" It wasn't until I was fifteen in high school and I realized ..okay this is not going away. So I just accepted it, but I never really had a full coming out party. I just told my friends, hey this is what it is and they were cool with it. I just really took it as me being myself. I never took it as oh my God I'm gay, so now I'm this way or this way. I just thought, oh okay I like guys now. Cool. I never took it as something derogatory or negative in my life. I never thought of my sexuality being an issues until now. I don't have a full connection with the gay community either. You're dis privileged because of the connection you might want to have with the community, but you don't always understand. If I'm in a gay setting, I'm still an outcast. Where do I fit in? I think it's a lot of people in the gay community who's trying to figure out where do they fit. Yes I am black, yes I am gay, these are the labels.. But my true label is my soul. That's Eric, that's me, and that's how I want people to see me as. "
“I wasn’t raised to believe in black and white, I was raised to believe I was human. Back in my time I didn’t hear words like trans, you were either gay or lesbian. I’m angry about it sometimes. Growing up in my skin was painful, it was confusing. I felt detached from it, because I had to grow up in society, grow up to a social image, or that social uniform- and because the two did not match there was no adhesive there. It was scary. I didn’t realize I had skin, it felt like I was just existing. Everyday you walk out and you wonder what attack is going to go towards me, or I am going to be that girl that equals up to another Trans murder or POC. It’s scary, but I don’t think I was built to break. If I stay in the house, hide from everything, and they have that power? I’m allowing them to tell me that I don’t exist, that I’m not suppose to be here, that I’m suppose to be submissive, or inferior. I have the right to exist. I take up space space by merely saying its okay to be TRANS, its okay to be black, its okay that your breast are bigger than mine, its okay that my voice is raspy, its okay for all of that if you simply exist. If I can point out all of my flaws ahead of time, that’s taking up space and that allows more space.”
"There are three things you need in this world to look this good at 57. Mind, body, and God."
Cortney Matthewis, Ashley Adams
Being black and being an aggressive woman, you get it from both ends. You get the guys that think you want to be a guy, then you get the women that don't understand. It's hard to be accepted anywhere. For the longest I didn't think I would get a good job because of how I am. You can pass if you're a feminine woman, because no one is looking at you as a lesbian. As an aggressive woman,you get passed over so much, you get so many funny looks. It's almost like they feel you betrayed them in a way. She can't even go in the restroom, because woman are looking at her like you're not suppose to be in here. We just go in there together, because women make a full 360 when she walks in. Let each individual be who they are, and be okay with that. We also get stereotyped inside the community, so we should come together respecting each person and their differences. We have to get to that point where we're understanding and accepting our insecurities. Love yourself enough to respect and love the next person."
The black persons struggle is to realize his self worth and act on it. I struggle more with other black people realizing our self worth. We need to matter to each other. All lives matter is a distraction, I don't see Black Lives Matter discriminatory in any way. They're addressing a real problem, and all lives matter is meant to distract you. We already know that all lives matter, but all lives are not in danger. You'll have a lot of ideas and things that we can do, but you have to act on it. You can want something, but it doesn't mean anything if you don't go get it. We have to take action instead of just cheerleading ourselves.
Third Ward, HTX
" I'm from New Orleans. I've watched my brothers go to prison for trying to feed their families, yet you can cut on the news to see white officers boldly committing murders and they get to be free. I went to jail and learned the law, but now that I'm out ..I wish I didn't know the truth. The truth and what's right doesn't exist in this world. You're forever being fed part of the story. You beat the system by playing the system, the way the system wants to be played. I look around, and most of us are tired of playing a game that's made for us to lose."
Houston, Tx- Third Ward
"I remember seeing you six months ago around here. I'm still here, just doing what I can. It looks like I'm doing a bunch of nothing..but that's not the case. After being in prison for so many years, you get out wanting to do right, but the system isn't set up for second chances. I do my best, the world doesn't see it ..but I do."
New Orleans, LA
“When an artist goes into a state of mind to make art, they’re kind of in space. Our limitations are limitless because everything we think continues to create, create, and create. I think we’re all Gods because the meaning of God means create and we all create things rather its physical or non physical.. its just up to us to make it physical or non physical. I was working as a security guard, and that place was hectic so I got out of there to go help my mom. She use to own a clothing shop, and the main owner kind of screwed us over a little bit. We said hey lets do something that we love, lets go back to healing people and start making jewelry. Healing is repairing. I’m trying to change the world, I believe thats what my purpose is . I believe its to reconstruct the structure that we have now and make it better so people can live in peace and harmony.”
Third Ward Native
Third Ward, Houston TX
“Yashawa, Yawasha.. they tried to hide it from you. It was conspiracy when they first killed him. They put him on a tree shaped like a cross, it wasn’t a cross. The only prophet that stood up for him was Simon, and the greeks changed his name to Peter. Peter means “solid as a rock” he was the only one that screamed Yawasha until he took his last breath. He was the only one they couldn’t break, the rest of the prophets started hollering different names. I know my Jesus is black. He was born in the Land of Kemet, he wasn’t born in Bethlehem. Research your people, research your God. They have a stone artifact at the vatican now that the pope kneel down to everyday and pray, with a lamb on his shoulder, and wooly afro curly hair..thats your Yawasha. They took his statue out of the Land of Kemet, its in the vatican and been there for thousands of years.. something we don’t know. The land of Kemet was all black. Our people don’t know who in the hell they are, thats why they walk around being ignorant. All your people were entrepreneurs,they don’t ever want us to get back in power …they call that the golden age. We shared everything, we weren’t selfish, we weren’t a damn slave, we built those pyramids hand and hand. Our father even walked with us on earth at that time, thats why you say amen after your prayers.. our people first called him Amenra. We never had ten commandments, we had 42 declarations.. we only used ten of them to educate these savages that come out of the cave..which was called the Europeans. We taught them how to burry their dead, how to cook their food.. they were eating raw flesh. Thats why they scared of us today because they don’t ever want us to get back to where we were. They stole everything from us, they don’t want us to get it back.. they don’t want us to get our history. You need to understand that your blood is golden. You’ve been in captivity twice, one in Babylon and one here on Earth.”
New Orleans, LA
“When I was younger I was always so observant. I knew that I wanted to do something but I’m a pretty patient person when It comes to manifesting things. I pay attention to a lot of stuff, I don’t like making mistakes, so I like learning from other peoples mistakes. I just want to always be a step ahead of myself. That kind of intertwines with being an artist, you just pay attention to detail. I could paint my experience here in New Orleans, I don’t know if it would be pretty ..but I could paint it. I do it often in my personal works. You never know what somebody is going through, but it will get to a point where you will see me as a person come through my art. I don’t like the word commercial, but at the end of the day everybody has to feed people. With me having a growing family I tend to put myself into things that people can relate to rather than me just giving them me. Maybe in another month..or five years from now people will see the rawest me that they’ll get it. I'll have to kind of work my way into it, I don’t want to scare nobody off. The term starving artist is directly related to the selfish artist, because you’re telling people this is me, take or leave it.. and if they don’t like it they’ll leave it. So its really a thin line that we walk. I’m not as eager to really show the raw side of myself. Its really a conscious choice to choose what side of yourself you want to display to people. As time goes I’ll definitely get more introspective, because I feel like I have to just to grow as an artist. People will want to know more about you, so I’ll have to show it. I could be a different type of person, I’m just blessed to be a more mental person. I could be 6’2, 220 slanging a hammer somewhere but that wasn’t my blessing. I’m an artist, I’m a thinker. I get to put images into the world that people may or may not think about. I just like the freedom to be me. I don’t know what it would would take to be satisfied, but its an ongoing process. I don’t understand how an artist could ever be satisfied, the satisfaction is so temporary. My kids are not old enough to understand me as a person yet. I wouldn’t want them to learn me through whats been documented, I’d rather them know from me directly so they’ll know. When that happens, I think I’ll be okay. Everything is so glamorous right now. People only see the good stuff about you, and I want them to know all the struggles, the bad stuff I’ve been through, bad decisions I’ve made that I may regret. I can tell them that because they’ll actually care, the public doesn’t really care about that stuff until its too late.They only want to celebrate you, and if you’re not what you're perceived to be they pretty much tear you down. I would want them to know the whole me, and have them explain to people because they learned it from me.”
“ Love feels like you being whole. It just makes you feel like there’s nothing else in the world that’s going on. Rather it’s work, money..there’s not a care in the world. You and your lover is bliss..it’s perfect. It makes you feel like you have it all together. Ofcourse love isn’t perfect, you know there’s going to be trouble, but you’re willing to go ahead and give it all. Love is willing to give yourself physically and emotionally. You feel welcomed to give everything. I think that’s what love feels like… not being scared to give everything, and also getting that in return. It’s very scary, it’s terrifying because you want someone to love you for you. There’s so many other things in this world that people can compare you to. They can say oh you don’t have this, and this person is this color..and this person is lighter. You being naked, being out in the open, displaying yourself, every bit of you, and every flaw to someone is definitely scary. That’s necessary though when being in love..being able to give someone all of you, the naked, the bare, and the free.”
“ I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. One day it just struck me what my passion was, and where my opportunities were. Even while in undergrad I was always entertaining people at the house or throwing parties. I see my job as creating spaces for people to enjoy themselves, and all the way back at TSU..I had a goal of trying to create a space for people to enjoy themselves. Once you put your ideas down on paper, that’s when you breathe life into it. It gives you guidance, and then it turns into a business plan. My thirty year old self knew that I would be here, but my twenty year old self just knew I would be somewhere doing something. I knew that I would be somebody. Follow your passion, pursue anything that you’re passionate about. Find out what it is that you really love doing, ask yourself can you be the best at what you’re doing, will it provide a way for you to take care of yourself, and most importantly will it contribute to the universe. The sun has a responsibility, the wind has a responsibility, the rain has a responsibility,flowers have a responsibility, and us human beings are no different. The work that you do has to be a positive contribution.”
“I think you have to travel to not only appreciate your culture, but to understand why our culture has been so oppressed..and to also see it being appreciated in other parts of the world. I was apart of a study abroad group that went to Paris this summer and that was the first time I was ever considered just American. When I was in Europe I was five fifths, here I’m still three fifths of a person. We were talking about artist who left America to be self realized and self actualized in Europe. When I came back I realized that we’re so strong as people. They created a whole system to keep us down, but not only do we continue to rise up ..when we do that they constantly take what we have from us. Everyday we’re evolving as a people, and everyday they’re taking a little bit from us. You often wonder are we ever going to run out of things.. And if that were to happen what would white people do? Would they finally come up with something original other than the laws placed against us and other minorities? If you don’t think about it, then I don’t know what you’re thinking about. If you say you’re not experiencing it, then obviously you’re not woke. You have situational racism everyday. TSU Vs. UofH is situational racism. We’re two blocks from UofH and it’s a completely different world when you cross Yates. The streets are worse here..people don’t even know where TSU is and you can see if from UofH campus. I think that people need to travel more, because not only do you understand your culture..you understand why we need each other so much. In America we’re all we have, and we can’t rely on other people to help us. We really need to come together.. Its beyond time, but it’s time. ”
Houston Tx.- Third Ward
“ Everyday I stay prayed up, that’s number one. I deal with the youth a lot, we try to get with the shape community center …with Deloyd Parker. We do different events, we try to give away food because mainly we’re in the community just to survive. If you coming from Third Ward, you know it’s a struggle ..a constant struggle everyday. You have people trying to sell clothes, people trying to sell shoes..people trying to build non profitable organizations. Everybody is one. Third Ward is a community..it started from a community, it’s not separated from blocks. That’s where they get it twisted in this new generation, everybody has their own clicks and gangs. When we were coming up, we were clicked up trying to survive ..trying to remain positive and motive others. It’s all about getting together, and being more community based. Its a lot of stuff relevant in the hood, so if you can get together and build better foundations around the community ..we can have a better outlook, or a better opportunity for people to learn and grow. Being black to me comes from a long line of struggle, and grieve. Some way you have the blood of a slave in your veins. Manipulation has always been there, so they manipulate us with clothes, jewelry, cars, drugs, and prostitution. We have to broaden our horizons, and our kids. They say as a black man I’ll be dead or in jail by twenty five years old. So if I’m not dead or in jail at thirty one years old, I’m doing something right as a black man. Me being a black man in third Ward.. I need to stand up and say to the youth that there’s a better way. You don’t have to be a drug dealer or an athlete just to succeed. The black man created so much, it’s nothing that we can’t do. As black men we have to stick together, and say I’m going to build up my brother. If we don’t stand for nothing, we’ll fall. The black man is the creator. It’s just up to us to build up our brother, and keep our sisters going.”
“ Love, respect, and honor makes me who I am. My job here is to teach the younger generation how to live; because of poverty, and distance from fathers and mothers…I think the younger people have gone astray. Somebody has to teach them how to live, how to love, how to laugh and enjoy life, how to live a longer life.. to die respectfully rather than being gunned down in the street. When I die, the world don’t owe me nothing..because I’ve lived, I’ve laughed, and I’ve loved."
Houston Tx- Third Ward
“ I’m facing hardships, but it’s one thing that helps me. I went to Walgreens to get glasses so I can read Psalms 23. I was raised in the church, but the life I was living on the streets made me forget my backbone. My bible is my backbone. Jesus died for our sins, you can forget it..but you can’t forget it because you know the truth. Jesus Christ is what keeps me living everyday. Last night at 4:30 in the morning it started raining, and I’m scared of lightening. I was outside in my little spot, and I pulled out my bible. Jesus is the only thing that carries me, and God works in mysterious ways. These clothes that I have on are dirty, but I have clothes that are wrapped up in brand new bags. You’d be surprised how peaceful it is when you live outside. You can live in the element. You have to drink plenty water, but I have people that look out for me. I’m trying to slow down on the drugs, I won’t lie. My goal is to get myself together, and stop doing things I’m doing that can hinder me. ”
Houston, Tx- Third Ward
“I’m just an artist, a commercial artist. I was born and raised here in Third Ward, Texas. What you guys know as River Side Hospital, when I was growing up it was called Houston Negro Hospital….in 1947. I’ll be sixty eight years old at the end of this month. Nobody knows they’re an artist until it starts happening. You could be born with something and you won’t know it. It’s just in you, but you’ll know it because this is what you’re going to do. It was a gift from God, I didn’t finish school. There were no trades, so I just kept on painting. I’m an ex musician, I use to play in a band. It didn’t plan out like I expected. We were on the road for eight or nine years during the seventies. So I just kept on painting, and here I am. The love of art, the freedom part of it, the independency part of it .. Is what inspires me. Just like with what you’re doing, the same thing applies to me. When it comes to this, I’m never satisfied. At one point, I thought I wanted to give back and teach. Even though I didn’t finish school, there are kids that want to learn. You don’t have to finish school to teach something. When I do that, that’s when I’ll feel like I fulfilled a dream. When I was seventeen, my instructor at Yates told me that I would be painting for the rest of my life. It was scary, because I was thinking I’d be playing music all of my life. I wasted a lot of time depending on other people for my career, and not on myself. In 1969 when my daughter was born, it woke me up and made me aware that I had to get out here and try to get known. It wasn’t easy growing up in Third Ward, because nobody is going to say "Hey man I’m going to support you, and get you out here.” You have to do that for yourself in this neighborhood. I would see an empty building and ask the store owner could I paint their sign. In 1970 I had my first shop, and it’s been going on every since.“
Jonay Hulin Port Arthur, Texas
Nnenna Ochuru Dallas, Texas
Exchange To Change
“We both graduated from UofH with a non profit background. I graduated with human development and family studies, with a certification in non profit management. I was corporate communication with a minor in sociology. We knew we wanted to do something, we just didn’t know what it was. Coming to conclusion, it was really just to help and save the world. The fashion of Exchange to Change brings people in here, but after that it’s really to get a bigger platform where we can actually have a voice to do something about all of the craziness that goes on in the world. We do everything from homeless drives, to small business Saturday’s, to internships, to round table discussions, and consciousness. We showed hidden colors here, that was one of our favorite things. We do things like that to open people’s mind to anything. This is that place where you can be yourself and not be scared. We use to pack up stuff and give it to the homeless, and we call our homeless "Those who thought that forgotten.” The very first time that we did it, this man said “oh I thought everyone forgot about me.” That’s how we first got started, and then we started doing exchange parties where people actually exchanged their goods. The ultimate goal is to change the world. Like Tupac said, “I might not change the world, but I’ll spark the mind that did.” If I see a black ballerina then maybe I’ll want to be a ballerina. If I see a scientist that looks like me, I could be a scientist. It seems simple, but it is simple. This is literally a dollar and a dream project. When we gave the lady our money for the lease, that was our last dollar…no investors, no loans. When we gave her that dollar, that was our last. We’re nine months in, with no job..this has been our bread and butter. I can’t measure the awesomeness that comes through the store by dollars. We’re so broke, but I’d rather be here than anywhere else in the world. “
Denver Colorado - Star Of Hope Women and Family Shelter
“My mother had a job and stuff, but she lost her apartment so we went to live with my cousin. My mother and my cousin weren’t getting along, so my mother said she’ll just leave and find a shelter…that’s kind of how we ended up at the star of hope. It’s pretty cool, It’s diverse and I get to meet a lot of friends. I like talking to people. When I get older, if God blesses me I’ll always give back to my mother and make sure she’s always set. I want to be a dance choreographer. When I’m angry it helps me because it’s creative, and it just helps me move my soul and body. It’s like an escape for me. I always pray for better days ahead, and know that there’s better days ahead. My situation now won’t be the situation days or years later. My mom says to walk by faith and not by sight, so I always walk with my dreams and trust God. When it’s a bad situation, I just see the good out of it. My faith and trusting myself is what carries me..not letting myself down and encouraging myself. I know I can accomplish anything, but when I trust myself it makes me feel better.”
Donald Ray Vital
Houston Tx. The Beacon-Downtown Houston
“My name Donald is something I speak of as white race, Ray is the black man spirit, vital is born as a fighter..I learned to earn mines. I use to hustle on the corner as a boy Scott when I was younger to handle responsibility in my household. To tell you the truth, I didn’t start school until I was nine years old. The most challenging thing right now is focusing to talk to certain races. I would like to take up schooling and learn seven different languages so I can speak among those that I don’t understand. I’ve been at peace because of my mental illness. It’s been a struggle, and learning at the same time. It’s also fighting to keep my distance, and walk in my own mind. Learning to build my own mind has helped me come back greater than I would with someone else. No matter what anyone else do, have your own mind. My mind is my mind, and what I do is what I do. I’m most proud of my dignity and self control.”
“I’m always trying to push and do something better than I did before,it’s almost like finding yourself. The only way I can find myself is through being an artist. My dad played the trumpet, and my mom played the flute. My dad tried to learn the saxophone, and he always wanted a son that played the saxophone or did some type of music. I kept going with it, and then I got in a jazz band. My dad kind of took a notice to it, and then he put me through a Houston summer jazz work shop. That taught me improvisation, and some of the history of music. At the end of the program they had us open up for a British funk group called Down to the bone and the Yellow jackets. Seeing them perform on stage, just inspired me to keep going with it. In a way it’s like a high, some people call it musical frisson, but I feel like it’s God hitting me sometimes. When I play with other musicians, we’re all connected and he’s coming out through all of us at one time. I just love music, I’m not really looking for fame. I want to be greater…like John Coltrane, leave a legacy for the next generation. Nobody is trying to do that. Music keeps me grounded and balanced. If it wasn’t for music I don’t know where I would be at all. I can’t picture a world without it. It’s just the will to keep going. A lot of the stuff I feel I can’t put into words so it’s like a different language of expression. If I play with other musicians it’s a conversation, we all respond to each other and listen to each other.”
Rachelle Sadler & Norman Clark
“ Mawsupply was definitely something that spiraled out of our relationship. It really came out of love and the love that we have for one another. We wanted to do something together…have a creative baby together. This is literally our baby and we watched it grow from the beginning. The passion for MawSupply is what makes me wake up and say "man I’m really excited about doing this.” As human beings we all have something that we’re great at, and sometimes it’s just putting forth the effort to figure out what that is. A lot of people are looking for a come up or an easy way to make money, but it doesn’t last. One of the things that keeps us going is knowing that what we create can be something that sustains us forever. The styles may change, but the act of what we do can remain the same. People need to find that thing that can sustain them for more than three or five years. What is it that you can see yourself doing for twenty years, and figure out how to get to that point. We really understand each other. It’s just understanding the person that you’re with, and also knowing rather or not that person is someone you can see yourself being with for a lifetime. So when I realized that I wanted to be with Rachelle for forever, I take the steps necessary to keep our relationship good. Knowing that I want to make her happy, and I know that MawSupply will make her happy ..so that’s even more fuel to my fire to do my best as her partner.“
The Aspiring Me
Missouri City, Tx.
“ My name is Andrew Davis, Houston artist..by the name of ‘The Aspiring Me’. The name derives from a point to where you just really soul search. My father was an artist, a rapper from Houston ..by the name of Big Mello. He was a gangster rapper, and my music wasn’t necessarily like gangster rapper type of music. So when I would go out and try to play it for people, people wanted to support it ..but the first thing they would say,” it ain’t really that Mello, but I see you.“ I like to think of music as sound designing rather than just musicality. I like to paint pictures, and soundscapes as well..and tell stories based off of stuff that I’ve gone through. If you’re not aspiring to be yourself out here it defeats the purpose of trying to find out “what is your purpose?” You have to find out yourself first and go from there. I take different influences from everywhere because that’s how the world works. The advancing of life is the sharing of information..as long as we can share stuff and grow off it.“
“Im a producer and I have a record label called Mayflower Records based out of Arlington, Texas. I am the CEO and I have an artist name Terry whose going to come out with his project this year. I grew up on 3410 Mayflower and I had a pretty great childhood. Thats where it all began and I learned everything there from my parents, friends and found my first loves. I just want to give that raw and unique type of southern sound- going back to the old age when things were personal and organic- I want Mayflower to bring that back to life with the music and the culture.“
htxpplproject: What inspires your creativity and you concept?
Oshun: “ The spirit. I know that sounds corny but we just have the most creative experiences together. When we are writing songs and creating something, its very fluid, words are just given to us. The main thing is not even creativity, its allowing a message to be sent in a moment of peace.- We allow ourselves to be vessels. There are times that we really just sit and think but most times its a moment that comes to us which isn’t unusual. Its just a matter of being open and receptive to receive those messages. We put ourselves in a position to be open. Open to positivity. Open to light. And allowing those things to manifest from our mouths and our actions. We make it a whole experience.”
htxpplproject: What inspires your creative process?
OSHUN: “ We are inspired by the people. The Black people. We love all people because its our nature but we are Black and we don’t know any other experience. We share our true experiences. We speak our truth the way we want to speak it.- We are the world’s greatest weapon- the Black man and Black woman. We are just so powerful in our spirits and our souls. They try so hard to instill this fear into us, killing us. They want us to be afraid of them..but they are afraid of us.”
htxpplproject: One of your songs “i wake up” is a poet/musical composition that speaks about revolution and what it means. How do you feel about recent movements like #blacklivesmatter?
OSHUN: “Its very important that this is happening. There were decades where we weren’t saying anything. We had movements in the 60’s and 70’s and even in the 90’s but the truth is #blacklivesmatter is at the forefront of a lot of things. Even liberation movements in the past were still quiet. There were some people that were awakened and then there was the rest of the community but now, in this realm, movements like this is teaching the majority of our people.- Even the etymology of the words “black lives matter,” is an indication to the first step to revolution. The moment we got here we were told we didn’t matter, this movement is saying that we do. #blacklivesmatter is the first step to being free. We articulate how we matter, then we bring that to life.”
htxpplproject: What do you want people to feel during the OSHUN experience?
OSHUN: “ We are a reflection of them. Its a shared experience. The fact that people can feel a vibe with us is a part of a common thread. Energy exchange has a point A and a point B and when you vibe with one source, you are connecting with another.- Music is vibrations. Music is vibes. Its a community that comes together, feeling the melanin. Not just black people, but an energy that manifests into actual sounds.”
htxpplproject: Whats next for OSHUN?
OSHUN: “ We are just experiencing. We know we are talking to a lot of people. We know we have influence and we just want to speak light and love.” **
For more OSHUN stream their project ASASE YAA
Houston Tx- Third Ward
“We just out here trying to get some money so we can eat. I want to be a police officer. I like helping people in the community, and I want to make it better. Police officers are going around shooting black people. It makes me feel down, and different. Today I saw them shoot a dude on Rosalie right in his back… A black dude. He was running from them, and they shot him. We trying to stay in school, and go to college. I want to stop the violence.”
Fort Lauderdale, F
“Seeing people happy makes me happy. Not happy with things, just happy to be happy. I just like to see smiles. Seeing them smile, keeps me smiling. Half of the time I don’t smile a lot. I guess after being through a lot…it don’t change me, but it changes me. I’m not a smiling type. So seeing them smile and the excitement makes me smile.”
Houston, Tx - Third Ward
“ I am a business owner, I am a mother, I am a creative soul..through and through. Its empowering for me to be able to empower other black women. Just by me being here I’ve had so many ladies say I’m going to open up me a business because I see you’re able to, so it can’t be as hard as I think it is in my mind. I went to Yates, and throughout the time I’ve been here..I’ve been able to go back to Yates and talk to some of the students. I understand how it is. You need that guidance..that little bit of information. ”
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
“ I am a citizen of the world. I haven’t spent that much time in the states, though obviously I speak like an American. I’ve lived here for twenty five years, but I grew up in Europe. I just traveled all the time, and I still do. I’m a personal chef, and I’ve been working with vacation rentals for at least fifteen to twenty years. It started slow, but it’s been good for the past seven years. I’m a people person, and I really enjoy meeting different people. When I go traveling you make these lasting relationships. Peace looks like this…being here. Bad things are happening, but I have this here. Nothing bad happens here, maybe just a little rain. My philosophy on life is to just be happy and live your life. Make other people happy, don’t be complicated, don’t look for things that you don’t have, and just be content.”
Donald Bolivar Airyo
“How do you feel about the shooting that took place in Charleston ?"First of all, I have no idea why they did it. People that are trying to live their life and not hurt anybody. Seeing all of the news in the United States .. turns out even down here in Central America ..it turns everybody upside down. I am grateful to be here in Costa Rica, but I’m not telling you that I didn’t suffer from racism. I’m from the east coast region side of Costa Rica and I suffered when I was about nine, ten, eleven, twelve..thirteen. Black people are most of the people that live on the Caribbean side,and when I would go visit my family in San Jose they would take kids away from me because they felt that I was a dangerous person. Which I am not. I have a business, I’m a chef, and I still never hurt anybody. You have to be brave, and have a little bit of conscious. Even the Indians, they were the ones to take care of our country and our nature ..yet they weren’t apart of our population until about 1999. My daughter is in the states, and I worry about her pretty much everyday.”
“I’m just a driver. The most important thing to me is raising my family. Its tough. You can find drugs everywhere in Costa Rica, everywhere you go. I try to keep them with good education so they’re going to the private school. We don’t have wars here, so all of the money goes to the schools..but they don’t do enough.”
“ Costa Rica is beautiful. I like it here, it’s only good. This is our family business, we are a family. I’m very happy..it’s beautiful people here… It’s all I have, they’re all I have.”
“ Marcos is a living dream. Take life as a gift, and do what your insides tell you to do, do what your soul tells you to do. Give your heart away, but contain your soul with you…don’t give your soul to others. Do what you want, feel good, and practice the good. Get to the clear sides of life, and don’t get confused by thinking too much. Your path is made with patience, with patience you wait for the things to come to you. Go to the inside of you, look for your own center, look for your own being. Be what you are, that’s pure life. Don’t try to show what you are not, don’t try to make people believe in things that you are not. Just be yourself, feel free to be yourself, give that chance to yourself. You’re a unique part of the universe, you don’t need to be similar to anybody because you’re not a copy. You’re a single part of the universe, there’s no such being as you..there’s no such existence as you. You came to this life with a purpose, and that purpose is to be happy. To be happy is to be you. It doesn’t matter if others don’t understand you, it doesn’t matter if sometimes you have to walk alone . Don’t deny what you are. If you are in this universe now, it’s because you have a place..enjoy that place. Don’t worry about wanting more, because with patience that more will come. Watch how the planet goes around the sun, watch the moon around the planet..go to the natural sides of life. We’re not forcing things to happen, we take things as they come and enjoy it. Be thankful for that because it’s happening, it’s not Hollywood..it’s not made up. Its real life..it’s pure life. Be you. Be pure life. ”
“ It started out in L.A with four friends on Christmas Day, and it spread virally via social media. I found out about it three years ago from friends in New York, and got with Monica about starting an initiative here in Houston. We’re approaching our one year anniversary. It’s just an overall great feeling to give back to the city of Houston to those that need it most. We’re affecting the homeless here…we have a large population. Our mayor has already put in ordinances and different other programs around the city to help the homeless population. Hashtag Lunchbag just comes and offers that other element to a way to give back. Social media is a way that we stay consistent and keep people informed about what we’re doing and how they can get involved.”
Stephen “The Artist”
“ I’m an artist out here in the city. Right now I’m presenting a lot of my work to the community before I get into the museums, and I’m showing a lot of love. I’m originally from Ghana, and I’ve been working on my art for the past six years. I came first place with my art for HISD in 1986, every since then I kind of left it alone. You know as a child you kind of drift back and forth because you really don’t know what you want to do. It was a talent that I had and I really just came back to it in my later thirties. I’m inspired and heavily motivated by just the God given talent that I have. I love to express on canvas. I’m definitely giving back something extremely positive to the world… for present and for the future.”
Knoxville, Tn - Houston, Tx
“I’m Andrea. I’m an artist. I create things, and help people. So many things go through the mind of an artist. It’s something that I cant even articulate because I have a brain that constantly moves. I try to give back to the community through volunteering. I’ve done some charity events teaching kids how to paint; I’m also an art teacher. I really want to get into doing public art. I think that my purpose is evolving. I don’t think that I’ve reached my true purpose just yet, but I think I’m on the right path to getting there.”
Houston, Tx- Barrett Station
“ I’m just becoming who I am now. I feel like all these years I just been here, chillin out here. Now since I’ve start doing art, I feel like I found myself. I know who I am. I’m an artist. I found my purpose because it helped me be a better person in general. I’m sorta happy. I say sorta happy because I know I can go further than what I am now, but then I know I just started..so I know I can’t rush it.”
“In general most people that come from my area, or that’s my skin tone… they have a little more stacked up against them. I think its positive to others when they see somebody that’s throwing that weight that’s on them and pushing it off…striving forward. It encourages other people to get that weight off of them as well. I think I can do anything. Its not one motivating factor, I just know I can do things. I try not to depend on things around me, and just do it.”
“ Love is life, love is everything. Without love you don’t have anything. You don’t have compassion, you don’t have respect, you don’t have honesty, you don’t have truth. You don’t have a true perception of self if you don’t have love. You don’t have God..if you’re searching for that..you don’t have anything if you don’t have love. I’m not talking about being in love, and being in a romantic relationship. I’m talking about pure deep love that is so deeply rooted within you..you can see it in anything.”
Houston, Tx- Fifth Ward
“ I am a African American male, who loves his people and the prosperity of us. I’m just trying to do best for my family ; I’m a single father. I have an eighteen year old young man that I’m trying to push to be a man, which is a rarity in today’s society. In my house you’re going to be disciplined, well respected, and you’re going to have morals. I hold all of my kids accountable for their actions. My daughters do get in trouble, but I have to ask the eldest what were you doing. It makes the elder brother always have the responsibility to look out for his sisters. That’s what we’re missing; we don’t look out for one another. Everybody has this crab in the barrel mentality. I want to see everybody flourish, and it’s going to start in my house.”
Ernest Williams (Mr Stew)
Houston, Tx - Third Ward
“I been here for thirty seven years, at the washateria…right here. I just offer services to the black community. Out of thirty seven years what can I say? I have nothing but good luck . I give services to the community. God has been good to me for over thirty seven years so I’m blessed.”
Ryan Branch SR.
Houston, Tx - Third Ward.
“I am Ryan Branch SR. God first, and I love my friends in the neighborhood. I want to be remembered by trust and love. I love life, and life is good. I love God, and I love you. ”
“I’m a human who just hangs out and does cool things…that’s me straight up.What is happiness? Idk I just live everyday as it is, it comes and goes. I told myself by the age of thirty seven I’ll be a millionaire..so that’s all I need to know.“
“ Introducing Christopher Roberson, also known as back home I’m Chris the pusher. ‘Chris the pusher’ because skateboarding has propelled me, or influenced me to go on through the struggle. Rather its something I don’t do right, I fail, or make a mistake, I say F-it and let’s push forward. I learned who I am through skate boarding. Its kind of like warrior spirit, where anything that comes against you… you go through it anyway. You channel it, you use it to your advantage, and you allow the spirit to do the work for you. Instead of you doing it in your own strength, because honestly we’re not strong enough to do it. I’m a Rastaman on the journey to getting out of Babylon. We’re a working progress.“
“The thing that I care about now especially since meeting him… is the whole dynamic of the black woman. I believe that if we are more aware of who we are as women, men will be more aware of who they are as men. Together, we’re a working progress.”
Houston, Tx – Third Ward
“All I ever tried to do was survive down here. This is not River oaks…I had money, but actually I don’t know what I would do If I had sixty thousand. I cant say what I did important, but I’m just trying to honestly survive.”
“I am Saundra Michelle, Houston, Native. My gift here on earth is to be a communicator. I feel like God put me here to network with other people, to basically shine light upon other people. That’s where SaundraTv comes into play. I’m going to use it to expose the talent, home base mostly but I’m not just limiting it to Houston. It’s bringing people who I believe in out to other peers of mine. Hopefully they fuck with them, they can network and make some money together. It’s all about climbing really. It’s just really good to see people from Houston flourish.”
Brooklyn, NY- Houston, TX
“I’m a person who drives people to be their best. I want a person to know me as an outgoing person, but someone who is always willing to help people. I’m human; I make mistakes as we all do. I think that’s what some people fail to realize …that I’m human. Everything about me is imperfect. If I had a daughter I would say, stay true to you one hundred percent of the time. If you want to wear make up, wear make up. If people think it’s too much? Fuck them. It’s about you. Be you one hundred percent of the time, and don’t hide it for anyone.“
Houston, Texas Shape Community Center.
“I am Kazembe. Full name, Kazembe Okong Ato Hadiyah which means wise man, first born, God to righteousness, and I am a melinated reflection of the most high. I dj, that’s one of my passions. I’m an architect, I have a clothing line where I make backpacks from African textile fabrics, and I also do digital fabrications. I like taking things from concept to creation. I am a contributor to the culture, everything that I do is a contribution to the culture. Right now I’m really mastering myself first. I think that in order for us to truly make an impact we have to be at a position wholly with ourselves.”
Tougallo, Mississippi. Shape Community Center.
Joanne Gevin Tougallo, Mississippi. Shape Community Center.
“I’m a long time human rights activist. I was about 8 years old when I made a speech, because I thought my little brothers rights were being violated. In high school I probably sparked a boycott at an ice cream shop, because a black classmate wouldn’t be served there. Up until 1960, I got involved with the civil rights movement. I went on the bus to march on Washington with no intentions of coming back home. I then went on to Mississippi during freedom summer and stayed there for 7 years. I ended up in Houston, and I now work with the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement. Back in the days when I could march a picket line I was on just about anybody’s when I could find the time to do it. I just can’t stand to see folks messed with.”
I’ve been playing drums since “I was a little boy. Every since I’ve grown up I always wanted to be a police officer. I want to be one of the good guys.”
“ I decided a long time ago, when I was about 18 that I would dedicate my life to my people. My life and my death will be and is for the liberation of all people. I use to run in gangs back in the day…. I caught a case, and did a little time. From there I read a lot, read a lot of Malcolm and about the panthers. It made me realize that what I was doing was what they wanted me to do…as far as gang banging, robbing, and just being on the street. I decided rationally that I needed to change my ways. Over the years I’ve been trying to find my place with helping my people, and I found it. I’ve been doing martial arts all my life, I like working with the kids. I want to continue to reach out the youth, and suede their lives in the right direction…give them something that I didn’t really have growing up. “
Ghana West Africa- Ashanti Tribe
Shape community Center
“ I would like the world to know about what I do, as far as things that I sale, and things that are made from different places in Africa. The pieces have a meaning, and its good for black people to understand our culture. These are things that are passed from generations through slavery to bring us here. It’s our own product. We can always work together to buy black, and work together as a people. There’s so much education that we have to apply to our own people. “