Black History Month: Celebrating Black Creators
Our team draws creative inspiration from all sorts of places and people. In honor of Black History Month, we compiled a few of our Ologists’ favorite Black creators. From writers and musicians to filmmakers and improvisers, we sat down with these talented folks to learn more about their work, their creative processes, and what’s in store for each of them.
Cameron Granger, Filmmaker
Cameron Granger is a filmmaker, artist, and writer from Cleveland, Ohio. As he puts it, he uses his work “to quilt his communal and familial histories into new, not just potential, but inevitable futures.” In 2020, he was selected for the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and he’s currently one of the inaugural In Situ Fellows at the Queens Museum of Art.
Granger spent last summer hosting free screenings of his film, Before I Let Go. The series took place at community- and artist-run spaces across the Midwest and East Coast, and each screening featured two filmmakers who are from or making work in the cities he visited.
Last June, Granger was a guest on our internal speaker series, called The Zest, and our team had the opportunity to hear from him, watch one of his films, and learn more about his creativity. When asked about how he turns his ideas into stories, he shared that he starts every project with questions like, “Why is this the way it is?” or “How did this happen?” Then, he lets the process and research lead him to an answer. He said he enjoys using micro-history to tell micro-narratives. For example, he created a film about the history of Columbus’s east side that actually tells a story about Black neighborhoods all over the country.
As a child of the internet, Granger pulls historical videos and archives from all corners of the web to enhance the story he’s telling and answer the questions he’s asking along the way. He told us that he “doesn’t want to flatten the history or minimize the people in the stories,” but wants their voices to be heard.
Joey Aich, Musician
Joey Aich is an independent hip-hop artist based in Columbus, Ohio. He calls himself a “creative wordsmith” who plans to change the world and inspire the next generation through his lyrics, his performances, and the way he carries himself.
Growing up, Aich always enjoyed entertainment. From school choir to theater, he enjoyed being on stage and the life of the party. He started making music in high school, but didn’t really pursue it seriously until college. He performed around his small college campus (Denison University) before securing his first real gig in Cleveland.
We asked Aich what it’s like making music in Columbus, as opposed to the cities where the major recording labels are. He said the industry here is so community-focused and feels like a blank canvas. He’s had the opportunity to meet people and stay connected, getting his footing a little sooner than he might have in a bigger city.
As a sports fan, he enjoys March Madness, but this spring he’s also looking forward to “Aich Madness,” a tour that’s become something of a tradition for him. This year he’s prioritizing quality over quantity, keeping the tour to four stops: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, and Columbus. However, he hopes that in the years to come, it evolves into a full 32-stop bracket-style event.
Aich has also spent the last few years teaching middle school students in Columbus, through We Amplify Voices, an arts enrichment program that helps students express themselves through outlets such as singing, dancing, visual arts, music making, and creative writing. He’s enjoyed working with younger folks, because he remembers what it’s like to be in middle school and looks back fondly on the people who made an impact in his life. He told us about a recent project with WAV, a songwriting workshop where students shared what was going on in their lives so he could turn it into a song. They even took students into the studio to show them what the recording process was like. You can listen to the song, “Start the Revolution,” here.
Most recently, Aich released a deluxe version of his latest album, Open Treehouse, which is available on most streaming platforms. To learn more about him and his music, follow him on Instagram or visit his website.
Jaelani Turner-Williams, Culture Writer
Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Jaelani Turner-Williams is a culture writer who covers music, literature, film, television, design, fashion, beauty, and pop culture. She’s also a budding scriptwriter with projects for Double Elvis Productions, and she is currently the executive editor of Tidal Mag, a biannual lifestyle, fashion, and culture publication.
After graduating from Ohio State University and writing remotely from Columbus for the last three years, Turner-Williams recently relocated to Los Angeles. She told us that, initially, writing in her new city was overwhelming. In L.A. she can attend media events, like the premiere of Beyoncé’s Renaissance film, and meet the celebrities she’s used to seeing on TV in real life.
Recently, she attended a few events to support Victoria Monét, the most recent recipient of the Grammy award for best new artist and best R&B album. Turner-Williams interviewed Monét for Teen Vogue last year, but finally had the chance to meet her in person this year ahead of the Grammys. Turner-Williams said it felt like a full circle moment, as she’s always seen so many parallels between their careers.
When asked about some of the defining moments in her own career, she mentioned an article she wrote last year for Atmos Magazine. The piece covered how Black artists like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Earth, Wind & Fire have long used music as a practice toward environmentalism.
In Turner-Williams’s family there were no writers or creatives, but she knew she wanted something more ambitious for herself. Her message to those inspired by her work: Think bigger and strive for more than where you come from.
Sarob, Writer and Musician
Sarob is a Chicago-based musician, writer, and emcee who blends hip-hop and neo-soul with “earnest self-reflection, cleverness, and radiant sensuality.” His music documents his journey toward fulfillment, and his mission as an artist is to help people find their meaning, too.
Sarob talks about growing up in Dayton, Ohio, “without a musical bone in his body.” He told us he had no idea how to make a song, create a melody, or even read music. In high school, he had words and ideas that felt important, so he started writing poetry, but he wanted to find ways to get people to listen. When he realized he could turn his words into melodies, he understood the greater impact music could have.
Even as a kid, Sarob always had big questions about life, and was always trying to understand himself more deeply through introspection. In college, he studied philosophy and political science, which bolstered even more enthusiasm for the meaning of it all, and he started to convey these ideas by writing and making music about them. He asked himself, “No one wants to sit and read a philosophy book, so how can I use music to share these ideas without being corny?” He said his best work as an artist tries to unpack the deeper meaning of life, since many people can relate to that feeling.
After building his career in Columbus, Sarob moved to Chicago seeking an opportunity to experience something new. He thought it would fuel him creatively, but it’s gone far past creative inspiration — he says he’s been able to break through to a new version of himself. For now, he’s slowed down on making music and has focused on other creative pursuits, like writing. Sarob told us he feels like he’s come full circle. After starting as a poet and spending years learning how to sing and play instruments to get his messages across, now he’s turning back to writing.
The biggest thing he’s learned from his creative expression: “What’s behind us isn’t nearly as dope as what’s coming.”