Today we’d like to introduce you to Ronald Williams.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Ronald. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I graduated from high school in 2012. With a little direction, I chose to follow the crowd and apply to a couple colleges. After receiving denial letters from every school I applied to I took a year off from school to focus on expanding the Tshirt company I started. I was unable to create a stable income for myself, so I made the decision to go back to school. I started Black Xpression as a student at Southwestern Community College. During my time as a student and member of a performance collective (Doc X Society), my mentor, Professor Rachel Hastings, took me under her wing as an “Artivist”, which is where I learned the significance of using art as a tool to enhance social awareness. Most of the projects we created shed light on the realities and tragedies of false imprisonment.
As a community college student, I was failing to find something that fulfilled my creativity. My parents were getting a divorce, friends were beginning to leave the city, and I honestly felt like I was failing to progress in life. In 2016 I started getting familiar with the poetry scene in San Diego. Lyrical Exchange is home to my first performance. My enthusiasm for the poetry community was inspired by the works of poets such as Rudy Francisco and Javon Johnson (Still one of my favorite poets of all time). This was also the year we started hosting our flagship event “Black Xpression Open Mic”. In the beginning stages, I just wanted to provide a space for the artist to network and develop their craft.
The team consisted of Rodney Sanders, Jefferey Mckennie, Sakea Martin, and Ronald Williams. Our first location was Caribbean Pleasures in Chula Vista. This event space was realistically designed to seat 40 people comfortably……. we fit about 80….. every week.
This is where I met the co-owners and my newfound brothers Kyler and Kovu who now assist with the facilitation and organization of events. After a series of unexpected events, we were forced to take our talents 15 minutes down south to “church” located in Barrio Logan. This is where I began to build the bridge between the community and artistic expression. We utilized this space to hold workshops that explored self-identity, empowered community members to speak their truth, and provided the youth with a platform for mentorship. It was unfortunate to leave the space after such a short time, but we knew something bigger was around the corner. Literally.
Presently, we hold our show in the La Bodega Art Gallery where we consistently service 100 attendees every week. It has been amazing to see how far our message has traveled. We have performances and organizations come from Africa, New York, Los Angles and many other locations. I am also a fourth year at San Diego State University pursuing a major in Multimedia with a minor in Entrepreneurship. My ultimate goal is to teach our youth how to utilized the media to promote positive social change. It is an honor to be a resource that the community continues to depend on for food pantries, mental health directories, and safe social experiences that encourage open dialogue.
As we prepare for our second year anniversary on July 20th, we are preparing to finalize partnerships with both The Jacob Center and Diamond Business Association.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
This Road has been far from smooth. Balancing the daily life responsibilities with my dreams and aspirations has lead to a lot of additional obstacles. Looking back on my journey I was disqualified from San Diego State twice. My mother was admitted to the hospital as a cancer patient but is now a survivor. I was assaulted while working at a nightclub, which resulted in a scar one inch away from my jugular.
Spent a little time transitioning from different houses trying to establish my independence. Dodged a potential bench warrant (Parking tickets are the devil). Many borrowed rides and IOU’s, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have changed any of it. Without these experience, I would not have acquired the resilience to push through setbacks.
Black Xpression – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Black Xpression is an idea based around community engagement. I specialize in developing the content that delivers our vision to the world. In the earlier stages of developing our company I was responsible for a majority of the event planning, community outreach, and content development, but now I have the honor of sharing these opportunities with a team of dedicated individuals. Through content development, I have established myself as a “One Stop Shop” for many start-up companies within our organization.
Our business module is also very simple, “For the community, by the community”, we built an entire community with zero corporate funding, investors, or grants. Not sure many other companies can say the same. My greatest accomplishment through Black Xpression is inspiring others to take leaps of faith. Grass root community work gives you the privileged to really impact peoples lives and watch their growth and development over time. I enjoy watching the shy performer become a headline feature for local festivals, or the introverted painter become a commissioned artist who is hired to put murals around the city.
I think that is what sets us apart. Black Xpression is there for people at their lowest and greatest moments. The same people who call during their seasonal depression are the same exact people attending our award ceremonies. We get to see individuals blossom full circle. In our own backyard!
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
My proudest moment so far is when my little sister texted me that one of her co-workers mentioned my event during their job orientation, my dad told me he resurrected an old poem (which he plans on performing), and my mom received her real estate license.
As I get older my priorities are starting to shift, and the family has become a lot more valuable to me. I am not sure if what I do inspires them as much as they inspire me, but I am proud to see how we all manage to stay connected.
- Black Xpression Open Mic ($5)
- Address: 2196 Logan Avenue
- Website: https://www.facebook.com/IWillXpress/
- Phone: 6195789476
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @iwillxpress
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IWillXpress/
Neusha Hashemi, Chris Cinematics and Raresight Photography