Melanin Abundant by JQ Sirls

Day 4 — Poster posted on February 3, 2024

JQ Sirls

Pronouns: He/Him

Located: Overland Park, KS

Tell us about yourself:

JQ Sirls is a interdisciplinary artist, designer, author, and entrepreneur, blending over a decade of expertise in technology, design, and storytelling. As the Founder and CEO of Storytailor.ai, an innovative platform that redefines children’s storytelling, he empowers children and adults to co-create narratives that entertain, empower, and educate. Holding a BFA in Creative Writing and an MBA in Innovation, Sirls brings a unique blend of artistic vision and strategic insight to his work.

Celebrated for his children’s books set in the enchanting realm of Fantoria—a world he envisioned at the age of seven—Sirls’ works like *The Book of Imaginary Friends*, *No Monster No!*, *The Moon Is Following Me*, and *Vladimir Victorious* invite readers into a space where dreams, imagination, and reality beautifully intertwine. His stories, rich in diversity and imagination, parallel classics like *Peter Pan*, *Where The Wild Things Are*, *Calvin and Hobbes*, and *The Chronicles of Narnia*, but stand apart with their focus on inclusivity and wonder.

As a staunch advocate for empathy, diversity, and inclusion, Sirls is committed to bridging the gap between adults and children, fostering shared enthusiasm and imagination. His vision, ‘Provoking the Child Within,’ resonates throughout his endeavors, encouraging a return to imaginative roots as a foundation for innovation and presence. Storytailor’s approach to storytelling is educational, but not in the traditional sense. Its approach allows caregivers and educators to craft learning experiences that seamlessly blend education with whimsy, making the learning aspect both engaging and subtle. Through his literary works and Storytailor, Sirls dedicates himself to crafting experiences where every child, regardless of background or identity, can see themselves as the hero of their own imaginative journey.

Looking to the future, Sirls remains dedicated to pioneering new frontiers in storytelling, continually seeking innovative ways to celebrate diversity and foster imagination in children’s literature. He is actively collaborating with educational and cultural organizations to bring his vision of inclusive and imaginative storytelling to a wider audience, aiming to inspire a more inclusive and imaginative future for all.

What is the inspiration behind your poster design?

The phrase “Melanin Abundant” chosen for my poster celebrates the richness and diversity of Black culture. It reflects my work, which places Black characters at the center of fantastical and imaginative narratives. This phrase captures the beauty and resilience inherent within the Black community, resonating deeply with my artistic vision.

The characters featured on the poster are part of a larger multimedia project that I have created and am developing with a few key colleagues. The poster showcases the creativity, strength, and dynamism of the Black imagination. It breaks traditional boundaries and celebrates a heritage filled with whimsical, nonsensical, and off-beat stories that are often overlooked in our culture.

This poster, along with all of my personal work, aims to engage with the themes of Black pride and empowerment that Pick Progress embodies. It contributes to the ongoing conversation about representation in all forms of media.

Through my poster, I contribute to the narrative that Black stories are diverse and thrive in realms of limitless possibility. It makes a statement that Black imagination matters, is limitless, and can color our world with its abundance of tales and visions.

Why do you love being creative?

I love being creative because it’s a journey of continual exploration and innovation. It allows me to challenge norms and transcend traditional boundaries, both in thought and practice. Creativity, for me, is pushing past the limits set by societal expectations and my own subconscious to reach a place where my work feels almost magical. Inspired by the likes of Walt Disney, Jim Henson, and Steve Jobs, I aim to be a beacon for others who look like me, showing them that creativity, imagination, and wonder can be normalized aspects of their lives. I aspire to inspire by demonstrating that their passions can become more than just dreams – they can become a tangible reality. My goal is to be living proof that creativity can sustain a person, both spiritually and materially, and that the magic of imagination doesn’t have to diminish with age.

Tell us about your experiences in the design world…

After nearly 20 years in the design profession, and now fully immersed in entrepreneurship, I have learned two valuable lessons.

1. I must stop seeking a place at tables where I am only seen as a waiter or servant.
2. I must learn how to build tables so that I can sit at my own and become the woodshed for others to build their tables

How can we create a more inclusive design world and ensure that Black people are represented?

By acting on the two lessons I mentioned in the last question on my black experience in the design world.

In general… How can we make more equity or equality for us?

By educating ourselves and each other about entrepreneurship, we can gain a better understanding of its fundamentals and mindset. This doesn’t mean subscribing to the hustle-culture mentality that suggests our worth is tied solely to working for ourselves. Instead, it means grasping the core principles of being an entrepreneur.

The key principles are: build, protect, provide, network, outsource, and repeat.

Many of us aspire to create products or services (build), but there is often less enthusiasm for taking on the role of manufacturer or distributor (protect, network, and outsource). However, being involved in manufacturing and distribution is just as creative as creating the product or service itself. In fact, it allows us to freely create our own products and open doors for others who share our vision.

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