Friday, August 7, 2015

From the Archives: Article originally published in Beyond Race Magazine

The ‘H’ Man Brings the Heat: Article originally published in A&U Magazine


H is for Heat.  H is for Harlem.  H is for Hickson, a native of Harlem with an ear for the heated stories of the inner city and with a few tales of his own.  “Harlem is where the heart is,” 36-year-old Hickson says, willing to talk just about everything but his first name (which, at least for now, remains a mystery).

Live Lava. Photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
Live Lava Heat. Photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved. (if you stand close enough, the smell and heat of the lava reaches you, wraps around you)

He graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1998, with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Advertising and Marketing Communications.  While attending college on a full-time basis, Hickson also worked as a freelance stylist, a job that led to a wardrobe coordinator position with Audrey Swaltz and the Ground Crew, a recognized backstage management team.  It was here that he was put in charge of coordinating catwalk queen Naomi Campbell’s outfits.
Five years into his work, on September 10, 2001, Hickson decided to leave the industry, unaware of the tragic events about to happen the following day.
“After 9/11, I was living off my savings,” Hickson recalls.  He also started to put his life experiences into words at that time.  Soon, writing became a creative outlet for Hickson.  He was writing poetry in between job interviews.  At the advice of his friends, Hickson published his poems in Ghettoheat, a collection of verse portraying the experiences, energy, and vibe of urban inner city life.  Hickson says life on the streets of Harlem includes “the good, the bad, and [definitely] the ugly, [but also] the beauty of it, too.  It is not all tragic, it’s love as well,” he says.  “I love my people and my native place, even if, sometimes, it [can] get chaotic.”
    To self-publish his poetry book, Hickson founded his own multimedia company, Ghettoheat.  It all happened in 1996 in the Village during Veteran’s Day weekend.  Hickson was wrongly accused of not using a token for his train trip.  He was handcuffed and locked in the men’s bathroom on the train platform…without being allowed to use the bathroom.  It took the police four hours to release him, because they were waiting for the shift change.  The ten officers involved enforced an illegal strip search of Hickson, violating his rights.  This led to a class action suit, which Hickson won in 2000. 
Three years later, Hicskon received his check.  Two days later, on June 4th, 2003, he started his company, Ghettoheat, “What exists before, during, and after the fire,” as defined on its website, www.ghettoheat.com. 
Ghettoheat’s mission is to educate and empower everyone through entertainment by creating awareness, be it for safer sex, HIV/AIDS, or street-life awareness, in its products.
While starting with only one author (Hickson), Ghettoheat now publishes six authors and is seeking other new and original voices.  Ghettoheat authors come from all paths of life and from everywhere across the country.  Two of them, Jason Poole and Damon “Amin” Meadows, are co-authors of Convict’s Candy, a novel inspired by actual events and the authors’ personal experiences.  It exposes the reality of life behind bars and issues like HIV/AIDS and sexual harassment among convicts through the story of a trans-woman locked together with the male inmates. 
While the two authors are awaiting their soon-to-come release, Hickson is helping out with promoting Convict’s Candy through book events around New York City.  After all, Hickson believes in the powerful message of Convict’s Candy.  That’s why he decided to make it a Ghettoheat production.  
But Ghettoheat is much more than a multimedia company.  Ghettoheat is a movement against illiteracy within inner cities, providing a creative outlet especially for youth to express themselves freely through the art of writing.  Ghettoheat Movement has established a college scholarship fund intended for young adults pursuing careers in journalism and/or creative arts.  Funding for the scholarship comes partly from the sales of Ghettoheat products.
Ghettoheat Movement is also about everyday people across the world united in their efforts to promote the importance of reading.  As defined on Hickson’s website, Ghettoheat Movement’s mission is “to find a solution for the serious, ongoing problem of illiteracy within urban communities.”
While dedicating his work to improve the lives of others through fighting illiteracy and bringing into the open real issues of life on the street, Hickson also has goals of his own.  He hopes that soon it will be possible to make Ghettoheat books into movies and, therefore, add to the ways in which Ghettoheat can help.  After all, Hickson concludes , “[Ghettoheat] is all about making a difference.”