08 Aug The Artist Who Get’s IT
The Artist who get’s IT
-Who is Nabeeh Bilal?
That’s a good question! For as much as I know about Nabeeh Bilail, because no one knows 100% about themselves, I’m an ambitious and relentless individual. I’m probably more ambitious than talented. I’m an artist – not the best – but I’m an artist and a creator. I’m listening to my artistic soul and going wherever it leads me.
Outside of my professional career, I’m a brother, son, uncle, and friend. I also care about the well being of my family. Some people say it’s selfless, some people say it’s kind, I say I’m just being me.
-How did you come up with the Callaloo Kids franchise?
For the past six or seven years, I have been entrenched in animations. I did music videos consistently for a few years, then I realized it wasn’t fulfilling. Something that spoke to me as an African-American male, like so many others working in corporate America, was that money isn’t everything.
I saw everyone else celebrating their culture, except us. I’m the type of person to build my own ladder instead of asking others to pull me up. I took a trip back home to California in 2012, and I made it a mission to visit every beach. While on Venice Beach, feeling like a kid, I said that I wanted to do work for kids; even more, I want media to be more inclusive of African-American culture. I know many people, including myself, feel out of place in the world. With my work, I want to make others feel like a kid again; I wanted to make a product for kids.
My friend and partner, Marjuan Canady, wrote and performed a stage play, “Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale,” and while watching the play, I realized that this was my Disney moment. Whether my friend, the producer, saw it or didn’t see it, I knew this could be big. The play focused on the African Diaspora and its Caribbean folklore. We don’t see those things all the time, but I wanted us to have pride in the culture. As a researcher, I knew my friend had done the proper research on the culture, so as a creative, it was a no-brainer for me to invest my time and effort into the idea and make it come to life. It started as a stage play for adult audiences, and then we turned it into a children’s book. Marjuan didn’t plan on making “Callaloo” a children’s franchise, but it happened! After the first book, “Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale,” we made a second book, “Callaloo: The Legend of The Golden Coqui.” I’m very hands-on with my work, so I made and performed a puppet of our main character, Winston, to accompany the in-person book readings. By doing this, we created a live aspect, which eventually became a web series on YouTube, “How-to with Callaloo.” Most recently, we released a coloring book “Callaloo: Did you know.” The coloring book focuses on culture, international food, and geography. This winter, we will premiere the official stage play of our second book at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C.’s H Street Corridor.
-Tell us about CreativeJunkFood.
CreativeJunkFood is my multimedia production studio. I co-founded it in 2010 with a couple of my former high school classmates. We do design, animation, and video. This was my first time using creative media as a business. When we first started, we did a lot of music videos for artists in the Washington, D.C. area.
Some people say you have to work for your mortgage and then work for your passion. CreativeJunkFood helps pay the bills while also allowing me to focus on things that I love, such as Callaloo and that whole creative process.
CreativeJunkFood was about giving character to people and their brands in a creative way. With the music videos, we were providing the visual narrative to stories told on wax. That’s what we are doing today with brands and business.
Under CreativeJunkFood, I’m planning to start a series for young and middle-age adults that discusses Islam in America as seen from various perspectives. The goal is to humanize everyday Muslims. I want it to be therapy for Muslims and enlightenment for people with a skewed perspective on Islam based on media misrepresentation. There are more Muslims on earth than any other religious sect. When you get into the Islamic faith, there are so many different levels and avenues to visit, various dynamics, rules, experiences, etc.
-Any advice for young Black males and Black creative’s?
For young Black males, don’t limit or short-change yourself. Take an interest in learning who you really are rather than how people define you.
Don’t hold things against people that they cannot control, or allow people to do it to you; be free in your thoughts and live your life! Don’t let a label, or even yourself, stop you. Understand that self-doubt is natural to have when facing a new, difficult challenge, but you must push through and give your all to the task at hand — there’s no failure in giving it your all.
Lastly, READ, READ, and READ. Develop your mind as much as your body. Much of the knowledge you need is in a book of some sort. I’ve learned a ton about what to do and what not to do from simply reading biographical books, magazine articles, etc.
For Black creative’s, collaborate! Take inventory in yourself and others around you. Decide what you’re good at, what you enjoy doing, what you want, and who can help you get it. Be fair to yourself and others. Don’t let your ego destroy you before you have done your biggest work. It sounds good to say you’re the man and know you are capable on your own, but it’s so much easier to do it with a team. A team will take you further. I can see where my team has helped me in my personal life.
It’s a long journey, and it’s best not to travel alone if you want to get far. Your time and effort are your biggest investments in whatever you do; your time is what people pay for. Your time is valuable, and again, your biggest investment.
This article was written by Justin Sims, (IAMMRMENTOR), In hopes of not only inspiring entrepreneurs, but young black males to be the best and the truest version of themselves.
If you like this article and find yourself interested in more positive stories about black millennial age males, please visit WWW.IAMMRMENTOR.CO and follow him on his social media pages IAMMRMENTOR on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Editing By: Ciara Dawson