Okocha Obasi wants to make British creative culture bolder and “more Black, intersectional and queer”
We spoke to the London-based creative, the first recipient of the Extra Nice Fund, about his work with RaceZine and his ambitions for the future.
The Extra Nice Fund is a core part of Extra Nice, a new offering from It’s Nice That designed to support creativity in you and in the wider creative community. A portion of Supporters’ fees will be contributed to the fund, with the pot awarded to one impactful creative project each year. To celebrate the launch of Extra Nice and the Extra Nice Fund, we’ve awarded £1,000 to Okocha Obasi, the founder of RaceZine and a young creative we have huge respect for. Read on to learn more about the project or, to find out more about Extra Nice and the Extra Nice Fund, click here.
When Okocha Obasi first arrived in Leeds, where he’d moved from London to attend university, he was struck by something: the utter lack of diversity. “It was completely white-dominated,” he recalls. To address this head-on, he hosted a panel, art exhibition and spoken-word event during his first year, in which he and a few good friends talked about “what it’s like to be a creative of colour, as well as raising huge concerns about the normalised racist dialect happening across university grounds.” The event was a huge success, with around 100 people attending, and it proved to be the catalyst for a project set to continue these conversations: RaceZine.
Today, Okocha is a graduate and living back in London, and RaceZine is a multifaceted platform that uses “creativity as a tool to bring those from all walks of life together, to make the uncomfortable conversations feel comfortable, and to allow those of a less visible lens to be given centre stage,” he says. This manifests as a zine, workshops and talks but also as “hedonistic club nights for the PoC community”.
What’s clear through talking to Okocha about RaceZine is that his ambitions know no bounds and that he is dedicated to furthering the project’s mission. With all its creative branches, Okocha’s sky-high ambitions and the impact it’s already having, RaceZine was a worthy recipient of the first £1,000 from the Extra Nice Fund, an annual fund that forms part of It’s Nice That’s latest venture, Extra Nice.
When asked about that mission, Okocha tells us it’s all about reigniting confidence in people from all walks of life, whether that’s a person of colour feeling empowered about their creative practice or a white person feeling more equipped to join uncomfortable conversations. “If that’s in a panel, workshop, print or club night, I want to make sure my guests leave feeling happier within themselves,” he says. An important part of what he sees RaceZine going on to do, however, concerns brands. He wants to use the platform to push brands to be more inclusive in their campaigns, tone of voice and impact. “I think brands have a huge role to play in society and there’s still a long way to go until we see actual diversity and change, rather than the tokenisation of bodies.”
Clubbing and bringing people together through music has been a core part of RaceZine from the very beginning, mostly through Okocha’s night called Tongue N Teeth. It provided (up until the pandemic hit, of course) an opportunity for him to create a space where like-minded people could feel liberated collectively, particularly among the Leeds nightlife landscape, which is largely geared towards cis white bodies. “With support from Sable Radio, plugkeisha, and Wharf Chambers I was able to create TNT, which allowed the night to highlight and pay PoC DJs in the North,” he explains. The event also encourages self-expression and does everything possible to make attendees feel included and safe.
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Okocha Obasi: Spread from RaceZine (Copyright © Okocha Obasi)
Another project saw Okocha raising money for Support Centre, a Black-focused mental health charity, through three different workshops he describes as a “mock-up art school”. The first saw plugkeisha teaching attendees to DJ, the second was a zine and poster workshop, and the third was a life-drawing class that featured poses deriving from Black and Asian imagery to explore lost histories and icons.
Bringing all these ideas together was The Letter to The Future 2.0, in which Okocha teamed up with several other queer clubbing collectives in the North to create “a manifesto about the ideals we should carry throughout and beyond life under lockdown”. Working with We Are Print Social, he was also able to create a T-shirt which raised £2,300 for The Bail Fund Project, a US-based charity helping pay for bails for those both wrongfully prosecuted and for protestors who are part of the BLM movement. “The other share of profits went to Rainbow Africa, a not-for-profit organisation which is supporting LGBTQI+ Black, Asian and brown bodies in seeking asylum, preventing hate crime, and providing counselling,” says Okocha. “This is one of my proudest projects to date as it fused fashion, design and activism into one.”
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Okocha, shot by Faith Aylward
Hearing what RaceZine has done for people in its short lifespan is what really motivates Okocha to go further. “How it’s given people more insight into the world, how it’s inspired people, allowed others to find the strength within themselves, as well as allowing people to explore their identity,” he elaborates. “It allowed people to experience something that I longed for when I started university and I hope now, being back in London, this platform can do this all over again to a wider audience.” The dream, he continues, would be to do that through directing a fashion show or a major campaign: “I would love to completely switch every normalised convention on its head, leaving the audience feeling breathless, shocked and involuntarily inspired.”
So how does Okocha plan to use this first contribution from the Extra Nice Fund to get him closer to where he wants to be? Firstly, he’ll be using £250 towards updating RaceZine’s website, adding a shop and marketing it. A further £250 will go towards marketing Issue Two of the zine and creating a sticker and a poster for its launch. The remaining £500 will then go towards production costs for Issue Three of the zine. More broadly, he says, “It will allow the platform to become more solidified in its style, focus and function. The Fund will allow the platform to be more ambitious in how it produces and documents content too, making it easier to make that next big step in the audiences and people we engage with on both a curatorial and output level.”
The idea, Okocha concludes, is to continue his mission to “leave British creative culture a little bit more risky, bold, unapologetic, and above all more Black, intersectional and queer!”
The Extra Nice Fund is a core part of Extra Nice, a new offering from It’s Nice That designed to support creativity in you and in the wider creative community. A portion of Supporters’ fees will be contributed to this fund, with the pot awarded to one impactful creative project like RaceZine every year. To find out more about Extra Nice and the Extra Nice Fund, click here.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.