Relentless Culture Recap ft. Terrell Villiers


For the past few years, this website has been built upon the stories of people and their journeys of relentlessness. I’d like to open up this forum as an outlet for people to get to know me, A.K.A. the kyd, MiCaih J. T., and see the things that keep me going in life. I’ve listed a bunch of music, shows, and an interview with Terrell Villiers in hopes that you’ll get a peek into what keeps me relentless.


--

Music:


Been listening to music for the soul lately.


1. Ravyn Lenae’s “HYPNOS

MUTHER…


2. Erykah Badu’s “Worldwide Underground

Dallas music.


3. William McDowell



Music that takes you “in." Heals you.


4. Monaleo


Mantras for Niggafication.


--

Shows:


1. Mary Mary’s show from 2008


I used to watch this all the time w/ my mom and they’re genuinely so funny. Like I can’t w/ them.


2. Noah’s Arc


Yuh.


--

Interview with Terrell Villiers:


Waves of divine insight strike-through Terrell Villiers, a Jamaican-American illustrator who finds solace through creation, community, and ancestry. Composing themselves through his being, Villiers’ ancestors stand present within him, allowing him to stand as an iteration of ever-present love. He uses his artistry to illustrate the forthcomings of underground black-queer scenes. Through his work, he’s been featured in a number of publications such as: Cultured Magazine, Astrophe Magazine, Kaleidoscope Magazine, Totem Magazine, and more. As well as being commissioned for brands and projects such as: Apple, Gucci, The Standard Hotel, B4 Sounds Records, (F)empower, GHE20G0TH1K, Nosesso, L’Enchanteur, and more.


His uniqueness radiates from him, exuding colors that contrast the gray hues of his counterparts. He creates life, trying to breathe nuance upon his friends and trying to agape the binary. Through his inner freedom, Villiers opens up portals of imagination and gives joy to those in close proximity.



Micaih: Black kids- we’re born with this deep sense of freedom. But sometimes we're born into environments that hinder that freedom. So we have to open up these imaginative portals to escape. Tell me about your upbringing, and the process of discovering opening up worlds was possible.


Terrell: Growing up, it was very obvious that I was visibly queer. I would run around and do all sorts of crazy shit. I was very loud, animated, and flamboyant as a kid. I naturally drew a lot of attention to myself. At some point, at a young age, I stopped trying to draw more attention to myself, out of the fear of shame. That's when I started to create these imaginary friends whom I would then draw as characters and create storylines and imaginary worlds that I would just get so sucked into. During my adolescent years, I was often rejected from many young black communities growing up in the deep south, due to my visible queerness. So, as a result, I began to occupy predominantly white, punk, alternative spaces. It was always easy for me to carve out a space for myself wherever I went because it was always something I had to do to survive. I was kicked out of both my parents’ homes when I was freshly eighteen years old and still in my senior year of high school. So I've always had to find my own way, from young. I would say three to four years ago, after the sudden passing of my brother, was when I had my first serious ego death which resulted in my first real spiritual awakening. This led me to leave behind my internalized anti-blackness I possessed while occupying white spaces for survival, and embark on a journey of self-discovery. It was during that crucial time in my life was when I was discovered by the collective Masisi, a new Black-Queer Caribbean Party that was creating intentional safe spaces in the Miami nightlife scene for black queer people. Through creating those first flyers, I began to find myself back, for the first time, in those imaginary spaces I created as a kid, in search of what my own safe spaces looked like. It was also the first time in my life that I was making the direct connection between my art and my caribbean heritage, that’s when I really began to make the connection that ‘Oh, this is definitely coming from a power above me.’


When I began to attend the parties, I was completely astonished by what I was seeing: Black Queer Freedom, personified as a dark, dim lit room full of sexy, sweaty, empowered bodies. I was shocked at how people were making the conscious attempt to emulate the looks and energy I would embody in the characters on the flyers. A lot of the imagery that I was creating, sometimes felt like I was seeing it come to life right before my eyes, and I'd be like, ‘Oh, that's really crazy.’ That began the catalyst of change and intention behind my work.


Micaih: How do you bring that power into your art form?


Terrell: I think a big thing for me has been community, my friends & chosen family. I often say that my work is purely just fanart of my friends. I draw my friends in almost all my pieces. They often bring that light and inspiration into my life that pushes me to create. When I moved to Miami, and joined Masisi, that was the first time in my life when I felt seen and accepted by a Black community. It was the first time I saw Black people reflect what I looked like, sounded like, and acted like. Growing up in Central Florida, I grew up around a lot of Black people, but not a lot of Black-Queer people. People in my high school definitely made it very clear that I was different from the ‘average black man’. The Miami queer community gave me a space to release the burden of shame I hadn't realized I’d been carrying on my back for decades. It felt like a true awakening.



Micaih: What role does community play in your life, now?


Terrell: I definitely feel like my community has been a really powerful force in the light that people talk about when they see my work. People often say my work feels so euphoric, but also so personal, so genuine. These are all a reflection of the all-stars that came up with in the trenches back in the 3-0-5. Shit wasn't always easy for us in Miami. Especially considering we all came up in radical political organizing spaces. Before there was Masisi, there was (F)empower, A queer-feminist collective of radical political activists and organizers in Miami. We were involved in a lot of grass-roots community organizing, political actions, as well as art shows and parties. I lived with the founder, who later became one of my closest friends, and the person single-handedly responsible for politicizing me. Two of my other closest friends which are two Black trans women, taught me everything that I know now about the intersectionalities of Gayness, Queerness,and Transness which inevitbly lead to my understanding of identifying within my queerness. So my friends and community have always been my greatest teachers and professors. Especially considering the fact that I'm very anti-institution, and yes, that includes the institution of education. I didn't get my wisdom or knowledge in the classroom or textbooks, I learned everything I know from the streets. My friends [and] the global queer nightlife community have been so much more than just an escape and solace. For me, it's where I get a lot of my knowledge and inspiration for the visual narratives that I create in my work today.


Micaih: How do those parties reflect themselves in your work?


Terrell: I began to find so much joy in seeing queer black people congregate in mass, and take up space. In South Florida, that shit is typically really dangerous and unheard of. There's so many different people connecting from the shadows of the internet, into in-person interactions. I began to see communities grow and expand from coast to coast right before my eyes. I began to realize that damn, this is actually something really powerful and so much more than just throwing a party. We’re actually providing people safe, intentional spaces to feel free, and more at home than their actual family homes. So that energy, that you see showing up in my work, comes from just being able to participate in spaces like this.