Welcome to Conversations with Black Creators. This week, we're chatting with Alcynna Lloyd, Texas-based journalist, writer, and podcast producer.
(Editor’s Note: This is the third feature in our series, Conversations with Black Creators, which is intended to highlight Black creatives’ work in various fields. At Tako Agency, we are really proud of being creators--people who pour creativity and skill into beautiful projects that add value to a corner of the world--and we want to make sure that all creators have a platform from which to make every corner burst with life.
The murder of George Floyd was a Molotov cocktail smashed onto the simmering rage, grief, and racial injustice that has plagued this country for hundreds of years. I’m not going to go off on a tangent here because the purpose of this series is to amplify Black voices, not mine, but I’ll say this: Black Lives Fucking Matter. End police brutality. This time, I hope, change is permanent. It’s up to us--all of us--to make it so.
To support Black creatives, Tako Agency is making a donation to the Black Art Futures Fund for every feature in this series we publish on the Tako Stand. The outpouring of funding and philanthropic giving that was initiated when #BLM re-entered the spotlight in May was a GREAT thing, but we believe it’s consistent support over time that makes the most difference.
I hope you enjoy. If you or someone you know would like to be featured, please contact us here. -- Grace, Marketing + Content Director
Alcynna Lloyd is a vivacious Liberian refugee immigrant and an award-winning podcast producer, writer, and journalist. She is also a recreational singer who loves pineapple in her tacos. (A preference that is highly suspect, IMO, but her answers to the other questions in this interview need to be heard, so I’ll allow it.)
Alcynna’s work revolves almost exclusively around the American housing and economic markets, which prepared her to rattle off a dizzying flurry of heartbreaking statistics about Black homeownership and generational wealth in the US during our interview. She is passionate about the subject, and I got the feeling that much of her success can be attributed--to her dedication to education and extremely hard work, of course--but also to her raw, irrepressible desire to tell stories.
Alcynna is big on passion, and she’s one of those people to whom it seems to come naturally. As we talked, it became obvious whenever we hit on something that hooked her heart--straightening up, speaking articulately at lightning speed, eyes wide, and face wildly animated.
I suspect that she’s probably never approached anything without first deciding it was the best thing ever. Her energy is so contagious that I left our interview literally squealing and jumping up and down, shouting to a friend in the other room that it was one of the most invigorating conversations I’ve ever had.
Hey Alcynna! Go ahead and introduce yourself.
My name is Alcynna Lloyd. I am a refugee immigrant from Liberia and, now, an American citizen. I’m a writer and journalist.
This question comes from my Editor, Grace; she posed it after seeing your bio on HousingWire: when do you sleep?
[laughs] I don’t.
(Editor’s Note: I knew it.)
But seriously, how do you find balance between work, life, and mental health when you have so much on your plate?
The news cycle is so laborious--it is constant. A lot of the time, it’s about finding what parts of my life are worth celebrating or indulging in. Luckily, my Editor is really good about mental health days, so if I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I can take those. There’s a lot going on in the world, and, as a citizen of the world, I have to make sure that I can actively participate by allowing myself rest.
You graduated from University of North Texas, majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in political science and history. What drew you down that road?
I remember when I was five or six, my dad would have me up at like five in the morning to take me to daycare, and every morning, he’d listen to NPR. We moved to America during the [Liberian] Civil War, so my parents used the news as a way to see what was going on in the lives of friends and family back home.
From a young age, I learned that storytelling is an important part of the human experience. I realized, through my dad [listening to NPR], that this is what I want to do--I want to be there to learn about people, and to make sure their stories are told.
I hear you won an award for your university news show, The Eyes of Denton, while you were at UNT. Tell us about that.
It was a TIPA award. I ran two radio shows--one was about international topics, and the other one was more Denton-based. (UNT is in Denton, TX.) I won the award for the The Eyes of Denton podcast.
Specifically, it was for an episode about a girl I knew who had recently come out as lesbian. She grew up in a super affluent, Conservative area of Houston where that wasn’t really accepted. That episode was a platform and an opportunity to tell her story--coming out, going through this spiral of depression, being kicked out [of her house], being homeless, and how she was able to come out of that and continue her education and live her life.
What is a life lesson you’ve learned recently?
If you feel bad in a situation, always stick up for yourself, whether that be at work or in personal relationships. For me, it was the workplace. The lesson I’ve learned is that no one is going to be your voice for you. If you want things to change, you need to speak up.
"In an immigrant household, parents are just worried about making sure there’s reliable shelter and food on the table...they’re more invested in their kids’ survival rather than their creative pursuits...As a result, a lot of the things I was interested in, I had to go after by myself."
How about a lesson related to your craft?
People will surprise you. My industry’s primary demographic is white, older men. After the--I’m not sure what to call it--let’s say, “New Civil Rights” movement started, my company put out a message that they are standing in solidarity with the Black community and that Black Lives Matter. It was a big deal because, like I said, our demographic is predominantly white.
After that announcement, tons of Black professionals started reaching out to us, thanking us for making a statement, and in turn we got to see the projects they were working on surrounding housing inequity, the wage gap, [and more]--that we never would’ve seen if we just kept on our normal path of news coverage.
Do you think creativity is innate, or do you think it can be taught?
I think it’s both. I think people are born creative, but your environment can play into how it develops. In an immigrant household, parents are just worried about making sure there’s reliable shelter and food on the table. They’re not really concerned about your feelings. I mean, they are, but they’re more invested in their kids’ survival rather than their creative pursuits.
As a result, a lot of the things I was interested in, I had to go after by myself. My parents weren’t buying me art supplies or giving me resources to learn how to produce podcasts. I had to find things I was passionate about and pursue them on my own, even if my parents didn’t like it. So I think creativity does come from a natural place for a lot of people, but it only grows when you’re able to push yourself to stay inspired and go after the things you’re passionate about.
"This is a unique challenge of being a Black creator, particularly in mostly white spaces: our conversations are taken from us and presented through a white lens."
Have you experienced any unique challenges to being a Black creator in America?
In the current climate, my fear is that with more white people becoming “woke,” the conversation will be taken away from Black people and become a white [conversation]. This is a unique challenge of being a Black creator, particularly in mostly white spaces: our conversations are taken from us and presented through a white lens.
Now, my hope. Being Black at a liberal school, you do feel like you have to be extra careful not to offend anyone. But lately, I’ve seen people just not giving a f*ck anymore. They’re doing things like saying “white people” instead of “non-POC.” I hope that will continue, and we will speak our minds openly.
Writer’s note: At this point, Alcynna and I had a fabulous sidebar about discovering anti-racism, this series, and the importance of Black people speaking plainly. White folks--particularly progressive white folks--love to be coddled. It’s easy to get defensive because most of us always assumed that if you vote Left, go to the rallies, and don’t say the n-word, you get your “I’m Not Racist” badge.
We’ve happily met those benchmarks, never bothering to question why--if that’s all that’s needed from us--systemic racism is still thriving.
Alcynna’s hope is also mine--that Black people will continue to speak frankly. Welcome to your wake up call, white America. Do your work.
Pivoting to something every creator seems to grapple with: Imposter Syndrome.
[laughs] Oh, dear God.
Yes, so I guess you’ve dealt with this little demon before? What advice do you have for other creatives who are struggling with it?
When I started working at my current employer, I encountered a few people in the chain who created an uncomfortable environment for reporters--one that made you feel stupid for asking questions.
I was fresh off a CBS internship and considered myself kind of a badass at doing things to further my career, so I felt that I was in the right place, but on my first day, I remember thinking, “What am I doing here? Everyone is ahead of me.”
I didn’t feel like I belonged. I felt like an imposter because yeah, I’m a journalist, and yeah, I work for this publication, but I didn’t feel like I was doing anything.
Then, I had this really pivotal experience. I was basically alone in the office, with just one other person--this older, more established Black woman from the sales department. She somehow sensed that I wasn’t happy. She walked over to my desk and said, “Alcynna. Nobody’s going to tell you ‘good job’ for doing your job. You do your job because you know it’s important. Don’t look for affirmation to know that you’re good enough or that you deserve to be here.” She basically told me that I should know I’m good enough simply because I am good enough.
"Don’t think that your work isn’t “right” or good enough just because you’re not getting the recognition that you want. Simply creating is an essential part of your story as a Black person."
Where do you feel most creative?
I always feel the most creative when I’m interviewing or spending time with someone passionate about their stuff. I really feed off that energy. I also feel really creative when I’m at home. I’m notorious for singing and dancing and yelling around my house. [laughs] That space is a big source of inspiration.
What advice would you give to young Black creators, specifically?
I say, try it all. I wanted to do everything. I wanted to be a fashion designer, I wanted to be an actress, and only by trying all these different things did I find the track that was right for me. Also, don’t think that your work isn’t “right” or good enough just because you’re not getting the recognition that you want. Simply creating is an essential part of your story as a Black person.
I think one of the most beautiful things about being Black is, despite everything we’ve endured--slavery, racism, prejudice--we’re such a creative group of people. You see it in our music, our artwork, our films. It’s everywhere.
You seem to be the type of person who keeps life pretty diversified, so I’m assuming you enjoy other forms of creative expression outside of writing and media production. What else is in your creative arsenal?
I sing, but I haven’t made any songs or anything. I think one of these days I’m going to just take like, two weeks off work and make a little EP--just for myself! You know?
Yeah, cool! What kind of music do you like?
It’s cliche to say that I like everything, but it’s true. Growing up, my parents listened exclusively to African and gospel music. Then I went to a majority white school and all they listened to was white music. My family is Black, so they listen to Black music. I like a mixture of things from traveling through all these groups.
So, when you take your two-week break to record your EP, what will the style be?
[smiles and snaps fingers] Solange. Solange. She just [squeals] I love it. She’s my type of woman.
Speaking of creators you love, who are three creatives you admire?
Hmm. Honestly, I’ve never really admired or looked up to people I don’t personally know. I get most inspired by people when we have a personal connection.
My friend Laurel Salazar is a stylist, but she also tells amazing stories with writing and design. I love her work. Also, Will [Dutcher]...I love Will’s writing. Sometimes we bounce stuff off each other, which is fun.
The last one actually is someone I don’t know--Michaela Coel. She recently turned down a million-dollar deal from Netflix because they wouldn’t let her retain any of the copyright for her new show, I May Destroy You. I’m inspired by any creative who knows their worth. Her other show, Chewing Gum, is also really good.
"Black people are denied mortgage loans more often than any other ethnic group in the country. They literally do not have access to the number one source of generational wealth, which contributes to the poverty cycle."
What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever created?
Right now, I’m putting together a podcast for HousingWire that is 100% focused on Black homeownership. I’m so excited about this project because I think it’s the best way for me to be able to actually affect change.
A lot of people our age (20s and 30s) don’t understand how much homeownership will factor into our overall wealth as we get older. Home equity is still the number one asset that produces generational wealth for Americans. The issue we’re experiencing in the Black community right now is that--thanks to segregation, Jim Crow, redlining, and our nation’s lack of housing--Black people have the lowest homeownership rate in America.
Many white people use homes as investments, but Black people haven’t been able to do that because they’ve been prevented from living in certain areas, or even from purchasing homes in general. Black people are denied mortgage loans more often than any other ethnic group in the country. They literally do not have access to the number one source of generational wealth, which contributes to the poverty cycle.
With this podcast, I’m able to talk to people advocating for education on homeownership in the Black community. I’m also connecting with policymakers who’ve provided ample data confirming that this is a systemic issue. I’m interviewing Black [real estate] professionals who have told me that they can’t get work in the areas where they live because white homeowners won’t work with them. My goal is to put a megaphone on the conversation so that more people are aware that this is happening.
Ok, last question. It’s an easy one. We’re all about tacos, obvi. What’s your favorite taco filling?
Oh my gosh, barbacoa. And... you’re gonna think I’m weird. [laughs] I love pineapple in tacos. Like, jalapenos, pineapple, and chicken? Mmmm! That’s it.
Mad love to Alcynna for her time and her radiant energy. You can read her stuff on HousingWire, follow her on Instagram, and keep an ear out for her podcast on Black homeownership, releasing later this year.