By: Antoinette Genevieve
February 13, 2020
In a time when black voices are reaching more audiences than ever, the show of support from the community has become ever more pressing. The need to express and commune with those who can commiserate or find empathy with the black experience is reaching more of us, and the desire to inform, inspire, and elevate the black community is growing. This is where Jack King (better known as Parker Edison) brings the spotlight to what matters to many, right now. For me, the most important takeaway from the current social justice movement has been the increased need to create space for a segment of the creative community that is often sidelined or relegated to a genre assignation that diminishes the merit and importance of their craft. Indeed, rappers are the ones who have, for over thirty years provided a space for the children of single parent homes and outlier communities to shine and create without judgement or character assassination.
At the core of Parker Edison’s mission is two things, serving the community and elevating conversations. San Diego, a city not well known for its assumptive blackness has been provided with a resource in Edison. The rapper-turned-culture-curator is a visionary to some and the long awaited voice for others, but that is part of the charm. The “Parker Edison Project”, produced by KPBS is a podcast that truly provides a window into conversations, not from a third party perspective or the curious champion of freedom; but with its own unique sense of locality, familiarity, and empathy.
The journey before us all, is laden with challenges and moments of genuine, hopeful reflection.
“If you tend to a flower, it will bloom, no matter how many weeds surround it.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo.
We cannot hope for perfection, but we can be assured that the tools and resources required are well underway.
“What comes to mind when you think of American culture? The Parker Edison Project works to expand the cliché answer to that question. It’s a podcast that zooms way in on what really makes a culture — food, music, style, sex, fashion and more. Join host and co-creator Parker Edison for insightful conversations about creativity and community, all through the lens of Black America. This is the Parker Edison Project, a sonic exploration of what’s considered American, where each episode starts with a thought-provoking talk and ends with a musical bang” – KPBS
The newest addition to KPBS’s podcast lineup is “ The Parker Edison Project”. Parker Edison (PE), the rapper, artist, and cultural conversationalist sat down to talk with Vanguard Culture (VC). Read on to see our conversation.
VC: I’m pretty excited to talk to you! I’ve actually been following your career in the creative field in San Diego for a while, so it’s really cool to see our paths collide. I mean what spurned all of this, and what made you develop a podcast now?
PE: This is what I’ve been doing. I’m always having these Barbershop kind of conversations because that is what interests me, you know having these intimate exchanges where I get information and it broadens the picture of things in my life… so I have conversations. My manager is Chris Reyes from Platform Collection and he told me that I should start doing these conversations on Instagram live – like last year. He told me to just do little 6 minutes segments of places I went. And we did that, and it worked, it worked really well. And somebody, another artist that works for KPBS called me and asked if I was interested in expanding it and bringing it to KPBS. All of that to say, that’s what I do anyway. I really enjoy these conversations and when other people are privy to them, I don’t have to relay that information again or catch them up. The show kind of does that for me.
VC: Ok, so your first episode obviously is your intro and it’s an exceptional thing to launch for any individual at this point in time, but for you, as someone who is championing otherness it’s probably pretty pivotal. Why did you select the interviewees that you chose for your first episode?
PE: Those were honestly the conversations I most recently had. I was doing the short episodes on Instagram and the week that I had been contacted I had just done an episode with Latanya – It’s still on my Instagram stories! So they were genuine conversations I had. It made sense to just continue those conversations. I think Lantanya and I had dinner for two nights, then just went to a park and began recording things. Same with Alanna Airitam, I had been going back and forth with her because I’d been following her for years and am a huge fan of her work. I saw the Golden Age series grow and kept reading articles that drew me to her.
VC: I really like the way you outlined the topic for the audience in the intro, “It’s going to touch on women in film, fashion into film, film into fashion, and from there into popular culture and will real-world images…” can you elaborate further on how you believe that culture and creativity work in tandem?
PE: I think, because I’m really working at it, I actually believe that if the idea is to be as much of yourself as possible and to be as in tune and honest with yourself as possible, and then when the cameras are rolling you’re not performing, people are just serendipitously catching these moments. Because of that, I’m more about just trying to set life up. So that all of my life creates these experiences. This way, the film or the recording is just a means of remembering, but my overall goal is to create experiences that please me and help people around me. That just makes my life better, so the main thing I want to do is try to put that on film and show people. Or recording in the hopes that people go, “oh you can do that in everyday life”. That’s the real goal.
VC: Personally, I’m intrigued by the dynamic between you and the audience. Generally speaking the listeners of KPBS are not necessarily minorities, and the same could be said about the San Diego Community. Right now it’s interesting to see a lot of these spaces take notice of that minority community at large. It seems as though it is a perfect time for you to champion the things that you’re discussing especially with regard to identity and culture. Since identity is so multifaceted, how do you hope to address this with the audience in a broader sense? And are you hoping to at least instill knowledge in people who may not have had experiences with certain communities?
PE: Yes, I think people of color naturally have this thing where we automatically give the backstory in our conversations, like we are very aware that people are listening in on the conversation. So it’s just the nature of our conversations, but I do want to give people who are “outsiders” a place to get into the loop. The second episode is a great example: it’s about southeast San Diego’s and its underground improv scene, and it’s very much coded information. I don’t want this to be a podcast for “outsiders”, I want it to be primarily for the people who care about these subjects. I want those people to be like “oh, finally someone is picking this conversation up from where I’m at”, as opposed to going all the way back to the beginning and talking about it for outsiders. That’s one thing I’m trying to do. It’s almost like art for artists as opposed to art for the audience. Although I do think the audience is sharp enough and that with social media there is enough information out there.
VC: Name three books that you would recommend to your audience or any potential listeners. Or something that you would think people should read to better understand black culture.
PE: The Autobiography of Malcolm X – everyone should read it. It’s one of the greatest story arcs in history. The Tao of Wu by Riza. Because it breaks down these really big ideas into very simple statements. It’s a short book, only about 40-50 pages, but it covers so much. And there’s another music book, because I’m a musician and that’s where my passions lie – number three is The Tanning of America by Steve Stoute. It’s a really sharp piece, and it’s fantastic because it compares what we think, what we know, what insiders know, and the lineage of marketing and the way black people can become more accepted and savvy in our representation.
VC: Out of all of the conversations you’ve had, who or what would you say is the most impactful conversation so far? Someone who informed but also empowered you.
PE: I’m going to give this person their due, because I’ve been talking to them for about a year now and I hope to get her on the show, it’s a young lady named Skyler McCurine. She is a young thinker from San Diego, a woman of color and there’s a recent article about her. One thing she has been doing that is super interesting to me is that she’s been coaching women on how to defend themselves against the pay gap. Through strategic planning, she offers guidance and instruction on how to get the advancements and the raises that they are vying for. And her skill-set is amazing, I’ve also heard her so say so many interesting and insightful things. Skyler is just chock-full of these insights and I have never met somebody that I am so consistently impressed with.
VC: And what do you think young audiences can learn from this podcast or experience from these conversations? I mean, KPBS is a nice platform for younger audiences, so is there a way to instill knowledge or influence them in some way? Do you feel an obligation to these younger people in anyway?
PE: Absolutely, every episode is chock-full of knowledge. Every episode has wisdom in it and we add thoughts that are cutting edge or outside the curve.