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Community Advocacy Organization

Seizing the Opportunity, Maya James becomes an Opportunity Arts Affiliate

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

Courtesy Photo-Maya James with her art

Maya James is an artist, writer, creator, dancer, tarot reader and activist based in the Kalamazoo, Michigan area. Her works center around feminism, anti-racism, socialism and her experience as a cross-cultural black American from a racially hostile town in Northern Michigan. As a young freelance journalist, James’ works were featured in the New York Times Race/Related, USA Today College, and YR Media about controversial issues like the Flint Water Crisis and hate crimes growing up in her hometown. She has been on countless news syndicates for work she did on a particular socialist political campaign and had multiple interviews for different media publications like Rose from Concrete with Justin Black, WIDR, and IPR stations across Michigan. She also did an episode of RISK.

As an artist, Maya’s works have been exhibited during Artprize 2018 at the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives (which won best juried venue) and 2021 at the Fountain Street Church and a sponsored mural in Calder Plaza, the Dennos Museum, the Black Arts and Cultural Center and the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo. Maya was the first black female recipient of the National Arab American Museum City Hall Art Space Residency in 2019, and she has been a speaker at numerous events on the importance of black liberation in arts and media. In college, Maya studied African American Studies and Political Science. One of the first shows she did as a career artist was with Daniel Belardinelli in 2017. Maya is the author and illustrator of Maamoul Press’s graphic novel “LUKUMI”, a story of the importance of black female solidarity and friendship and Afro-Atlantic faith. She is also a teaching artist in the Education for the Arts Program in Kalamazoo Public Schools with KRESA (Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency).

Courtesy Photo-Maya James

Maya is the muralist behind “Faces”, a depiction of 94 faces of police violence and mob brutality permanently installed on the side of J-Bird Vintage in the Vine Neighborhood of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and the fence mural on the Ferraro fence on Davis Street in the Vine Neighborhood. Her work has been featured in numerous articles in the southwest Michigan area and she has shown at many Art Hops, galleries and local businesses in her area. Maya also created “Faces, Pt. II”, a collection of portraits of black women throughout time who changed history as we know it, along with a key with all the accolades of their achievements and the obstacles they faced in their lives to achieve positive change as a sponsored artist in Artprize 2021 in Calder Plaza. Maya is currently working on the third part of her "Faces" series, a collection of QTBIPOC both alive and passed who are still changing the world for the better and she is accepting nominations of QTBIPOC from across the Southwest Michigan area who have changed people's lives. For this project, she is partnering with the Rootead (nonprofit) QTBIPOC branch Radicle and Outfront Kalamazoo. Maya has also been reading tarot since the age of seven and is creating a tarot deck called the Black Taurus Rider Waite (aka The James-Smith-Rider-Waite deck), featuring QTBIPOC and intersectional characters as a progressive alternative to the colonial leaning Rider-Waite tarot.

As a daughter of the incredible black renaissance creative Rufus Snoddy, a founding member of the Black Arts Movement in Los Angeles, Maya has had a lifetime of apprenticeship that most artists would pay thousands for. Maya & her father’s art is the family business and their sole trade. Maya’s dad has painted the walls for many exclusive Los Angeles clients in the 1980s. In her free time, Maya James organizes community events for black liberation, like the Juneteenth Celebration with the Vine Neighborhood Association she founded, several marches for George Floyd, and ABOLISH ICE. She considers herself a soldier for abolition, anti-racism, feminism and freedom unapologetically, and at the same time.

For more information on Maya & her work visit:

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