The DIOP Circle V.25

December 15th, 2019


Marcus Amaker

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week, we're proud to present Jehdeiah Maitland, our 282nd customer. And he's going to share how he worked to understand and accept himself.

I was obsessed with records.

My parents had vinyl all around the house and they would play it constantly. We lived all around the world, because my dad was in the Air Force. Because of that, I was exposed to a lot of cultures and types of art. From a very early age, music was very tangible. I wouldn’t just put a record on, but sit with the physical vinyl in my lap and explore the artwork on the cover.

Prince records in particular made a big impact on me. On all of them it said “produced, arranged, composed, and performed by Prince.” I thought you needed multiple people to make something this great but seeing Prince do it himself gave me the power to know I could do it myself. And I had the tools to make it happen. I was lucky to have access to a tape deck and a Casio keyboard. I’d take blank cassette tapes, pop them in, and record made up songs. Doing it myself gave me confidence.

Poetry was a natural evolution from making music as a kid. When I hit puberty, I couldn’t sing like I used to. Writing gave me a voice for what I was feeling at the time. Hormones and ego had me trying to impress girls. And back then, music wasn’t as easily accessible as it is now. People would have to come over to your house to listen. Poetry was always right there and I could share it easily. In the same way Prince made me want to make music, Ani DiFranco encouraged me to write poetry. Prior to her, I had only written in basic rhyme schemes. Her wordplay, alliteration and figurative language changed my entire approach. With more tools in my toolbox, poetry became a very healthy outlet.

After majoring in English and minoring in Journalism in college, I moved to Charleston to work as a graphic designer for the daily newspaper, the Post and Courier. My passion for graphic design also goes right back to looking at records. It helped me understand music has a whole visual component. I enjoyed presenting the newspaper in ways both the writers and readers wouldn’t expect. For example, when Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace came out in 1999, I did a layout in the style of the movie’s opening credits with the tilted yellow text. It probably looks dated now, but at the time it illustrated that there were plenty of ways to present a story.

I learned a lot of my skills doing layout, from web design to video editing. And I got to sharpen them working on a new product that was released every day. This gave me the confidence to eventually take those skills and start my own business as a designer and editor. With poetry, I began to do reading and open mics. This helped me make a name for myself around the city.

On June 17, 2015, nine African-Americans were killed by a white supremacist during a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the oldest Black churches in the country. After the massacre, our local alternative weekly paper, the Charleston City Paper, asked me to write a poem. After that poem was published, I got to know many of the families affected by the tragedy, and deepen my relationship with the city.

The Mayor and his office got in touch and asked me to become the first Poet Laureate for the city of Charleston. Through visiting schools and leading workshops, it is my responsibility to speak truth through the written word and be a voice for the community. With everything going on at the time, it was a wonderful privilege and also a solemn burden.


The DIOP Circle V.25

December 15th, 2019


Marcus Amaker

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week, we're excited to have Marcus Amaker with us. Our 991st customer, Marcus is a new father and is going to have to share his Nansi bandana. He's going to tell us how he brings life to the written word.

I was obsessed with records.

My parents had vinyl all around the house and they would play it constantly. We lived all around the world, because my dad was in the Air Force. Because of that, I was exposed to a lot of cultures and types of art. From a very early age, music was very tangible. I wouldn’t just put a record on, but sit with the physical vinyl in my lap and explore the artwork on the cover.

Prince records in particular made a big impact on me. On all of them it said “produced, arranged, composed, and performed by Prince.” I thought you needed multiple people to make something this great but seeing Prince do it himself gave me the power to know I could do it myself.

And I had the tools to make it happen. I was lucky to have access to a tape deck and a Casio keyboard. I’d take blank cassette tapes, pop them in, and record made up songs. Doing it myself gave me confidence.

Poetry was a natural evolution from making music as a kid. When I hit puberty, I couldn’t sing like I used to. Writing gave me a voice for what I was feeling at the time. Hormones and ego had me trying to impress girls. And back then, music wasn’t as easily accessible as it is now. People would have to come over to your house to listen. Poetry was always right there and I could share it easily.

In the same way Prince made me want to make music, Ani DiFranco encouraged me to write poetry. Prior to her, I had only written in basic rhyme schemes. Her wordplay, alliteration and figurative language changed my entire approach. With more tools in my toolbox, poetry became a very healthy outlet.

After majoring in English and minoring in Journalism in college, I moved to Charleston to work as a graphic designer for the daily newspaper, the Post and Courier. My passion for graphic design also goes right back to looking at records. It helped me understand music has a whole visual component. I enjoyed presenting the newspaper in ways both the writers and readers wouldn’t expect.

For example, when Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace came out in 1999, I did a layout in the style of the movie’s opening credits with the tilted yellow text. It probably looks dated now, but at the time it illustrated that there were plenty of ways to present a story.

I learned a lot of my skills doing layout, from web design to video editing. And I got to sharpen them working on a new product that was released every day. This gave me the confidence to eventually take those skills and start my own business as a designer and editor.

With poetry, I began to do reading and open mics. This helped me make a name for myself around the city.

On June 17, 2015, nine African-Americans were killed by a white supremacist during a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the oldest Black churches in the country. After the massacre, our local alternative weekly paper, the Charleston City Paper, asked me to write a poem. After that poem was published, I got to know many of the families affected by the tragedy, and deepen my relationship with the city.

The Mayor and his office got in touch and asked me to become the first Poet Laureate for the city of Charleston. Through visiting schools and leading workshops, it is my responsibility to speak truth through the written word and be a voice for the community. With everything going on at the time, it was a wonderful privilege and also a solemn burden.

A lot of people approach poetry in a way that could be intimidating. It wasn’t all that fun to learn when I was growing up. But poetry is something anyone can do. It’s about studying the art form and expressing yourself. I visit schools once a week to do workshops. Activating students helps break down barriers to poetry. My mission is to bring life to the written word.

I don’t separate my poetry from my music or my design. It’s all part of one whole, one energy. Music holds a lot of nostalgia since I’ve been doing it actively since I was ten years old. And while poetry is a lot of work, it’s amazing. Each artistic practice leans on another.

I love the creative process. When an idea comes to me, I try to sketch it out as soon as I can. If it’s a song, I’ll hum it into my phone. Then I map things out from there. One of the reasons I like watching documentaries on different artists is because I get to see how they develop their ideas.

At times, when you put something out into the world and it doesn’t immediately click with people, I get anxious. Especially with social media. Platforms are great tools for sharing work, finding audiences and getting paid. But too often it feels like a competition. I don’t like playing the digital game. I’d rather have people come over for a listening party so we can talk about the finished product, rather than experience it on a tiny screen.

The best advice I can give is to own your work. There are tools available now that weren’t when I was younger for artists to benefit from their output. I see others who go the traditional route and spend years trying to get published or noticed by major labels. I think self-publishing is a beautiful way to connect with fans and share work, especially on a local level.

We have the power to give art directly to fans instead of relying on third parties for distribution.


Marcus Amaker

Follow Marcus @charlestonpoet and check out more of his work at TheBlackJedi.com

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.


A lot of people approach poetry in a way that could be intimidating. It wasn’t all that fun to learn when I was growing up. But poetry is something anyone can do. It’s about studying the art form and expressing yourself. I visit schools once a week to do workshops. Activating students helps break down barriers to poetry. My mission is to bring life to the written word.

I don’t separate my poetry from my music or my design. It’s all part of one whole, one energy. Music holds a lot of nostalgia since I’ve been doing it actively since I was ten years old. And while poetry is a lot of work, it’s amazing. Each artistic practice leans on another. I love the creative process. When an idea comes to me, I try to sketch it out as soon as I can. If it’s a song, I’ll hum it into my phone. Then I map things out from there. One of the reasons I like watching documentaries on different artists is because I get to see how they develop their ideas.

At times, when you put something out into the world and it doesn’t immediately click with people, I get anxious. Especially with social media. Platforms are great tools for sharing work, finding audiences and getting paid. But too often it feels like a competition. I don’t like playing the digital game. I’d rather have people come over for a listening party so we can talk about the finished product, rather than experience it on a tiny screen.

The best advice I can give is to own your work. There are tools available now that weren’t when I was younger for artists to benefit from their output. I see others who go the traditional route and spend years trying to get published or noticed by major labels. I think self-publishing is a beautiful way to connect with fans and share work, especially on a local level. We have the power to give art directly to fans instead of relying on third parties for distribution.

- Marcus Amaker


Follow Marcus @charlestonpoet and check out more of his work at TheBlackJedi.com

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.