little gathering’s

things that need to be paid for within that. We’ll have

where we would talk through our weeks and things like

that until we’re able to get to a point where we can cover

that. One of the young boys who just turned 16 said his

a wage and then fully commit ourselves to it but until

friends were starting to dabble into drugs and stuff. That

then our GoFundMe is our point of call for donations.

hurt my chest especially knowing that my little brother was sitting in on that conversation. The next morning

Is there anything else that is important to your journey

the idea for Safehouse just started to make its way to me

that you think people should know?

and then here we are almost two years down the line. We’ve done five projects so far and we’re just waiting for

You do feel a little bit crazy, like who do you think you

lockdown to ease up so we can get back to it.

are and do you think you can save the world? All that kind of stuff runs through your mind. I thought that it

It’s great that you have been able to take your

was better to create some small part of action whether

experiences both positive and negative to make a

it’s a small part in my community than do nothing at

difference in the lives of others. In terms of funding,

all. What you see is that the response is quite fickle in

how does that work because I know that these

the beginning but it’s amazing to see how it’s taken

projects need money and it would be great for people

this amount of time for people to recognise the value

to read this and find out how they can help.

of young people and our communities, this whole conscious awakening is a big thing for me. It’s never too

At the moment, everyone, including myself, volunteers

late to support and I think sometimes we find it hard to

so to speak, just while we get things set up to be

support people around us. There is no cap or measure

a charitable incorporated organisation. No one is

to what that might be whether it be a share on your

currently being paid for anything. All of our donations

socials, either reaching out to particular people or using

have come through friends and family, amazing people

your initiative to think of ways to support people.

in my church. At the moment we have a restricted account which everything goes into. I don’t know how

 safehouse.ldn

it’s happened but we have always happened to just


have enough for everything that we’ve done. The way I envision it doesn’t always match what we do but I know we have to start from somewhere and I’m very grateful for where we have started. I’m a firm believer in the idea that time is precious and I don’t see why people should feel a type of way that they are paid for doing good for others. That is more of an important reason to pay other people. Everybody says that money isn’t important and I agree in that sense but money is necessary for

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Your work consistently challenges certain ideals whilst

the hashtag #menaretrash is reprogrammed to call

uplifting the communities they affect, what inspires

men positive affirmations.

you to continue doing so?

Negative statements such as ‘men are trash’ is a frequent criticism, that is echoed in young black men’s

In my artwork I challenge ideals, that affect either myself

lives. These negative statements can cause their brains

or people within my community. I relay these ideas

to distort the truth and make it even more difficult to

through an artistic process to showcase the concepts to

break the negative stigmas which encourages them

external members of the community, and to re-literate it

to live up to the statement. The hashtag #menaretrash

for those who are unaware of the issues. I tried to create


a positive narrative for every challenge that occurs to

affirmations. To influence the young men of today to do

motivate those who are affected, to know that their

and be better, by erasing the negative labels being used

voices are heard and to uplift them to continue fighting

towards them.







the battle. Even your use of pop art inspired pieces, such as With so many facets of the world we live in worth

‘Ass And Titties’ seem to reflect some kind of social

confronting, how do you go about choosing your

commentary given the influence of pop art in the

particular subject for each piece?

fashion & music industries which help perpetuate the very ideas you challenge - is this stylised choice

There are many issues that arise in the world we live in


today, so I tried to direct my focus on ones that personally affect me, as I am more knowledgeable and opinionated

Ass and titties is an artistic statement used to present

about the affairs.

the ideas of sexualisation and sexual violence towards women. To disregard statements such as ‘boys will be

You draw on references from popular culture in a

boys’ and to educate young men on the severity of

social critique, do you feel the media - particularly

sexual violence. To let young females feel comfortable

social media - is detrimental to certain communities?

in all environments, neglecting the ideas of what she is wearing; the time she travels alone or the area she is in.

My references to pop culture, is presented through the traditional style of pop art. That was once used to

Sexualisation is linked to sexual objectification, which

convey ideas that happened within society. There has

usually occurs when individuals are regarded as

been an ongoing debate about cultural appropriation,

sex objects and evaluated in terms of their physical

displaying cultural ideas that have worked against black

characteristics and sexiness. The sexualisation towards

people in many ways but were appreciated in the media

women is highly associated with sexual violence, which

and the wider social community when figures such as

is any unwanted sexual act or activity.

Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner presented such ideas. The Modern-day pop art painting, illustrating the Your piece, ‘Men Are Trash’, flips the popular yet

most popular sex symbols in today’s society, being an



emblematic part of the era, by changing attitudes

generalisation of men in the modern era, what do you

towards sexuality. The pop culture icons have changed

hope to communicate through this work?

the industry, by being extremely influential and





breaking records. The style of the painting was highly ‘Men Are Trash’ is a prevalent hashtag on Twitter. It

influenced by Mel Ramos, in the approach of his female

originated from South African Twitter when women

nudes paintings, incorporating elements of realist and

decided to use the social media platform to address

abstract art.

numerous issues such as rape, patriarchy and domestic violence in their country.

‘The Revolution Will Be Televised’ is a moving and candid portrayal of the protests occurring out of

The hashtag then became a podium to converse about

the tragedy of police brutality, composed of various

the mistreatment of women in relationships with men

protest signs, do you feel art is a form of protest for

and male’s promiscuous behaviour.


Society has accepted male toxic behaviour for decades,

‘The revolution will be televised’ is based on the

and women in today’s society hold men accountable.

2020 protests illustrating years of institutionalised

This piece represents a reprogramming system to


change the narrative. As a community, we need to

give an introduction to the injustice black people

change the mindset and behaviour of our young men,

have experienced for many years. The continuous







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discrimination towards their race, throughout history

As a teaching assistant, how do you feel art can help

and within present life, needs to come to an end.

the youth of today?

​ They are hand-selected to articulate the discrimination

I am currently completing my teacher’s training in art

and injustice for people on the outside to understand,

for secondary school. I think it is extremely important

the inequality towards black people. The artwork was

for young people to participate in creative subjects

my response to the events that occurred and my protest

such as a visual arts and performing arts. Not only for

against the injustices towards black people.

entertainment purposes, but I think it is important for society to have a healthy outlet and expressing

What is the overarching message you hope to

differences and opinions in a healthy manner. I believe

communicate amongst the sea of voices demanding

this can be done through the arts as it’s an expression of


peoples feelings, emotions and experiences.

The overarching message I am trying to convey is the

This year you had your work exhibited at the Sleek

way black people experience the world, to those who are

Gallery in West Kensington - what is next for you?

unaware of the daily issues we face as a community. To educate those who are external to those issue to fully

I really enjoyed my exhibition at the gallery, the

understand it from a black person’s perspective. To

responses from the public definitely motivated me

illustrate the positives that come with being black and

to keep producing relevant and meaningful artwork, I

being unapologetically themselves.

aspire to be an art teacher and share my talents. External to teaching, I will continue to use art as an outlet and a

Which piece has been your favourite thus far?

platform to present ideas, concepts, and emotions that others cannot articulate.

As a collection, I will say my male empowerment section is my favourite, as I feel as if I completely conveyed

In the next two years I will create another exhibition,

the message I wanted to. Being a female and not fully

within that time I hope to collaborate with other young

experiencing the issues from a personal perspective

black creatives and provide an event that showcases

and being able to articulate issues that arise in the male

our talents and conveys our messages to the wider


community.  michaelawwelchart


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What inspires your artwork? The strength of the human spirit, primarily. The complexity and beauty of nature is a never-ending source of inspiration, and the vibrancy of pop-culture always intrigues and keeps things fresh. For your drawing series, you work almost exclusively with pen and ink, why is this your chosen medium? I’ve found that it’s the most effective medium for communicating the messages I strive to convey. Also, it lends itself to my lifestyle. I’ve been traveling full-time since 2017 and a pad of paper and pen are easy to take with me wherever I go. How do you choose your subjects? It’s actually a very spontaneous thing. Usually, it begins as a visceral reaction to words - whether written or spoken - by an individual who compels me​​to want to take action as a result of their courage. Their ability to speak truth to power and their fearlessness in standing up for justice, equality and freedom. Once a subject is chosen, given their generally widespread influence, how do you go about selecting

Your Visual Activism series is beautifully moving, do

just the one quote to illustrate?

you use art as a form of protest?

I generally choose quotes that are relevant to the

Thank you! Yes, the works from the V ​ isual Activism​

times. They need to resonate and fit within the context

series are my primary form of protest and a way to use​

of current events. Intuition also plays a big part in the

my ​voice and vision to expand awareness and inspire

choosing; If I feel and connect to the words deeply, I


know that others will likely react similarly. If you had a platform to vocalise anything and have Which piece has been your favourite thus far?

global reach, what is something you would like people to gain or learn from you?

I’m particularly fond of a drawing I feel is timely as it relates to our upcoming election. It’s called “The Axe”

To always have hope, as cliche as it sounds. And to be

and is based on this Turkish proverb: “The forest was

inspired by the people, images and words of wisdom

shrinking but the trees kept voting for the axe, for the

portrayed in the Visual Activism series, which ideally,

axe was clever and convinced the trees that because his

serves as a reminder that we too can fight the good

handle was made of wood he was one of them.” I’m also

fight. Each of us are powerful beyond measure,

partial to the tribute portrait of the great John Lewis, as

especially when we come together to unite around a

well as the Angela Davis drawing. An all-time favorite

common cause.

from back in the day is the Native American Proverb inspired by the Standing Rock protests, first drawn in

Projection Activist, AE Marling, projected your work

2016 and reinterpreted in 2019.

on walls of the Federal building in San Francisco, UC Berkeley and across other large-scale locations in the

In reminding people of these prolific and prevalent

Bay area - what was the response to this and will you

voices, what do you hope to achieve?

get involved in any future activist exhibits?

My hope is that the work inspires and uplifts, as well as

I wish I had been on location when AE projected those

encourages people to use their voices and take action to

images so that I could have witnessed the reactions

bring about change.

first hand, but I was traveling at the time. That said, people, including myself, were blown away. To see the

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work on such a large scale is incredibly impactful and is a super effective form of protest. I’m very much open to participating in future activist exhibits and curious to see how that sort of thing will unfold in the age of Covid-19. In the meantime, I’d love nothing more than to paint strategically placed murals based on some of the most significant drawings from the Visual Activism series and hope to make that a reality someday soon. If there is any one person we can look to, in the past or present, for guidance during these trying times, who would you choose? Dr. Cornel West. In my mind, he is one of the most educated, activated, articulate leaders and inspirers in modern-day history. He’s dedicated, relatable, knows how to bring people together and truly embodies the spirit and qualities of the quintessential activist.  rickfrausto


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the morning quakes at the breath of a black yawn

sometimes i wonder if we are all jogging towards becoming a hashtag by we i mean black peoples my peoples, soul worn runners laced up brothers the gun shoots the hymns of plantation memories on your marks, get set— go, go back to where you bloody came from, bodies they form knocking arms on wombs begging to be saved from by bodies i’m talking black bodies my bodies i’m talking justice for *insert name here* bullets for skinfood picasso stroke for this mood—blue, nah actually, purple black and blown away spit disdain at gods at ask why i woke brusied again by i mean black! i have a dream then i sleep and have the same dream again— the only cycle left un-whole, pew, pew, pew— bullet holes my dears reduced to deers. niggas sealed in bambi’s fate, forest firearms and white men playing games get the gat get the gat get the gat let that finger itch till the scales turn flat let the mourning quake at the breath of a black fawn!

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Miracle Okereke


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An import from the US, soon-to-be British national

something that was dictated by the LGBTQ community.

treasure, JR Fletcher, or ‘Jaylo Jabones’ as he goes by via his highly-rated podcast, ‘The Sheknique’, is

Whether gay or black, what does PRIDE mean to you?

unapologetically real. Unity, a collective cognizance of our perceived value Born in Texas and later moved to the UK where he

and with that a rescinding of the “hamster wheel”

now calls home, his representation and high-spirited

degradation society dishes us on a daily plate… COLD.

commentary of life as a member of the LGBTQ+ community essentially needs to be heard by as many

As someone I would regard a ‘queer pioneer’, what

people as possible.

was your evolution of identity, and what advice would you offer to younger generations?

VIPER sat down with ‘Jaylo Jabones’ to talk all things black, gay and fabulous.

Pioneer is very gracious I must say however, I’m just another freckle on the face, another facilitator in the

Who is Jaylo Jabones?

fanfare per se. My queerdom I would not say is defined by my sexuality but more by this crazy prodigious

Good question. International man of periphery. I’ve

eccentric fervour that has always been perched within

always danced outside the boundary or limits, ignored

me since childhood. Back then there wasn’t any social

the pre-req’s that blemish what we know as normality. I

media or much media representation but I created

consider that mediocrity. Growing up a misunderstood

this world for myself with my own rules. I was just this

black kid who danced ballet in Texas was pretty much

stubborn baby Virgo.

the starter kit for me. What does Black Lives Matter mean to you? I lived in NYC, LA, and now London for the last 18 years which is where I now consider home. I moved here as I

Its About Time. Like Will Smith said, “Racism isn’t getting

was in the music industry, I came here for six months to

worse, its getting filmed. I myself, like many/most of my

do an album and never left. NYC introduced me to the

fellow black brothers (and sisters) have been victims of

club and ballroom scene which solidified my creativity,

racial profiling and police brutality. In my case, gun to

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my head, face to the pavement for ‘fitting a description’.


Only to be screamed at by one of the officers after

proportionately represented in society today?







they clearly made the mistake with a poignant, “You shouldn’t even look like the description!”

I think currently there are some quite amazing representatives out there in all fields and despite

So yes, it is indeed time for this discussion, especially

prejudices, they are proudly carrying the flag.

amidst the recent filmed murders by cops… cops with faces devoid of any pity. And this is not only in America,

‘The Sheknique’ is one of podcasting’s best kept

many victims here in the UK have suffered similar fate

secrets. What’s the idea behind it and what’s it all

so this is a necessary movement, and one which has


ignited a cathartic narrative. Being an American living in London, growing up in the What role does social media play in race relations?

southern states, then moving to NYC during the 90s Club kid era, I have indeed been blessed with some

Huge. A lot of these discussions now happen via social

“doozies” when it comes to stories. My experience has

media, often ignited by sensitive videos or reshared posts

given me a unique perspective which in the past has

which people feel much more comfortable putting forth

proved to be quite entertaining at dinner parties.

their views and opinions from behind a screen. People kept telling me, “Jaylo, you need your own show!” Name one a role model to you from the LGBTQ+

So, with production costs at an all time high and me

community and tell us why they are so iconic.

having the budget for an Etch a Sketch, the most cost effective option for me was an iPhone and a podcast

Too many to name one!


James Baldwin, who wrote the ground-breaking novel,

And eureka, “The Sheknique” was born! I tell stories and

“Giovanni’s Room,” in the 50’s which depicted themes of

even peruse the newspapers for some gems to discuss...

homosexuality and bisexuality. Baldwin throughout his

which seem to be plentiful these days. It’s a nice half-

life educated others about black and queer identity.

hour “hoot and a holler” with me, myself, and I but soon I will be inviting guests in to join me on future episodes

Bayard Rustin, the civil rights activist who famously

(once I finagle a second mic).

quoted “Gay people are the new barometer for social change”. He marched with MLK during the march on

Final words?

Washington, fought for the passage of New York’s gay rights bill and also urged the NAACP to acknowledge

Check me out on “The Sheknique”! On Apple, Spotify, or

the AIDS epidemic.

wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Then from the ballroom scene, Willie Ninja… the

The Sheknique is available now on Apple Music and

grandfather of Vogueing, I had the pleasure of knowing


him well and dancing for him when I was a young kid in NYC. Of course, Jose and Luis Xtravaganza, Hector

 JabonesJaylo

Xtravaganza, Grandfather of the House of Xtravaganza.

 jaylojabones

All pioneers from the scene for which the current hit series, POSE is based off of. Very significant. Trans activists like Janet Mock and Laverne Cox (who, side note, also graduated from my alma mater in NYC, Marymount Manhattan College). Munroe Bergdorf and Kenny Ethan Jones are also recent heavy hitters carrying the torch for LGBTQ people of colour.

CHADWICK AARON BOSEMAN NOVEMBER 29TH, 1976 – AUGUST 28TH, 2020 For many of us, it was unknown that Chadwick

found strength to change the world as much as

had been suffering from Stage III colon cancer as

he could in the brief vtime he was here. He was a

early as 2016, years after his career-defining role

shining example that it’s not about how long you

as Jackie Brown in the biographical film 42. His

spend on this earth, it’s what you do with the time

private life was kept that way as he continued

you are here. Once asked by Larry King what one

to excel, all the while receiving treatment and

superpower would he choose if he had a choice,

undergoing multiple surgeries for a disease that

he replied, “I’d love to freeze time.” A selfless

would soon claim his life.

response from a man not trying to fulfil more in his career, but to spend every living second of his

Since then, he played some of his most iconic

life with - and for - those whom he loved.

roles, including ‘Godfather of Soul’ James Brown in Get on Up, the first black Supreme Court

In every single role he played, every initiative he

justice Thurgood Marshall and, of course, T’Challa

established, every program he supported, every

in Marvel’s Black Panther.

conversation he had, Chadwick Boseman taught each of us that our contribution to the world,

He always knew something that we didn’t,

when genuine, doesn’t need to be endlessly

something other than the uncertainty that

discussed or promoted, it needs to be felt. That

surrounded his future. If you listen carefully,

true purpose comes from a place of humility.

simple but beautiful lessons can be taken from every word he spoke.

All hearts at VIPER magazine go out to the family of Chadwick Aaron Boseman.

Chadwick taught us that we’re all superheroes… we’ve just got different powers. He taught us that

One of the greatest actors, activists and teachers

we are all Kings and Queens, but it’s not about

to grace this earth.

the throne that you sit on, it’s about the way you wear your crown.

You will always be our King and your legacy will forever live on.

As a pioneer of Black excellence and culture, he

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DEFUND THE POLICE ï…­ underscore0v0

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