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Alumni Spotlight: Emily Jackson

21CL Alumna Emily Jackson, better known by her artist name EmmoLei Sankofa, is our Alumni Spotlight for October 2021. A graduate of Westlake High School (2008), of Hampton University (2012) and of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) (2014), Emily is an emerging talent and active voice among the next generation of music industry leaders. She and her work have been featured on various platforms, including Lyrical Lemonade, LANDR, Saint Heron, OC Weekly, The Recording Academy, Gender Amplified, Billboard, and more. She is an alumna of The Recording Academy’s 2021 NEXT program. In her post, Emily says that she is grateful to 21CL for creating a hub for future leaders to grow and learn from each other. She was one of the 21CL Alumni who volunteered at the 2021 Charity Golf Outing this month and was one of the sponsors of the game!

Paint a brief picture of what you are doing now.

I am Emily Jackson, better known as EmmoLei Sankofa, an American composer, producer, musician, and artist whose work stretches across music, visual media, and fine art. A 2021 Sundance Composers Lab Fellow, I had the opportunity to work closely with Film and Television composers on my craft. Creative Advisors for the intensive include Kathryn Bostic, Laura Karpman, Blake Neely, Heather McIntosh, George S. Clinton, Mychael Danna, Jeff Rona, and Christopher Willis. I have collaborated with some of the best emerging and award-winning filmmakers, including Rhea Dillion, Jonathan Lewis, Imani Dennison, Sekani Solomon, Ajiri Akpolo, and more. My original music has been heard via screenings at HBO, the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, Lionsgate, Warner Bros., the Oakland Museum of California, and film festivals in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, Savannah, Baltimore, Las Vegas, Laughlin, and beyond. I have also worked with top brands like Nike, Vans, Buzzfeed, Pandora, Kamala Harris for the People, Pulse Films, and more via my creative audio company, Bèl Son.

My discography encompasses over twenty-one independently released albums, EP’s, and singles collectively and embodies a mixture of genres but often integrates soul, jazz, classical, and rhythm and blues. My single, “Don’t Fight,” was recently included on Adult Swim’s OPUS compilation album. As a musician, I have performed with Nelly, Ella Mai, Kurt Schneider, and more and recently had her debut performance as a solo act on Mobley’s “Devil in a Daydream” Virtual Tour. I was invited to participate in the 2021 “Songs of Pride” songwriting camp, hosted by Universal Music Publishing Group, where I collaborated with emerging songwriters/artists Amanda Cygnaeus and Nate Traveller.

I just wrapped the score for Horror Noire, a six-story anthology film, due to release on Oct. 28th on Shudder, the upcoming season of Step Up: Highwater on Starz alongside Stephanie Economou, and I am currently working on a docu-series at Amazon.

How did participating in 21CL transform you and lead you to where you are now?

During my high school years, I participated in the Winter Summit, Fall summits, in the 21CLub at Westlake HS and in the Summer Leadership Institutes. 21st Century Leaders was a step in the journey and a piece of my story. It gave me a space to nurture relationships, refine my leadership skills, and get in the practice of giving back to my community.

How did the skills/tools/perspectives you acquired from 21CL prepare you for your next steps, going into college and taking on leadership roles, heading into a new era of professionalism?

21st Century Leaders really taught me the importance of and connection between leadership and service.

What is your memorable or ‘aha’ moment in 21CL? (Particular program, meeting a professional and diverse peers, speaking in public for the first time, etc.?)

I do cherish all of the community service events we did. The one that jumps out at me immediately is when we repainted the main stage at Dad’s Garage Theater and now, my fiancé has a mural on the side of their building – Full circle moment! I also really cherish other simple projects that made big impacts like clearing Kudzu at the Atlanta Food Bank and painting single family homes with Habitat for Humanity.

Did 21CL assist you in developing a leadership style that makes you an effective leader? if so how? And have you recently learned something else about leadership? Please share!

I’ve always been a leader, so I believe the most important thing 21st Century Leaders did was to connect and expose me to future leaders and people that I could look to as I refined my leadership style. Creating a hub for future leaders to grow and learn from each other introduced a synergy that the world is feeling the impact of today.