I was born and raised in Saginaw, MI. I went to Buena Vista High School. After I graduated, I went to Eastern Michigan University for Electronic Media and Film, and Business Administration. I graduated in 2012 and did freelance work for a long time, working for different companies in a lot of different capacities providing art and digital stuff. Then, I went to grad school for a while, but I guess I wasn’t the student I once was at that time. So eventually, it was just more expensive than it was worth.
I’m also a spoken word artist, and even beyond that, I enjoy writing in general. I do a lot of poetry performances and writing. Writing is like a therapy that supports me. I appreciate that a lot. It helps me to express myself. It helps me to kind of get a grasp, and get a point of relation I can communicate with to other people, which is immensely helpful. As a graphic artist, I started doing a lot of symmetric and technical art. Then, I started doing a lot of technical writing like web design, interface design, organizing information and presenting it in ways that people can appreciate. It was a way of taking a form of communicating and bridging the gap in the corporate world.
Poetry has been my entire life. As a graphic artist, that was something that was passion-driven, then financially-driven. After I graduated from college, I had to earn some sort of income and do something. So, doing the graphic design, media design, and technical writing stuff was a way for me to generate income.
I’m inspired constantly by a lot of things, like friends and people that I’m around a lot, things that I witness or encounter, like all of the recent events that are going on in the world. Things like that inspire me immensely. It’s like when something jumps on you and it feels like there’s something to be said, that there’s something to express. It’s kind of maddening. So, once that feeling or thought is there, it starts to build until it becomes an idea or thought or whatever it’s going to be. At that point, it’s just putting in the time and effort to execute and create what you see.
With my work, the biggest thing I want people to take away is the realization that I’ve learned, acquired, and done plenty things in my life. Not as much as I’d hope to get done, but I grew up right in the middle of Saginaw, a marginalized community. Everybody doesn’t understand that, but the fact of the matter is I lived in a world that was kind of entrapped in itself. It was like a hall of mirrors. And I just want to feel that when people come behind me, kids that grow up from Saginaw today or from marginalized communities, they can realize the potential in themselves not by looking at me or admiring anything that I’ve done, but being able to see that story or relate to it, and see how that connects to things going on in their lives.
I’ve faced barriers from just being a Black person in general. But as an artist, there’s always the gatekeeper. Like, if you’re a touring artist whether that be acting or poetry or anything like that, there’s always a new market. For example, when I got to Detroit, there was a full society of artists and poets. And I’m just being on the outside trying to get in there, push my way around, and find my own space and my own comfort zone. That’s been my biggest barrier, but it hasn’t been that big of a task. I never focused on it. It never mattered to me. It kind of motivates me to get out and push the envelope and show people what they’re capable of, pushing them to do more and go further, to keep going, and to keep growing.
People should be intentional about supporting local Black artists because the economy needs it. People have to understand how important those things are. When you’re dead and gone, the only things that will be left are the things that you created, things that you put out into the world that permeates. I want to be able to create something that 100 years from now, people will look at it and think, “wow, this speaks to me now. Today.” People should support art for sure, but people should also appreciate what they can relate to, what they connect to. I don’t think people should force it or feel like I need to support your show because you’re a Black artist or an artist from my neighborhood. It’s not genuine or it’s not good for the art in general. I like people being genuine in their consumption and making sure they’re pushing the artist to dig deep and pull out the things they can relate to and appreciate.
Black artists should be celebrated all the time, 366 days a year, especially in this part of the world because of the whole culture and history of our nation and who we are. Who we developed into today as Americans is all built on the foundation of the African American experience, the development of the Negro culture, and the things that was developed out of the art done 100 years ago. When you watch, read, and listen to all of these things, you realize they were created on the fabric and foundation of who we are today as people. Everything that we do, especially in our culture, is built on the expression or extension or the experience of the Negro in our society.
I would encourage anybody to spend time with themselves as artists. You get so wrapped up in trying to please the audience or even pleasing yourself. It’s a miss-motivation. It’s not the wrong motivation, but eventually, you’ll end up in a place where it’s hard to create. So, spend some time understanding yourself, how you relate to all of the things that surround you, how those things relate to the things that surround them and how it all fits. It’s one big tapestry; everything is interwoven together. So, make sure you spend time with yourself so you know how you can relate to everything around you and then grow from there.
Jason Ford, Poet & Graphic Artist
The Black Artists Series highlights local Black artists and their journeys. Due to COVID-19, we’ve turned our original video series into a blog-style series. The blog is fully in the artist’s own words.