Actress Erika Alexander is on a mission to give Black creators their creative control back by way of the latest cryptocurrency innovation. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are the newest form of cryptocurrency taking over the digital space, and Alexander is a true believer that they're the game-changing tool that's redefining art across literature, entertainment, music and more.
The Living Single and Wu-Tang: An American Saga star recently announced her previously released award-winning graphic novel series, Concrete Park – an Afro-futuristic sci-fi story co-created with artist Tony Puryear – was finally coming out with its own branded line of NFTs. The new move was a history-making moment that made the novel the first Black-owned property of its kind to latch onto NFTs. The first few launches of the collection have managed to sell out in just a matter of a few minutes and in less than 2 hours, proving how sought-after this content was becoming.
When speaking to Shadow and Act following the initial launch, Alexander beamed with joy speaking on her widely popular NFT collection and how the graphic novel series is paving the way for other creations of its kind to find a place with NFTs.
"If you're a person who's a creator at all, your whole life should be based on staying in touch with what's innovative. Especially because any time it could be a [lane] for creative expression, it's important for you to know what mediums are out there," she shared. "We created Concrete Park a while back as kind of a DIY project because we got so much push back, but one of the places it had to go was on a digital platform. Because comic book stores just started closing and people were digital, but there was no way to compensate digital comments."
According to the actress, the release of Concrete Park proved that there was an audience hungry for the kind of representation the novel offered people of color in the fictional comic book space. The move into NFTs was just a natural next step to help start a new conversation about the power of ownership and creative control.
"NFTs are the way to creativity inside of a digital space," she said simply. "You buy these NFTs the way you buy something on Amazon or Nordstrom, it's just digital. If you think about it it's a natural progression. Before we came to this space in the modern century, everything was drawn on cave walls. Then they moved onto animal skins, canvases, photography and [so forth]. They were just representational art on the latest thing and each one was a different way to express ourselves."
Not only is Concrete Park's NFT collection a historical accomplishment in the kind of content it offers old and new fans, but it's also an innovation that has ushered in a new way for creators to get compensated for their art that doesn't devalue or strip away their visions, or as Alexander puts it, their intellectual property.
"There's a lot of great creators out there and I look forward to people who caught [Concrete Park] and see we stand on the shoulders of those getting into this space and innovating it," she says. "I think ["Concrete Park"] changes it because again enough can't be said about the monetization of IP, which for a long time has been absent in a way from the original creator. If you go on any one of these platforms for music or art or anything, you can take whatever you want and not have to compensate the artist. But if you buy an NFT, it's encrypted with a certain type of technology that links you and the creator, [and in this case] Tony, to the buyer and then if you sell it, there's a digital wallet that collects on that and also collects a residual."
"I've been collecting residuals for The Cosby Show and Living Single for a long time, but that's just how that works. You can't play someone's stuff without saying you owe the creators and their network and studio money for using their IP," she adds. "There was no way for creators to do that [before], imagine now that there is a way. There's people right now who can't make a living or pay their rent, but if they get into this space there's a possibility that they could. And more importantly, each time [their art] is sold or somebody makes a dollar off of it, they can get a piece of it too."
By partnering with a platform like On Curio – which delivers a new universe for fandom through digital collectibles – Alexander, Puryear and others involved in the makings of "Concrete Park" were able to introduce their creation to a whole new audience of people who have come to embrace all that NFTs have to offer. According to Alexander, On Curio has always been big fans of the novel series and wanted to find a way to honor it by collaborating with her and Puryear to create an exciting NFT collection highlighting the storytelling element of the project.
As the co-founder of her own media company, Color Farm Media, Alexander has always maintained her reputation as an advocate for the arts and Black creatives. Her Hollywood experience has helped shape a lot of the work the company has done on behalf of Black creators, and her newest NFT collection is just an extension of that mission.
"We call ourselves the Motown of film, television and tech, and we are [all] about finding new faces of media," she shares. "For years, Blackness has been branded as something ugly, dark and hateful, [but also] mysterious and grand and all these other things. We want to uplift the voices of creators of color and also address the biases that we feel get in the way, which is racism, sexism, ageism, and also geographic issues where people are not in the big creative cultural cities so they get overlooked. I'm just trying to correct the things that I know to be true, and I don't want that to be a problem going forward for the new generation or the generation that's still here."
In support of the NFT space, Alexander is sending a powerful message about the importance of maintaining ownership over Black creations and ideas and protecting our art from being exploited. Her own personal hashtag #BlackToTheFuture is a theme she'd like to see carry on moving forward. In her eyes, creative outlets like visual art, music, writing and others all help shape the world as we know it. As we continue to lead the way towards a digital future, the actress stresses that we should invest more into NFTs and Afrofuturism, which to her are very well the keys to tomorrow.
"I believe if you start to look to the stars, most of what will be our true story on this Earth will be down to what's downloaded on a memory card," she says. "Afrofuturists are the future and we created the future. I want to tell all Black creators of color that they should not be afraid of this space and they should embrace it."
Concrete Park's NFT Collection can be found on oncurio.com/collections/concrete-park. The last Concrete Park NFT drops this Wednesday via On Curio.