We had the good fortune of connecting with Phil Allen, Jr. and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Phil, what is the most important factor behind your success?
When I think about success I think of how relative that term is. For me success is not necessarily arriving at a place, but it is about reaching goals I set for myself and the impact I make on other people’s lives as I strive for those goals. The reason why I say it is not about arriving at a particular place and calling that success is because for me there is always more to do, more to impact, and a new set of issues in our society to find solutions for. So as society shifts and changes and new issues and problems arise success is being able to continue to meet come up with answers to the questions those issues force us to ask. Then we can move toward solutions that bring about a more just and equitable society. What is success without impacting others or impacting society toward this end.
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.
While I was a pastor for over 13 years in the Los Angeles area, it was my poetry that opened doors of opportunity for me. It is in that context where people recognized my abilities as an orator. My preaching is somewhat poetic in cadence and delivery as I teach. Sometimes it was a challenge continuing to integrate my passion and gift for writing and performing spoken word in ministry, but over time I believe people realized that this is a major aspect of who I am. I actually considered myself a poet above anything else, including a pastor. I also wrote and produced a documentary short film called Open Wounds (directed by L. Michael Lee) that showcased my gift of poetry in much of the narration.
I learned to trust that the gift is there for a reason and not to neglect it by not using it. Just because the people and the context may not be accustomed to the gift or the art does not mean I can’t function fully in it anyway. One thing about me as an artist is that I don’t hide from my pain, struggles, or past trauma. Instead, I allow those things to be ingredients for the art that I produce.
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.
Before I take friends and family out to restaurants and fun places, I usually take them on a short tour of the places I lived and frequented when I first moved to L.A. Since they usually have questions (or have had many questions over the years) about my time in L.A., I am able to tell them my story, my narrative by showing them the places where certain things happened in my life.
Once we take that short tour I find out what they like to eat and what they want to see while in the city. I love to introduce them to Sage Vegan Bistro (usually the Culver City location). I try to find the best hole-in-the-wall spots so that they can experience real authentic food rather than the chain food or franchises, whether that is Mexican food or Thai food, etc. If they are in town long enough we would take a drive to Santa Barbara and then Solvang and hang out at the first Black female owned winery in the U.S., Rideau Vineyard.
I then try to make sure they get to see the city from different elevations and viewpoints. Going to the beaches is a must. The top of Runyon Canyon to catch the view of the city from above is necessary. Then besides shopping and the famous landmarks, I want to get them to the places they’ve seen on television. Most of my friends want to eat at the places they can’t get in their hometown or the places they’ve seen on a TV show.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I dedicate my success to the foundation laid by my parents and grandparents, the encouragement of family and close friends, and the mentors who have helped shape me in the different phases of my life.
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Other: Author of Open Wounds: A Story of Racial Tragedy, Trauma, and Redemption (released February 9, 2021: Fortress Press)