We had the good fortune of connecting with Latoya Coleman aka Toya From Harlem and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Latoya, is there a quote or affirmation that’s meaningful to you?
“Don’t reinvent the wheel, put rims on it.” I heard this quote at a Black Tech event in New York City years ago. It was said by a panelist named Anthony Frasier the CEO at abfcreative. I always remember this quote because its such a simple and genius analogy for how to think about business and life and how we don’t need to over complicate things. A lot of times as a creatives, entrepreneurs and even just as people, we think we have to come out with some grand, never thought of before concept and this quote is like, “nah you just need to put your own spin or special sauce on whatever you do- that’s it.” This quote reminds me that whatever I do, it doesn’t need to be something people have never seen in order to be successful, it just has to be something I’m do in my own unique way with my perspective and my voice. This words are really an affirmation that highlights that we as individual people, have uniqueness and special sauce (the rims) THAT is all the difference to being successful. Just do things your way. And I love that.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have a blogged called ToyaFromHarlem.com. In 2014, I decided to create the ToyaFromHarlem.com platform as a digital archive for all the places that were being erased in Harlem in the name of gentrification. Today, toyafromharlem.com is where you will uncover historical places you pass by everyday, books to read, dope art by people of color, safe POC places to check out and cultural things to do- oh my life is sprinkled in here as well. Essentially, I’m the Anthony Bourdain of history.
At the top of 2019 I moved to Los Angeles, where I started freelancing full-time as writer and social media manager full time and taking my website more seriously. Last year 2020, on Juneteenth I launched my podcast called That Wasn’t In My Textbook (should hyperlink to thatwasntinmytextbook.com), a biweekly podcast that helps us uncover the things we always wished we learned from that boring bulky textbook. This podcast includes dynamic research topics, my cultural commentary, interviews with culture creators and entrepreneurs that will speak to the ‘History of’ a topic from the history of curating to the history of weed.
I decided to start my own podcast due to the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, and my passion for history. At the top of the year, before outside was closed aka the pandemic, I was planning on shooting a pilot for a history travel docuseries show that was very Anthony Bourdain inspired.
Once the pandemic hit and many folks started to realize that we are not only fighting coronavirus but racism—which has been around for a much longer time—it caused me to pivot. I changed my goal of shooting a pilot for my show to launching a podcast, something I could safely do from the comfort of my home. Similar to my show idea, I wanted my podcast to shine a light on the history of BIPOCs. I wanted to focus on uncovering the history of things that have led us to where we are today, with topics like the history of police, tea and weed. Now it is more important than ever, talk about Black history and other people of colors’ history—so we are all informed about other cultures, understand the BIPOCS impact on the culture, and for BIPOCS, to understand who we are, where we come from and where we are going. It only felt right to launch my podcast on Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States.
My goal is to keep growing That Wasn’t In My Textbook podcast, covering more interesting topics, interviewing dope people and gathering more listeners over time. I would love to be a top history podcast that could be used as a part of our daily lives, used in high school and college curriculums. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve learned that I need a schedule, help and organization. I wish I could tell you I have it all figured out, but I’m still overcoming them and trying to find a workflow that works for me, as I balance podcasting, blogging, my freelance work and so much more.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Los Angeles is such a beautiful city with so many different landscapes and so many things to do. If I have a friend in town for a day or so I would probably follow the itinerary below
Start the day with a coffee shop like Bloom & Plume, then do one of my favorite shorter hikes at Fryman Canyon. Probably stop at the Vurger Guyz food truck for a quick bit to eat. Probably shower and then head to California African American Museum. Depending on how hot it is, head to Happy Ice on Melrose to cool off. Then stop over at Reparations Club to get some books, take some pictures in their beautiful space and some other dope stuff that’s in the store. Then, grab some vegan Ethiopian food for dinner at Azla Vegan. Then if they’re up for it, cause this is a lot, I would probably end the night at The Normandie Club a nice speakeasy in my neighborhood.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I give a great amount of credit and recognition of my success to my mother and the tribe of people and organizations she put me in that, set me on the path that I’m on today, —amplifying and celebrating Black and other people of color voices, history and businesses. Born and raised in Harlem, my elementary and middle schools were predominately Black spaces for Black children, with Black teachers, (RARE I know.) I credit people like my elementary principle and teacher Mrs. Johnston, who started a Montessori school because she wasn’t happy with the public school system that only highlighted Black history in February. I also credit the co-founders of my middle school called The East Harlem School at Exodus House. The school was founded by two brothers who transformed their parents rehab center that helped address the crack epidemic in Harlem in the 80s and 90s into a middle school for students in the neighborhood. They purposely hired teachers that reflected the children in the community and they extended the school day to 5pm to compliment the work day schedule. Dance Theater of Harlem, International Youth Leadership Institute, National Urban Fellows and so much more. The list of people and organizations that are apart of my story is endless, still happening and could go on and on. They all helped uplift, support and educate me, so that today I confidently know who I am and where I come from.
Other: Apple Podcast link- https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/that-wasnt-in-my-textbook/id1518499087 Spotify Podcast link- https://open.spotify.com/show/6O0pLKzZeB6ghiMlUBTPol?si=C34q7-NGQDWy1RwqqG2LXw&nd=1
For the podcast photos with brick background credit Rebecca Francois, for the plant photo credit Jaclyn Andrade.