ARTivism: Confronting Mass Incarceration Through Art [Video]

Tony Lewis, Jr. is a dedicated community leader, philanthropist, mentor and avid advocate for the under served citizens of Washington, DC.  For several years he has been organizing community initiatives dedicated to supporting those in need. He has used  his and resources to be the voice of the people by creating organizations like Sons of Life that uplift, build and advocate for young black males. He has tirelessly working in the streets using his platform and network (DC or Nothing) to propel the concerns of DC constituent to the forefront.

He is dedicated to sharing his struggles and acting as a conduit for success for so many people living in the District of Columbia, especially young black males and ex-convicts. We shine a light on him because as a true Street Intellectual he is dedicated to uplifting his community through action and empowerment. Along with Mark Thomas, Mr. Lewis has created a new campaign using the visual medium of photography to help share the stories of individuals connected to loved ones that have been affected by mass incarceration.

Check the videos out, leave a comment and as always share the Street Intell.

 

 

 

 

Creative Expression, Symbolism and Culture: Exploring the Art of Kamanchi

KM10Born in 1974 into a multicultural heritage of Japanese, German, Irish and American Indian; Kamanchi was crafted for creativity. As a child growing up his beloved grandmother Yoko, who was full Japanese, became his conduit into the world of understanding. She attached him —in a unique way— to the cultural sensibilities of Japan; through American eyes. His grandfather, (who died before he was born) was a Naval Airplane Mechanic who met his grandmother right after the end of World War II. During that time, his grandfather had asked his grandmother out and been denied, for four months straight (without missing a day); until finally, she said “Yes”. These two people have greatly inspired him, not only as an artist but as a person of pride; character and strength. They have shaped him to this day and motivate him to work hard.

We delved into the “Art of Kamanchi” and explored the depths and meanings behind this L.A. based artist’s creative expressions, check it out below:

Tell us how you were first introduced to Art; is there a moment that stands out in your mind? 

K: When I was three years old, I was in New York for a year and its memory, sounds and visuals imprinted me.

My father pushed me into art at a very early age and film was the best value I got out of our relationship. Initially, I didn’t want a career in art due to him. I simply moved onto being an athlete and from 1991 to 2000 that is what I was committed to. The creativity pushed its way out in the form of Industrial Design and I’ve been doing that for the last 14 years. I realized how slow and defeating product design became and a year ago I decided to get stuff out of my system by posting on Instagram, only as a start; just to practice and have fun. But it has been the best thing simply because of who you get to meet, inspire or get inspired by.

Explain the significance of your name (Kamanchi) and the # sign. 

K: Kamanchi is the amalgamation of my heritage. The hashtag (or pound sign) is beautiful and I love that it’s our modern symbol. It is quite the tool these days to connect with but what many people do not know is that it is also a common pattern design in old Japanese textiles.

In your work, we predominantly see the use of skull and bones imagery, what influences this?  

K: They are very beautiful to me and probably the best subjects to practice with but they’ve run their course and I’m ready to move onto everything else. 

You infuse a lot of layers into your work to create captivating optical illusions, do you ever find it challenging when creating these illusions?

K: It’s so much fun to me that the word “challenge” loses its meaning. It is more time based as a “challenge” because of how much work irrationally needs to get out. In examining my art, there isn’t a medium I don’t want to learn and do for the rest of my life. I enjoy the process of connecting with people whom I may never meet, in trade for the blood, sweat and execution of the second best version of what’s in my head.

 

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| Artist Bonus Piece |

These are a few ballpoint drawings the artist did as a teen. They were his first and last drawings he ever did and are mostly unfinished. He had never drawn surrealism before that point and has never drawn since, up until about a year ago.

Kamanchi’s Street Intell:

“These are kind of a message in a bottle now and it has been super fun to create like that again, especially after 20+ years. Two of the drawings were ripped up because of an argument with my pops. He ended up keeping them, putting them back together and taking pictures of them. The two yellow paper drawings are my personal favorites. The fisheye elevator one (with the fly on the light) was my second surreal drawing I ever did and the first time I’d ever used a ballpoint.”

Make sure you support this artist’s creativity and view more of his work on Instagram: @Kamanchi

Exclusive Interview with London Digital Graphics Artist: BAREFACE

Bare Face

BAREFACE is a London based, vector graphic artist who is obsessed with real world pop culture. His art ranges from the fifties to the late nineties and beyond. Pulling inspiration from film, music, superheroes, fantasy and more; Bareface creates visually appealing digital masterpieces. He has always had a fascination with different aspects of pop and hip-hop culture, namely graffiti. Intrigued by graffiti but not wanting to vandalize buildings, the artist’s curiosity led him to exploring how to translate graffiti street art to digital canvas. Thus the BAREFACE brand was born.

His vibrant use of color and trademark drips pay homage to Pop and Spray Can art. His work has been featured on several blogs including the popular Michael Jackson Fan site MJWorld. His sticker designs have also received critical acclaim showcasing at the April 17th MLT SLAPS sticker Expo in Montreal.

The artist first caught our eye with his dynamic adaptation of one of pop culture’s most revered villains, Darth Vader.

BF_Darth_Vader

We had an opportunity to link with Bareface and find out more about the brand. Check out our exclusive interview below:

SI: Explain the premise behind the Bareface brand? What does it all stand for?

BF: The ‘Bareface’ brand refers to my belief that my appearance bares no significance to my body of work. It refers to a blank canvas and being creative as the mood takes me.

SI: Your illustrations feature a lot of cultural icons. How important is pop culture in influencing your work?

BF: I grew up in the 80s and as a child I spent a lot of my time watching TV shows, cartoons, listening to music and reading comic books. Pop culture was my education about life and helped shaped my vision of the world. I was inspired by the media of that time and I use this to bring my superheroes to life on digital canvas.

SI: A lot of times people down play the field of Art because they rest on the notion of the “starving artist,” What motivates you to continue creating your art?

BF: In the Bhagavad Gita [which is a collection of sacred texts from India] it says “You are not entitled to the fruit of your labor, only the labor itself.” I believe this means that if you rely on things like money too much, you will only be miserable.What is more satisfying than money is doing the work; that feeling of euphoria when you are in the creative zone and the joy or sadness it brings to others. Basically, what motivates me to continue creating art is my desire to grow organically with the world around me and the happiness I get from creating. Whether you are financially prosperous or not, you have to be “starving” to be successful. You have to keep on pushing yourself and have the hunger to do and be better.

SI: Where do you hope your art takes you?

BF: My mission?…”To chase the muse and see where she will take me.” I have no plan, I am just enjoying creating these pieces and sharing them with as many people as possible, whether it’s online or at a gallery exhibition, and the fact you have found me and I am talking to you means that it’s working. I’m hoping that my pieces will bring joy to people, who find and enjoy my work.

SI: What’s your Street Intell?

BF: Dare to dream, dare to believe.

 

To view more of Bareface’s work connect with him online and be sure to follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

 

And as always share the Street Intell.

Social Networking for Social Change: Inside the YBH Platform

ybhlogoYBH, better known as ‘Young Black and Hustling, is an online social platform dedicated to the advancement, promotion and encouragement of individuals within the African diaspora.

YBH is designed to elevate and assist in the advancement of young professionals, performing artists, artisans, merchants, traders and their supporters. It is their mission to foster unity and solidarity among the international Black community. They facilitate this aim through providing networking opportunities, online resources and events that encourage cooperative economics, cultural pride, sustainability, business development and civic engagement.

One of YBH’s primary goals is to increase the integrity and responsiveness of black businesses. As a result of becoming a member of the platform individuals have access to online resources and a vast network of business owners in which they can readily exchange ideas, services and referrals. YBH recognizes the need for solidarity and elevation in American-African communities and are big promoters of self-reliance and cultural pride.


As a Philly based organization, YBH has been influential in many community efforts around the city of Philadelphia. For a major part of their existence they have been committed to exposing artisans and business owners within the area by curating a community market place entitled, Black Wall Street. With the creation of Black Wall Street, YBH has been able to further support member objectives and help members in the promotion and advancement of their businesses and brands. Some well-known and highly respected brands such as Kings Rule Together have benefited from YBH and the Black Wall Street event.

 

Dezi Speaks, Founder of YBH
Dezi Speaks, Founder of YBH

 

YBH was founded by Desiree Riley affectionately known as Dezi Speaks. Dezi is a young visionary and a big proponent of “promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.”  She has dedicated her efforts and resources to educating and uplifting the global black community.

With YBH serving over 5,000 members and growing daily it has been Dezi’s mission this year to not only support her members online but tackle a lot more “on the ground work” through curating events and initiatives that further support and connect platform members.

As an agent of social change Dezi sees problems and acts; she is a firm believer in pro-action versus reaction in the community as a whole.

Through the YBH platform, Dezi has channeled her creativity into a tool  driving change within  the culture of the  black community. She is committed to encouraging American-Africans to support one another and give back to their communities.

Dezi hopes to further restore value and integrity throughout the black community. She plans to use YBH as a tool to transcend not only the US but the international community as well.

Look out for new updates coming from YBH by following them on Instagram and join the movement today.

Behind the Brand: The International Natural Hair Meet-up Day (@INHMD)

Adeea Rogers
Adeea Rogers, better known as ‘The Trendy Socialite’, is the visionary behind the world renowned and highly anticipated International Natural Hair Meet-up Day.

Adeea has been a corporate event planner for 14 years and has also managed to plan other exclusive events but INHMD is her biggest endeavor yet. She is currently employed at East Carolina University as the Assistant Director of Marketing for Student Involvement and Leadership.

We had the pleasure of sitting down and speaking with Adeea as she shared a bit of her personal journey and provided some details on the wonderful things ahead for this year’s event.

Adeea first got the idea for INHMD after attending the 2011 World Natural Hair Show held in Atlanta, Georgia. While there she stated being “over-whelmed, inspired and excited all at the same time.” Although she didn’t know much of anyone there, she shared how the atmosphere emitted a sense of familiarity that made the environment so welcoming. Upon leaving the hair show she took that feeling with her and decided that events like that need to happen in her area. Upon returning home she immediately got to work on providing that experience. She hosted her first couple events and began connecting with other natural hair organizers across the country. It was then she realized that many of them weren’t having the same experience like she had at the World Natural Hair Show. She also recognized that there were many emerging natural hair brands that needed more exposure within her community. So she thought “everyone has meet-ups all throughout the year but how impactful would it be as a community to have them all happening at the same time throughout various cities?” This idea is what birthed the International Natural Hair Day.

inhmd logo 

International Natural Hair Meet-up Day (INHMD) is an annual one-day event where women from across the world come together to collaborate, connect and celebrate the beauty and versatility of natural hair. The INHMD platform was created to provide women —and men, with the opportunity to join together in solidarity to uplift one another through the exchange of information and networking. Communicating virtually through a variety of events held around the world, INHMD provides a unique experience for the entire natural hair community and any healthy skin or  hair enthusiast  to join in.

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This year’s events will take place worldwide in 60 US cities and 5 international destinations to include Paris, France; Amsterdam, Holland; Toronto, Canada; Tokyo, Japan and Saint George’s, Grenada. All events are happening on Saturday, May 17th , 2014 at separate times or simultaneously. Each city’s host will  provide a select experience that they would like to bring to the community.

 

Adeea has dedicated much of her time to teaching and training city hosts on providing more than just another “typical” natural hair meet-up she wants everyone to receive a full bodied experience. Therefore, attendees can look forward to creative events that reach beyond the standard natural hair meet-up. Some of this years events will be fashioned as social mixers with refreshments,  Natural Hair fashion shows, and even an outdoor festival. You can visit INHMD and check out what exciting event will be happening near you.

This year’s returning title sponsor is Koils By Nature, which is led by the amazing Pamela Jenkins.  Attendees of the DMV area event will have the opportunity to meet Pamela as well as Adeea, but not to worry no one will miss out on the excitement because there will be live Tweeting and Facebooking using the hashtag #INHMD throughout the day’s events.

Tickets are still on Sale but moving fast! You can  purchase yours here today.

 
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Adeea has also dedicated this year’s events to a special initiative called INHMD Cares, which is a call to action that challenges participants to think outside the box and give back a small portion of what they have received as a result of being a part of INHMD. For the main initiative Adeea is asking attendees to bring one NEW Natural hair care product of their choice to be donated to either a nursing home, women’s shelter, service member overseas or extended care facility.

The second initiative is as a result of the recent passing of two amazing young women within the natural hair community. Just last month Blogger, Karyn Washington of For Brown Girls and Natural Hair Vlogger, Domineque Banks of Long Hair Don’t Care, passed away at only 22 and 27 years of age. Adeea made it her mission to raise awareness and has instructed every event host to have some sort of informational session with speakers or pamphlets on mental health, suicide prevention and lupus awareness.

 

Adeea’s Street Intell:

@TrendySocialite“We really want people to know we are concerned about your health. Your mental health, your physical health; we’re concerned about your soul and your mind. You’re more than just a body at an event. I’m really privileged that I’ve been given this platform to show some people the love of God in this tangible way.”
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GemPhones CEO, Kelli Meade Gives Us the Fashion Behind Consumer Electronics

"I just want to bridge the gaps of lifestyle, fashion, and electronics in the CE industry and GemPhones is doing that."
“I just want to bridge the gaps of lifestyle, fashion, and electronics in the CE industry and GemPhones is doing that.”

CEO, Kelli Meade is energized by technology and has a natural passion for fashion that fuels her desire to design products that girls like her will go crazy about. Through simple curiosity and research Kelli found that women love trendy and fashionable items but also enjoy the latest gadgets. She also discovered that there was a need for more fashionable tech accessories and decided to make it her mission to re-design today’s consumer electronics. About a year ago, she began creating and designing earphones that she liked to wear and with nine years of working on fashion design, she developed the look and feel of GemPhones. GemPhones was inspired by her love for pop culture.  As a 90s kid Kelli recalls getting excited when new music videos would be released. In these videos is where she saw the hottest fashion and the coolest gadgets.  She wanted to recreate that feeling and expression through GemPhones.

We had the opportunity to sit down with this tech and fashion engineer and gather some more insight behind her latest project and her is what she had to say:

 What is it like being the CEO of a tech and fashion startup?  I’m not a coder, but I have enough knowledge about wireless networking and computer engineering to be dangerous.  But with a tech and fashion startup, none of that matters because I needed technology and I loved fashion.  No matter the type of startup, you should strive to be an expert at what you are creating.  That means investing 10,000 hours into your craft AND industry(ies).  This is my first company and the learning curve has been steep.  I had to learn how to be a CEO, understand important techniques used by successful designers, and quickly become an expert in both the tech and fashion industries. GemPhones keeps me busy, but I wake up thanking my heavenly father for strength, clarity, and the passion he pours into me every day.  I have not worked a day since I quit my government job in September 2013.  I’m simply doing what I love.

Has being a female posed any challenges for you in the male dominated industry of Technology?  Being a female in the tech industry is about showcasing a differentiating point of view and there will always be challenges when presenting a foreign concept in a mature industry like consumer electronics.  I remember chatting with a guy at a tech startup mixer and he was simply amazed at the creativity and uniqueness of GemPhones.  His first reaction was, “It takes a female to come up with an idea like this.”  I will always remember that conversation because in one statement he summed up the value of a female’s perspective is in the technology industry.  My true challenge however is the commitment to sharing with as many little girls as possible that their viewpoints are valuable and wanted, especially in the technology industry.  One of GemPhones goals is to show young girls how cool tech can be.

gemphones 1

What role do you hope Gem Phones will play in the consumer electronics industry?  GemPhones are the very best consumer electronic accessories combined with the most beautiful designs.  With ubran elegance, we introduce imagination and self-expression into an industry whose designs are traditionally dull.  For us, design is not just how it looks, but how it works and feels as well.  That is what our audience appreciates and that is our role; to give the lovers of music and fashion a product in tech.

 

Gemphones 2Give at least 2 easy style tips for consumers looking to accessorize with Gem Phones?

#1 Side body chain: For fun, flirty girls, GemPhones looks great as a side body chain.  Wear a pair of your best skinny jeans, a baby T-shirt, and attach your GemPhones to your mobile device.  Slip your phone in the back pocket for a super cute side body chain look. This look is a GemGirl fav!

#2 The wrap necklace: Not using GemPhones?  Want to keep the gorg set of GemPhones on?  Unplug your GemPhones, snap the earbuds to the back of neck, then wrap the lower half of the beaded cord around your neck once.  You’ve just created the ultimate conversation piece.  People behind you will ask “Is that your earphones?” and people in front of you will compliment your necklace.  Plus it’s ridiculously functional.

What is your Street Intell? The streets have been making tech and fashion look good ever since the boom box was beating on our shoulders in the 1980s.  GemPhones is bringing back that feeling.

GemPhones Specifications:

• Built-in Microphone

• Two button remote to answer/end calls or play/stop music

• Replaceable silicone earbud covers

• CE and RoHS Compliant

• Noise Cancelling

• Nylon thread braiding “no tear cords” for cord protection

• Cord Length: 1.2m

• Jack Size: 3.5mm

Support this emerging entrepreneur and grab yourself a pair of GemPhones by clicking here.

 

Up Close and Personal with Fashion Illustrator, V.G. Waymer (Interview)

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V.G. Waymer is an artist living and working in Hampton, Virginia. She was born in 1960. Her A.A. in Fashion Illustration and Graphic Design was received from New England School of Art & Design at Suffolk University where she studied with Frank Raneo, a noted fashion illustrator. Prior to that she attended Pratt Institute where she was enrolled as a Fashion Design major but soon realized that her passion lay with illustration rather than the actual construction of apparel. Subsequently, after raising three children, V.G. pursued a certification as a life coach focusing on helping artists to regain effective work habits and spark new avenues of exploration in their chosen medium.
 
As a result V.G. has spent the last ten years in experimentation and exploration of many other types of art including lampworking, mask making, visual merchandising, costuming for an Afro Cuban dancer, and lately body painting under the name of Besitos Body painting. She studied body painting in 2011 with John Vargas, a world renown body painter. As Besitos owner and chief artist V.G. has provided her services to photographers and dancers in her community. Spending time creating is an important cornerstone of V.G.’s life as an artist.

V.G. is currently preparing for a group exhibition entitled, Art Walk scheduled for later this Spring in Hampton, Virginia. She is working to reestablish her signature style as a fashion illustrator. In the coming months she will be collaborating with several blogs and online magazines, so stay tuned! In the meantime let’s take a closer look at V.G, in our exclusive interview below:

Who are you?

I have all types of labels as most women do. Three years ago I decided that I really needed to diligently pursue my art. I had to put in the time like I’ve never done before (due to family obligations). We’ve raised three beautiful people and I often didn’t have the luxury of being a “starving” artist. Instead I found jobs where I could put my creativity to work, learn about the business end of art and also gain an understanding of what I could do “instead.” It’s true that you can be very good doing something you’re not passionate about. The trick is to take those lessons and use them when you really get to do what you LOVE! I invested a lot of effort into perfecting my skills, time management, a great work ethic, attention to detail, and building relationships; I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Now I am working to find a balance between the desire to draw (every waking moment) and the need to get more sleep. I am beginning to understand more and more that self-care helps you to produce better. It’s always about balance.

Did you always know you had a gift when it came to creating art or did it take some event in your life to push you in that direction?

I’ve always known that I was an artist. My mother is a classical pianist and my dad played several instruments and loved Jazz. Their friends were musicians, artists and dancers so I grew up experiencing creativity. I used to draw the Sunday comics when I was a kid. I originally wanted to become a dancer and did so until I was 16, then I injured my knee. After surgery and months of physical therapy, dancing seemed less of an option than becoming an artist. It just felt right… better than right!

Do you take time to sketch out your illustrations first while staring at an image or is it produced on the spot through your own creative interpretation?

I mostly use photos and fashion videos for reference, generally I block out the pose with an initial sketch. From there, I lay in color quickly where everything seems to fall into place and then I have to be careful to just leave it be. It becomes very hard not to add, just one more line! Sometimes, depending on my mood, drawing can be a release but I seem to tread a thin line between letting my creativity take over and being overly critical of the finished product. As I mostly work digitally, I usually peel back the layers once I’m done. Often the best drawing occurs in the first few minutes.

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Where does your inspiration to create such beautiful pieces come from?

Thank you for saying that! Inspiration is everywhere but it takes living in the moment. That can be hard to do when you’re moving through everyday life. Sometimes it’s something that you see in passing and other times it’s as a result of watching a video, flipping through a magazine or for me listening to some House music!

Name some artists that inspire you and explain why?

I am always inspired by Gustav Klimt and Aphonse Mucha. My heroes during college were and still are Antonio, Viramontes, and Stavrinos. Antonio for his use of color and stylization of great models like Pat Cleveland who I adore! Viramontes because of his spontaneity and how he would lay down a line or swath of black like nobody’s business. As a student I was awestruck by him and used to draw with graffiti markers just to keep myself from doubting my line and my style. When using graffiti markers once your commitments are made, you can’t erase them. Stavrinos’ attention to anatomy and drawing from Polaroids is something that I’m still mindful of. My professor’s mantra was, “Remember there are bones underneath that skin!” Today I am inspired by David Downtown, Donald Robertson and Stephen Stipleman. If you want to do fashion illustrations then you have to study the “masters.” What they saw in the model and the fashions are often represented in a nuance of color, a pose and a simplified brush stroke.

If you could teleport anywhere in the world where would that be?

I would like to go back in time and have an hour with Diana Vreeland. I would love to watch Antonio draw. A place … teleport me to that house where Julia Roberts lived in Eat, Pray, Love in Italy or Indonesia; as long as there is a space to draw and do the things that make me happy.

(See next question)

What makes you happy?

“What makes me happy?” Fage yogurt with blueberries and honey… An avocado in the afternoon… honestly, I think of all the things I could say in addition to my family and my dog Mojo… remembering that moment when I realized my goals are within reach is what makes me happy. I find happiness in someone being interested in my work. Ultimately, happiness is finally being at peace with who I am in this moment.

As an artist, what impression do you hope your work leaves with you audience?

That’s a hard question. I want people to feel something when they look at my work. Whether it inspires them to want to try a certain style or feel the intent of the clothing that I’m drawing… I think that would be enough for me. I think most artists draw for themselves first and then their audience. It’s a very “inside” game. It’s how you develop your own style.

 

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Waymer’s Street Intell:

20140417-134656.jpgMy mantra and advice to other artists is to create. Paint, draw, sketch, write, blog, dance, sew, sing, act, cook, crochet! Anything that gets at the heart of what an artist’s true forte might be. This exploration has enriched my understanding of an artist’s work process and has allowed me to utilize my experiences to guide young artists in my community.

http://www.vgwaymer.com/