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Check Out Eyaan Mahone’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Eyaan Mahone.

Briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I was born in Burbank, California  and raised in St. Louis from the age of 3 years old.

Both of my parents are from Saint Louis, Missouri

My father came from a broken household like many others and spent years practicing to become a professional boxer. However, that talent turned into aggressive behavior toward my mother and at times me. At a very young age I witnessed my mother being handled by my father. As I got older and discussed the history of my childhood, I came to the conclusion that my father was out of control.

My mother endured this pain for years and had enough. She decided to divorce him in 2004. Nonetheless, he now lives in New Zealand. As an adolescent, I struggled with the absence of my father because he left when I was in third grade. I felt displaced, alone, and exasperated. I’m the oldest son of six siblings but I grew up as the only child with my mother.

After graduating from high school at McCluer North High School in 2015, I pursued higher education at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale. In May of 2019, I received my bachelor’s degree in Radio, Television, and Digital Media, specializing in TV Production with a minor in Africana Studies. I spent all of my undergraduate years at SIU-C employed by WSIU PBS Studios. I earned the opportunity to direct our ‘student ran’ live news telecast..

As a reporter, I interviewed U.S. Olympian DeAnna Price in November of 2016 & then SIU-C Men’s Basketball Headcoach Barry Hinson in 2018. While working at PBS, I worked as an Associate Producer at WSIL-TV (ABC Affiliate) in Cartierville, Illinois. I primarily performed my responsibilities as a videographer and video editor.

My video production skills are valued internationally as well. I instructed videography to youth in Cape Town, South Africa. In the winter of 2018 and summer of 2019, I joined with non-profit, Meet & Teach in Africa. The Meet & Teach organization is designed to provide disadvantaged youth with educational hands-on workshops & sports camps.

I was part of a diverse group of coaches & workshop instructors who taught young people creative processes in areas such as videography, music production, and photography. I always had an appreciation for Marcus Garvey for his role to take Black people to Africa as an asylum. I manifested this dream as a teen to go to Africa and I truly felt loved and gifted by God when the opportunity arrived.

At the time, I was also a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, SIU-C Chapter. NABJ sharpened my interpersonal skills and professional development through their annual national convention & career fairs. I networked and learned from a lot of journalists, actors/actresses, and many other media professionals. Then, in August of 2016 in D.C. I received the opportunity to take pictures with actress Amirah Vann, Sanaa Lathan, actor Aldis Hodge, Alano Miller, and film director, Gina Prince-Bythewood.

Oddly enough, I was even asked by journalist Roland S. Martin to be a personal bodyguard for himself and filmmaker and television producer, Ava DuVernay. I love her work! The first time I saw “13th” was in one of my first classes in college. Queen Sugar is also one of my favorite shows to watch. I would later get a chance to work with Roland Martin on his show “Roland Martin’s Unfiltered Show” as his Production Assistant.

In August of 2018, I was able to meet and take pictures with Isiah Thomas of the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons in Detroit & actor Brandon T. Jackson. I am so thankful to God to have met so many professionals and legends in their crafts. I gained insight as to how to deal with everyday issues as a Black man in the field of media & communication.

I didn’t have a lot of practice with public speaking, but with NABJ, I had to give several group presentations, and as a result, I have become much better at delivering information efficiently.

Back home is St. Louis, I’ve worked with Prosecutor Wesley Bell, Mayor of the City of Saint Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, Artist Tef Poe, and President and CEO of The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Inc Michael P. McMillan. After all of these rewarding encounters, I felt empowered. I was educated on how to courageously live in one’s truth without any apologies.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
In high school and most of my college days, the health of my grandfather, Marvin, was declining due to his battle with Alzheimer’s. He was one of my father figures. During my spring break, I got a call from my mother that his spirit transitioned onward.

This happened on March 13th in 2018. In his honor, my family drank Vess Orange Whistle sodas and ate Chinese food, which were two of his favorites. Later that afternoon, we watched Black Panther in theaters. Although this was the second time I saw this movie I cried so much feeling a sense of connection through the movie that left me starting to feel refreshed and the beginning of healing.

After the movie, I headed straight to bed at 10pm. My first alarm went off at 1am to be ready for work at WSIL-TV at 3am. At 9:35am my Sports, Media & Society class started. I felt I had no time to grieve and had to teach myself how to deal with this grief quickly.

Another challenge I’ve faced recently came about when I was in graduate school. I accepted a role as a graduate assistant for SIU-C’s Marketing and Communications Department as a Digital Media Production Specialist. This position required me to enroll in a minimum of three classes and work at least 20 hours a week, which included filming, editing, and producing videos. At this time I also served as President of the NABJ Carbondale Chapter. Due to COVID, I had to work remotely and independently on projects, including weekends. I scrambled to handle this workload and build new genuine relationships while in grad school.

I spent my off time trying to connect with friends who lived in other neighboring cities and unfortunately on one of my commutes I had trouble with law enforcement and was arrested in Illinois, Anna-Jonesboro jail due to unpaid traffic tickets.

Many may not know but Anna’s acronym is “Ain’t No Niggers Allowed”. A lot of places in the South and Midwest are similar to Anna-Jonesbora for being historically known for having sundown towns. It’s a practice of racism that made all people of color leave town by the time the sun went down.

I was only there for 3 hours but this negatively affected my spirit.

Soon after my visit to jail, I started using Adderall and smoking marijuana in an attempt to stay focused on completing multiple projects and assignments, which was not the best decision. Without any success and mounting pressure, I chose to leave graduate school and go back to Saint Louis because my mental health was not good.

I later found myself in a psychiatric clinic for an entire week, unknowingly, with Phencyclidine (PCP) in my blood. I was at the same hospital where my grandfather took his last breath. Realizing that, I knew that I had to master my energy, coping skills and step into my greatness. There are no accidents or coincidences in a universe ruled by synchronicity and divine order. There is purpose in my pain.

One of the hardest lessons I learned was to receive people and situations at face value. Make your moves and flow according to God’s will. Judgments and assessments of one’s character are a reflection of yourself internally. Eyes tell & the body gives further explanation. As an artist, some will want more or less of what you have to offer to the world. Back on the streets of Saint Louis, I face another challenge, finding a job.

Last year, I was employed at an organization as a Media Production Manager. I was so excited to get a full-time job with medical insurance.

I had so many plans on how I could invest in myself and my mother, who didn’t have a job at the time.

Their goal was to embrace, support, and accommodate the increasing multiculturalism and inclusivity. After meeting them I felt truly welcomed to the team. I was ready to work. All I had to do was wait for the new equipment that me and my coworker approved to get started for my new role.

A month later, I was terminated. The same day a full-page rebuttal was submitted hours after receiving the news of my termination. There was no reversal of their decision to terminate me. Which left me with questions; Why did they decide to do this, instead of mentoring a youngman or providing a warning? These are the questions I had for myself. This is my first full-time job after graduating from SIU-C.

As I thought about it, this is cognitive dissonance at its finest, in my opinion, within the workplace. Within their rationale, true statements were made yet exaggerated. While my supervisor was on vacation, I had to report to my boss’s assistant. I needed to go back to SIU-C for the RSO fair to find someone to take over as President for NABJ. I told the assistant, and she informed me it was okay and to be sure I emailed her and CC’d my boss about our conversation, which I did. I requested to be off Thursday and Friday.

I missed work on Monday because I attended a memorial on the SIU-C campus Sunday evening and drove back to St. Louis later that night. A young girl from Chicago, Keeshanna Jackson, a freshman was shot and killed. I witnessed it at an after-party function in Carbondale. I saw her bloody body being carried by police. It brought me much pain to have seen this. I wanted to pay my condolences and support the family. However, I forgot to send an email informing them about not showing up Monday and I got penalized.

Once I came back I was falsely accused of being in Houston, Texas for an NABJ conference. I asked how that could be possible when it’s been changed to a virtual-only conference. The room was silent. I referenced my previous email, told them what happened, and apologized for my actions.

They then insisted that I sign my suspension papers and the HR Director forced me out of my office. While attempting to sign in to my work email with pertinent information, proof of my truth, she slammed my laptop shut before I could send it to my personal email account.

I was upset at the situation and myself. Although the parties involved could have made other decisions, I could have done better. I felt this was purposeful to tell this information so others can learn from my mistakes. Everything happens for a reason and I’m grateful for all my experiences. I realize I put myself in that situation because I did not reach back to mentors for help. I was embarrassed and felt ashamed of my situation.

However, I have learned how to keep my work and personal life separate.

This moment granted me time to learn, grow and evolve into a better human. I’m not even seeking empathy. I just want people to be aware and encouraged.

What my days look like now are me taking vitamins because I want to live longer and thrive. I don’t smoke anymore because it goes against my body’s chemistry. Nonetheless, I do indulge in CBD and melatonin to help me go to sleep. I meditate and then do yoga for 25 minutes at least 3x a week, I exercise at least 2x a week and I enjoy going hiking at least 3x a month. These activities award me with energy and mental clarity. Not everyone has the luxury of getting out and staying out of the psychiatric clinic. I will not go back unless it’s to be of service.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Their 24/7 hotline is 1-800-487-4889. Or just dial 988 to seek mental health assistance.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
I’m a freelance artist. Currently, I work for IATSE Local 6 Stagehands, serving as an audio/visual technician.

I have been able to assist WWE and Rock n Roll Stars like the Rolling Stones, Elton John, and Train. Secondly, I’m an actor/model for Hines and Hunt Entertainment in Los Angeles, California, and Images Agency in Saint Louis, Missouri. I’m grateful to have been in an SIU-C Africana Theater production, commercials, print ads, and a fashion runway show.

My photography of a protest in response to Justice for George Floyd was showcased in 2020 at SIU Carbondale Museum in a “United We Stand” exhibit. I enjoy taking photos/videos with my Sony A7RII camera. I feel like a historian. History happens every day and I make it my duty to capture it. For it’s about the people who I’ve captured in my pictures and that they are not forgotten.

I’m most proud of being in service. From volunteering with Better Family Life Inc., Meet & Teach in conjunction with Boys n Girls Club of Southern-Illinois and Shalom Church (City of Peace). By collaborating my videography services with Southern-Illinois Unity Coalition, Project Human X, and A Gift of Love Charity, Inc. I’m pleased to have given my time and effort to these organizations and many more.

I’ll let the people decide what sets me apart from others. I am driven to unite multiple marginalized communities and help foster understanding and appreciation for our differences and similarities alike. My goal as an artist is to spread love and positivity in our society.

Producing meaningful content which has the power to heal. Lead people to connect, learn, and collaborate to comprehend each other and our world better.

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
According to a Business Skills Training Organization, Better Up, manifesting and the law of attraction are easy ways to start working toward a vision and building the life you want for yourself. It doesn’t matter what method you prefer. What matters is that you have conviction and follow through.

How you think and feel impacts what you do. Manifesting will be challenging some days, but that’s okay. Keep going. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Personal growth, social connection, and mental fitness work together for positive transformation. Change is hard work. But if you can dream it — and you put in the work — you can do it.

In my profession finding a mentor isn’t extremely difficult. Social media is a tool to use to grab the attention of a potential mentor.

Create a portfolio or a sample of your work to show. This may secure a job as an apprentice/intern wherever you go.

To succeed in a mentor-mentee relationship, you must be actively building your skills and looking to advance in your career.

Know your goals (short/long-term) and outline them. This will help identify your mentorship needs.

All in all, don’t be afraid to ask for guidance from those wiser and incorporate their advice into your daily tasks. It works!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Dr. Evan Brown, Meet and Teach, Vidzual Media, Alexis Bevre, Angela Davis, Infinite Visuals LLC, Martika Green, Images Agency, Saluki Sportview, WSIU-TV, Aiyana Taylor, Justin Fetcho, Baron Faulkner, Southeast Missouri State University, and Southern-Illinois University – Carbondale

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