artist/HBCU graduate/southern gentleman.
Sunday was the first time I found a single spot in Los Angeles that didn't ooze entropy. Where my Uber dropped me was just endless sun no traffic. After a few moments of taking that in, James emerged from his beige apartment building. Presence is the word I would double down on when describing him. Watch how he moves, with intent but in no rush, a soft saunter that reminds you of his height but also his humanity. He speaks similarly, with consistent cadence and depth. The sun was setting and the air was cool when he opened the door to the roof and we overlooked the city much like a king over his newly acquired land.
"Because I'm 6’6" no one ever thought to put a camera in my hand or to put me on a stage. I had to discover or find those things myself. So when I got to college, I stopped playing basketball and that freed me up to explore my creative side."
On home: "I was like one of the only kids on the block who had a dad. So my dad was the neighborhood dad. He put up a basketball hoop in our cul-de-sac, so my house was the place that all of the kids came to play basketball. My mother was a seamstress, so people are always coming to our door asking if my dad can fix something or if mom take in a dress."
"It smells of collard greens because my dad cooks a lot and it's warm inside. We definitely had AC but growing up my parents didn’t want to run up the electricity bill and so has a very warm feel. The walls are bright. My mother would always tell us that we were favored that we just had so much favor because things would just come to us. A lot of the furniture even our house was given to us."
On the state of America: "I feel like the skirt is being pulled back, in particular with Trump being elected. I do believe that often times we've bought into the lie that this country was everything that it said it was.
We saw the first African-American president and I think we allowed ourselves to believe that we had progressed more than we actually had.
We forgot about the foundation of this country.
Why we're so damned now is we're realizing that the system was never built for us. And so as a result, the structure and the foundation of this system continues to fail us as black people."
“I didn't know anybody here. I had a cousin that picked me up from the airport. Beyond that, I knew no one. So it [moving] gave me such freedom to decide, "Who are you, James?" Who do you want to be in particular now that you're not around your frat brothers? You're no longer at a historically black college where the idea of an alpha man. “
“I think the best thing about living in a big city like Los Angeles is the amount of opportunity. I always compare moving to Los Angeles to when I first went to college.
In high school, I was "Mr. Titusville" high school. I was president of the Key Club, captain of the basketball team and the track team but I was in a small city. So when I went to college I remember my aunt telling me “the challenge is going to be can you rise to the top of this crowd?”
It was easy to be number one and to be a standout in a very small town, going to a predominantly white school and being one of very few black kids who are in honors classes. But then I made the decision to go to HBCU where I'm going to be surrounded by thousands of people that look just like me who were probably their homecoming kings and student body presidents.
So the challenge was going to be can you rise to the top? And I felt like I did. I took that same thought process when I moved to Los Angeles. Can you rise to the top in this city of millions of people? Everyone comes to L.A. to be a star, a filmmaker or an actor. Can you achieve that? I've been working at it for nine years.”
From Titusville, Fla.
Lives in Los Angeles, Ca.