The name Nwaka Unosa Make history look easy.
She is the first in her family to attend college, she’s also the first black vice president and chief trustee of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, and an expert in all things cool and edgy. Her experience working at the UC Riverside Fine Arts box office made her feet in the door as a hostess at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.
She then excels at using her love of music through her imagination and Nigerian work ethic to conceive and produce more than 20 shows, including Motown LegendsAnd the All Eyes on Me: The Writings of Tupac ShakurAnd my favorite – It’s Been Told Along: Sounds of Anger, Hope and Empowerment.
Related: Wake Me Up When I’m Free: Inside the 2Pac Museum in Los Angeles
As a black woman who dominates a man-focused white space, Nwaka Onwusa is a vivid vision of Rock Hall’s future while being a powerful testament to her past. from working with Enemy of the Peoplefront man chuck d To formulate the position of the handwritten letters of tupac‘s Wake me up when I’m free To lead educational programs committed to inspiring students, Nwaka is committed to expanding black excellence and empowering people to explore the arts. Fighting for diverse acting, the 30’s “Museum Master P” breaks down barriers and returns full circle in the embrace of her full music career.
Related: Jay-Z and LL Cool J more cement hip-hop into culture at 2021 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction
to complete BET.comCelebrating Black Music Month, SoCal’s rich and exceptional export talks about her rich upbringing and the self-care lessons she learned from her Tupac ShakurWhat are the year-end goals that you still want to achieve?
BET.com: We met for the first time at the preview show of Wake me up when I’m free earlier this year. And while your love of music has guided you through this beautiful career – who did you listen to when you were growing up that continues to inspire your work and growth?
Nuaka Onusa: Earth, Wind and FireAnd the Aretha FranklinAnd the Clark SistersAnd the James BrownAnd the Bob Marley [were just a few artists I was listening to at the time.] I usually listen to everything from gospel to soul music, but I grew up in a very strict religious home that was Pentecost, so we didn’t listen to much secular music. Whenever we did that, those were some of the key elements that played out.
BET.com: How have these artists helped you in your career to manage stressful moments and stay focused?
Nowaka Anusa: I’m my own DJ [laughs]. I create my own playlists which all have some kind of sentimental sentiment towards them. Looking at her now, the first song has started Criminal Smooth: Playlist It is “God is love” by Marvin Jay. there is a break Earth, wind and fire It’s called “Beijo”, and it’s also known as “kiss” in Portuguese.
My mom always sang this tune and “God is in love” to me and my sister. Bob Marley is next to D’Angelo, which leads to “Keep Your Head to the Sky,” and these are the songs that need to in my life. [At the time] I was listening to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Keep Your Head to the Sky” as a reminder to stay inspired and focused. Whatever I’m feeling, whether it’s tough times or personal struggles, these songs help strengthen me and put me back in my foundation. I come from a very spiritual family, so having this faith rule has helped me get through a lot of adversities.
BET.com: In my opinion, you are the “head of the P Museum”, someone closely connected to the culture and someone who has put work into it for the enjoyment of other museum-goers. Of the more than 20 exhibits you’ve curated, which resonate closest to you personally and why?
Nowaka Anusa: Oh man, that’s a great question! All of these exhibits in their own way do it because they are just like Villa Kuti He says, “Music is spiritual. You don’t like music.” As a curator, when I focus on the artist’s expression, I believe in an echo that resonates with them. World Health Organization They are. I don’t care if you are Janis JoplinAnd the PrinceAnd the Grace Jonesor even Tupac Shakur – You don’t see gender music.
That’s why I personally love Tupac when he talks to us Wake me up when I’m free. He doesn’t only talk to one person, he talks to him everybody. Its flexibility knows no bounds. And though I did not grow up in abject poverty, I still felt his life fit into mine because of my immersion in the experience of black people and being black people.
I think with all these exhibits, whether you are a fan or just want to learn something new, like Wake me up when I’m free or about John Coltrane or Ella Fitzgerald It should resonate with you. It’s powerful to see these amazing giants and how we can celebrate them after they leave this plane, but there’s also so much to watch in their lives because they are complex human beings.
BET.com: Wake me up when I’m free It explores Tupac as a legendary figure who uses music to speak, share anger among the black community, and empower us as listeners to challenge the situation in America and around the world. What challenges arise when developing these exhibits that point to issues that persist today?
Nowaka Anusa: During the pandemic where we witnessed the death George FloydAnd the Briona TaylorAnd the Ahmed ArberyWe lost those wonderful people who were living their lives. It was nice to see in Wake me up when I’m free How active these people were both inside and outside their homes. But they also learned from this exhibition that through music, while it was nice to block out your yards on social media, it was even more attractive to have our voices heard.
It’s sad when you think about what we have already overcome as a people. From Billy Holiday Pass through the bulls ** t, I went to Ray Charles to me Aretha Franklin to me Stevie Wonder – All those amazing columnists who used their art and craft to speak out about injustice also had to put their bodies to the test! Music is very powerful and can be used as a weapon to change your feelings Wake me up when I’m free That we have also Saying this, but with “Pac it was important to show how much productivity is out of anger for change.
The music is the soundtrack to revolution, it always has been.
BET.com: Were there any self-care lessons you learned from Tupac’s self-written letters that are still stuck with you?
Nowaka Anusa: Buck left us so many messages, so many words, and it has been an honor to have the opportunity to see the group as closely as I have done over the past few years. I think of the notes and letters he wrote. There is a piece I wanted to make sure to include in it Wake me up when I’m free, which was “Keep Your Head Up”. That’s all written on one piece of hard paper, signing his name at the bottom.
He has a lot of other wise words that he has shared during his life, but to me, these are what hit me the most because there will always be a moment trying to break you down. You just have to keep your head held high and remind yourself that it’s not only raining on your house alone, it’s raining on other people’s houses too, a quote from Bob Marley.
The fact that he has moved on from us for over 25 years now, and yet still affects this world and is a constant spark that creates change is astounding. If you’re feeling down, head over to YouTube and watch a video with Pac and you’ll be ready to take to the streets, create your own impactful thing, and do something that builds change in our human society.
BET.com: As the lead coordinator for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, how do you do moments like Wake me up when I’m free Or are others inspiring you to develop the space and connect it to a wider audience?
Nowaka Anusa: Understanding the significance of this place in history is key. This is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! But to understand origins Rock ‘n’ roll is quickly learning that the foundations of this art form come from black souls and our struggles. From blues to gospel to country music to R&B, American music he is Black music, and I think that’s really important to emphasize. For me coming into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I wanted to fill in the gaps where some holes could be filled in, and we could amplify and talk about overlooked topics.
Music is forever and not static, it is always moving. So, to really be a reflection of time in this way with this situation, I wanted to make sure that my impact was felt. Hell, so coordinate the Beatles The show was an exercise on how to make the things that are happening now still relevant to us? As Vice President and First Black Gallery Curator at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it gave me the space to dictate the narrative and turn what’s happening onto our gallery calendar.
It is truly a special and an honor, especially since it comes from someone who originally wanted to be a lawyer and a journalist.
BET.com: It’s interesting to see how your goals have created new opportunities for black music fans to experience their history on a large scale. As we’re in the middle of 2022, what are some of the year-end goals that you still have on your list to achieve?
Nowaka Anusa: There are many exhibitions I have in the works that I can’t fully name here, but I definitely want to see those come to fruition. I want to celebrate the greatest black paparazzi. I am pleased with the work I can do for the city of Cleveland and am interested in changing the guard here. Justin Bib, the youngest mayor in the city’s history, is absolutely stunning. And this is a beautiful moment for blacks here and for what is possible in the city of Cleveland. I am curious to know how I can participate more as a servant of the community. I want to be a helping hand to scale up and make sure there’s some continuity and continuity in all of this.
For any of the stories I tell, I look forward to making them travel, have permanence here in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and influence the next generation of creators and artists. These are just some of the career goals and next steps for me, but I’m really happy with these upcoming exhibits and look forward to talking about them with you soon.
Kevin L Clark He is a screenwriter and entertainment director BET Digital, which covers the intersection of music, film, pop culture, and social justice. follow him Tweet embed.