Ray Billingsley

If you live in the United States and have read the funny pages any time within the past 30 years, then you already know about the work from this week’s guest. Ray Billingsley is the creator of Curtis, the daily comic that follows the life and times of a precocious 11-year-old Black boy, his family, and his classmates. I’m so glad to have the opportunity to share this conversation with a cartoon legend.

Ray gave an introduction to the Curtis comic universe, and talked about growing up in North Carolina and New York as a youth, attending SVA and working for Disney, and how he got his first national comic before beginning work on Curtis. Ray also shared his thoughts on new Black comic artists, discussed the value of peer mentorship, and spoke about what’s in the future for him and the strip. Ray’s diligence and steadfast commitment to his body of work is something every creative should take to heart, and I hope his story inspires you to pick up the baton and keep running that race!

Nici Kelly

Tech can be a lucrative career, but how many of us think of it as a way to close the wealth gap in the Black community? Nici Kelly does, and I love that her mission is to show people the different pathways into tech and tech entrepreneurship as a way to build a legacy.

We started off talking about Nici’s company, Care Covr, and her inspiration behind starting it in the midst of a global health pandemic. Our conversation continued when Nici talked about building Black wealth, her early introductions to technology, working in and with the Atlanta tech community, and what motivates her to keep going while also giving back to others.

Remember the name Nici Kelly, because I definitely think you’ll hear more about her for years to come!

Britt Lyle II

Britt Lyle II is more than just a designer — he contains multitudes. Currently, he works as a graphics assistant at AMB Sports + Entertainment, where he helps out on visuals used by the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United. But outside of work? That’s when you see the different facets of what makes Britt unique.

We started our conversation discussing Britt’s work, which led to him talking about growing up in Orlando and attending Florida A&M University and studying through their esteemed design program. He also shared his story about moving to Atlanta and attending SCAD for graduate school, falling in love with motion graphics, and shared some of his other talents, including glitch art and cosplay!

Being a designer doesn’t mean having just one skill, and Britt is living proof of that!

Brandi Davis

Lately, I have been doing a deep dive into the magazine archives of EBONY and JET. While skimming the masthead of one of the old issues, I stumbled across this week’s guest — Brandi Davis! Brandi served as Johnson Publishing Company’s web designer from 2004-2012, and was front and center at the company’s shift from print to web. Wait until you hear her anecdotes about working there!

While we do spend a good bit of time talking about that portion of her career, we also talked about the importance of Black media online, how she has expanded into doing art therapy, and we dive into Brandi’s latest creative project — her own line of custom apparel inspired by her faith, her life, the culture, and her love for the city of Chicago. Brandi’s drive and tenacity are the keys to her success, and I think after this interview, you will be motivated to conquer your own fears as well!

Vernon Lockhart

Have you picked up on the connection between this month’s guests? It can be easy to look at the advocacy work and projects around diversity in design and think it’s a new movement, but the reality is that the work is built on the shoulders and legacy of Black designers like Vernon Lockhart. As an artist, creative therapist, and the executive director of Project Osmosis, Vernon has worked hard to empower the next generation of designers through education for at least the past 20 years.

We spoke about Vernon’s creative therapy practice, Art on the Loose, and he shared how his time growing up in Chicago, attending SAIC, and becoming involved with the Organization of Black Designers helped build the foundation for Project Osmosis. We also talked about respectability politics, the trap of “diversity”, and his plans for bringing more design education to the south side of Chicago. Vernon Lockhart and his work are a testament to the fact that we all have the human right to be creative!