Millennial Minds with Shala Akintunde

…because black millennial men need the spotlight, too.

In life, our main assignment should be to use our influence to impact. Today’s millennial man is creative, confident, and innovative enough to curate the life he deserves and desires. Today’s millennial man incorporates sauce and savvy into his personal and professional endeavors. He believes that mentorship and business complement his personality.  Shala Akintunde talks with The Chicago Defender about being a thought leader, creative, and pioneer in our world.

Shala, how does your influence impact the world?

Well, I’m a social impact artist. My work is about using my unique perspective, and my knowledge of how culture influences social progress, to inspire and facilitate change. I think It’s time for creators to take on that responsibility. We have always had the influence. We just let others exploit it to sell sneakers, tickets, and liquor. I am currently using my influence to inspire the adoption of environmental justice solutions and solar technology.

“Sneakers, TIckets, and Liquor” That would make a great title for an exhibit!

Can you tell I’m a rapper, too?

Shala, as a contemporary artist, thought leader, and pioneer, how does your art heal the world?

Heal? Let me think about that. I think my work puts the world in a cast so it can heal itself. I think art purveys culture and my work just brings a structural component that allows progressive culture to thrive. I make solar art. I make solar murals and sculptures that generate electricity. My work, at its best, becomes a platform for sustainability, economic development, and a new medium for other artists. My work is created to be a platform and medium for expression and empowerment. I think that cultivates an environment of healing.

How does Shala describe the social impact and how does this aid in “ushering in a new era of clean energy”?

Social impact is doing things that make a difference or matter to the broader society. . .  especially when it has a lasting effect. It may just be the impact of creating awareness but I think artists have been doing that forever. I’m challenging us to take it to the next level. Let’s be more than witnesses or reporters. Let’s be the heroes and leaders, now. We have been, low-key, for a very long time. Time to own it. One of the ways we can own it is by using our influence and creativity to “usher in a new era of clean energy.” All we have to do is amplify and re-imagine the growing culture and the tech that already exists.

What advice would you give an aspiring artist looking to leave their handprint on the world?

Think about what your work provides. Cultivate that component. Whatever it is. Understand what your art does for people and nurture that relationship. Get out of your own way and make work that matters to more than just yourself. Basically, take the ego out of the art. That’ll make sense eventually if it doesn’t right now.

What advice would you give your younger self personally and professionally?

You matter more than you know and you do not have to earn that consideration. Stop catering to your insecurities and find a bigger issue. Be and act like you matter and focus on being there for others. Everything else will take care of itself.

Oh, and give yourself permission to be great!

Shifting gears, What does self-care mean to you and how do you make non-negotiable efforts to prioritize peace?

I eat right and honor my cheat days so I don’t break bad and stop doing it. I keep smart people around me and honor my alone time. I need it to recharge. I don’t get wrapped up in things that don’t work for me. I’m straightforward about that. I think, mostly, I practice not taking things personally. Everyone is on their own journey and I am just a feature in their world. It’s not always easy because of certain traumas I have but I’m a responsible parent to my childhood traumas now. I express my emotions responsibly and take actions based on my commitments and not my complaints. I focus on “What do I want?” versus “What don’t I want?” and life occurs chill and full of opportunity . . . for the most part.

Shala, share with us your thoughts on one of the biggest misconceptions of being a black man in America?

We’re all warriors of some kind. It’s both an honor and a curse. It acknowledges an aspect of our power but it dehumanizes us. This universal myth is shared, even by us, because of the patriarchal belief in dominance. It does not serve us in the long run. We are still arguably ruled, exploited, and controlled by those perceived as “weaker” so, at best, it gives us a false and fleeting sense of power. Even worse it gives us the disempowering permission to stay within the shrinking confines of that societal misconception until we are smashed within its walls. Warriors don’t feel or communicate until we are gasping for air from a gunshot wound, cancer, or suicide attempt. Yeah. I am not static. I am dynamic. I have feelings. We are more than just active, passive, or potential warriors. We are human.

Don’t tell me how to be black.

Lastly, finish this sentence. As a millennial mind, it is important for readers to know…

. . that the eighth collection of my portrait series Shala’s Seven Spoon drops soon and if you would like first access to the collection and exhibit opening, visit my site and email me. It’s a collection of pieces featuring a teenage girl and her subversive Quotables. I have a great following. It will be my first NFT collection, too. My next public solar installation is going to be incredible so collecting my art now is strongly advised!

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