designer / husband / hurricane survivor
Every interview has a moment where my internal paranoia is silenced. The culprit is my subject's humanity transmitted when they speak. For a moment, everything is illuminated and I truly hear them. For Terrence, it was when he talked about Hurricane Katrina. He spoke of moving away from where he grew up with fondness and heartbreak, and I was right there with him.
The small, dim room we sat in while sucking on mints evaporated and I imagined losing, the one thing we hold dear as American's, our agency.
"If you told me when I was younger that I was going to live here, I would have said, "you're absolutely crazy. There's just no way. Texas? Never."
"So home for me at this stage in my life is pretty much anything I can pack in a car, including my wife (laughs) and go somewhere. Having everything destroyed because of a flood really changes your perspective on what a home is and what valuables are."
"New Orleans has this amazing capacity for hospitality. The restaurants there, the food, the community; we all gathered around food and each other. A lot of people were really poor, but we still had a community. So it wasn't like we had these extravagant gatherings but in many ways, they were all extravagant gatherings. New Orleans was one place where you could always wake up and find yourself in the middle of a parade accidentally.
The other thing about New Orleans is it's pretty violent. So parades and sometimes there are gunshots really close to you but the people there are magnificent."
On choosing Austin
"As an African-American, Texas was never one of the places that I wanted to visit. Trying to find the places where you can go, where you can stick together and not be the only African-American can be still pretty challenging in America. Austin was never on my radar.
I've been in Austin for 12 years. I came here because of Hurricane Katrina. During hurricanes in New Orleans, you pretty much have a party because everything shuts down. And no one really leaves unless things get serious. Every year, I would pick a place to travel to just to check it out. A college friend of mine lived in Weberville (near Austin) and encouraged me to visit.
So I decided while the hurricane was coming, I should go visit him. Austin surprised me. We drove into town, and I was like, "oh okay it's not just tumbleweeds, it's not that bad."
It just so happened that when we arrived in Austin, we saw where it was growing and similarities in the real estate market, so we said "let's just buy here while it's inexpensive. And then wait a while and move someplace else."
Intentions were never really to stay. We always had these dreams of moving at Atlanta because of all the African-American creatives out there and it's still on our radar. But this has been a very long and interesting detour."
On diversity in Austin
"It’s not diverse enough. Honestly, I don't think that there are enough cultural structures here that foster growth especially for an African-American. And the African-American community is different. In New Orleans, it was and is primarily African-American. So this was a large adjustment.
Reaching out to other ethnicities is not exactly easy either. And I think after a while of trying to do that, I just gave up and decided that it would be nice to look other places for what I crave which is just different places for food(laughs.) I’m kidding.
I truly crave places where I can go and get lost. That's one of my most favorite things to do as a creative: to be surrounded by something that I don't know or something that's foreign to me and discover new things within it. But, it's really hard to do that in a place where everything is this homogeneous.
And you know, part of that is my fault too. Not every white person is the same. And you can look and have conversations to find out that there's a lot of diversity within Austin but it's just visually not as satisfying."
On his younger self
"First paragraph: Keep dribbling.
I wanted to play point guard. Well actually, I just wanted to play basketball. For my junior varsity or something like that.
But the hoop at my house broke and my mom wouldn't let me go around the corner because they were selling drugs and doing dumb shit at the park. So all I could do was dribble down the street.
It just so happens that I got so good that I ended up stealing someone's spot on the team. As a creative, your mindset should be to do your creativity without the expectation and know that that will pay off.
So that's what I would tell my younger self: just do just do the thing. Just dribble and don't worry about the outcome it'll come to you. And to appreciate the process."
From New Orleans, LA
Lives in Austin, TX