We had the good fortune of connecting with Abigail Lopez-Byrd and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Abigail, how does your business help the community?
One of our grounding pillars at Color Compton is “community.” We were very intentional about thinking of the ways this work has a larger impact on our local and global community. Our mission at Color Compton is to bring young people of color in the Compton and surrounding communities together and explore the histories of BIPOC folks and use art as a tool to create their own histories and narratives. We, as a community, unfortunately, have had limited access to wide narratives around what it means to be someone from this community. Our students don’t hear, see or learn enough stories that represent and reflect their own stories and that’s what we are trying to change at Color Compton. Many students begin to learn more of their own history and do identity exploration once they are in college or move out of their community, and this becomes the catalyst for their own identity development. But not all youth have this opportunity, so what happens to the folks that stay here? When do they have these conversations? We want to begin introducing these topics and tools at a younger age and in their own communities. Imagine how impactful it is for a young person to learn about themselves and the history of their community, here – in their own backyard. It sets them up to be more grounded in who they are, where they want to be, and who they see themselves becoming. This – I believe is the core that is needed to foster any social impact in the world.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I began my career and education as a photographer. In high school, I was introduced to darkroom photography and that allowed me to see the world with a different lens – the thought that I could create something was so foreign to be at that time. It pushed me to be reflective, look at my community, look at my family, history, and more importantly – look at myself and what I wanted to be. It definitely wasn’t a easy journey for me – I didn’t have funds to always explore art mediums and projects, culturally – many of my classmates didn’t understand what I was trying to say with my art. And my family didn’t understand how I could pursue any career in the arts. Eventually I began incorporating education into my work and have a more social approach to art. It has been a lot of trial and error to see where me as an artist begins and me as an educator begins. But through all these experiences, I have learned so much more of myself, my culture and my community. I want people to look at the work I am doing at Color Compton beyond any boundaries of education or art. It is a movement that transcends them both!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Compton is definitely a place that many outside folks want to visit and I always struggle with where to begin. Obviously we have the downtown area with a cute little coffee shop – Patria and we can see the MLK monument off of Compton Blvd. But beyond these places, I would want them to see the hidden community that is not often highlighted. I would take my friend to Richland Farms to see the rich culture and horse community; I would take them to the Compton airport to learn about the history of aviation in the city; I would drive them around the last remaining murals in the city from the Communicative Arts Academy; I would take them to the Compton Community Garden; and definitely I would take them to our offices at Color Compton to explore our art and library!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I know that I wouldn’t be where I am or been able to follow my dreams if it were not for the support of my husband and continued blessings from God. So many times I was fearful of following my purpose because of finances, timing or family obligations and my husband- Mark, always was there to reinforce how important it was for me to continue moving forward. He always reminded me that this journey was not only for my own success, but the success of others and their journeys were also linked to mine, so I had to follow it. I also want to give a huge shoutout to all the youth I worked with in NYC. It was through these relationships, that I was able to begin piecing together the concept for what would become Color Compton.