Happy #MCM everyone! This week, Taji Mag sat down with the talented brother Alan King, author of the new book POINT BLANK. Alan King has worked with the Baltimore Afro-American Newspaper. King has also been an outspoken housing rights advocate. He has also served as a researcher with the Center for Public Integrity. In addition to his impressive resume, he is a devoted husband and father. Mr. King has an upcoming book tour, and took a break to talk to us about his work, love, and the perseverance it takes to be an artist.
Africa Jackson: What do you love most about being a Black man?
Alan King:I love being another line in the legacy of Black people. I’m juggling two legacies as a Caribbean American. I’m inspired by the writers that come before me. Writers who are ancestors now like John A. Williams, Clarence Cooper Jr. and Chester Himes. Oh yeah, and Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. Let me throw some women in the mix: Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Wanda Coleman, Octavia Butler.I also love Black culture.
poet, husband, father, visionary
AJ: You mentioned ‘legacy’. What does that word mean to you? In what ways have you seen that manifest in your career and/or personal life?
AK: There’s a heritage that connects us to the diaspora. There [is] rhythm, history. There’s a beauty in our culture. Being a husband and father allows me to pass on the best of myself.I was a teacher. That role allowed me to be an example to my students. I taught a class, where I was the first married black men the young women encountered. This was middle school. They kept staring at my wedding band asking about what it’s like to be married.
AJ: The “wicker” reference from the latest Point blank trailer is indicative of Black culture. Have you ever been discouraged from being too Black? If so, by who? How did you respond?
AK: I had a higher up, during my work study placement, who asked me to read poems, but then said “Don’t get too back with it.” That came from a Black man.I wasn’t sure if I should still read poems. It was for an office party.
But my writer friends encouraged me to do it. They said by me going through with it, it would show him that his biases are wrong.As a writer, I don’t worry about being too black in my work. White writers aren’t asked not to be too white. I feel I should have that same freedom to explore various types of blackness in my work. In Point Blank, more of my Caribbean heritage comes through. Rereading the poems, I was surprised how present it is.
AJ: What advice can you offer to other artists struggling with double consciousness?
AK: My advice to other artists is to be true to yourself.
AJ: Did you ever seriously consider another career?
AK: I’m a Communications Specialist for a living. I’ve always been a writer at heart. There was one time, in college, when I considered being a programmer. I later found out from my mom that she thought I was making a mistake. She knew my passion is writing. My dad kept pushing me to do something that makes moneyThat’s why I went the programming route.But I don’t regret my decision. I’m also open to learning other skills that might mesh with my writing.
AJ: Switching gears, there is this belief that Black men don’t love Black women. What are your thoughts about that?
AK: I know there are some brothers who date outside the race, but so do some black women. It’s touchy to assume why those folks do it without knowing the whole story. I know for me, it was important to be open to however love presented herself. I had no idea that I’d meet my wife, a passionate Nigerian woman, the way I did. I think it’s important to be open to love, whatever way it presents itself. I don’t think someone should be with someone because the community feels that way.
AJ: Audre Lorde taught us that self-care is revolutionary. As an artist, father, husband, and Black man has self care been part of your life?
AK: My family is part of my self care. I draw strength from my wife and my daughter. I hit the gym when I can and go for walks to clear my head. The important part of self care is having friends, people you can vent to when needed.
AJ: If someone were to choose between your new book and Starbucks, what would make them pick up POINT BLANK over a Frappuccino?
AK: The image of the young man on the cover.I purposely chose it because he embodies what people of color are going through in this country. The picture is powerful. He’s on his way somewhere.Depending on the point of view , he could be up to no good or just minding his business. I thought it was powerful how the photographer, Ewholomeyovwi Jeroro, captured him. The young man is in the photographer’s scope much like how people of color are in the scope of law enforcement.
CLICK HERE to purchase his book of poetry and learn more about why we love this Black man!
I know that’s a messed up way to start off the birthday celebration for her. When The Color Purple came out, everyone thought I looked like her. Back then, Black gums, Black skin, and nappy Black hair were the perfect recipe for a depressing childhood. I was all kinds of African booty scratchers, skillets, and midnights. It was one of the things that made me miserable growing up. I only had two real friends during that time–my right hook and my mother. Needless to say, I fought a lot and wrote a bunch of angry poetry. Whoopi Goldberg represented (and still represents) everything I hated about myself.
Between elementary and middle school I got in dozens of fights over the way I looked. My main goal was to make the pretty white girls as ugly as I felt when they teased me about being so dark. I hated looking in the mirror. My mother was a kind and candid woman who reminded me that I was not ugly everyday. She asked me if I thought she was beautiful and of course I said yes. My mother was a striking, bold woman with high cheekbones and mahogany skin that glistened. She would laugh and tell me that I looked like her, so by default I must be beautiful. It made logical sense, but when I looked in the mirror I did not see her reflection. Instead, I saw what kids at school called me–shit skin. I was faster on the track than all the children who teased me. I was consistently ranked at the top of my class academically. I won awards. I earned internships while still in middle school. I was invited to special events for gifted children. None of it made up for my skin insecurity though. It was like running a long distance sprint that never ended yet I still lost.
At some point in high school I announced to my mother that I was too dark to run in the Olympics, so I was going to be a writer and stay in the shadows. My mother was tired of the decade long pity party so she showed me a movie she promised to God I would like. (My mother refused to swear to God). Those were the be kind, rewind days so she pushed in the tape and pressed play. The Associate changed the game for me.
In the film, Whoopi Goldberg stars as a brilliant investment banker whose talent is dismissed by a white male dominated financial world. First of all, Whoopi Goldberg plays the quintessential Black woman. She has a full time job and she owns a rental property. Before this film, I didn’t know Black women owned places to rent out. It blew my mind. One of her older tenants told her as she came home one night: “It’s nice you young girls have your your careers. But when you come home to an empty apartment what do you really have?”
Without blinking an eye, her character replies: “Independence”. I was hooked.
When she tried to start her business, the bank almost denied her a loan, but she risked her home to make it happened. I came from a place where faith was too expensive. From there the movie got better and better. Instead of learning golf last minute to impress a client, she pulled in a golf celebrity to win the client over. She was the original spook who sat by the door. No one could have ever brought that character to life the way she did. She was slick, quick-witted, and dark-skinned. She had the confidence I never dreamed imaginable. Even pre-presidential Donald Trump was following behind her. She had a box of ideas she saved over the years–something i still do today with my pitches. She taught me that rejection is never the end. I won’t spoil the whole movie for you, but just know that I cried during the climax scene. She says what I think!
Whoopi Goldberg was equally phenomenal off screen too. She is an interracial relationship pioneer (as fr as I knew at the time), natural hair advocate, and human rights activist. Like me, she was raised by a single mother. She embodies resistance. Her critically acclaimed, award-winning one-woman show about Moms Mabley. Whoopi’s impact on me was parallel to Moms Mabley’s impact on her.
Before her brilliance graced the big screen, she was a stand up comedian who rivaled the likes of Eddie Murphy and Redd Foxx (for those who don’t recognize those names, that’s like saying she was up there with Kevin Hart).
Whoopi is still a force. Her guest star appearance on this terrible ABC show called 666 almost coerced me to become a fan. When her character flew away, though, so did I. She has worked with undeniable talents like Ernest Dickerson (Good Fences Director), Angela Bassett (duh), Danny Glover, and others over her career. This woman has won a Tony, Grammy, Emmy, and Academy Awards. People sleep on her resume.
Release Dec 7 2016 | Vol9 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling it’s theme of “The Body”! This volume features actor, model, mentor, and fitness professional Clint Walker on the cover. Gracing the pages are the community feature on Maia Crown Williams and her unapologetically Black events; Black Men Smile and how they are reclaiming the narrative of Black men; “Why Shopping Black is Essential” by Nay Marie; “The Immersion Excursion: Akan Ceremony, Ghana” by Inez A Nelson; the sensual scrubs, butters, and jewels of TheCelestineCollection; “The Invisible Entrepreneur: On the Businesses We Forget and the Women Who Run Them” by Tajh Danielle Sutton; “The Significance of Dawtas of the Moon Black Witch Convention“; “Harlem Fashion Week Slays Their Inaugural Event”; “The Blackest Business Block” by Africa Jackson; our Health & Fitness Advice Columns with Trainer Clint & Delliz the Chef; the Taji Model Winners; and more!!
The Only Way Is Ghana is a website and YouTube channel that follows the journey of founder Lorissa Akua, a London born Ghanaian as she migrates from London to Ghana to build a new life and work on a real-estate project. The platform also follows the journey of other members of the diaspora who have migrated back to Ghana. For those who are thinking of migrating from other countries in the world to Ghana, theonlywayisghana.com serves as a hub when it comes to information about moving and connecting to the business network in Ghana. Visitors can find facts mixed with honest first hand experiences with a humorous twist. Tips and advice on how to survive and make a success in Ghana when it comes to life skills, real estate and doing business.
As money can be tight whilst migrating, theonlywayisghana.com demonstrates how to look great on a low budget by up-cycling clothes and accessories with Ankara (vibrant African print) fabric.
The Only Way Is Ghana get inundated with questions through the blog, social media and YouTube channel about Ghana, finding jobs, accommodation, shippers, business, buying items in Ghana, you name it!
So to help everyone get answers in a timely fashion, they have created a community led forum where people can post announcements and all the questions they like. Experts/Ghana Guru’s and the community are on hand to answer any questions. It is also a great way for people to connect and collaborate on business ventures.
Overall theonlywayisghana.com aims to dispel the negative views placed on Ghana and Africa as a whole as well as promote all the positive people and things happening in the continent. Showing the positive side of Ghana and young people in real estate and business.