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.

Alumni Spotlight: JoDeanah Noble

The second Alumni Spotlight for September 2020 is JoDeanah Noble, a graduate of Henry W. Grady High School (2009), of the University of West Georgia and of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) (2014). JoDeanah is a seamstress for television and film and she owns an apparel company that specializes in women’s and children’s clothing and men’s accessories. She volunteered at SCAD Day this year to speak about her creative career journey.  

Paint a brief picture of what you are doing now.

Currently, in the midst of the pandemic, I’ve spent a lot of my time working on my business, Jo David Design Studio, which luckily is an apparel company so I have been able to stay busy. I specialize in women’s and children’s clothing, men’s accessories, and as of this year masks! I am also a seamstress/tailor for television and film working on shows and movies for HBO, CBS, FOX, BET and more. My day-to-day differs greatly between creating masks, client work, scheduling meetings and photo shoots, marketing, and creating new sketches and designs for the next season.

With our new normal, I have to make more effort to get away from the screen and/or sewing machine and get out of the house. Atlanta looks so different on foot! But I do enjoy seeing the city a different way and taking advantage of the Beltline Trails near me and exploring hidden nooks and gems along the way.

How did 21CL prepare you for your next steps? Going into college and taking on leadership roles, heading into a new era of professionalism, etc. What skills/tools/perspectives have helped you along the way?

Prior to 21CL, public speaking had been an area I excelled in. Joining 21CL allowed me to be around my peers and gain more confidence speaking to groups large and small and learn to listen and connect with those I spoke to on all levels. Being in an environment with other driven and enthusiastic students made speaking and making my voice heard more comfortable and much more relaxing in many situations. I held many student government positions in high school including Class President and Executive Council member and was a Yearbook Copy Editor. In college at the University of West Georgia, as a student government senator, I became Public Relations Chair and voted “Senator of the Year.” Later, at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD Atlanta) I was also a student ambassador.

In addition to making way for leadership roles, programs like 21CL fostered many friendships that I have to this day and helped me in learning discipline to excel in operating my own business.

Which programs did you participate in, and when? What skills did you gain or improve through those programs?

I participated in the 21CLub at Grady High School, attended a Summer Leadership Institute at Georgia Southern University and had an internship with Turner Studios. Through my internship at Turner, my group worked with Turner Classic Movies. I love older movies, and Gone With the Wind is one of my favorites! It was my first internship which made me a bit nervous, but having other 21CL members by my side, the process was much smoother as we all helped each other brainstorm ideas and finish assignments together. In addition, I gained more confidence in presenting those ideas and creating a final product all through teamwork and collaboration. In high school and early college years, I thought I wanted to be a journalist; funny that I now have my own Scarlet O’Hara moments everyday as a fashion designer!

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

I would say that a memorable moment for me is even 10+ years later by continuing to be in touch with fellow 21CL alumni both from and outside my high school network. As a business owner, it warms my heart to have their support and be included for their special moments having made wedding dresses, suits and baby and children’s clothing for some of them.

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 believe to be an effective leader, one must learn to observe and listen. I’ve been able to apply that in all aspects of my professional life. On film sets, I need to make decisions based on the fit and on how actors move in costumes; I listen to feedback from clients on styles and colors they would like to see more of or what sells best, and I have to be able to acknowledge the work my team does to help keep us all afloat. I appreciated participating in 21CL alumni  round table discussions where everyone had their own spotlight of input to share and engage with students.