April showers down knowledge and power
Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 5:26 p.m.
April R. Silver is more than a mere 25-hour, eight-days-a-week New York City publicist. She is an activist on a mission to keep the art-ivist community informed to the nth degree, from poetry to song to political agit-prop and rallies.
"I'm a Gemini, born exactly in the middle of the year. It's natural for me to be involved in communications and to be concerned with balance," explains Silver, founder and president of AKILA WORKSONGS. For 17 years, the communications and management agency has been servicing creative and corporate communities, but doing so with a unique slant.
Depending on how you know her, you might recall her activism days at Howard University in the late '80s when she co-led a student protest that shut down the school for three days. Other people remember Silver from her teaching days, when she taught English to some of Brooklyn's most neglected middle school students. And many people know her as the woman behind Put on BLAST!, the daily e-mail service that keeps its subscribers in the loop about local and national events.
"October 21, 2010, is the 12th anniversary since I left my day job," says the native New Yorker, who was born in Queens and is now based in Brooklyn. Proudly, she blends arts and activism, and has built up a sterling reputation for AKILA WORKSONGS, which mostly represents independent artists, community-based and nonprofit organizations and social justice initiatives.
"I have a positive obsession for communicating and promoting a balanced view of Black people and other people of color," says Silver. "It's in my nature. I honestly believe that this kind of activism is my calling." Some individual clients over the years have included Sonia Sanchez, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Byron Hurt, Toni Blackman, Jacque Reid and Kevin Powell. Institutional clients have included the Apollo Theater, the Ford Foundation, the Caribbean Cultural Center and African Diaspora Institute, the Romare Bearden Foundation and many others.
"Being an entrepreneur is feast or famine. There are times when the company is thriving and there are times when it simply doesn't make sense to stay open. When I left my day job 12 years ago this month, I had just landed a contract with a record label to handle a few of its community-based initiatives, but that work fizzled. Two months later, I was working in the stockroom at Macy's. I spent so many nights crying because I wanted me to work for me, but I couldn't figure out how to make it all work. I kept pushing though, and I followed up on every business lead. I gave away tons of free labor just so I could gain more experience in PR and marketing. Three months [in January 1999] after leaving my day gig, I landed a $10,000 a month contract to work on a social initiative that was dear to me. That was a sign from God that I was on the right track."
To celebrate 12 years of entrepreneurship, AKILA WORKSONGS will present the New York premiere of "Equinox," the award-winning film by Baayan Bakari. The free event takes place October 27 at Medgar Evers College, located at 1650 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn. The screening starts at 7 p.m. and is followed by a discussion with the Oakland-based filmmaker. "'Equinox' is an unforgettable coming-of-age story about a young Black man whose views on being a man, on how the world works and on what it means to be in love all come crashing down on him. It's a perfect film about the choices we make in life, and I'm honored to welcome the film and the filmmaker to New York."
Miss April loves her work and is undaunted by the overwhelming nature of the industry. She's loyal, she's dedicated. She is everywhere. Look for that silver lining when you get that next Put on Blast! alert.