Listen to our 2-part conversation with Tori Reid and Patrick A. Howell of Victory & Noble on The Nasiona Podcast‘s episodes 30 and 31 “Global International African Arts Movement,” which are both part of our Deconstructing Dominant Cultures Series.
Episode 30: Global International African Arts Movement, Part 1
Julián Esteban Torres López speaks with the two complementing spirits behind Victory & Noble, a storytelling company. In this 2-part conversation, Tori Reid and Patrick A. Howell reveal their legacy project, and their energy and determination are sure to inspire, educate, and transform. They both move us forward with a critical optimism rooted in both the real struggles of our past and our present, but also a futurism grounded in the belief that we have the power to harvest a tomorrow that is brighter than today.
Julián Esteban Torres López, Tori Reid, Patrick A. Howell
My name is Tori Reid. I am CEO of Victory & Noble, a storytelling company. And I am partners with Patrick Howell in this venture. I’m also a host and producer of a podcast: “Here’s to Life with Tori Reid”, which we are very proud of. And it is one of the first projects under the Victory & Noble banner.
Hi, this is Patrick Howell. And I am President and Chief Visionary Officer for Victory & Noble storytelling company in which I partnered with the great Tori Reid. And in this storytelling venture, we have two primary projects that we’re working on right now. The first of which is “Here’s to Life with Tori Reid”, a podcast that focuses on icons, outliers and culture makers, as well as “Dispatches from the Vanguard,” which is due out from Repeater Books and Penguin Random House this summer, August 21. It is subtitled “The Global International African Arts Movement Versus Donald J. Trump.”
Your book is so relevant to what’s going on during the Age of Trump. So I wanted to kind of start there. What is different about the age of Trump in your opinion? And that, how also is it the same from previous ages?
First, I would say that I don’t really give Trump all that much credit other than for being a charlatan. And being somebody that takes advantage of opportunities, if you’re presented the most positive light possible. He’s an opportunist. Do I really believe that he’s a true and true racist? Of course I do. But I also believe that he plays out very specific cards, so that he can gain from it politically. And he’s gaming the system – you know, 300 and 20 million people in the United States, 7 billion people on planet Earth – for his sole benefit. So, you know, on the one hand, yeah, you can see traces of the quote, unquote, age of Trump. If you want to call it that. I would never call it that.
Going back as far as 2010 and the tea party and tea baggers and all this kind of a thing. And Sarah Palin. And all this kind of thing coming up inside of America. The birtherism with Barack Obama, him taken advantage of that. And now he is where he is. I really believe that, ultimately, he’s either the end of America (so I don’t know if you really celebrate him with the age of Trump) or he’s just a footnote in America no matter what he does. And that’s just how I see it.
Just to be a little bit more general. I used to be a politics junkie. I wake up and go to bed with CNN and MSNBC. Never Fox. And I think, towards the tail end of President Obama’s reign I just was tired. I was, I was worn down. And so I literally had to unplug for my own sanity. And just my, you know, everyday peace of mind. So it’s interesting because, during this four-year presidency of the guy in office now, I’ve missed a lot of things purposely.
Now I do have friends, such as Patrick and a few other friends that will call me. Or of course, I read the news on my phone, on the computer. I look at headlines, and I choose certain stories. But it’s upsetting to me. And it, I just prefer not to go down that road. If I can. So I take in very little. Yes, I have thoughts and opinions, but I’m just choosing to use…I’m choosing to protect my energy and my light.
So that, I think, I think that’s very aligned with when we were talking with your mentor, Phylicia Rashad in New York. And yes, she said, “I just refused to even discuss it”. And she said a lot of those people that are giving voice to that are playing into my, into something that they should not be playing into. So I respect that.
So that’s, that’s where I am with it. Again, it’s for my peace of mind and health. So, yeah.
We got to do what we got to do. Every day is something new. If you’re just, you’re just focused on, on it every day, every hour. Like we wouldn’t be able to do much.
Exactly. Yeah, I internalize. I, you know, I do that, though. Yeah.
Tori and I also have very different personalities. I mean, I’ve observed this when we’ve been working in our company. You know, our, you know, each of our strengths also doubles back as potential opportunities for the other person to really step into a role. And then, Tori is about healing. She’s about moving forward as I am about moving forward. But you know, I don’t mind the struggle. And I don’t mind getting involved in an occasional fender bender. In order to advance myself, that’s not to worry at all. So I think there’s a difference there as well.
So let’s talk a little bit about uh, Victory & Noble, your project together. How did it come about? And why is it relevant and valuable in today’s sociopolitical environment?
I would love for Tori to express the vision behind Victory & Noble. What I would like to do in this part of the conversation is talking about how Tori and I initially met.
And I think that that has a significant, I think that initial seed has a significant unfolding of how she and I came to come up with Victory Noble. I would love for her to express the vision. But she and I met Connie Briscoe, I think it was in 2015, who was a New York Times bestselling author who was at the height of power as same as Bebe Moore Campbell. And the same as Terry McMillan in the 90s when E. Lynn Harris, some of those folks. And she had a beta course on Facebook, which was called “Craft Your Novel”. And what she was doing was bringing together a collection of folks online who were involved in various projects, in various stages of development. And basically creating a writer’s group within the context of Facebook and using a lot of the technology and social media pools at our disposal, to be able to finish our project, to be able to support one another. And it was a fiction, it was a fiction group. And I think Tori realized at a certain time point that she had a nonfiction project. And it just didn’t really fit her, her wheelhouse as it were and what she was working on. So she excused herself from the group.
I noticed a couple of very interesting things about Tori Reid’s profile on Facebook. You know, like a photo of a young Tori Reid – who in the photo looks like she’s 17 – um at a bar mitzvah birthday or something with much older Richard Pryor. And then, you know, there was a story out there about, he had wished her Happy Birthday. And I was like, “who the heck is this person, that has access to this human being at this time point.” And so I took a note when she left and I said, “Hey, I would love to get a hold of you a little bit later on to finish working on some different brushes.” “Yeah, sure.”
And so, you know, I finished my initial book- my first book out – which came out from Jacar Press in North Carolina, called “Yes, We Be”, which was really kind of a counterpart to “Dispatches from the Vanguard.” It was actually the first element of that. And it was all poetry. And I finished that and it was such a fulfilling feeling that I said, this is what, this is easily something that’s worth the price of admission. You know, anything that you undertake has a cost to it, or something that you have to be willing to sacrifice in order to get it. And I said, I’d be willing to sacrifice anything, to create this type of an experience. To be able to have my voice out there in this format. To be able to create a book. To be working within the world of publishing, which is something that I’ve adored and loved doing since I was in high school. And so I actually reached out to Tori. I said, “where are you at with your project”, and we kind of took it from there. I’ll let her take the story from there, and talk a little bit about her memoir, which is “Love Yourself Through It”, which is extraordinary. It’s an exceptional example of healing. And really, as the title, as the title suggests, loving yourself through all the ups, the downs, the tribulations, triumphs. And I’ll let her take it from there.
Well, thank you for that, Patrick. So Victory & Noble is a storytelling company. And, we like to refer to it as that as opposed to a traditional production company. Because the, our emphasis will always be on the story itself. And ultimately, legacy is our focus and our goals. So all of our content, all of our projects, film, TV, literary, everything that we do, we have a shared vision. As far as for our legacy, our children’s children’s children, and everyone outside of that.
So my background is productions, I’ve grown up in and around it. And so it’s the love of mine. I come to life in production. It’s, it’s to me, there’s nothing like it. It’s magical. I’ve worked for several production companies along the way, like Turner Classic Movies, Don Mischer Productions – that was an old production – Paramount, ABC, what have you. And, but I’ve never had my own. So I’ve kind of always had this giant dream, so to speak, choosing the projects that I would want to do. And so when Patrick and I had a synergy between us, you know, he comes from the literary world, as well as finance and so much more entrepreneurial, and what have you. And then my background is production. From coordinating to producing things. And so, we just naturally came together. And it was actually his idea. He birthed it. And he said, you know, “what do you think about us, creating a company?” And I said, “well, what are you thinking?” And he was like, “well your show. I’m, I’m a literary,” he said, “why don’t we focus on book to film adaptations, like that be basically our main thing. Then that’s a wonderful way to, as he says in “Dispatches,” to reintroduce books to the masses.
And so I was like, it’s a wonderful idea. And then, and then, you know, as long as we have some original content as well sprinkled throughout, you know, let’s do it. And so, because that’s his background, and my background is what it is, it just was a perfect fit.
And, like he said, he basically, prior to us forming Victory & Noble, he asked me, you know, “where are you? Where are you with your book?” My book is entitled, Love Yourself Through It.” And I said, “well, still working on it.” I mean, this will, cuz I’ve been working on this book. And I put it down for a year here, two years here. But it’s been over 10 years, slightly over 10 years. You know, he’s like, “where are you with it?”
And he’s kind of held my hand through the process, because he’s a published author, and he just, he knows what to do. I do not. I don’t know that world at all. I’m learning slowly through him. So he’s like, “well, one thing I’m determined to do is help you get it published.” And we’re very close. I’m in the process of, of wrapping it up finally. And so any of them, “Love Yourself Through It,” I can just speak a little bit about that.
I feel that ultimately our true purpose, everybody’s purpose in life, is to wake up. And so that’s pretty much the bottom line and story of LYTI. It’s, it’s all of us are the same. We have those, you know, “what is going on? Why am I here? Why did I just go through that?” We all have that. And I think that we experience all of that for, for our souls purpose. To achieve peace. To basically champion our own life. And so, and to basically find our truth, find our center. And so that’s, that’s what the book is about. So that is happening.
The primary vision in terms of – as a partner of yours on the venture, and I think as a co-visionary – I think one of the things that we saw is that there’s a tremendous opportunity by the Hollywood industrial complex where we see ourselves represented in the mainstream and in a very marginalized way that really doesn’t, doesn’t even begin to tell our story. One of the things from entrepreneurs and one on one is, when you see a problem, create the solution. And therein lies an industry there, analyze an enterprise for which you can sit there, sustain yourself through on a personal level, because you’ve created the solution to a problem. And one of the problems, that even dealing with, you know, right now everything that’s going on and the zeitgeist of American culture is moved almost rapidly with almost, very basically moved from Coronavirus, America, which is tremendous – because that’s a biological pandemic that we haven’t seen in over 100 years – to this other thing that’s beginning to sit there and take hold. And we haven’t dealt with the issue of race in this country. And I think a big part of that is how people perceive and how people perceive themselves and how people perceive others and how they treat people based upon those mass, those mass characterizations, if you want to call it that.
So I think with Victory Noble, we understand that there’s less than 10% of our stories that are being told. And so whether it’s a book format, poetry book format, whether it’s a novel format, in a vlog format, whether it’s in television production, whether it’s in podcast format. Whether it’s, you know, doing what we’re doing with you right now, Julián. And even having a podcast and being able to give authenticity to our voices, and how we perceive things versus a story that’s consistently being told. What I would like to call the Hollywood industrial complex. But some people sit there and say, well, everybody’s aware of what the white majority thinks, because their story is already out there. We’re always listening to the story, understanding their story. How many of us sit and understand, you know, the Latino story, or the Asian story and how many different forms that takes on just as the African American story is part Caribbean American, it’s part Latino, American. And you know, we have a very monolithic mass culture that represents things in a very simplistic way.
So that’s, that’s a big driving force behind – at least from a business perspective, business wise perspective – of Victory Noble. And one of the things that we noticed when we’re working on “Love Yourself Through It” is, we would talk to so many literary agents, we would talk to so many publishers, and they kept saying, “what’s your platform? What’s your platform? what’s your platform?”
And one of the things that Tori kept saying, and I had no idea, just, I’ll explain one of the things that I didn’t understand. Yeah, we need to create a platform. And so she said, “I want to have a podcast.” That was one of my goals for the year. And I had actually done something with the concept of Global International African Arts Movement to Vertikal Radio with Celeste Duckworth in Arizona. And I said, “well, why don’t we work with her?” Because she’s worked with me before. And kind of helped me to do what I need to do where I’ve had a voice. But she’s provided the technical opportunity to build, to have a platform. And she said, “yeah, let’s go for it.” And one of the things that I didn’t realize about Tori is that she’s basically a star. She’s basically a genius at what she does. I had no clue I just said, “oh, yeah, I was connected with this other person.” And you know, good luck and creating your platform. So that way, you have a platform that’s available for your publication, because most publishers are like, that’s fine, that you’ve got something that’s extraordinarily well written, but we almost don’t even care unless you have the means by which you sit there, market it out. And so that was really how “Simply Tori”, which is what it was called over a year and a half ago, was born. And I had no idea that she was basically like a savant, kind of like kind of Oprah Neutrogena pink and red table type of thing. That has extraordinary – and I’m being funny when I say that, by the way – but she has extraordinary capabilities in terms of not only projecting herself, but also listening, being receptive to other people, and creating what you were talking about at the beginning of this conversation, Julián. But a conversation, rather than an interview. Where people’s true characters and people’s personalities are revealed. Sometimes even to themselves.
We’ve had the great fortune of dealing with a great many culture makers, and also, outliers. But even icons: Nikki Giovanni was the first interview that we had on the revamped version of “Here’s to Life” – long moved off from the initial platform. And then it was Phylicia Rashad. Tori’s had a 20-year relationship with that broadcast. For young, young women around the country is amazing. So we just see an opportunity where the marginalized stories – the stories that are presented on mass are not the stories that are really who we are at all, we don’t even see ourselves getting to be explained in a mass way. So that’s, that’s really a driving business, enterprising entrepreneurial way which we, you know, that kind of defines why we do Victory Noble and how it came to be.
You know, one thing I love about that, and the common thread through the book, through the podcast, but both books and you know, your personal stories is this idea of, like you mentioned in the book too Patrick, is, you know, our words, our lives, our stories. And there’s a certain value to that, because our stories have not been part of the dominant culture. So, like you mentioned, you know, our stories become caricatures for the sake of exploitation, for the sake of profit for the sake of, you know, keeping certain hierarchies the way they are, etc. So there’s, you know, one reason I really wanted to have you both on the, on the, on the podcast is that. Is that you are providing something for the culture. To help move the needle in a way that’s more positive for creating the stories we tell ourselves. Because like, you’ve mentioned a lot before is, we are the stories we tell ourselves, no? A story is a relationship between who we are, who we could be. And all of it is centered around the current, current environment. We can change laws, we can change, whatever, but if the culture doesn’t align with the law, the law doesn’t even, doesn’t matter that much. So having you both here, working on these kinds of projects, like I’m just so excited and so happy, that that this is continuing. It’s not like we’re new doing this.
But we can do this for hundreds of years.
I think we’ve all been doing it probably for decades. I think that we went through very specialized training through education, which drove on entrepreneur enterprising endeavors, I’ve been doing it for decades. I’ve been doing this longer than I’ve been a banker. You know, whether it’s an individualized business environment, and somebody’s not understanding how I’m a person of African descent, that happens to be an extraordinary banker. And being able to take advantage of that situation, because they can’t fit me inside of their square. And I’m like, no, that’s, it’s okay, you know. And they’re like, “what’s, what’s going on here?” Like, well, just write a check.
That’s kind of you know, where it’s at? I think, no, we have a great many conversations with other storytellers. Whether it’s poet Tony Medina, or it’s even, you know, taking out, having the opportunity to speak with Tori’s father, Mr. Tim Reid, who is an extraordinary mentor, to so many different storytellers from around the country and around the world, where we are online in a very similar purpose. And I think that we are at a moment of inflection. American and global culture. I really have no idea as much of a visionary or prognosticator as can be, in which direction it’s gonna go. I know what I stand for. I know what I represent, and I know what my responsibilities are. But we’re at an inflection point where you kind of feel, you know, can go in either direction. Now, I’m an optimist. So I always believe that it’s always darkest before the dawn. And I think that, since 2016, and really, since 2000, and probably 12 – when you felt the country reacting to the fact that you had an African American president. And then they decided that we will take a step forward, but we’ll take five big virtual steps backwards. And all the way into the 80s, another side. We’ll take a step all the way back into the 80s. And we’ll have the type of experience that we’ve been having since 2016. I think that as much as things have been horrific, on the spiritual, metaphysical, social caste or cultural castes level – and a lot of that is continuing to manifest itself. I also think that there was a day in 2007, in which, you know, in Chicago Hyde Park, there was a day it was a singular day in which America not only aspired to, but fulfilled all of its romantic notions and ideas of what was. And you saw Barack Obama with his family, elected. And you’re like, “that actually happens.” And that was not possible in, 200 years prior to that. There’s no way that could have ever happened. And it did. And so as dark as this is, as awful as it is – and I’m not saying that I’m only going to take one day for like, you know, six years’ worth of crap, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m just saying that there’s glimmers, there’s glimmers and there’s rays of hope.
And there’s reasons to believe that we can actually be everything that we want to be and it’s really up to us. We have to have the strength to do, you know what it is that you’re doing Julián. I think there’s no accident that we are converged and we are converging. We’re all working on the exact same mission in different dimensions of it.
You mentioned the Global International African Arts Movement.
Can you, can you elaborate a little bit about that?
I’d love to. So, Global International African Arts Movement came about through my discussions with Marvin Mills. Who, at the time, I was just, I think I was just a young dad. It might have been a little bit before I was even a dad. But Marvin Mills was a student at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, and he had a mentorship or mentee ship with Dr. Michael Datcher, who is the author of “Raising Fences: A Black Man’s Love Story.”
Michael Datcher was somebody that I looked up to when I was a student at Cal Berkeley and he was one of the older big brothers that was on campus. Or, he wasn’t even being on campus by the time I was there. He was just somebody you heard of. You kind of knew, like this guy made moves and made death moves. And he had, he had done some really incredible things. He had done the story of Tupac Shakur. Tupac resurrection, this kind of thing or whatever.
Marvin was a student of his at Loyola Marymount. And he Googled or searched me on LinkedIn. He searched Michael Datcher, and he came up with my profile because I’d interviewed Michael Datcher for The Quarterly Black Book Review. And we started off a relationship that way. I’m just kind of talking about our passion for storytelling and some of the things that we want to do with, with, with those stories. And one of the things that we kept talking about is that we noticed that there have been a significant shift in terms of how people of African descent, with not only presenting themselves, but how they were disseminating that information. Whether it was on the internet, and also our attitude towards the continent, you know. Whereas 50 years prior Africa was novelty.
It was, you know, let’s get back to our roots type of thing. And now people were thinking about, let’s get back and let’s do business. Let’s not only, you know, be romanticized by the notion of what we are. Let’s change completely what we are and what we’re doing. And it’s not something that’s a fad or trend. It’s, it’s something that’s a super historical code import. Where people are saying, you know, there’s something going on over there, there’s something in terms of who I am. And a lot of times, you know, we talk in social, cultural, but this is something that’s much more than that. It’s something that’s spiritual. And we just noticed it. And we said, well, we want to talk more about this.
And so we were talking amongst ourselves, just he and I, and we would say, “well, what is this thing? And what are we doing with it?” And we just said, “well, it doesn’t belong to us, it’s not something that we’re trying to create or follow, muster about our, you know, the ways of black, the souls of black folks activity you need to water” or anything like that. We’re not trying to found anything, we’re just trying to really kind of encapsulize the fact that, you know, between Afrofuturism, between Afropunk, between, you know, so many different expressions – even Black Lives Matter social political context – we are seeking to define ourselves, and we’re doing so in ways that we’ve never done so in the history. And we’re also bringing along the entire comport of the story that we had. And so we just want to put a definition around it. So it was something that we found.
And then at a certain time point, Marvin got busy with traveling the world. He lived in South Korea for about six years. And then he traveled out to Lalibela, Africa, Rwanda, all throughout the continent. Met up with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. while he was in Lalibela, um having a conversation in Ethiopia. And I got busy with, you know, chronicling the story. So many creatives, such as yourself, Julián, such as folks that are even outside of the diaspora, but are really interested in telling stories. People like Tori, people, even like myself, people like Tony Medina, people like [ef vermelha]. People like Nikki Giovanni Jaki Shelton Greene, who’s the poet laureate in North Carolina. I got busy with interviewing these people, because I had the opportunity on a platform for the Huffington Post to publish a blog. And most folks were like, “Oh yeah.” You know, you want be entered into the Huffington Post. They said “great.” So the only thing I had to do is just be selective of who I wanted to really invest my time in. And it was worthy of that. So the people like Ingrid LaFleur, who is the founder of Afrotopia. People like Ytasha Womack, who is the author of Afrofuturism or people like Dr. Imani Perry, from Princeton University, or Darnell Moore, that are very gifted storytellers, very gifted at social, political, cultural. But, you know, one thing that ties everybody together is that they are about telling the good news from a new perspective.
And so that basically became a, you know, I started writing the blogs for the Huffington Post for the L.A. Times, for the L.A. Review of Books, I’m sorry. Also, Nasiona, also Into the White out of Toronto, and a number of blogs. And at a certain time point, I just realized that I had a project that can be put together to something comprehensively, which actually referenced a lot of the conversations and a lot of the work that myself and Marvin had put together, hence Global International African Arts Movement. It’s a little bit redundant, global and international. But we like the way the acronym goes together to pronounce a “Global I AM.”
Which is really to say, you know, 200, 400 years ago, we were forcibly removed – terrorized, basically – from the continent by people that are far, many people really, forces and energies, that are far less than what we are. But now we’re global. And that was one of the advantages over 400- or 500-year period of time, and really just emphasizing the fact that once we begin to work together as we are right now, even on this conversation, there’s nothing that we can’t really do. So on the one hand, there’s definitely a core element of Global International African Art Movement that focuses on, you know, ethnic pride, and focuses on, you know, the tribes as a word. But there’s also something that focuses on the creative spirit that is imbued with what’s inside of all of us, which we feel originates definitively from the original man and original cultures that are inside of Africa. So, I don’t know that’s kind of a roundabout way. And so maybe it’s not as synced an answer as I would like to give it. But that’s, that’s a little bit on the Global International African Arts Movement.
So that kind of leads to the book, right, Dispatches from the Vanguard.
All the conversations, all these developments from those periods, and obviously your history and all of the storytelling collaborations you’ve had, opportunities you’ve had and thoughts and experiences. I mean, you compile the list of so many fascinating and influential interviewees for this book. With regards to the vanguard, let’s, uh, let’s just unpack that a little bit. So how are you defining the vanguard?
Well, I mean, okay, so I was talking about the project, but I can also talk about specifically what that means. The vanguard, I mean.
Well, no, let’s go with the project and go with the vanguard after if you want.
Well, no, they’re both equally fascinating.
I’m gonna go with the vanguard. And I’m gonna, I’m gonna go with that. And then also talk about the project and how it, how it matured in time. But, you know, I’ve noticed that, Hollywood industrial complex, that, that terminology really defines a very singular one-dimensional way of looking at the world. And I’ve noticed that folks that are creatively imbued don’t just focus on social, cultural and you know what other dimensions. They focus on metaphysical, they focus on emotional, they focus on spiritual, they focus on soulful expressions, and there’s so many different dimensions to how they do what they do. So many different dimensions to how black cultures created, you know, whether it’s the blues, or whether it’s rock and roll, or whether it’s hip hop.
And all that is to sit there and say, there’s, you know, traditionally there’s referred to four states of American power: judicial executive legislative, executive presidency the United States, judicial the Supreme Court, legislative Congress, bilateral Senate and then House of Representatives. And they always say the fourth informal is the, that of journalism. But the contention of the book is really something that was imbued into my mind at a young age.
My father, Dr. Howell, Dr. Bing Patrick Howell, who is the author of “The Ideology of Racism”, also did the Alternative to Western Civilization program or introduced that for that program or co-founded that program at Stanford University in the 80s. And one of the things he had always told me as a little boy is, you know, our people are some of the most creative, some of the most creatively adapted people on the planet. I remember at certain times of point, I would see Maya Angelou giving a keynote, poetic keynote, for William Jefferson Clinton’s inauguration “On the Pulse of Morning.”
I would see, you know, November 4 2007, and I would see Barack Obama ascend to the presidency, and I would see America actually live up to our ideas for like, one Sterling moment. One brief moment. And I would say to myself, there’s certain entities or certain figures in American culture that are more significant than the powers that actually govern. And so for every William Jefferson Clinton, his predecessor, George H.W. Bush, his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, his predecessor, Gerald Ford, Nixon, Jimmy Carter – there’s people like Maya Angelou, that have been on the scene culturally, since the 1960s. That are part of movements and everything like that, but they actually have significantly more power than any of the Presidents that preceded them.
The presidency runs for a very specific term of four years, and then you’re capped out at eight years for two terms. But Maya Angelou has no limit, and she has no limit in terms of how she inspires people on an ongoing basis. You can always make an argument that Maya Angelou is singularly more powerful than Richard Nixon. It’s just that he has his, his hands on actual power. And her power is that to inspire through the hearts, and also the spirit of people, and that’s infinitely more powerful.
And so, one of the main contentions of “Dispatches from the Vanguard” is that there’s four states of American power but there’s really one state that is more powerful than any of those. For every Richard Nixon, there’s a Muhammad Ali, who is undoubtedly, the king of the king of the creatives, if you want to call it that way. In terms of the example that he set, in terms of what he inspired, you can almost make a case that Muhammad Ali is one of the first real hip hop artists before hip hop was even called hip hop. You know, “foot like a butterfly sting like a b.. or like a bird.” “Rumble, young man, rumble, oh,” you know? Like, what is that? That’s hip hop before hip hop was ever even hip hop.
Before, you know, there was white supremacy or there was a challenge to the idea of white supremacy, there was Muhammad Ali. You can always make a case that these cultural figures are just more significant. And you all make a case that one of the most significant things about America, one of its most significant exports, the reason why I am here as the son of a Trinidadian and a Panamanian, are the reason why any number of [lawyers] in America is because of its culture. And that’s really, American culture is in many ways – not completely, not comprehensively – black culture. And so that’s one of the conditions in the book.
And that’s, that was a lot of the reasons that, you know, the people that were interviewed, or interviewed just because I was busy with transitioning from, you know, the, I guess, I don’t know what you want to call it: an incurable addiction of working inside of the world of finance. Almost a negative thing that that is not healthy for the spirit, not healthy for the soul. And then going from that to, well, I’m going to be a writer. And this is what I’m going to do with my time. This is what I’m going to do for income. This is what I’m going to do with my life. And this is how I’m going to create my experience anew in saying, “Okay, well, I’m transitioning, I’m gonna start to interview a lot of these people.” You know, the Nikki Giovannis, the Abiodun Oyewoles, the last poets, the Tori Reids, and find out how they do what they do so that I can learn. And so it was really a means by which I can sit there and explore myself to how other people were doing what they’re doing.
Now, the interesting thing is, by the time I’d sat there and proposed a project to Repeater Books out of London, I didn’t, I wasn’t thinking about Global International African Arts Movement anymore. I was just thinking about, I was just thinking about the artist experience and what that means. And the book was actually subtitled. It was called Dispatches for the Vanguard: how the American experience is refreshed, renewed, and reborn and my publisher Tariq Goddard, who’s a very astute publisher said, “we can’t go with the subtitle, the title’s great”. And I said, “well, what do you want to do?” He said, “it has to have something with Trump in it”. And I was like, but it’s not about Trump. And he said “well,” he said, “it has to have something Trump in it.” And this is the discussion that we’ve had. “This is what our, this is what our savvy tells us. This is what our published [Moxie] tells us in terms of the market.” And I said, “Uh, okay, well, you know things I don’t know. So let’s go ahead with that.” And be frank with you, I was just happy to have the opportunity to publish so I was like “whatever you want man. It’s cool”.
And so he said, you know, is there a way that you can kind of summarize the, the elements that are in the book that are being interviewed, like, what ties everything together, come together? And I thought about it, and I was like, “I don’t know, creatives?” He said, “that’s not specific enough.” And I said, “Global I AM.” He said, “what is that?” I said, “it’s an acronym for Global International African Arts Movement.” He said, “perfect.” And I said, “what do you mean?” He said, “it’s, uh, it’s Donald J. Trump versus the Global International African Arts Movement.” And that’s how that book, that’s how that project, in very short summary, very shoddy summary, came about.
So you know, that’s, that’s the project. And then that’s also the vision for the vanguard. The vanguard is the fact that we have no limit to how we express ourselves. And they try to cap us with laws. And that’s a lot of what’s going on right now. Even today, and in the national unrest that we’re having around bases or institutional white supremacy. It’s like you can’t control it, you can’t control what you can’t control. It’s like how we see the world, how we envision the world, how we participate in the world, how we interlink with one another, how we connect with one another. You can have all your Facebooks you can have your Googles. You can control whatever you want to control. You can’t control the human spirit, and what the human spirit can do. So that’s really what the vanguard is. It’s, there’s no limits to the expression that comes from, you know, the Latin boom with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, that comes from, you know, Julio Cortez and the Latin boom and moving away from Hemingway and Faulkner as expressions of realism. And say, well, there’s magic realism now. And then Toni Morrison taking that mantle from Gabriel Garcia Marquez and saying, well, here’s Tar Baby, here’s your Bluest Eye. And this is how we feel. And this is how we think and this is what we see, and opening that out.
And saying, well, this is really the totality of our expression, of our vision of how we experience ourselves, and the experiences that we have and the other realms that come into play on a day by day basis. And like I said, we’re at a, we’re at a fulcrum right now, we’re at a fulcrum, where either we’re going to go completely backwards – to be honest with you, I just don’t think it. I think that white’s interiority, white nationalism, you know, the white patriarchal way of governing the world is tired. I think it’s tired. I think it’s repetitive. I think it’s boring. I think it’s so boring that we have somebody like Donald Trump at the head of the United States of America, who was a cultural figure inside of the 1980s. And obviously, he understands how America works very well because he committed treason at the highest levels of America in front of everybody. And he’s still governing. So you know, credit where credit is due. That is an evil genius. That is doing what it is doing.
But at the same time, I think I’ve never seen such a frantic group of a quote unquote majority acting like such a terrible minority. At the same time, I’m like “you guys are acting terrible.” You knew this was gonna happen for like, centuries. I remember Time magazine, you know, covers when I was a little boy talking about the browning of America. So you knew this was coming. And you guys are just acting awful. It’s terrible what you guys are doing. And now you’re showing the entire world how ugly you are. You’re showing them how petty you are. You show them how small you are, how visual you are. And I just think, like I said, I just think that, that, I think that way is finite. I think that ends. And I think it’s behaving like it’s ending. It sounds like a very desperate, ugly, tyrannical terrorist youngster that’s just throwing a fit. It is like, this is, this is terrible. You are just terrible. So yeah, that’s, that’s my explanation. And I probably delved off into other areas as well.
But, I’d like to add: it was a joy. You mentioned me, I’m honored to be among the evangelists, spreading the good news and the truth. And in raw form. It was a joy to me to also be a special editor on the project. And so I got to see from cover to cover this book. And its timing, like I said, couldn’t be better. It’s such a powerful read. You have, you know, revolutionaries, artists and poets, professors, healers, you know, global outspoken, basically telling their story, their journey, their truth. They all are doing it, they know their purpose in their power. Ishmael Reed, Nikki Giovanni, Dr. Harry Edwards, Danny Simmons, all these wonderful people. And then you have Patrick at the helm. And he’s like the maestro, or to me, the leader who pulls us all together so we can become a collective. So we can become unified and a force, ready for deployment, so to speak. And that’s really where we are. And, of course, his, his journey throughout, within its “From Vanguard to the Kingdom”, which is an essay at the end. And of course, he explains the next movement, the artistic expression movement. He has his questions and his intros and, and you feel his passion, his vision, and brilliance, which we just heard. And that’s what I personally appreciate about, one of the things I appreciate about him and working with him is that he’s always about uplifting his people, people of color, people from the African diaspora. He’s always about celebrating, and he’s always about reminding people of their power and their strength and their purpose, and the responsibility that they have. And so, you know, this book is, the timing could not be better with all that’s going on. Because, yes, we have to. Everything that’s going on around the country, and I’m glad to see white people as well as black people out there.
And, you know, Denver and as well as, of course, Minneapolis and L.A. and all these other cities and whatnot. But it’s like, in addition to that, in addition to the social media hash tagging and coasts of anger and heartbreak and everything, there’s got to be that next step. And I think this book, it’s, it’s, we need to be reminded as a people of our power, how powerful we are. And reading, just me going through as a, as an editor, you know. I mean I, there were times I remember texting him like, “oh my gosh, I have goosebumps”, like reading the different profiles and, and learning about these people. I learned about so many people and then they mentioned other people, people that I didn’t even know existed. You know, black, Native Americans, just so many different people. I felt strong. I felt my strength. I felt my purpose. Like there’s this charge. There’s this, this drive, my passion, like I literally had goosebumps. I was emotional. I was happy, I laughed throughout it. It’s, it’s a very special read and I just want to punctuate that the timing, it’s just right on time with everything that’s going on. So Julián, I know you’ll enjoy it. I know the readers are going to enjoy it as well. And it’s…
Thank you, Tori.
You talk a little bit about who will enjoy the book. How about, who you think, and this goes to both of you, who do you think should read the book?
I mean, to me, everybody. I think, first and foremost, I’m concerned about my people. I’m concerned about color, first and foremost, because that’s what I am. So I would say first and foremost, people of color. Now that’s men, women, that’s low income, wealthy, everybody in between. So every person of color should read this book, and all ages. I mean, I would love to see a parent sitting with his child, as Patrick does with his son, Christian, all the time. I would love to see parents read, you know, sections of these stories and these journeys to their children and then having conversations about it. That’s number one, number two people that aren’t, you know, non-people of color. Whites, they need to read it. Because it’s, what’s frustrating to me is, see now, Julián you are trying to go make me go down the road.
With what’s happening and with George Floyd, and a friend of mine: this Facebook message or whatever, and there was this white guy. And he said, no basically, “good”. You know, “I’m glad, I hope it…” he didn’t even say “he or him.” He was like, “I, I hope it didn’t breed.” I’m like “it”?
You know, like he was celebrating what happened.
And I read that. And it’s like, man, I just, my heart sank. I felt rage, which is why I told you I didn’t turn off the news. Like all that stuff starts bubbling up in me. And I’m like, and he’s just one person of so many. And I think that, that was when, when Trump was elected. And I have to say the next day I stayed in the bed under the covers. And, you know, I was in a funk, possibly depression, I don’t know. But I was definitely in a funk.
And there are two things I always say concern me. One was how we were going to be viewed, what would happen to our quote unquote, standing. How people would see us internationally. Because the one thing Obama, and I love that he did, internationally we were appreciated, loved, because of President Obama. Because they loved him. So, for the most part. Like that’s going to be gone. But the, that was number two. The first thing that concerned me, the one thing that concerns me the most – and I knew when he stepped foot in office – because he stirred up. Yes, this raises them. Yes, none of this is new. Evil spirits. Demons like that guy. It, you know, even existed throughout Obama. He’s been on this earth.
Yes. He was here 200 years ago.
He was the first one.
Absolutely. And there are many of them. But, he was quiet. He was shooting his cans in his backyard, you know.
The cockroaches were under the rocks.
Exactly. And I think, yeah, I think that I knew what would happen under Trump. He stirred that pot. He gave these people a voice. He basically said “come out of your rocks, and be vocal. Get, get your guns and, and stir the pot.”
He’s directing them, he’s directing them to go right over to Minneapolis this morning via tweet.
He said “go to Minneapolis, here.” Like, wow.
This after, that looters loons will be after personally, then shooting. And you’re like, “wow,” there’s all you can say. I now understand. I mean, I think, I don’t know if there’s a silver lining to Donald Trump thing being what he is. But I do think it’s useful to say, you know, in the 80s, with Ronald Reagan, and that America, that, you know, a lot of folks would say, “well, I don’t even know if racism exists.” And maybe you’ve got a chip on your shoulders now. Well, now the whole world understands exactly how slavery came about. All these elements. You know, it’s better for them to be out in the light of day no matter how painful because, like I said at this inflection point, if America decides that it wants to go on, and it wants to go on being, aspiring to the ideas that were written hypocritically in the Constitution – the United States or the Declaration of Independence – if it wants to aspire to those higher ideas, it’s going to have to deal with that first Original Sin in a way that is very comprehensive. And this is the only way that it could come about.
Now, I don’t know if it’s going to do that. Because every time, you know, something comes about and reparations are discussed or, you know, it’s, it’s really discussed, you know, in substantial ways about what, you know – it seems like there’s no adults in the room, so to speak. So I don’t know if it can happen. I know what my role is. I know what my responsibility is.
As Tori said, it’s a legacy project. Victory Noble, you know, it’s our story to be responsible to the future. And I don’t know if the America that is right now gets to go into that future if it behaves this way. Because this is self-limiting. America started off in 2016, I believe, under President Obama’s stewardship as a country that was top three. I think it’s top 20 right now, maybe. And I think that there’s been, so much damage has been done now to…do I think it’s irreversible? Ah, not really. But you don’t know. There’s things that are done at such an institutional level that you’re like, “wow, these are…” I’m not going to get into that portion of the conversation.
I just find it, I find it to be very interesting. I find it fascinating that there’s no, there’s no adults in the room. There’s, there’s no, there’s no comprehensive, there’s no comprehensive voice that says, “well, let’s get us back on track.” So you really don’t know, you don’t know what direction. Like I said, I know what my responsibilities are. And I know that I will fill my responsibility to my children into the future. So I can say at this inflection point, I fulfilled my responsibility. But what direction the rest of it goes in? Who knows? You know, it’s good to be hopeful. It’s good to be aspirational. That’s part of my mo. Those are part of the decisions that I made.
But you know, in a conversation with godmother Nikki Giovanni, you know, I remember this was in 2018, when I interviewed her for the Los Angeles Review of Books, and she said, “fortunately, God doesn’t come down and asks me what should we do now?” And this is prior to Coronavirus, which is really why it’s so apropos that she’s listed in the prophet section. Because when she mentioned that, that conversation, I was like, that’s, doesn’t make any sense. She said, “Patrick, what would you do if God came down to you and said, “it’s not working? Or I’m thinking about starting with…”
She said, “I would have to say, we have to start everything over. Get it, you know, do away with it.” “It’s done. We need to start all over.” And I just thought that was the most irrational thing I’ve ever heard. But you’re not gonna argue Nikki Giovanni. So I was like, yeah I was just like “okay”. And she’s like, “what do you think?” And I was like, “I, I’m positive.” And she said, “that’s not what I asked you.”
Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
She said “what?” She said, “what would you tell him?” And I said, I said “I would tell I, I” and I just went on to the next subject. And she let me do it. And she let me go into, but she exactly, predated Coronavirus, and exactly what happened to America by two years. That was it. I don’t, I mean, I’m not gonna say it’s God in the sense of the Bible, but I am gonna say it is precisely God in the context of the Bible that, that Coronavirus came about. Because the only thing that could sit there, put capitalism, make capitalism take a backseat to considerations of life and death and, and whether you’re doing the right thing, and how are you living, it’s something that’s biblical. So, she predated that by a couple years. And I think it’s very interesting that we had that moment of reflection. And that’s also another reason why, you know, I do think Dispatches in many ways is, is timely. There’s, there’s an element to it that says, we’re in the new times.
Um, but we’ve got, we’ve got to pass to the crucible. And that relies upon all of us. Whether it’s the Julián Torres in Nasiona, the Los Angeles Review Books. And it relies upon all of us to be at a height, and to not be discouraged, to not be beaten or defeated. It relies upon all of us to sit and say, “let’s, let’s double up, let’s be courageous. And let’s follow our vision into the future.” Because it’s possible right now. I just think it’s very, like I said, I don’t know which way it goes. But if somebody asked me like, Nikki Giovanni, “what do you, what do you think and what are you gonna tell God?” I won’t do it. Well, I’m aspirational. So, I’m hoping for tomorrow. “Well, that’s not what I’m asking you.”
You know, “would you start it over, yes or no?” Well, I’m like, everything did just start over. She was absolutely correct. So yeah.
There’s many of them out there. There’s many prophets. Whether you want to talk about Martin Luther King, whether you want to talk about Malcolm X. There’s many folks out there that prophesized what would happen within a 10 year, hundred year. What will eventually happen if things aren’t dealt with. So, you know, like I said, we’re, we’re at that inflection point. And all the cockroaches are out from under the rocks. And, you know, I’m sorry to refer to fellow human beings that way. That’s, that’s not really nice. But when you’re talking about demonic spirits that do some of the things that have been done on a national scale.
I mean, like I said, you now understand exactly how slavery occurred. Like, if you ever understood, you know in the 80s it was fashionable to you, you, “you sure racism exists?” You know, “I’m not sure about it”, I, you might have a chip on your shoulder. Everybody’s like, “no, racism is real.” And not only that, but slavery is real. And this is how it came about, with psyches like, you know, the current president of the United States of America. Like, you understand exactly how it all happened, how it all transpired. And that has to be dealt with. And it has to be dealt with or, you know, we will get to advance to the next step. Like I said, we started out a top three nation at Obama’s presidency. We’re top 20 right now. You know, how many people around the world are saying “well, I want to go to America, to go immigrate.” I mean, there’s literally people in Nigeria that are saying “I won’t allow Americans to come into my country, because Coronavirus.” That’s crazy. That’s crazy for people that are at so called quote unquote, sh, you know, expletive expletive hole countries, as you know, referred to by Donald Trump, saying, “well, no, you guys can’t come here anymore. You know, we’re, that’s okay, you know, deal with that thing that you guys got over there.” And so America standing in the world’s notorious point, has shifted dramatically. And that was its one, that’s its one supreme acid.
Whether you want to talk about, you know, its industry, want to talk about its billions of dollars, you want to talk about its innovation, and that kind of thing. The one thing that America has always had is a culture where everybody’s like, “I want to go there.” And it attracts the best and the brightest from around the world. And that is not the case.
Yeah, that is not the case, yeah.
That is not the case right now and that is fascinating.
Tori Reid is the consummate Hollywood insider and producer with extensive entertainment experience in film and television programming from concept to release. She has an eye for original, revelatory content and a love for filmmaking. Tori is proud to be CEO of Victory & Noble, a storytelling company, as well as host/producer of V&N’s podcast, Here’s To Life with Tori Reid: Inspiring Conversations with Icons, Culture Makers and Outliers. She is also completing her debut nonfiction work, Love Yourself Through It. Her mission is clear – to inspire, educate, and transform others globally through film, television, literature, and digital media.
Tori’s forthcoming book, Love Yourself Through It, is an intimately candid memoir with a conversational tone that takes the reader through the beautiful struggle of finding one’s center and indefinable truth. It shows how much we’re all the same, experiencing highs, lows, and the “why am I here” moments, only to realize the whiplash of it all is for the soul’s purpose of achieving peace, freedom, and the power to champion one’s own life. Love Yourself Through It is like that best friend who comforts you through the tough times, and then asks the tough questions that require you to be honest with yourself out loud. Love Yourself Through It helps to show how we are all worthy of the gifts of self-love… no matter what life is saying to you.
Patrick A. Howell is an award-winning banker, entrepreneur, and writer. His first work was published with the UC Berkeley African American Literary Review and Quarterly Black Book Review. Mr. Howell, is a frequent contributing writer to the Huffington Post, Los Angeles Review of Books, and has been cited in national platforms as equities.com, NBC BLK, and The Grio. Howell’s integrated book of poetry-design, Yes, We Be, was published by Jacar Press in February of 2018. His non-fiction book Dispatches from the Vanguard: The Global International African Arts Movement versus Donald J. Trump was published in the summer of 2020 by Repeater Books in London and distributed by Penguin Random House. Last summer he graduated the Leopardi Writer’s Conference in Recanati, Italy, to complete work on Quarter ’til Judgement Day, a coming of age experimental fiction work.
In his new book, Dispatches from the Vanguard, the public academic, author, and activist Rachel Elizabeth Cargle writes: “There has never been a time of great uncertainty that didn’t produce a windfall of brilliance from the Black community. Dispatches from the Vanguard has collected the wisdom, depth, creativity, insight, joy, critique, hope and brazen boldness from the current windfall being borne out of the crisis that is the current administration. And why does a collection like this mean so much? Because it allows us to transcend by way of the words of those voices we value so much. They lead us, they teach us, and they remind us what is possible. This is a book for those who, in the words of Audre Lorde, are ‘deliberate and afraid of nothing’.”
Julián Esteban Torres López (he/him) is a bilingual, Colombia-born journalist, publisher, podcaster, author, researcher, educator, editor, and culture worker with Afro-Euro-Indigenous roots. He’s a Sr. DEI Consultant at Yardstick Management. Before founding the social justice storytelling organization The Nasiona, he ran several cultural and arts organizations, edited journals and books, was a social justice and public history researcher, wrote a column for Colombia Reports, taught university courses, and managed a history museum. He’s a Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions nominee and has written two books on social justice. Torres López holds a bachelor’s in philosophy and in communication and a master’s in justice studies from University of New Hampshire and was a Ph.D. candidate at University of British Columbia Okanagan, where he focused on political science and Latin American studies.
The Nasiona Podcast amplifies the voices and experiences of the marginalized, undervalued, overlooked, silenced, and forgotten, as well as gives you a glimpse into Othered worlds. We focus on stories that explore the spectrum of human experiences—stories based on facts, truth-seeking, human concerns, real events, and real people, with a personal touch. From liminal lives to the marginalized, and everything in between, we believe that the subjective can offer its own reality and reveal truths some facts can’t discover. Hosted, edited, and produced by Julián Esteban Torres López.
Original music for The Nasiona Podcast was produced by the Grammy Award-winning team of Joe Sparkman and Marcus Allen, aka The Heavyweights.
Joe Sparkman: Twitter + Instagram. Marcus Allen: Twitter + Instagram.
The Nasiona Magazine and Podcast depend on voluntary contributions from readers and listeners like you. We hope the value of our work to our community is worth your patronage. If you like what we do, please show this by liking, rating, and reviewing us; buying or recommending our books; and by financially supporting our work either through The Nasiona’s Patreon page or through Julián Esteban Torres López‘s Ko-fi donation platform. Every little bit helps.
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