Charles Etoroma here and I’m stoked to be a part of this series! I was born and raised in North Carolina by some amazing and hardworking parents & I’ve got one dope younger brother who inspires me daily. I went to school for engineering and political science but ended up hating them both, so I turned down some legit job opportunities to join two startups that ultimately failed. Trust me my parents were thrilled.
Also gotta’ shout-out to my amazing girlfriend!
I’ve always found it challenging to succinctly sum up what I do, because it’s a lot, so I’ll start off by sharing what has helped mold me into who I am.
There are a few core things that ultimately have helped shape me, starting with my faith, which has helped me make it through this challenging 2020, then art, writing and being a first gen Nigerian American.
I can easily say I would not be where I am without each one of those elements and an insatiable curious nature.
I am passionate about showcasing what Black excellence looks like and the beautiful diversity around Black creativity.
In terms of what I do, I’ve built my career on digital strategy with a focus on content and social media (even started my own social media agency), but I also freelance write and art direct/produce content for various brands.
Since COVID began, I’ve taken the time to hone in an interest I’ve had for a long time, visual art. In the beginning I was slowly developing how to creatively comment on the situation and my subsequent feelings as a creative but, after the murder of George Floyd, my work took on a different theme.
Naturally, as a Nigerian American and Black man, the murder affected me deeply but, instead of showcasing the riots, protest, looting, or police brutality that most gravitated towards, I wanted to share my experience through visual art.
Being well versed in social media, art direction and media, I saw an interesting opportunity to utilize UI from things that most of us see every day to convey complex messages about being a Person Of Color (POC) and the clear challenges that it brings.
Alongside the new-found opportunity I noticed another problem, which was that I didn’t know of or see any prominent Black male visual artists or designers commenting on the situation in unique ways to foster enlightening discussion. I mean honestly, I can’t even tell you who any of the top Black visual artists are, which, in itself, is sad.
So, my Instagram account and the subsequent work became something of a journey to become what I didn’t see in the industry.
Through this journey I have seen how important it is to not only talk about the issues that Black Americans have faced for 400+ years but also (and this is the part I think is most important) highlight the successes and brilliant individuals, both past and present, within our community.
As a people group it does us a real disservice for the same narrative of oppression to continually be shoved in our face when it comes to the movies shown, the media reports, the TV show scripts. Everything paints the narrative of what is and what has been, but what it does not paint is the positive and amazing things that happen because of Black creativity.
It doesn’t celebrate Black people doing amazing things in the community or creators who are producing work that deserves to be considered alongside elite non-POC creators.
Since I was a little boy I’ve always asked myself that question when thinking about Africa and the narrative that is always presented. When the general public thinks about that continent (yes, it is not a country as many people continue to believe) they think of a 3rd world place, filled with people who live with no technology or infrastructure and are desperate for aid.
But, what they do not see or know about (in large parts because of what is shown in our media) is the amazing creativity and innovation happening around the continent all the time.
I hope to be able to share and showcase that as I continue to grow older and be an example for others on how to forge your own path, not make excuses and proudly show what a Black man in America (or anywhere else) is capable of, regardless of the hand they are dealt.
I’m a people person and could talk about this stuff all day but as I wrap up please feel free to hit me up on IG, Twitter, ELLO or via my website!
Look forward to chatting, connecting or even creating with you all.