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By: Rebecca S. Jones

HOUSTON – For twenty-three consecutive years, African-American News & Issues has thrived off of highlighting and addressing current and historical realities affecting our communities. In addition to being the watchman on the wall for our people, we have consistently aimed to uplift and promote individuals, businesses, institutions and organizations, which have made great strides within and for our community. Accordingly, our lengthy and productive history throughout the Black community has enabled us to partner, collaborate and network with some of the best that our culture has to offer. With that being stated, African-American News & Issues is proud to announce our newest partnership with the African-American Photography Association; under the direction of President Thomas Carter and Vice President Ron Thomas.

Importance of Black Collaboration

Our publisher, Roy Douglas Malonson, often stresses emphasis on the need to, “support those, who support you”. The future of our generations and communities rests upon the investment of Black collaboration. True African-American history within this nation has been a testimony that, while we reside in a melting pot of cultures; the Black race operates on a lonely island by ourselves. For too long, other races have built wealth for their neighborhoods, churches, schools, communities and families off of the backs of our Black dollar. Unfortunately, many of us have no room to complain or justify this factor, because we are the blame.

Our people are notorious for swiftly leaving our communities to patronize others. Oftentimes, we support others and hold no accountability or expectation of them to support us. Many of us have been guilty of bypassing local African-American entrepreneurs and businesses that service our community to flock to those who do not look like us. Notwithstanding the fact, that at least by supporting local businesses from amongst our communities, there is a definite likelihood that the revenue will circulate within, in some fashion.

Prior to integration the strength of Black collaboration was strong and powerful, and for good reason. There was a time when African-Americans had no choice but to network and support each other, because it was literally against the law for us to even attempt to support others. In the event, where our support was deemed acceptable, the protocol was established through inhumane treatment. Yet, somehow we got away from the basics of, “taking care of home first”. As a result, we are losing all that our forefathers worked to achieve for us. Nevertheless, there is something about unity that commands respect from others, even if they don’t like us. Needless to state, the importance of Black collaboration is an imperative need within our community. This vision is one that is shared by AANI and AAPA and we have decided to lead by example in our recent partnership.

Meet the Management Team of AAPA

Ron Thomas, Vice President

Ron Thomas is a native Houstonian. He was educated in the Houston Independent School District and ultimately graduated from Jack Yates Senior High School. At an early age, he developed a fascination with the outdoors experience and enhanced his love for nature as a proud member of the Boy Scouts of America, in a program headquartered at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. He took his passion with him when he enrolled at Clark College (Clark Atlanta University) in Atlanta, Georgia, majoring in Mathematics and Physics in 1973.

Introduction into Photography

While studying at Clark, Thomas was elated to discover that he was just hours away from an avalanche trail. Initially, he went on a hike with a roommate of his, who had a film camera. After realizing that they could hike the avalanche trail, Thomas purchased a camera as well. Equipped with his backpack and camping skills acquired from being a Boy Scout, him and two of his classmates set out to hike the trail. It was at this time, that he recalls prepping his photography talents in what he describes as the, “outdoor laboratory”. Along their journey, Thomas captured various sceneries and settings and met people from different backgrounds. This experience served as an introduction into the world of photography. Over time, he continued to develop his love for the art. He started out doing landscape, travel and adventure photography; he later evolved to perfecting the art form of portraits, inclusive with certain types of texture, lighting techniques and costumes, in addition to event photography.

After completing his college coursework, he moved back home and began working for AT&T in the field of technology. He later transitioned into the oil and gas industry, where he was employed by several companies throughout the City of Houston. Thereafter, he dedicated 25-years to operating as a Consultant, which allowed him to hone his exceptional managerial skills. In the process of serving as a Project Manager, he gained experience working for and with a number of professional entities, including: oil and gas companies, a bank and consulting firms.

Today, Thomas is employed by Wood Mackenzie, a leading research and consultancy business for the global energy, chemicals, metals and mining industries.        Though he has operated in the corporate world throughout his professional career, he continued to nurture his love for photography. In an effort to network with other local African-American photographers, he became acquainted with Thomas Carter. Nearly two years ago, Carter created a successful meet-up group for local African-American photographers. The group evolved into the African-American Photography Association, where Thomas currently serves as Vice President. Aside from maintaining his role as Vice President of AAPA, he is a Certified Management Professional. He has also been married to his wife, Deborah for 34-years. Together, they have three children and one grandchild.

Thomas Carter, President

Thomas Carter was born in Omaha, Nebraska. However, he was reared in Oakland, California after his family relocated. From as far back as he can remember, he was always involved with community activism. He would often protest injustices against members of the African-American community and was active in the fight for equal rights. During his involvement with the freedom movement, he worked alongside many young people who had cameras. As he watched what they were doing, it sparked his interest into photography.

After completing his formal years of education, he attended Merritt College in Oakland. While there, he was recruited into management, by a local well-established drug company. By the age of 23, he had become the youngest General Manager for a drug company in the state of California. Carter remained in retail management for many years and acquired experience both as General and District Manager for several companies. Additionally, he pioneered several business ventures of his own.

Some time ago, he came to visit some friends in Houston and fell in love with the city. Eventually, he relocated to Houston and began working as a waiter at the Marriot Hotel, as he sorted through career options. As time went on, he enrolled into massage therapy school. After his completion, he started a massage therapy business for medical massage. In the process, he met Cora Coleman. Coleman is a renowned drummer from Houston, who has played for many great artists, including Prince and Beyonce. Together, they collaborated on a couple of projects. After acknowledging her camera and informing Coleman that he was an amateur photographer, she took him under her wings and showed him the professional side of the field. From this experience, Carter was able to groom his photography skills into a professional career.

The Birth of the African-American Photography Association (AAPA)

While searching for other photographers to learn from and collaborate with, Carter soon found that there were numerous highly-skilled African-American photographers; however, many of them went unnoticed and unseen. Therefore, he began browsing online for local photography associations. Much to his surprise, there were various associations within the industry; but none of them addressed the African-American community. As a result, he established the African-American Photographers Meet-up. Within a month, over 160 people signed up for the group. The overwhelming response assured him that, “there was a hunger for minorities to be able to unite and work together,” he said. Consequently, he was able to identify a strong group of African-Americans, who were excited to accelerate and utilize their talents to transition to the next level in photography. Hence, the African-American Photography Association (AAPA) was birthed.

The concept of the AAPA was designed to extend a much broader platform to local African-American photographers. Within AAPA, Carter desires to express to his constituents that, “they can self-educate and control their own futures and destinies.” He said, “I have always believed that, we as a people can do anything we put our minds to; and our strength is in numbers. We have incredible talent that most people don’t even realize that we have in our communities, because we don’t have the opportunity.” He continued, “So, I wanted to create those opportunities for other photographers, makeup artists, models, videographers and anything that has to do with photography – to be able to showcase those talents, so that the public at large can see them and that will cause them to gather opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t have.” 

Thomas Carter also serves as staff photographer for the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, under the leadership of Dr. Marcus Cosby. He is married to Cheryl Lawson; and is the father of three children, Anthuanette, Robert and Shontrece and two grandchildren, all of California.

African-American Photography Association (AAPA)

The African-American Photography Association is uniquely comprised of individual photographers, who have their own businesses and cater to their different genres of specialization. While members are self-contained, AAPA yields an avenue for photographers to work collectively and boost their clientele all at the same time. Through membership with AAPA, whenever a certain type of service is requested, the association dispatches a photographer based on the client’s perspective needs’. AAPA specializes in virtually every aspect of photography, including: event photography (family reunions, corporate events, parties, fashion shows, etc.), wedding photography, commercial projects (products, fashion, corporate branding, etc.), head shots, portraits, high school graduation photos, media coverage and any other type of need that a client may have.

Since its inception, AAPA has incorporated several initiatives within its design. Periodically, the organization participates in different programs. Most recently, members went on a landscape photography trip to the Hill Country. Other events have included a photo scavenger hunt, fashion shows and the Black Heritage Cowboy event at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Furthermore, the association offers training classes for photographers who are looking to break in the industry and may lack certain skills; assists senior citizens who may have a camera and are interested in learning how to use their equipment and they are working with at-risk teenagers by teaching them photography through Cora Coleman’s, VIVO Club.

Tentatively, AAPA is seeking to partner with a local non-profit organization within the community to host a Summer Workshop. Individuals who express an interest with AAPA are interviewed. Once the interview is complete, they are paired with a seasoned photographer who serves as a mentor. AAPA is a completely Black-owned and operated organization. The studio is located at 5002 Ennis St., 77004. For more information or details visit aapaphotos.net; contact (281) 793-2619 or email AAPAPHOTOGRAPHY@mail.com.

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