An aspiring and successful actor, Che is deeply immersed in the Rochester cultural scene. So much so, we’ve named him Che of The Town!
Exclusively for Talker, Che has solicited and is conducting interviews from about 50 Rochestarians working in a diversity of creative fields.
For the full series, see Che of The Town: Interviews (1-28)
I [David Kramer]first met Banke in 2010 when she was teaching at the School Without Walls Foundation Academy. Last year Banke taught developmental reading & writing at Monroe Community College and is currently working as full time consultant with the RCSD.
I remember immediately noticing Banke’s passion for writing, theatre and creating a respectful educational climate for students. I also recall the excitement when she published her debut novel Always Want More.
And, like many others, I read Banke’s frequent guest essays in the Democrat and Chronicle.
Getting to Know Banke Awopetu- McCullough; A Strong Spirited and Rising Author from Che Holloway
In this highlight. we turn our attention to Banke Awopetu McCullough, a rising gifted author leaving her mark in the world of literature. I [Che Holloway] first met Banke last summer at WXXI in the greenroom while we were waiting to film our segments for the public news show, “Need to Know,” hosted by the incomparable Helene Biandudi-Hofer. My first impression I got from Banke was that she is a genuine intellectual. When I watched her segment I was also impressed by her indomitable will, Such strength is truly admirable and inspiring.
I wanted to delve a little deeper into the mind of this impressive individual, so I asked Banke a series of questions. Here are her responses.
Tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from, grew up, what H.S./College you attended etc.
I am a Rochester native, Marshall alum. I graduated from the University of Virginia, one of my crowning achievements. I’m a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. I have a Master’s in Adolescent Education from Roberts Wesleyan. I’m a down to earth space cadet. I love me some Black folks, good food, and conversation. I also thoroughly enjoy my own company. My favorite thing to do is daydream and spend time with my own thoughts. Writing heals me. So does powerful art, music, film, literature, t.v., theatre and in that order.
What inspired you to be an artist/entertainer? Early experiences worth sharing?
I can’t say that I was ever inspired; I was really born like this. I didn’t talk until I was three. Well, I didn’t talk to other people until I was three. I spoke my own language to myself. So I’ve always been a little distanced from everything around me, which causes me to create. I’m in constant observation and reconfiguration of the realities around me. And lately I’ve been more in tune with the varying realities of the people around me. We can all be fully present in the same moment and experience it entirely different. That amazes me.
Talk about a time where you have faced adversity/conflict and have triumphed.
When am I not facing adversity? I’m a warrior. My presence breeds conflict because I’m fully committed to the truth. I’ve learned to 1) accept adversity and 2) expect it, which leads to my triumph. Concrete example, (pun intended), publishing my first novel. I went into the submission process expecting lots of rejections. I was focused on getting just one yes. I kept telling myself, “All it takes is one yes.” Over the course of three years, I probably got three hundred rejections. Some of them hurt a lot, especially the close calls. I cried and I ranted, I’m such a brat, but I kept submitting and I kept editing. When agents suggested that I make it safer — less sex, cursing, and violence — or more of those that and less social issues; I realized I had a gold mine. No one has written this kind of book. No one. If they have, I haven’t found it and believe me, I have looked. This caused me to write this story. I really wanted to read it. And of course years later I learned that that’s Toni Morrison’s advice: “Write what you want to read” basically. That’s my model.
I created events I want to attend, experiences that I want to have. I worked with stakeholders to get a new Code of Conduct which when fully implemented will result in school climates that I would want to teach in. I’ve been invited to the White House, covered in Women’s Health Magazine, Ebony Magazine, The Rochester Business Journal, D&C, City Magazine, on the Maggie Linton show. All of this in less than three years. All of this done completely independently which is only possible because the people funded my Kickstarter campaign. That keeps me going. The people put me in this a position. What a triumph. I have a wonderful team and advisors. It’s a triumph that I didn’t sign with any publishing house. Now, I am the publisher; I am the talent. No one stands in the way of me getting the truth to the people. No one controls or exploits my art. That is a God given triumph.
What do you believe sets you apart from other artists/entertainers?
Do you have other interests or hobbies?
I like aesthetics. Photography, modeling, cooking when I’m in the mood. Outdoors! I’m a nature freak. Natural bodies of water and travel. I like decor. Recently I’ve been taking dance classes and dusted off my acting chops. Beyond that, my hobby is trying to mind my own business, which is hard because I’m such a curious and observant person.
Any projects you have out or currently working on?
I am creating some really dope content. Digital, film, literature. I can’t wait to share it with the world. I’m a member of We All Write, a writing collective of dynamic Black women and we’re working on a production. I’m also acting in a production of Jean Genet’s The Blacks at Bread and Water theatre. Oh and I’m promoting my one-on-one consultations. I share ideas and creative input to individuals looking to jump start a company or project. That’s really fun. I love helping people in that way.
I know exactly where I see myself in 5 years. I also know better than to share that with the world. Dreams and visions should be private. Don’t cast your pearls among swine.
What advice can you give to aspiring artists/entertainers?
My advice is there is no advice. People can give you wise counsel, share their experiences and knowledge, but ultimately no one else knows your path. Time with God is a must. Time working to know and better yourself is a must. Then apply what others say.
How can we follow along in your journey? Social media?
I share the most with the #ALWAYSWANTMORE community via my email list. It’s very personal. Any lessons I’m learning I share out. Visit Banketheauthor.com or Concreterosepublications.com to join. @banketheauthor on every social media platform. Pinterest and IG are my favs.
ON OTHER WRITERS