N. Ali Early (photo credit: Tene Early)

As we approach spring, planning for the California Culture and Arts Festival’s 24th Annual Cali Picnic is underway. On April 21, 2018, the largest, most-anticipated cultural event of its kind will serve as a reminder of home for West Coast transplants and a tribute to all things California from food to music to cars.

Not only does this annual event attract Californians to Atlanta, but also those from Washington state, Arizona, New York, Illinois, Colorado, Nevada, Texas and Oregon. Others drive in from neighboring states such as Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

As part of the festivities, attendees will enjoy the 8th Annual Car Show, KidZone, a dance competition (break dancers and pop lockers), stage performances and skateboard experts. The Cali Picnic has successfully unearthed a lifestyle experience which rightfully supports the mission of The California Cultural and Arts Festival to serve as an all-inclusive family friendly event that celebrates artistic and creative freedom within the community.

This year’s event will be held at 99 Northside Drive, adjacent to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Throughout the city of Atlanta, events leading up to the big day commence on Wednesday, April 18 at Slice Pizza in downtown Atlanta, where organizers will oversee a special edition of the wildly popular event Hip-Hop Trivia party from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Thursday, April 19. Organizers and volunteers will also provide help to the homeless as a part of the offshoot entity Cali Cares. A pre-party concert is set for Friday, April 20. On Saturday, April 21, attendees are expected to arrive between the hours of 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the Cali Picnic where food, car show will take place from 2 to 4:00 p.m.

Here, we speak with TCP organizer, founding member and Cali transplant N. Ali Early.

How did you arrive at this career choice? Was it a deliberate decision or a gradual and natural evolution?
Interestingly enough, I got my start in the entertainment industry via rolling out UrbanStyle Weekly. I cut my teeth as a writer, eventually began working as a media consultant to a variety of magazines and finally transitioned to brand marketing. It took awhile, so I would say it was gradual in that sense, but natural, in that I didn’t really see it coming – or force it in any way. My decision to work with people that remain in tow was kind of guided by the circumstances that shaped each working experience in my portfolio.

What separates you from others in your field? What is unique to the experience that you create?
Honestly, I don’t know because I like to concentrate on what I do and what my team is capable of doing. I want to create the best experience I can with the help of other qualified people. That said, we have a vested interest in bringing brands to life and developing eye popping products and materials.

For those considering entering this arena, what skill sets do you recommend mastering? What traits are most conducive to success?
If one were to follow my progression, writing is pertinent to success. Whatever I do, to the day, evolves around my ability to use a pen to my advantage. I’m speaking figuratively of course, because computers are the way of the world. But it’s critical to be able to communicate on paper before you open your mouth – be it an introduction email, marketing proposal, treatment, etc. If you can’t entice a potential customer with compelling copy, communicating your message is a daunting task.

How do you stay at the leading edge of your craft?
By reading, writing and doing as much research as I can to create and improve upon points of awareness consistent with our consumers/clients wants and needs.

Do you think there are widely held misconceptions about what you do? If so, what are they and how do you work to dispel them?
I think writers are disrespected by the boatload. Because people have the ability to publish a blog and post their thoughts on social media, they want to be writers – or they think they are writers.

We have to continue to push the envelope by producing great content and refusing work from undeserving sources.

Who do you consider to be your peers in your field? Who do you see/use as examples for you to emulate?
I’m fortunate enough to work with many of my peers and enjoy their successes with them through events and various projects. Social media helps with that because we are able to tap in to each other’s respective worlds by observation.

Name two of your top role models: one from your industry and one from outside of it.
I don’t know that I can identify a role model other than my father or one of my mentors. I absolutely respect how Munson has grown his brand. Also, I’ve watched Rhonda Baraka develop into a helluva Screenwriter/Director, and never saw that coming.

Name three books, works, performances or exhibits that changed how you view life and/or yourself.
The Spirit of a Man by Iyanla Vanzant
Monster by Sanyika Shakur
Other than that, I’m drawing a blank. However, my involvement on the organizing committee for the Cali Picnic is extremely exciting, as it has allowed me to showcase my ability to produce marketing content and help assemble an awesome team of social influencers.

Why do you consider continued learning important?
Because we have the capacity to do so. It would be foolish to stop using gifts we were given by God.

What affirmations do you repeat to yourself that contribute to your success?
Write from the heart, write from the start.
If it is to be, it is up to me.
Ain’t nuthin’ to it but to do it.
I stay ready, so I don’t have to get ready.

What role does technology play in your day-to-day life? How do you utilize it?
Major role. When at my desk, I’m on my computer. When I’m on the couch, I’m on my computer. If I’m out and about, my phone keeps me on task, as my email address, social media pages and other useful apps are linked to it.

What software, app or other technological innovation has made the biggest difference in your life and/or career?
Microsoft Word (Office)

Please define your personal brand.
Write from the heart … write from the start.

I am a writer who’s navigated his way in and out of the music industry and ultimately claimed branding opportunities that might have otherwise been unattainable.

What is your favorite vacation destination and why?
Jamaica, because my wife is from there and it makes her happy to go home.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
I would have Trump impeached.

If you could change one thing about you, what would it be?
I would reclaim my hair follicles and never let them escape me again.

What does it take to be iconic? In your estimation, who has achieved that status?
Dogged determination. Kobe.

What keeps you inspired?
My wife and children.

What’s on your playlist?
E-40, Ice Cube, Mac Dre and Scarface (Pandora)

For more, please follow The Cali Picnic on social: @thecalipicnic and by using the hashtag: #thecalipicnic. 

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Yvette Caslin

I'm a writer, image architect & significance marketer. Love photojournalism, creative expression & originality.