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OkayMuva: A Brave Farewell To The Past, A Welcomed Hello To The Future
OkayMuva: A Brave Farewell To The Past, A Welcomed Hello To The Future
Photo Credit: Myles E. Johnson

OkayMuva: A Brave Farewell To The Past, A Welcomed Hello To The Future

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This is the last version of #OkayMuva in its current format.

My creative career is often riddled with the word brave. I never considered myself particularly risky or courageous just because I’ve practiced being who I am and doing what I wanted to do. But that’s not really the nature of being creative in public. Compromise is in every contract. Whereas with some people this sparks a deep spiritual and intellectual conflict, I just pass it along, and continue until something is in front of me that fits better with who I am and what I am willing to do. The only thing I truly meditate on is where I want to go and how will this opportunity serve the grander vision I have for myself?

When first approached by @Okayplayer to create a column dedicated to my opinions I was ecstatic. I was a fan of the brand as a hip-hop head and someone that knows what this brand means to the hip-hop culture. I loved the fact that my ideas and opinions were going to be centered on such a legendary site. It was not lost on me that as someone openly queer and femme that personalities and opinions like mine are rarely centered on hip-hop platforms.

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Supporters of my writing, more seasoned people in publishing/writing and concerned friends would often write or tell me, “You are so brave.” The more I found myself sharing my personality and perspective, no matter how queer or dissenting, on the internet for public consumption, the more brave I was named. At first, I did not see it as such. I grew up in barbershops, hair salons, in the kitchen during holidays, and in basement rooms where parents were absent. I was trained to stand beside my opinion no matter who would or would not agree with me. It comes so naturally that there was never an idea that there was an alternative.

As I was able to produce more work and get more opportunities, my public platform expanded. I’ve had several significant opportunities with Buzzfeed, Vice, The New York Times, Essence, Cassius Life, Catapult and Afropunk. And most importantly, with Folio Literary Agency where I’m working with amazing people to assist in one of my biggest dreams to come true: publishing my first memoir. It was in these moments I witnessed how exhausting constantly putting your opinion in public space for engagement can be. I witnessed how dangerous it can be to put your personality, history and ideas up for dissection routinely, as well.

At the same time.

And the internet is ruthless. It is a space where people grow muscles and fangs in ways they would never imagine if they had a more personal interaction. I have cut friendships because of vile internet behavior. I have seen and experienced personal insults heralded based off of different political beliefs. I have seen identities weaponized and leveraged to gain access and profit. I have seen jealousy-informed internet lynch mobs form because some people are getting further, quicker. I have friends who have had their addresses and personal medical information released to the public.

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I have had vile people I’ve encountered in the material world, attempt to use the internet as a way to delegitimize my work and reputation as a sort of revenge for me no longer wanting to be their friends. The internet, my writing, and my social media spaces have always been a deeply personal space that belonged to me where I can be private in public (the true calling of an artist, I think!) in a world where I actually own very little and never feel secure enough to be vulnerable. The internet has never been an excuse for me to behave cowardly.

With growing attention and the vile nature of people, I had to have an introspective moment. I took a survey on what I wanted, where I wanted to go, and the steps I was willing (and not willing) to take to get there. In that moment, I decided I no longer wanted to continue my Okayplayer column, #OkayMuva in the same way I was beforehand. I no longer wanted to continue doing critiques of cultural and political moments on a regular basis.

OkayMuva: A Brave Farewell To The Past, A Welcomed Hello To The Future Photo Credit: Myles E. Johnson

Okayplayer has been more than a platform I write for, it has been a supportive family unit. So, when I expressed my desires for myself only one question was asked: how can we support you?

I am excited to announce that with my transition away from pop/political critiques for this space my family is allowing me to use my space on Okayplayer to support others in the same way I have been supported. #OkayMuva will now be a space where I handpick musicians [link], filmmakers, authors and other artists in the black queer community to interview, profile and review. This feels important. This is important. On this legendary hip-hop platform, I not only have a space for myself, but a space to platform and highlight other black queer artists.

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Do not get me wrong: if something is happening at the intersections of hip-hop and controversy, and I can’t resist creating dialogue around it, I will. This is nothing close to a retirement, but a reimagining of a promise. And an extension of a gift to those in my community. Again, I hear friends and professional peers saying, “You are so brave.” I am brave for transitioning away from the thing that has got me money, attention and access. But at the end of the day, I am an artist. I came to writing publicly via music journalism, then personal essays, then children’s literature, then pop/political critiques/essays, and now I am interested in exploring something new. I will always visit these other modes of writing, but where I want to find a home in has changed. Admittedly, once Beyoncé has sent you flowers for doing a thing, you do feel like you met a ceiling. Writing critiques on the internet is not satisfying my literary prowess anylonger. Where success for some might birth complacency, successes for me has always been evidence that it is time to set my eyes higher and higher.

The lesson of risk and bravery is the lifestyle of the artist. If you are listening closely to yourself, your artist heart is begging for a risk. It is what we live for. We live for the fruits of a successful risk. We live for the lessons in a failure. We live for the new muscles we grow and strengthen learning the process of a new thing. I have exciting news unfolding and I thought the right thing to do was to share my new vision for this space, myself, and my professional path as a writer with one of the first platforms that wanted anything to do with a problem child like Myles E. Johnson.

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My dream for the #OkayMuva space is for it to be a space relentlessly bridging the hip-hop and queer culture and community through interviews, profiles, project reviews, essays on topics focused on where queerness and hip-hop intersect, and other projects. I am attempting to make a home out of the topics that Frank Ocean’s earth-shaking letter and songs like Jay-Z’s “Smile” unearthed, so queerness in hip-hop may never be a stranger again. We are already in conversation with one another, but it is high time digital and material spaces are cultivated where these things can co-exist.

Myles E. Johnson is an Atlanta, Georgia-based storyteller. He is also the creator of the literary project, Dear Giovanni. You can follow him on Twitter @HausMuva.