“I am invisible, therefore I am invincible.”
“I had to keep moving because I can’t imagine what would happen if I stop”
“I do it for my friends, the old ones and the new ones. I do it for my family, who loves me no matter what”
“Marvel at my height, be stunned by my range”
Most college journalists have their own blogs, but Travis Jordan Henry has his own magazine.
On an early, Saturday morning in August when the sun gleams through the immeasurable windows filling the bare bedroom in his New Brunswick apartment with natural lights and creative spontaneity, Travis Jordan Henry, “TJ”, bombarded with ideas sits and scribbles his plans onto a blank white page. Awakened out of sleep, his mind wouldn’t stop racing, TJ spends the next hours of his morning getting it all out of his system. Unknowingly, his overbearing thoughts would one day become a work of art, now known as his self produced magazine, DWNTWN, TJ doodled in efforts to just put it all somewhere. The 6’7 journalist is hard to miss with the height of an NBA guard and the prolific intensity of Kevin Hart. When he figures out how to put his thoughts into words, the flickering light bulb above his head shines bright activating his orotund voice spewing his brilliant ideas out into the room, intentionally, because he needs everyone to listen to what he has to say. How can you not? His passion overwhelms everyone in his presence. When TJ gets an idea, he’s on a creative high and he doesn’t come down.
It was the same light bulb above TJ’s head that sparked the thought to produce his own online magazine. TJ originally established DWNTWN as a capability test after being inspired by Ayana Zaire, a writer from Washington D.C. Zaire created DISTRIKT, an online and print magazine that showcases the art culture in the metro area. TJ, impressed with Zaire, uses the word “bomb” to express his admiration for the magazine and the editor, and thought that if he made a magazine for New Brunswick, he was sure it would be even more “bomb”. “I needed to see if I could push myself to extents that nobody has ever pushed me before.” he said. With DWNTWN, “I want the readers to connect with someone [featured] on a different level. I hope people feel this sense of community when reading it. I hope they feel this creative energy.” he said. TJ aims to accentuate the creative Rutgers population while connecting them to the city in which they reside.
“You are not your past. You are not your failures of yesterday. You are whatever you choose to be with your tomorrow.” – Poverty: The Root of All Evil
But New Brunswick isn’t TJ’s hometown. He was born in Austin, Texas and moved to New Jersey when he was an infant, from Jersey City to Rahway, to Somerset to Branchburg, each time getting farther and farther away from the city. “Where I live now, Flemington, is nothing. We just got a Chick-Fil-A three weeks ago,” TJ said. Despite the fact that TJ moved around a lot, he feels that it is the reason for his broadened state of mind where he doesn’t have to exist in a single story mindset. “I think in this way, I allow myself to connect with different parts of people,” TJ said. “I have a very fragmented sense of identity. When I relate to people, I relate to parts of them and not the whole part.” he said. TJ doesn’t just enjoy getting to know people, he digs deep and find the why’s of people’s existence. TJ’s best friend Julianna Odame-Labi explains TJ’s curiosity with truly knowing people. “He’s all about opening your mind to creativity. When it comes to his questions, he always makes you think about the ‘Why’ and reflect on your own life. With TJ, it never just is what it is, there is always more.” she said.
“You’re going to like me because I exude a level of excellence that will never be replicated by another person.” – Who’s Been Trying to be Cool?
It was the first semester of TJ’s junior year, where the 21-year-old became an Aresty Research Assistant, gaining research experience by supporting faculty research projects at Rutgers. TJ had to conduct interviews where he was getting to know many different people and their stories. Although TJ enjoyed interviewing people, he wasn’t engaged in the content of his interviews. This experience fueled TJ’s passion in wanting to know and tell people’s stories in closer proximity to his own life. “I really focus on human identity. People tell their own story. I think there are a lot of stories that need to be heard that aren’t, just like I also think there are a lot of stories told that don’t have to be publicized. So I want to be one of the platforms to do that.” TJ said.
DWNTWN’s first issue, Tunnel Vision, was published May 5, 2015, after conceptualizing for six months. “I titled it ‘Tunnel Vision The Mixtape’ because I think the mixtape is not the coming of age album, but it’s like, ‘Hey world, this is who I am.’” he said. TJ acquired all the skills to produce his magazine by teaching himself through trial and error. He learned how to use the editing software, In-Design, by designing resumes. He was unfamiliar with the camera settings and tricks, but he figured it out. As TJ described the first issue of his magazine he spoke very highly of it, but in seconds changed his tone as he went down a list of all the things that he wasn’t satisfied with and needed fixing. He was mostly concerned with the length of the four feature stories on Rutgers’ students, that ran about six pages long, when they didn’t necessarily have to be that long. TJ is his own biggest critic, he understood his mistakes and used them as ammo to better his art the next time around. “I have a fear of failure,” he said. “and not failure in the micro sense but in the macro sense, what it would mean to fail in the future.” he said.
“Find worth in yourself and your vision and cling to that.” – Poverty: The Root of All Evil
TJ wasn’t going to let failure defeat him, so he tried again. For the second issue, Americana, which was released this March, TJ felt it was important for him to take full creative control. TJ wasn’t only the editor-in-chief, but the photographer, the location scouter, the page designer, artist, and videographer. Ijeoma Unachukwu, his best friend since Rutgers freshman Convocation, describes TJ’s passion as a blessing and a curse,“Not many people have the dexterity to go through with [the production of an entire magazine].” she said. With the second issue done and released, TJ says that his definition of ‘good’ changed tremendously. For the second issue, “I did not give myself any limits. I let the words flow and let things be as they are. I was very clear.” he said
“That said, Please dream. Dream big. Dream foolish. Dream unapologetically. Just make sure you dream!” – Poverty: The Root of All Evil
As TJ plans to grow DWNTWN, he wants his future site to be the ultimate online destination for news, music and fashion, and “bomb” pieces. What has DWNTWN taught TJ? “To never dilute anyone else’s experiences. You don’t know where people come from, you don’t know what they’re going through, but most importantly you don’t know what they’re worth. I realized why these people are important, and why they’re important for culture, and how, if they did a couple things here and there, they could be shifting a culture.” he said.
DWNTWN is on the rise, and Travis Jordan Henry will create, until he comes down from the high.
“If you only play for the applause, then you place your happiness in the hands of the audience” – Who’s Been Trying to Be Cool?
Note from the writer:
I wrote this before TJ died tragically of a heart attack. I am so honored I was able to write my first profile story on such an inspirational and incredible writer and creative spirit. He is truly missed.
In the short amount of time I had with TJ, he has had a tremendous impact on my life. His constant drive fueled by creativity and unapologetic attitude was such an inspiration to me. As someone who has always been shy about expressing her ideas and creativity, TJ showed me that being a black creative is something you have to embrace whole-heartedly and to not only express your ideas for whoever your intended audience is but for yourself. I was so inspired and encouraged whenever he would release what he had been working on. His personality warmed hearts and brightened days, especially at the Monday night Voice meetings on Busch. He always came into Voice meetings with a smile and a joke. Specifically, I’ll never forget how he always came for someone who got a new hairstyle and said they were acting brand new (this was me on more than one occassion). To work alongside such a funny, caring, talented and amazing person has truly been a blessing and he will surely be missed by everyone whose life he has touched. May his bright soul rest easy. – Michaela Felix
My name is Chanel and I met TJ this year and he definitely made my sophomore year worth it. His positive vibes, jokes, and laughter always made me feel loved and appreciated. He was a truly great friend and I am glad that we had the chance to meet. RIP TJ.“It’s hard to forget someone who gave you so much to remember.”-Chanel Bradshaw
I loved this picture so much. I told I did. I laughed when you thought I was just messing with you. But nope, this picture was too artsy and beautiful for me not to save. But see, it wasn’t the picture that I loved but what it represented. Your spirit. Your soul. You did not care what anyone else thought of you. You did what you wanted, when you wanted. Why? Because it made you happy. You made yourself and all those around you happy. It was a gift. Your gift. And you were never selfish in sharing that gift. Those gifts. Boy were you gifted, talented. CBS. BET. Voice. NABJ. And my personal fave, your creation, DWNTWN. All these and even more were just some of the platforms you used to develop your talent, share your talent, and bring out the talent in others. Because you were never ever ever selfish with those talents. You were never ever ever selfish with anything. If I could list all of the things I gained from just knowing you, I would be here forever. But this I will say, most of what I gained from you was not tangible. You inspired me. As the prince of the “unapologetically me” movement, you inspired me to not care what any one could say about me. As an artist, you inspired me to tap into my own passions. As an activist, you inspired me to not only make a difference, but to also be the difference. Teej, you were an Angel on earth & nothing has changed now. May your beautifully flawless angelic soul rest in peace, my love. Until we meet again 📷 -Christiana Osawe
Link to original article: https://ruvoicemag.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/travis-jordan-henry/