Born and raised in Chicago by younger parents, Azia was exposed to culture early. She was only 6 years old and knew all the lyrics to JAY-Z's "Can’t Knock the Hustle." She regularly accompanied me on excursions to photograph graffiti on the South and West Side and was always down for long visits to the Art Institute of Chicago. Azia’s mixed-race background also provided her with a unique socio-political perspective of the Black experience in America and the story of first-generation Filipino immigrants. This early exposure to hip-hop and art, along with her biracial upbringing, profoundly impacted her personal and professional journey.
Through grade school and high school, Azia best expressed her creativity on the soccer field, where she’d throw up the Roc-A-Fella diamond after every goal she scored. She started to become interested in music, film, and drawing, but soccer and athletics still reigned supreme in her world at that time. Eventually, she achieved her dream of playing college soccer at New York University (NYU). However, an injury, unfortunately, derailed her plans. But Azia tapped into her competitive spirit, seeking out a career that would allow her to express her point of view and her love for art and music.
Along the way, she linked up with some amazing creatives and mentors, absorbing their knowledge, not like a sponge but more like a black hole. She dove into these experiences headfirst, while adopting the Zen Buddhist practice, Shoshin, which means "beginner’s mind." The Japanese term refers to having an attitude of open-mindedness and letting go of preconceptions when studying a subject or experiencing an event. You can see this openness and highly-engaged approach to art on full display in* A3 Mag*, as it celebrates and showcases the Black and brown creative community. Combining her unique upbringing, music industry experience, and creative marketing background, Azia thoughtfully curates engaging content and explores the power of visual storytelling in A3 Mag.
She sat down with me to discuss the creation of A3 Mag, what it means to her, and how she's spreading the gospel of Black creative excellence in the worlds of street art, high art, and everything in between.
JJ: Describe A3 Mag and its overarching objectives as a content provider? Why did you decide it was a project worth pursuing? AJ: Generally, the goal of A3 is to celebrate Black and brown artists and visionaries while challenging public perception of what it means to be creative. There was a need to show the power of creativity beyond visual and performing arts and to give credence to the belief that your ideas, talents, and passions are all worth nurturing as a creative. I saw A3 filling that void. I also wanted to highlight the cultural expression of art as a form of activism and change peoples' perceptions of the Black community. On my creative journey, I hadn't yet discovered my preferred medium or what I wanted to put my all into. Instead, I admired and learned from the different types of creatives featured in this magazine, who are each fighting our fight through their own mediums.
Did the current political climate have any influence on starting A3? It definitely heightened my awareness of the power of the Black voice and our resiliency. A3 is my visual ode to the community I love.
What specific experiences shaped your view on culture and community, and how does this translate into the creation of A3 Mag? My experiences working in the entertainment industry and living in NYC have been instrumental in shaping my idea of community. I've met so many amazing Black and brown creatives in the past five years that have done amazing things and who dream of doing so much more. The entertainment industry is a unique space, bringing together music artists, photographers, stylists, designers, directors, entrepreneurs, and creative directors. And on the marketing and business side, you have your creative marketing teams, graphic designers, writers, etc.
I think people's idea of 'art' and 'creativity' is so limited, especially when we're all actually creative. I see all of those different types of 'creatives' and 'artists' as one community. I saw the magazine as an opportunity to create a platform that could tell these individuals' stories and build community. Through my curation, A3 is the manifestation of that vision.
What is A3's role in impacting culture and community? I see us developing an audience for Black art and exposing people to artists they hadn't heard of before, as well as the creatives behind their favorite pieces. I envision A3 prioritizing community over clout, reinforcing the notion that together we are unstoppable.
What type of artists are featured in A3 Mag, and how does this differ from what’s already out there? A3 Mag features more than just visual and performing artists. We also showcase entrepreneurs, art collectors, curators, designers, stylists, etc. I believe that the creative community is larger than realized niches. When surveying the editorial space, I didn't see a platform highlighting creatives as I envision us, in solidarity, as a community.
What does A3 stand for? A3 has many symbolic meanings to me, but in its essence, it means 'Art As Activism'. We believe that Black creativity is a powerful tool to combat oppression and racism, as well as being a form of cultural expression.
Why are you so passionate about the Black and brown creative community? Being a creative who's both Black and Filipino, I'm constantly inspired by those who look like me doing dope shit. I see all of us as dreamers, creating a new world that may not look like our reality. But putting that energy and our ideas out into the universe is what, ultimately, manifests new realities. Continuing to dream and fighting for representation is how we shatter the glass ceiling as creatives of color.
Tell me about the feedback you’ve received from the community and artists featured. All I can say is, WOW! Overall, it's been super positive. Every person I've connected with on this project has told me how essential and timely this is for our community. For the most part, everyone has been responsive and sees this as an untapped space to celebrate and explore. Those who are featured have been such a joy to work with, and I can't thank them enough for being a part of the vision. They're all in the A3 family now!
In spite of the positive reception, is there anything you would change with this first issue? Nope. I'm very happy with it. I know I can only improve from here. This first issue is, honestly, my proof of concept to myself and the world. I'm just trying to put positive energy out into the world, so it can come back to me.
When you look back at this issue, what do you think you'll be most proud of and why? Honestly, just taking the leap to do it. I've enjoyed every minute of creating and curating this inaugural issue. As my first solo creative project, I'm proud to give Black and brown creatives their flowers and more!