Jamal Parker is used to being a member of the Philadelphia arts scene. But recently, the performing artist and writer had a new way to create as a first-time model.
“It was really a different experience than what I was used to,” Parker said. “I can’t wait for people to see it.”
In March, Parker, a senior Africology and African American Studies major, was offered a modeling contract with Journeys, a youth footwear and clothing store. Parker was one of several local artists asked via Instagram to model for the Journeys 2019 back-to-school campaign, which will release in stores and online nationwide during late summer.
Parker was skeptical when he received the offer in his Instagram messages.
“Initially, I was like, ‘I don’t know how valid this is,’” he said.
Parker confirmed it was real, then accepted to try modeling out. Parker and fellow artists modeled the Journeys back-to-school streetwear collection for three days in early April from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.
“It was good because I met a lot of good people and got acquainted with what that industry is like,” Parker said.
While at Temple University, Parker has contributed to the city’s arts scene on and off campus. In 2017, he co-founded Black Boy Fly, an award-winning performing arts collective of young artists, poets, rappers and photographers.
“We’ve been on slam teams together, we’ve coached one another. …We all have cultivated a lifestyle,” Parker said.
Matthew Faturoti, a sophomore entrepreneurship major and Black Boy Fly member, said Parker’s work in the organization inspires his own.
“He doesn’t stop, he just keeps going,” Faturoti said. “…He’s always acting as a beacon in a way, where you can look at him and be like, ‘Yo, Jamal’s doing this.’ To me, it’s inspiring.”
From 2016-18, Parker worked as the artistic director of Babel, Temple’s slam poetry collective. He curated artistic showcases for the collective each semester.
Natalia Garay, a junior public relations major and Babel’s social media coordinator, said Parker’s work ethic is “unmatched.”
“When we talk about Jamal Parker when it relates to Babel, he is definitely…somebody that we as a collective revere and always look up to,” Garay said.
Parker said Babel provided a “safe space” for him to express himself through poetry. It inspired him to write his own poetry book, “Bondage,” centered around his experience as a young Black person in America.
Last summer, “Bondage” won the Inaugural Writing Award from ‘Éphémère Review, an online micro-press, and was published in October as a digital micro-chapbook.
“One of the things that I do in terms of an outlet of expression is writing and performing,” Parker said. “It can be scary because it’s kind of like exposing yourself to the world. But it can also be a cathartic experience.”
After graduation, Parker plans to continue on an artistic career path and hopes to go on his second poetry tour this fall. Parker said he enjoyed the experience of modeling professionally, but for now looks forward to continuing his career in poetry and remaining an active member of the Philadelphia community.
“Each time I perform, I have to kind of remind myself why I’m doing this,” Parker said. “There’s always the little kid in me that was 8 years old and writing comic books who loves the fact that I’m doing this today.”