Blogsclusive⎜Jahmal Williams: “American Dream was more about Black enpowerment”

(All photos by Tonophoto)

Here’s the little compensatory trick for having let this blog unkempt for so long: one of my favorite skater’s own favorite pro-models, just for the blog and not the page in Skateboarder, for once. I’ll try to have a few more other blog-only surprises like this in 2010, so consider it a resolution -even though you alas know how New Years resolution go usually.
This said, I won’t insult your Droorstalgic intelligence by introducing the flying Bostonian, Jahmal Williams, who never left the game since the Molotov days and pretty much should deservedly take it over through his company Hopps, one of the very few graphically exciting board companies in this day and age.  Also, let’s be fair, I’ll take every chance I’ll get to showcase Alyasha Moore‘s art direction on his ’90s, politically-charged companies, a breath of conscious air in that empty vacuum that skateboarding can sometimes be. Anyway. Here’s what “The Black Jesus” had to say about his five faves.

*****

Television face (1993)
Art by Jahmal williams

Mike Vallely and Ed Templeton came to Boston on a tour and I met with them at the demo. I had already met Mike V. before, however, it was my first time meeting Ed and the rest of the team. I skated with them and begged my mom to let me go on tour with them.

We went on tour for a few weeks in Atlanta, Chicago and all these places on the East Coast. And then at the end of some demo, they told me they wanted to turn me pro! I was really excited cause I was in high school and that was the first tour that I ever went on. Eventually, they flew me to California and I stayed at Ed and Deanna’s house.  Ed was always painting and told me I should paint my own board graphics. He basically put some paint and brushes in my hand and said, “paint”.

I was really scared, I was drawing already but I was scared because it was my first board graphics. There were two of them; one slick bottom and one wood bottom. For the wood bottom,  I knew I just wanted the letter “j” because I had always thought it’d be a great graphic for Jovantae Turner and I was a big fan of his. Then I thought, “my name starts with a J also,” so I decided to use it.

The face board was produced during the same time. I just painted half of my face. It came out naturally and intuitively; it was just an idea that came up. I painted it on a piece of cardboard with acrylic paint. It was a selfportrait I guess because I had dreads at the time and I had bleached them blond.

American Dream Inc. Black Jesus (1995)
Art by Alyasha Moore

That was the first board I had on American Dream, it was a collaboration,  sort of. Alyasaha conceptualized everything; he was so good. At the time Wu Tang’s music was very popular. He was very into Wu Tang and we’d listen to it all the time so he gave everybody nicknames. Mike Hernandez was The Hitman Herns, Spencer Fujimoto was Shogun Assassin, Jimmy Chung was The Mantis and I was Black Jesus.  You’d have to ask him why. At the time I think I was into religion, however, my faith has changed over the years.

The psalms, they were sections that talk about some of the physical attributes of Jesus Christ, and when you read it, it describe him as having wooly hair and dark color skin. To me it sounded like he was darker than the image I had had in my mind of him growing up as a child, of a blue-eyed, blond-haired fella.  And I thought it would be cool just for my own consciousness to make Jesus Christ in my own image because people have been doing that throughout history. Aly is a very conscious person. Also,  this board is special to me because it was the first time someone had used that gloss black on flat black way to printing graphics.

AD Unit Marcus Garvey (1996)
Art by Alyasha Moore

This one came out a year after the Black Jesus board, I think?  Aly was always calling us and asking if we were into his ideas. He always wanted to know how we felt about graphics, and I have to say… I was into each one of them.

I had always seen portraits of Marcus Garvey painted in the black neighborhoods but I never knew what he was about. This graphic was so meaningful to me because it made me have to go and read up about him because people would ask me questions and I wouldn’t know what to tell them. He was born in Jamaica and came to the US and was a black nationalist, he believed in repatriation of the black people to Africa through the UNIA. How can I get into it? At the time there weren’t that many Black-Americans into skateboarding, and I thought it’d be cool to have a graphic with Marcus Garvey on it. It would be for Black-Americans first, and for the few other people that were into it- the graphic would be for them too.

People were very excited about American Dream because it was very different; the images and the content were ‘progressive’.

AD Unit MLK (1996)
Art by Alyasha Moore

Having Martin Luther King was cool because as kids we were always told about MLK, the Civil Rights movement and the idea of non-violent protesting.  The Marcus Garvey graphic was a bit more radical because he was before Martin Luther King and his ideas were more powerful in a sense. Being that radical back then was pretty ballsy. People were still getting lynched in those days.

This board is special to me because during that time I started to get more into learning about Black History and trying to learn more about myself. This sums up a stage in my life that was important. I like how all these boards on American Dream were not necessarily about Black Power in the, “we gonna take over the world” sense, but more about the Black Struggle and Black Empowerment. “Consciousness.”

Wu Tang Hard Goods Race Car (1998)
Art by Jahmal Williams & Aaron Hoover

That one was unique because that was the second board that came out on Wu Tang Hard Goods Company.  This was one that I collaborated with Aaron Hoover on. At the time I didn’t know anything about Photoshop or Illustrator, so I did the art direction for the whole series for Kevin Taylor, Maurice Key and myself.

Wu Tang Hard Goods came about when Christian Strike gave me a call. I had just finished an interview for Strength magazine when he said that Wu Tang was in touch with him and they wanted to do a skateboard company, and he was in charge of the company. He asked me some of my ideas about it and we put a team together. We wanted to make it the first all-black skate team.

The team consisted of  Maurice Key and myself, then Kevin Taylor came on board.  The next individuals in line were gonna be Mike Hernadez and Stevie Williams.  The company lasted close to a year or more and then it was stopped.  At the time we weren’t making very much money at all from our regular board sponsors.  But we made good royalties from the Wu-Tang Hard Goods sales. There were talks about us meeting the Wu Tang members and possibly going on tour with them, doing skate demos. But it got shut down before it got to that level,  someone else bought the licensing agreement. And that was that.

5 Responses to “Blogsclusive⎜Jahmal Williams: “American Dream was more about Black enpowerment””


  1. 1 D.stroy January 26, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    The black on black colorway had been used already for Neil Bender’s faces model on G&S, 1988 i think?
    Anyway, i find the television deck simply beautiful lacking of any brand or name on it, almost impossible to think today!

  2. 2 Nike Mike January 27, 2010 at 9:26 am

    J is and always has been someone I looked up to greatly being a kid in Boston and now living in New York where he also lives and runs Hopps which is the most pure skate company and one of the few that I actually am proud to represent by supporting it. Thanks for this blog post.

  3. 3 Matt February 1, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    I had the good fortune of meeting and skating with Jamal for a week in the summer of 1992 while visiting family in Boston. He and several other rad dudes such as Rob Gangemi, 3D Matt, and TransAm Adam showed me all the spots from Copley to Financial, and many more.

    Back then it was clear how much style and talent Jamal had and it’s good to know he is still pursuing his dreams today.

    Thanks for the motivation Seb and Jamal. I appreciate it!

  4. 4 Simon February 2, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    the sacred street art of keeping it real.


  1. 1 Jahmal Williams Memory Screened – Skateboarder Magazine (2010) | NYSkateboarding.com Trackback on March 3, 2013 at 7:04 am

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Le boardnographe du phonographe

This is an archive for my eponymous monthly page in Skateboarder mag. Plus a few extras few and far between, whenever I get a chance...
Absolutely shameless, unrated boardnography, exposed! -minus the Ebay guilt. Enjoy the visite...

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