"Forget money.I’d rather have currency that I can see. People."
Author, Scholar, Artist and Entrepreneur Willie Williams decided to control his own narrative when he sought after books that told stories like his own. Once he realized that they wouldn't exist until he created them himself, he took immediate action. Four books later, he is marveled at by young intellectuals across the world, with his ability to capture unobserved voices, in spaces that are not usually given. This he says, is his ultimate inspiration.
His first book, "The Black Male College Experience," explains just that; the unique experiences that black males undergo while away at school, a perspective not frequently discussed. Williams began expressing these unfamiliar emotions through artwork after high school, quickly discovering his knack for painting. His "knack" quickly developed into a separate stream of income, as his artwork became noticed by the likes of award winning Hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar. His talents led him to create the artwork for the covers of the books he authored, a rare practice.
William's attraction to rarity caused him to follow an educational path that was foreign to him. After being told how to handle his education, Willie defied the odds and earned a Bachelors degree, two Masters, and is currently working on a PhD. He also serves as a grade school teacher and continues to dispel his knowledge to the evolving youth within black and brown communities every single day.
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Femi Osisanya - Captain Comeback Customs
"Being raised in a Nigerian household, you're always told to be a doctor, or a lawyer. But once I started painting and showing my family and friends my talents, they all gave me support."
Femi states that his African culture has allowed him to dive deeper into unorthodox career paths and not ones that are known to make millions of dollars. More than that, he his determined to do what ultimately brings him true happiness.
One of the things that makes him happy is his new found love for building apps, a skill crafted through his study of computer science while enrolled at Northern Illinois University.
Although building apps is a pastime of his. Femi's online persona as Captain Comeback Customs really made its mark when people discovered his way with a paintbrush extended far beyond the traditional canvas. Femi's ability to paint and personally customize shoes gave him his artistic identity, allowing his clientele to grow as well as his brand.
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Kena Ridley - Kena Ridley Works Photography
"I think I just love the wow factor I get after showing someone my work. That keeps me going"
Kena's skillset grew exponentially in the areas of film & TV production, photography, and graphic & web design after earning a bachelor's degree in Mass Media Communications from Illinois State University. Once she discovered the high demand for photography and branding on her college campus, she began filling that need with her newly trained abilities. Photography is one of the areas in Kena's life that she feels she can control, despite the influence that others believe they have on her life's journey.
Although those very people may sleep better at night knowing she's accepted a position as an accountant or a teacher, Kena continues to defy the odds by navigating the world of media and creative arts, while pursuing what ultimately allows her to sleep at night.
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Instagram: @Kenaridley Twitter: @Kenaridley
"As a kid it would've meant the world to me to see a cartoon character that looked like me. I kinda took it upon myself to create that image"
Tate's passion for the depiction of African American images through art stemmed from the lack of such representation, especially in the world of cartoonists and anime. Tate believes her Jamaican roots are intertwined into her daily life, from her savory meals to her tropical choice in music.
As a current PhD student pursing Animal science at Cornell University, Brianna has found that drawing and painting releases the tension she sometimes feels from cultural pressures to "be successful" in the traditional sense. Although she does possess an unquestionable passion for science, she enjoys the fact that she has adapted the habit of art creation in order to maintain a healthy balance.
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Instagram: @Briyonce94 Twitter: @Briyonce94