CAMI THOMAS (FOR THE CULTURE TV)
Written by Glo(w)
Though we all process information differently, experience is the ultimate source of understanding. Some may need to physically set eyes upon celestial objects sifting through night skies to see divinity. Others are in tune with the subtle inflections in the songbird’s chirp witnessed in nature. Regardless of how information is received, one’s own core must interact in order to understand.
That is the development of perspective.
We can all stand upon hilltops and witness sunset to sunrise, each individual connecting to a different aspect of the experience. What one set of eyes sees may not be reflective of the image gathered by another. It is the collection of perspectives and understandings that shapes truth.
“What the hell is she talking about?”
If truth is the totality of perspectives, and only a margin of perspectives are shared, how can truth be seen? How can communities progress without a foundation of truth and understanding? We often see the distortion of truths on the nightly news. In St. Louis, we witness disinformation and trifle community contentions daily. This is the weight that representation holds. Adequate representation is the difference between a silhouette in black and white and a movie shown in HD. Regardless of aesthetic preference (because who doesn’t love the silhouette of a woman’s curves?), these narrow and refined views limit the potential for connectivity.
With a need for proper representation, it is the role of media outlets of all sorts to provide platforms for the unheard to share their voice. Cami Thomas founded FOR THE CULTURE TV (FTCTV) in order to give creatives an opportunity to share their talents while giving a space for genuine expression. FOR THE CULTURE TV is for the people. With a relaunch that encourages creative collaboration, FTCTV serves as a media outlet that allows all of the interwebs to experience the perspectives of the marginalized. More than just a blog, FTCTV gives quality quirk and zest to those intrigued by “other”. There is no limit to the truths shared through this platform.
Get to know more of Cami Thomas’s vision behind FOR THE CULTURE TV and her new St.Louis-based series—“Smoke City”—below. Get into it.
What mediums of art do you partake in?
Painting—spray-painting and acrylic—and filmmaking. I was actually a film minor in college. Nowadays, I’m less behind the camera and more in the director’s chair, if directing is a form of art. I can’t sing for shit, but I do it. I enjoy doing it.
What is your mission and overall goal for FOR THE CULTURE TV?
My goal is to showcase art, and the stories of the people creating that art. I think a lot of times, in media and television, they will celebrate the art, the song, the dance, the painting, but when it comes to the person and what they may have had to go through to create that art, they want to silence it. As soon as it gets political, people want to turn away from it. If we talk about race or someone has a troubled past, they often want to overlook it, and yet they want to celebrate the art that the person created, whereas that art may not exist without the trauma that may have created that art. For FOR THE CULTURE, I want it to be a place where you can go, find something of interest, and take a dip in the artist culture here without silencing their story.
Why is it important for you to make connections between the artist world and the corporate world?
Simply put: I belong to both of those worlds. It’s kind of like a different version of intersectionality in a way. Sometimes, in the corporate world, I feel like the artist in me is overlooked. And kind of the same thing when it comes to the art world. I am a business person at heart and it’s kind of hard to put that to the side. I’m both existing as one person. Creating that connection between both is like bridging that gap for other people who are similar to me.
Another reason, though, is in the artist community, there’s some dope art out here that the whole world should see. But maybe that person may not necessarily have that training in that area, in the business world. To no fault of their own, maybe they didn’t study business. Connecting those communities will allow talent to move further, maybe further than they thought was even possible. So, that’s real important to me for sure.
Tell us more about Smoke City.
Smoke City started as one concept I was almost done filming. I wanted to showcase the tech and creative communities and show how they are the same and different. The message was going to be: have we learned enough in St. Louis, in the community? Have we progressed enough to not have another Ferguson?
And then the Jason Stockley verdict came out and I scrapped most of it. I didn’t even think about the possibility that he wasn’t going to be convicted. After that happened, the message changed because clearly we haven’t learned enough.
What haven’t we learned? Why haven’t we learned it? I don’t get it. People keep having conversations and being proud, saying “Oh, at least we had a conversation.” We get together to talk, maybe commenting on Facebook or going to a board meeting, then we go retreat. I go back to downtown. Someone goes to Ballwin, or Florissant. And then we don’t interact with each other. So, Smoke City has become a chance to reintroduce ourselves. We have to erase what we think we know about each other and actually get to know each other. Someone from Ballwin, maybe they never even talked to someone from Florissant, but they assume that they know what they are like. So, Smoke City is an inside look. It shows how people view the city from their eyes. Let’s reintroduce ourselves so maybe then we can really have a fucking talk.
Why is it called Smoke City?
I lived in New Orleans for 4 years for college. My senior year is when Ferguson happened. I came back a lot to support. When I moved back completely, something I kept hearing around West County and Ladue, the areas I frequented for work, was “oh yeah, you came back after the smoke has cleared and after we had conversations.”
And the smoke hasn’t cleared.
You have to do something for smoke to clear. If you burn toast, and smoke up the house, do you just sit there? Or do you open a door or a window? You have to do something for the smoke to clear. And if you think it’s cleared you haven’t been paying attention. We keep having these situations. Black people are suffocating, choking on the smoke that they won’t let clear here.
Do you think there are global differences in the way artists and healers are respected? I ask that because I think, specifically in America, we don’t like our art to have any weight to it. But in other cultures, the creatives are the healers.
Oh, absolutely. Girl, hell yeah. I think here, everything is “don’t ask don’t tell”. Even our connection to our Earth, our families, our neighborhoods is different from other cultures. I travel a lot, and that sense of connection I see I don’t see on a broader scale here. I feel it maybe a little within the creative community. You’ll find pockets of it, but it’s not embedded in America culture.
I went to Lagos. Everyone was poor. But, there was a strong sense of community. I went out one night with my friend and someone just sat at our table. I asked him if he knew the people there, and he said no. I asked, “Well, why are they sitting with us?” And the answer was so simple: “Because there’s nowhere else to sit.” We ended up having a good time with them. We don’t do things like that here in America. You can be poor in America and still have what you need. But we don’t have much connectivity.
How do you think creating would be different if money wasn’t a factor?
If money weren’t a factor, I think the world, and especially the US, would be surprised where the content and the best material comes from. I feel like, in the places that are overlooked, in the poorer communities, the place where there are no resources, no money for art supplies, if money weren’t a factor, and they could turn their thoughts into something tangible, I think it’d shock everybody. I think we’d see a huge shift in who’s winning Grammy’s, who’s winning Oscars, all of that. The people who may not have access, those are the stories I want to hear. To give someone who has risen from the ashes the ability to create from their life’s perspective, those are the stories we need to hear more of.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself through your creative process?
I think I rediscovered my love of filmmaking. Though Smoke City is more of a docu-series, it has made me look more into short films and original content. I rediscovered that part of me, which has helped shape the direction of the blog as well. It took me from a blog to more of a media network.
Is there anything else that you want us to know that we may have not gathered?
Well, FTCTV (For the Culture TV) has changed. It’s not just about me. It was a local blog with videos and promo. I love that that’s what it was for the past year. Now, with this relaunch coming, it’s not that blog platform anymore. I want it to be an underground media network. If they don’t have the resources, or they want more eyes on it, we can help. I will be a stickler for quality and fresh ideas. I want to see stuff that’s kind of weird and we can create it and have cool content.