Top 4 African-American artists on campus

Top 4 African-American artists on campus

By Darius Parker

NIU has a variety of talented African-American students walking the campus, and in honor of Black History Month, here are four featured artists that are proud of their heritage, craft and art.

Oba Daniels

Aesthetic: Beauty blogger and socialite

Oba Daniels, senior corporate communication major, has all things fashion and beauty at his fingertips.

Daniels describes himself as a beauty and fashion guru, as his website,, gets hundreds of hits daily from fans nationwide who want to keep up with fashion.

Whether he’s attending a fashion show with his cousin, former Disney Channel actress and singer Zendaya, or doing a makeup tutorial, Daniels is sure to remain fierce. Daniels said he focuses on being a brand ambassador and has been blogging for two years with the release of his website in October 2014.

“I really want the makeup and fashion brands that I wear to support me,” Daniels said. “I want to be a mainstream brand ambassador due to [the] influence I hope to gain from my website.”

Daniels, popularly known as Oba Crosswire, said he draws his inspiration from the Kardashians and other beauty icons found on YouTube.

“YouTube probably inspires me the most as well as when people message me and tell me they woke up today and got dressed up because they were inspired by me,” Daniels said. “[That] really inspires me because my supporters get to live through me.”

Daniels’s work has been featured on Good Morning America through Zendaya’s clothing line, “Daya By Zendaya.”

He said his most memorable moments as a blogger came from when he received his first free piece of clothing: a waist-shaper from a line called “Waistshaperz.” This means Daniels is able to receive free clothes and makeup items to display them on social media platforms and make a profit by doing so.

Kianna Davis

Aesthetic: Painting/drawing

Kianna Davis, senior studio art major, has a gift that enables her to draw and paint in a unique style. Davis said she has been painting since her sophomore year of high school but hadn’t thought about pursuing it before then. Her love for art came through a project in which she had to recreate a magazine photograph using graphite. This project landed Davis a spot in her first art show, and since then, she has pursued art.

Davis said she draws inspiration from her twin sister, Brianna, and her emotions. Each motivate her to give people a visual of something they can relate to, and if she is happy, she wants those who view and appreciate her art to be happy as well.

“My gift is very liberating because I feel a sense of freedom whenever I’m doing it, and I get lost in my art,” Davis said. “Painting has been very spiritual and calming for me.”

Courtney Locke

Aesthetic: Dance/choreography

Courtney Locke, senior elementary education major, is making moves both in and out of the classroom. She is the dance captain and president of Envy Dance Troupe, and her shows have been viewed on multiple social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube.

She has been dancing since she was 3 years old and performing since 5 years old. Locke’s mother, Frances, enrolled her in ballet and tap classes, but Locke gravitated towards hip-hop dance.

“My inspiration is my mom because she is [also] a dancer and still dances to this day,” Locke said.

Locke said her most memorable moment is when she was 17 years old and performed for Kenyan Ambassador Michael Ranneberger in New York City during a trip with her high school. The opportunity came through Locke being a part of a performing arts group, the Sammy Dyer School of Theater. The group performed without knowing they had the famous visitor watching the performance.

“[The Ambassador] told me I had great energy, and in that moment, I felt truly amazing,” Locke said. “Since that day, I treat every performance as if it’s my last.”

Locke said she hopes to take her choreography to big stages such as World of Dance, one of the biggest dance competitions in the country and to attend her dream school, the American Musical Dance Academy in Manhattan, New York.

Bryce Hodges

Aesthetic: Videography

Bryce Hodges, freshman communication major, is the creative genius popularly known as J. Visuals. Hodges has done video work for several rap artists including G. Herbo, Lud Foe, Young Dolph, and Bibby and Famous Dex. He said he has been doing videography for three years and will continue into the future.

Hodges said he hopes to take his skills to the big screen one day, either directing, editing films or doing professional music videos for bigger artists in the industry such as Jay-Z and Lil Wayne.

Hodges’s projects have been featured on Fake Shore Drive, World Star Hip Hop, local Chicago fashion events such as ChiGala, and his YouTube channel, J. Visuals.

“My most memorable moment has been being able to meet and work with [rappers] Young Thug, Young Dolph and Lil’ Uzi and other mainstream artists at the Party In Peace event,” Hodges said. “At [that] point, I knew I was progressing with my talent to [be able to] work with bigger artists.”

Hodges credits the camaraderie he finds in videographers pursuing this profession to improve his career.

“Everybody has their own skills, style and mindset,” Hodges said. “There’s no room to compete in this business because we all offer something different, and I don’t ever want to get too comfortable or too cocky.”

Darius Parker is a staff writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @sir_harlem.