Investing and Reinventing Moves Chicago Man Forward to Seattle

You may have first learned the story of Skyler from Chicago last year when we featured his progress in being a resourceful chef and art enthusiast. Now, going by the name Man Forward, his story leaps off the page with energizing new chapters that showcase mobility, discovery, and reinvention. 

He uprooted from his hometown and moved more than 2,000 miles away to Seattle, Washington. In the new landscape, he immediately sought community and discovered Africatown, a community intentionally designed to empower and preserve the Black Diaspora in the city.

“I knew that I was moving to a place that was predominantly white, but I also in the back of my mind was like, ‘Yo, where are the Black people?’, he joked before sharing the reason he was so passionate about discovering community in Seattle.

“Culturally, it’s significant to be surrounded around people who are like-minded… So to have seats and spaces in which you can advocate for yourself or be at the point where people are making decisions, that’s a pretty awesome space to be in.” 

The former Chi-town chef used the change of scenery to reinvent himself–fully embracing the symbolism of being a “man moving forward” in life and entrepreneurship.  

“I’m an artist [now]. I do a couple of visual installations and things like that. But I primarily work with audio, so I just like different sounds. And at this point, I want to start working on a Sound Bath Exhibit where people can be immersed in sound,” he said. “So I’m thinking about how many different ways I can get audio into a space and [then] have people. That’s just something I’m thinking about and putting to paper.”

His entrepreneurial mindset has primed him to open a small tea house in coffee-crazed Seattle where the experience is geared around great varieties of herbal tea, art, music, empowering conversations and fellowship. It’s a vibe that he creates often with his new neighbors in his Seattle apartment community.

 “Community is literally sharing with everybody… there have been times I'm just in a [communal] kitchen making more than my fair share of everything, and people just walk in and we sit down, and we sit in fellowship and just have really good food.”

Creating space for community is natural for him. Generations of his family lived together under one roof in Chicago and other family members lived on neighboring blocks. That lived experience of community prepared him to now venture out on his own, flanked by a smile-inducing pitbull puppy named Bruno, to lead positive interactions with folks in the Pacific Northwest.

“Give people the opportunity to be creative—give all the tools. There are a lot of things that humans come to Earth with talent-wise, that we never tap into because of poverty.”  

Standing firm on that belief, he stressed that people should not need to provide a narrative of struggle and pain in order to spark actions of doing what is right.

“If we have a moment to really actually let an earthling be an earthling, let’s not spend all this time focusing on how much has someone trudged from under that experience to become this radiating light,” he said. “Can we just get to the point where people just get the opportunity to do it?”

Though he trademarked the name Man Forward, he consistently combs bookshelves in the local library to satisfy his thirst for knowledge and history—emphasizing that one of the best steps forward for racial equity is if our communities are no longer viewed as a skippable chapter.

“Reparations. All day long, I think that's the most pivotal change.”

Acknowledging that reparations isn’t an overnight read, he still feels it’s a solution that can happen when communities band together in support. 

“I know it takes a lot of work to get reparations; not having to ask people for money when you know that money is the engine of all of this,” he said.

His UpTogether connection was unique because he took his cash payout and invested in long-term art. While scrolling through Instagram, he says he came across a piece from one of his favorite artists and instantly felt a connection to the, at that time, unfinished work.

“I was like, ‘How do I get this in my possession?’" he remembered. “It just so happened that I had just got a deposit from UpTogether… and lo and behold, I paid for it, he shipped it, I got it.” 

The picture hangs high and untouched in his Seattle home—admired as an investment gaining value for the online market. 

“Now I'm waiting for that art to matriculate into something dope because this artist is big in the cryptocurrency world right now and he was an early adopter of all this,” he said. “I'm really grateful that I have this piece in the physical, and that if I ever in reality want to make NFTs or do print or anything like that, I have his blessing.”

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