Make Your Own Luck
Two young Clevelanders set out to New York over the past week, determined to pursue personal dreams by making their own luck. Why is this important? It embodies the spirit of the hustle. It means that these young dudes in high school get what takes many people years to understand about their dreams and ambitions. If you want something to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone and go get it.
Neo and Terry consider themselves brothers - perhaps not by birth, but their bond is evident. We met up at the Cleveland Museum of Art to discuss a trip they had been plotting for some time. Neo was caught up in traffic at the time, so Terry and I took a moment to speak on his background, motivations, and decision to head to the city.
Park+Jungle: How long have you known Neo?
Terry: Since I was 13. Before then I was living in a hotel, well, more like a motel with my mom. I got a job at Chipotle and eventually moved to a better place. We had our disagreements and I got kicked out. Ever since then I’ve been living with Neo.
I really hadn’t done too much art in that time period, maybe 7 pieces. By 2017 I was working 40 hours a week so it was the last thing on my mind. January of this year things really started changing. My manager would ask me if I still wanted to work and I’d play it off like- yeah! Of course! I’d be at work making $600 checks so I was good. My manager recognized something inside me wasn’t being fed properly, so he told me I should figure that out and I left. I started painting immediately.
I have a teacher who had us working on some artwork- I posted it on Instagram and it blew up. It was reposted by TheShadeRoom, and things just started rolling from there.
PJ: So you guys have a kickstarter campaign for your trip to NY- tell me about it.
The idea came about downtown Cleveland. I was reading ‘Becoming a Leader’ by Dr. Myles Munroe, and something told me to get off the bus. We were by Tower City next to The 9, which is the most affluent hotel in our area I believe. We went in, headed to the banquet hall and I was just there looking at all these people around me. I was like man, I’m in the presence of all these wealthy people that probably came from good families…we got kicked out. (Laughs)
I didn’t look like I was supposed to be there. But I had this thought come to mind. Why couldn’t I be those people? What if I dressed up like a rich person and painted next to this area? I wanted to see what type of reactions I’d get. Neo had an idea to go to New York and I was like ok- I’ll do it there. The idea evolved from just doing rich people to dressing up as different economic statuses. I want to evoke as much emotion as I can.
PJ: What are some artists that inspire you?
Terry: Off-rip it’s Jean-Michel Basquiat, its definitely Jonathan Manyin(?) he did the artwork for Reasonable Doubt (JAY Z), It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot (DMX), Stankonia (Outkast), he’s amazing. Nicholas Ivy Draper! He did the artwork for the Black Panther Soundtrack, crazy stuff. My brother Neo, and Wonton Swoope. He’s from Cleveland. He’s a photographer.
PJ: Was art a gift borne of necessity, or was it something that just made you feel alive?
Terry: That’s a good question. It’s a mixture of both. It was escapism as a kid. We lived in bad conditions when I was a child. There was a kid on my street who used to draw Megaman when I was little. He ended up moving to New York ironically, but at the time I was hurt. I told myself if he was going to leave I wanted to start drawing like him. It went from a passion to a career.
We walk around a while waiting for Neo to arrive. Terry speaks freely on the art we encounter and lends his perspective on his passion and chasing goals. He’s still in High School, but has a rounded viewpoint on it.
Terry: People would rather watch a whole season of reality TV than get up and work because it feels good to see someone else living their life, making boss moves, and yet you’re still at home doing nothing. It seems easier! A lot of us have a mentality thinking we’re destined to get shot or something. That’s not the case. If you want to get something done you can get it done. We also have to start keeping money in our community. You know what happened to Black Wall Street. It’s gotta happen (again) though, it’s just that no one wants to get their hands dirty. Everyone wants the easy way out.
This world reminds me of a microwave. Nothing is based on longevity. (People want things quick...)It’s all Ramen Noodles…you feel me? If you want to succeed what does it take? Long nights, long hours…
Neo shows up after mometarily being caught in traffic.
PJ: What is your position in this adventure you and your brother are going on?
Neo: I’d definitely say photographer…creative director. We were both hand in hand in conducting this experiment.
PJ: What’s your bigger picture?
Neo: I want to be a Director. I eventually want to go to film school , but as of right now I just want to get deeper into videography and perfect my craft to the best of my ability.
PJ: Who inspires you?
Neo: Hmm..Director X, I know that’s a cliché one but…Ali…there’s this dude who did the visuals for Vince Staples "Prima donna" short film, I can’t remember his name off-top. There’s another guy named Elevator Kevin, he did a couple of Q-Money video’s. I was actually at his “Never Had None” shoot. I was able to work with him and he gave me a couple of tips here and there.
Our conversation trails into the impact of Hype Williams and circles back around into what Neo hopes to accomplish on their New York trip. They exemplify a truth; working together, the journey can become a much smoother and enjoyable ride. With the capacity to do anything, especially in a society that expects them to do nothing, they choose to take chances and believe in the possibilities of obtaining success. Execution is a skill of its own, as anyone who has ever tried to do anything can attest to, and thus must be respected. The great philosopher Khalil Gibran once said…
“Believing is a fine thing, but placing those beliefs into execution is a test of strength. Many are those who talk like the roar of the sea, but their lives are shallow and stagnant, like the rotting marshes. Many are those who lift their heads above the mountain tops, but their spirits remain dormant in the obscurity of the caverns.”