[ed note: War Cry Warrior’s Jose Acevedo challenge to NextGen Natives was actually directed at me (and you). The challenge was for me to use the NextGen Native platform to bring NextGen Natives together in person. If this interests you, let me know by leaving a comment here, or on Facebook/Twitter, etc.]
Jose Acevedo, Founder of War Cry Warrior and the Finding Arizona Podcast
Jose Acevedo connects with all kinds of people through his podcast Finding Arizona. He also connects with people through the business he created, War Cry Warrior. And that does not include his day job as a landscape architect. Jose’s ability to connect with people has roots with who he is as a person.
Jose is Hopi and Puerto Rican. He lived in Pennsylvania until he was 12 and moved back to Hopi at a critical juncture in his development. He went from a place where there were all kinds of people to a place where there were far fewer kinds of people, and fewer people generally. And while he had a diverse background, no group knew quite what to make of him. Ever since he was 12 he has been building those relationships with people and learning how to do so with a wide array of people. He’s also been reconciling who he is through his personal experience, too.
This conversation did not follow the usual journey of someone’s life because it involved life tangents and going down various rabbit holes. It all flows well, and is a great conversation, but we cover more than just Jose’s personal journey.
Jaynie Parrish is Navajo and the principal of Parrish Digital. You can find Parrish Digital on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Jaynie grew on Navajo Nation but moved to Phoenix to live with her dad for high school. They ended up helping each other out during this time, but you have to listen to the episode to learn how!
Jaynie utilized and participated in different programs in high school and college (and beyond). We discuss the impact these programs have on individuals. I know I definitely would not have the opportunities I’ve experienced without the programs that I was able to utilize, and Jaynie thinks the same is true for her.
One thing that stands out about Jaynie’s experience is the importance of mentors in a person’s life and career. While at ASU, Jaynie met Dr. Petersen Zah. A fellow Navajo, he mentored Jaynie and other Native students at the university. This mentorship while she was a student lasted beyond her time in school. Eventually Dr. Zah encouraged Jaynie to apply for a job with the Navajo Nation Washington Office (Jaynie was in DC for an internship with National Public Radio). Over time, she moved back to Arizona and ended up working for Dr. Zah at the university for seven years. Continue reading →
Jared Yazzie is Diné and the owner of OXDX Clothing. He also happens to be the brother of previous NextGen Native guest and NASA engineer, Aaron Yazzie.
Jared Yazzie with his “Native Americans Discovered Columbus” design.
Jared went to the University of Arizona on a full ride scholarship to study engineering. But after a few years, he realized that path was not for him. Jared left the university and enrolled at Pima Community College. He would transition into arts. During this time he started to sell shirts out of his car trunk. This is where the hustle of what would become OXDX began.
The Beginning of OXDX
After college Jared went to work for a screen print shop. He continued to design and print his own shirts. On the weekends, Jared traveled to the reservation to sell his merchandise. He found that while he was onto something, not everyone was supportive. Jared had to learn how to listen to negative feedback while not internalizing it.
Originally, Jared’s company was called Overdose. The name was taken from a lyric in Lupe Fiasco’s “Baba Says Cool for Thought” where a line warns not to “overdose on the cool.” Jared found the lyrics resonated with his experience moving from the rez to a city where there was potential to overdose on everything a city has to offer. Overtime, Overdose evolved into OXDX and the name has stuck ever since.
Another design is making a resurgence after Bobby Wilson of the 1491s wore a “Mis-Rep” shirt on The Daily Show during a segment about the R******s. That particular shirt is an homage to the Misfits, one of the Yazzie brothers’ favorite punk bands, combined with a message about misappropriation.
Yazzie is working to build his brand into something much bigger than it is currently. He wants it to be more than just a t-shirt company, and he wants it to be recognized beyond just Native communities. He is grinding to get to this point, and he is close to being able to do OXDX full time. But for now he is putting in long hours working both his day job and then doing OXDX afterwards.
This was a great conversation that ran the gamut of shifting focus, grinding to build a business, utilizing other Native companies, supporting other Native artists, and remaining true to oneself and their vision. Be sure to check out the entire episode.
Sharice Davids is a great example of how one’s journey can take curved routes. After spending many years abroad as a military child, she went to six different colleges before earning her degree. The remarkable thing about this though, is that each transfer was for a specific purpose such as to learn about computers, learn sign language, or play sports at a collegiate level. It was very focused, and contrary to what I think is often perception when people move around to different colleges.
Eventually Sharice earned her degree but it wasn’t long before someone at a coffee shop urged her to go to law school. Sharice attended PLSI in New Mexico prior to law school. While at PLSI, a mentor urged her to apply to Cornell Law School. Sharice doubted whether Cornell was the right school, at the time she had applied only to one. But she was admitted and ultimately went to New York.
After law school, she landed in Kansas City at the law firm now known as Dentons. She learned a lot about the law while at the firm from Steven McSloy. But Sharice also credits McSloy with showing her how to use and maneuver within spaces of power and that she could question people, institutions and even the law. Moreover that she did not have to accept it as it was. She cites this as the most valuable professional lesson she has learned. It is incredibly powerful to learn that you do not have to accept things in the world just because. I think this is a fundamental aspect of being a NextGen Native-that you have the ability to alter the course of your own life, of your career, of your community. Things are not set in stone. Continue reading →
Michael Adams is Hopi. He is also the the owner, along with his wife, of Gourd Jewels. The company is a jewelry business that sells online. We caught up just before Black Friday
Side Note:As the Holiday season begins, think about supporting businesses like Gourd Jewels and many other Native businesses. Gourd Jewels is having a black Friday sale, so check out their website for a discount.
One consistent theme from the conversation with Michael was his ability to analyze situations and make tough choices based on analysis and not emotion. For example, Michael attended Occidental College to play football. His goal was to make it to the NFL but after suffering an injury, he realized he should plan for something else in life.
Another example came while studying for a Ph.D. in psychology at Northern Arizona University. He realized his heart was not in it and that it was not worth the time, energy, and cost to pursue this career he thought may have been for the money.Continue reading →
“It wasn’t all about spirituality, all about mother nature or charity. It was ‘I’m a Native person, here are my values and I’m going to kick ass.’ It was a much more three-dimensional view of who Native people are.”
Who could get Natives to buy fewer Pendleton blankets and instead buy blankets created by Natives? Louie Gong.
Louie Gong is creating his own energy right now, and I’m digging it. Louie is Nooksack, and grew up both in Canada and the U.S. He also runs Eighth Generation, a company that makes blankets, jewelry, phone cases and more. His stuff is fresh and more importantly, Native designed and owned! The journey to business owner and cutting-edge designer was not a straight path. Louie lived on his own in high school. Like a previous NextGen Native, he used this independence to hone his grind and hustle. Rather than falling through the cracks, he played sports, but then had to find ways to get home, pay rent, etc. His grades did suffer, however. Louie admitted that he did not like learning the way the school was trying to teach him, resulting in his poor GPA. Continue reading →
Monica is a Spokane tribal member. She attended the University of Washington. She almost left school before graduating but was able to stick with it. After graduate, Monica worked for a tribal casino. But Monica got the itch of an entrepreneur.
Monica is now CEO of Sister Sky. The company makes all natural products such as soap, shampoo, conditioners, etc. on her tribe’s reservation. The company’s formulas are rooted in traditional tribal ingredients.
Monica Simeon’s began Sister Sky as a “hobby business.” But Monica and her sister decided to grow it into a full fledged business. The company now operates a production plant on her reservation. Sister Sky also employs tribal youth to help fill orders. Monica is proud to provide jobs for young people that work for her during summers.
Monica Simeon, image courtesy of Monica Simeon
Monica’s success attracts advice seekers. And she is happy to share. Monica Simeon and her sister realized this was another business opportunity. And they decided to go for it. Recently, they launched Sister Sky Enterprises, Inc. Monica is the VP of this new company.
Monica Simeon has created two businesses. One makes products. The other provides services. Both are rooted in her tribal culture. Monica shares advice with us. This includes: do not be afraid to ask questions. There are many resources for people to utilize, you just have to ask. I strongly believe in this principle. Asking questions is not a weakness. Questions provide knowledge. Asking questions is powerful. Asking good questions is even more powerful. This goes beyond business. This can apply to culture, language, etc.
Hear more of Monica Simeon by listening to the episode! For more information about her businesses, she the links in the show notes.
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