MedSchool and the XR Revolution: Unapologetically Black

Summary

What would Augmented Reality look like from an unapologetically Black perspective? How do you create and pursue ideas without losing your identity? These are the questions that propelled me forward in my creative journey as an AR developer, Black content creator, and a social activist. In this video, I talk about the manifestation of my ideas and projects that led me to finding a medium that didn’t force me to compromise on the decisions of things I wanted to make, instead AR opened up a door of infinite possibilities that can be used to help shape a future that benefits everybody, particularly Black people. Even more so, I also decided to develop a whole curriculum that is at the intersections of Black identity, content creation, just being an artist, being an activist, and being a technologist. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/stuck-e-podcast/support

Transcription

Reflecting back on the journey:

2:16-3:02 “My process of trying to learn Blender, I just got a course off of Udemy and I was just recording myself watching it and learning and hopefully just in a public platform other people could learn as I was learning. I thought just that level of transparency was valuable because you would often get that opportunity in school or you’d get that opportunity if you’re working as a new person on a job. Just a 2–3-hour stream of going through some courses and being out there like that, it felt like it was a way to get connected.”

3:55-4:59 “When you start to lose things or people in general like I was during the pandemic, not because things were being taken from you but just the opportunities were not available and when the opportunities are not available you’ve got to figure stuff out. The feeling that I have about how I have stuff to offer but I don’t know what the opportunities are, being able to share and sort of build a community to create opportunities, that led me to this idea that there’s a potential, there’s a vision for Black creators in the AR space in particular or just XR in general. There’s a space for Black creators… a space to exist that you don’t have to ask permission for.”

 and that space does have to be carved out and manifested but there’s an opportunity and there’s a space to exist that you don’t have to ask permission for.”

5:30-6:05 “I ended up having the opportunity to do an AR project for a Black owned magazine and I just had this vision of what would AR look like from an unapologetically Black perspective? I sort of took on that project and developed it from the ground up just to manifest that vision for a client that essentially didn’t even know what AR was. So, I think that was something really fortunate of me to do.”

6:11-6:40 “How do you be innovative and also sort of propel the culture forward? How do you create and pursue ideas without losing your identity? And I think that that’s always something that Black creators have to develop and manifest or reckon with.”

7:52-8:00 “It’s that in order to sort of grow and innovate as a Black artist, you have to lose the Black.”

8:24-8:44 “I want to use this as a platform to explore my ideas and create a space for myself that allows me to be creative that I could control. That is not going to lose opportunities because of the pandemic and also as I start to grow as a developer.”

9:32-9:45 “To get insights that you would often pay a consultant hundreds of thousands of dollars for, you could find that on a podcast or somebody could share that with you and build a community just to find support.”

10:00-11:08 “It says something for a Black person to innovate and be an artist and be a creator and also be vulnerable and also be a thought leader. So, just exploring that dichotomy and manifesting that within myself and putting it out there, I just wanted to see what would happen because health disparities exist and all of these different things that are happening, especially now. A lot of Black celebrities that we grew up on – AJ Johnson to DMX to Michael K. Williams, things are happening and its Black people that are experiencing and falling to these things. So, it’s like how do you sort of balance that with Black artists and creators that are thinking about the future despite that looming reality that that future may be more contemporary than futuristic.”

12:22-12:49 “One of the goals was that as I learn I want to share and essentially transmit information that I found and I’ve experienced to people just on the internet and be available in that capacity to hopefully inspire people to just take on that journey themselves. Whether you’re an artist yourself, a developer, the goal was to just be a resource for people.”

Looking Towards the Future:

15:40-16:38 “For people that know what it’s like to be an athlete and to try to find your identity after you finish playing football or any sort of college or professional sport, that idea of identity and crisis and who are you and what defines you now? That was a moment where I really felt like I wasn’t defined by the stuff that I was able to do physically and it was actually just ideas that I came up with and so my mind really manifested these opportunities. And to think that that was just a byproduct of an idea that I just wanted to create something that allowed me to express myself as a Black person that loves technology and loves the idea of innovation. It just felt like it mattered.”

18:13-18:52 “I also decided to develop a whole curriculum that is at the intersections of Black identity, content creation, just being an artist, being an activist, and being a technologist and saying what does it look like to create innovative projects that allow you to build your portfolio, develop the skills that will prepare you for this XR revolution that will be coming and also give you something cool that you can share with your friends and be expressive about?”

19:12-20:43 “At this point I’ve been an artist for the past 10 years and out of all the years of me creating, when I got introduced to XR it felt like I didn’t need to compromise on the decisions of things I wanted to make. If I was making a comic, I had to compromise with the fact that I couldn’t animate in a comic form, I couldn’t have sound effects, I couldn’t have these crazy explosions because they would all be still images. And I also had to determine whether I wanted color printing because colored printing is freaking expensive so I had to do Black and white pages because that’s all that I could afford, could only have a certain page count, paper is only so big, and you had to choose what images you were going to draw, you couldn’t draw all the images and have them play in front of people, right? And so, when I created my AR comic and just demoed it out, I was able to record the voices, I had sound effects, I had animation in it, I had color, all of those different things and then on top of that I could still have my illustrated pages and then I was just layering stuff on it. And to take it to the next level I actually had interactions in it to where people could press buttons on the page and unlock different things from it.”

21:55-22:22 “Its a healthy level of creativity and competition that only makes things better and if Black people are involved and Black people are doing well with it, then even better because then things are always going to feel safe and helpful and healthy for me to continue being a creator in this space and that’s really important to me.”

23:23-23:40 “The value to me is not the products themselves but what those products represent. Those products represent a gateway to a new way of thinking and a new skill level that will continue to have more value in.”

24:43-25:12 “Other creators need to experience this and other creators can take things that they’ve been working on and they could shift it just with adding technology to it. I mean we all use our phones and we all use our devices and so how do you utilize those devices to help you go down this pathway of being a successful creator that inspires people and then you just pay it forward.”

Being a Content Creator While Attending Medical School:

27:20-28:28 “It has made me not question my decisions for other things but it’s made me see where my convictions lie with my interest as a creator and my interest as being an academic and also my interest in being, in many ways somebody that wants to continue inspiring and pushing myself. Because the looming thing about it is when you look at all of the stuff I’ve put out, it doesn’t necessarily say medical school but the fact is that I’m in medical school. It’s like how do I balance my interest in wanting to be a physician with my interest of continuing to be an artist and the Black AR guy, how do I continue to be the Black AR guy and be a medical student? And during a pandemic with all of these different things.”

28:41-30:07 “I’m also 1 of 4 Black students in a class of 70 and I feel that a lot. Mainly because when we’re talking about health disparities you instantly start to think about Black Lives Matter, how Black people are disproportionately being affected by Covid compared to other populations, the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments, and healthcare hesitancy and all that stuff and then you look around and see that you’re like the only person in the room that represents that population. You also realize that you’re one of the only people that have that opportunity to be a representative for that. And it comes with a layer of responsibility that can be debilitating sometimes. Where you get stuck like oh crap, I have to do right by my people by doing well and I can’t mess up, I can’t do these things.”

34:30- 35:20 “I’m always wondering not whether I should do it but what does it look like for this to actually just be a thing? What does it look like for somebody to come into an office and as they’re getting treatment, they get to go on a journey of what that treatment looks like through AR, VR, or just XR in general? What if before somebodies’ surgery, they can download an app and see what that procedure actually looks like and see how the procedure works through animation and AR right in your living room? What if you get to explore your body and get to learn more about yourself through this experience that can often be traumatizing?”

42:55-43:34 “One, I want to see more Black people in the space but I just want to see more people inspired to think that they can create something out of nothing and have an impact on people’s lives that doesn’t have to be sports related or that doesn’t have to be focused on going viral. It’s just all about sharing and pushing people to use the things around them to be better and create a better world.”

47:34-48:22 “Ultimately just creating an environment or at least creating a resource for people to go to and have access to on YouTube or whatever that just really feels inspiring. Not inspiring because you go to this and you learn how to make something but inspiring in terms of what does it look like to just be unapologetic about who you are and then also explore these sorts of whimsical random ideas that may be worth 100,000 dollars in the next 5-10 years.”

48:35-49:18 “We live in a capitalistic society and if something is worth that much money in society, it’s very very valuable and people will treat it with the value and the respect that it deserves. Often, because I can speak as a Black creator and an artist, you often don’t know what the value is of the things that you do. And often there are people that tell you that it doesn’t have value. So, t be able to do things that have such a high value in society, it encourages you to want to do more of that.”

49:30-49:49 “Technology is the future but that doesn’t mean that you need to deviate from the arts, that doesn’t mean you need to deviate away from culture, it doesn’t mean you need to deviate away from the things that you’re currently doing. You just need to progress with the technology as the technology matures so will you.”

56:26-57:49 “What does it look like to have a space where you can put things that pertain to Black people in a space that’s not going to get vandalized, it’s not going to get overly policed, you can be Black in society and not have to worry about freaking racists and Proud Boys and all those people trying to mess it up. The thing that I have always found just so insincere is that people will have no problem putting up racist monuments and then trying to ruin your livelihood for trying to speak out and doing something about just the very nature of having a confederate monument right in front of your house, especially as a Black person that pays taxes. But then have the audacity to deface, destroy, fine you for trying to put up and honor people that fell victims to the oppressive society that we’re supposed to be past.”

1:00:05-1:01:06 “Colin Kaepernick, just the many athletes, the many people that have said things and had their livelihoods taken away from them as a punishment for the things that they had to say about experiences that people are having. I will say ‘taken away’ because their livelihoods were changed because they decided to do something about something that has plagued Black and brown people, particularly Black people since the ages. So, how dare they use a platform that they worked hard for to gain and have access to say how they feel about certain things?”

1:02:00-1:02:35 “That is a level of pride that incorporates culture in a very authentic way that you can’t package and you can’t sell as a business-to-business solution. The only way that you could achieve that is if you empower people to explore an idea and build a community around that idea that empowers other people to participate in that.”

1:03:22-1:03:30 “It’s really that idea of what is it like to be unapologetically Black and use technology to be even more unapologetic about it?“

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