Marci & Ako are the podcast duo behind The Colored Pages Book Club, a bi-weekly podcast discussing fiction, fantasy, and magical realism written by writers from colorful backgrounds. Through this lens they discuss their own lives as well as bigger social themes such as liberation, anti-oppression, and intersectionality. 

Marci is originally from Atlanta, Georgia, but, while they’re always repping Atlanta egregiously, they haven’t actually lived there since high school. A lover of Motown, anime, dance, and tea parties, Marci can often be found pounding vegan yogurt or engaging in rodent-like shenanigans with friends. While not always an avid reader, Marci’s love for storytelling dates back to his days as a wee lass enjoying cartoons, playing Japanese Role-Playing games, and living a life filled with hijinks and tomfoolery that honestly just had to be conveyed to others.

Ako has lived a decent bit of her life in one place or another. She considers home to be where her heart is — and anywhere she can find a decent slice. She never leaves her bed without her wits about her, and is always down for an adventure, a little mischief, or nonsensical turn of events. Her diet consists steadily of afro-futurism, sci-fi, fantasy, and comics. And she firmly believes a good story, heard at just the right time, can change a life. 

Black Girls Create: What do you create?

Marci: Through our collective vision, we create a virtual space of radical love for readers, writers, video game nerds, fantasy lovers, anime geeks, artists, and so many others that dare to imagine. We focus on centering the stories, narratives, and discussions that mainstream society tries to erase by centering the most marginalized or, in our words, most “colorful” individuals. 

Ako: As Marci said, we’re just making Black kid magic or youngblood joy. We’re trying to create a corner of the internet that’s a little off the beaten path. Somewhere you can laugh, relax, and maybe think a little.

BGC: Why do you create?

 Artistic rendering of Marci, courtesy of Marci and Ako.

Artistic rendering of Marci, courtesy of Marci and Ako.

Marci: Both of us share the core belief that imagination is the greatest catharsis and is the vector we need to create a better world. For that reason, literature has been a very transformative part of our lives. We wanted to create a show that made discussions around the precious medium more accessible. Conversations around books can be hilarious, serious, silly, and have the charm of two good friends catching up. So, we wanted to encourage imagination and change what it means to be someone that consumes and appreciates literature. 

Ako: Yeah, I think all people create in some form or another, whether it’s tangible or intangible. Creating is what we do with our lives and imagination, and I feel CPBC is one of the tools we do it with. I create to figure things out, to deal with life, to change my life, and sometimes, frankly, to escape my life. I create because I want to experience something that’s not there or I want to give my take on something that is. So for us, just like Marci said, we wanted to create a place that honors imagination, by interacting with it. You open a book and you see someone else’s whole perspective on life and you ask yourself, “How do I feel about this? What did I learn? What do I think?” and then get to talk to your friend about it and that conversation becomes this creation of fun, joy, healing, and growth.

BGC: Who or what inspires you to do what you do? 

Marci: Whether I was telling some ridiculously dramatic story on the bus or literally getting sent out of Calculus class for sharing some ridiculous tale, I’ve always been a storyteller. What can I say? But more than CPBC serving as a platform for Ako and me to tell our collective story — a story of friendship, social action, and rule breakers — we’re inspired by all the great stories that precede and exist alongside us. Stories are the key to building empathy, creating community, and fostering visibility and it’s the potential of stories and the act of storytelling that inspire us the most. 

Ako: For this podcast? I guess Marci inspires me. I mean they called one day and said, I have this idea for a book club and I thought of you. Before that I had very little intention of doing anything related to podcasting. But it was one of those moments when someone says, “Hey, I found this magic carpet and I’m gonna take it on a joy ride. Are you in or you out?” And at first I was worried — “What if we fall? What if we run into a plane? What about altitude sickness?” But then I thought, “Well if it’s Marci, it’s sure to be an adventure, and moreover, I certainly don’t want to regret not giving it a shot!” It’s moments like this, that when life asks you if you dare — and whatever you answer kind of tells you the life you want to live. 

BGC: Who is your audience?

Marci: Listen, we invite anyone to listen to the Colored Pages Book Club! While the show is about fiction, fantasy, and magical realism, Ako and I love us some anime, 90s cartoons, and similarly imaginative mediums. So, for our readers out there, tune in if you’re looking to be part of a virtual book club, trying to find more books by colorful writers (women writers, LGBTQ+ writers, writers of color, etc.), and ultimately looking for hilarious discussion and intersectional analysis to accompany your reading experience. And, for everyone else, tune in for the anime references, the personal anecdotes, the hilarious sidenotes, and the general nerding out that take place. (And don’t worry if you haven’t read the books. Think of the show as Sparknotes: Blerd Edition.)

 Artistic rendering of Ako, courtesy of Marci & Ako.

Artistic rendering of Ako, courtesy of Marci & Ako.

Ako: I agree, anyone who wants to join the conversation is more than welcome! That’s what’s so cool about having an online “book club.” We get to be like, “Yo, people somewhere out there, we read this book and we had some thoughts — what about you?” Of course, injustice and hatred isn’t really our speed, so if that’s what you’re into, we’re probably not for you. But otherwise, if you like books, blerd stuff, nerd stuff, or just something fun and a little different from the usual, you’re in the right place. 

BGC: How do you balance creating with the rest of your life? 

Marci: Lately, I have been really intentional about crafting time each day for the things that matter most to me. I am someone with a lot of varying interests and curiosities and keep myself on a set morning self-care routine that ensures I’m equally contributing to my personal, mental, and creative health. So, while that means I can’t quite binge YouTube video game reviews or the latest season of Pose like I used to, it’s well worth it. 

Ako: I don’t…or I’m learning how to, I guess. But often my life bleeds into my creative process and vice versa. Sometimes it’s not great and sometimes it is amazing. An experience will influence a creative project I’m working on, and often my creative projects influence how I live my life. Mostly, I just try to make sure one doesn’t sideline the other — but I would be lying if I said I had it all figured out. 

BGC: Why is it important as a Black person to create?

Marci: As Black people, our voices and stories have been erased, disregarded, and misappropriated for centuries. So, by creating, we are able to control our own narratives and ensure our stories are being told honestly and respectfully. But, in addition to that, as a Black, queer individual, I understand that my liberation is not mutually exclusive to the liberation of others. That it is just as important for me to lift up and support others on my journey of creative expression since, quite frankly, we can ALL eat. There’s more than enough to go around.

Ako: Because we’re humans, and creating is the human experience. Often times the world tries to deny or define that experience for Black folks. But honestly, we’ve created in the face of oppressive forces that have tried very hard to stop us before and we continue to create in the face of those forces now. Why wouldn’t we? We exist on this earth experiencing all that it is, and so it only makes sense that we influence it, and we leave a part of ourselves here in whatever form that it takes. 

BGC: Advice for young creators?

Marci: My biggest advice would be to not be afraid to create in ways you haven’t before. Learning to podcast was definitely a learning curve and historically, I’m not someone who really fell in love with reading until fairly recently. I spent so much time in the beginning stages doubting my ability to realize this idea and to manifest our vision for CPBC. It’s very normal to question your ability to do something you haven’t before, but dare to believe in your ability to learn, expand, and grow and, most importantly, trust that your spirit would never manifest an idea that you were incapable of actualizing.

Ako: I think just start. It doesn’t have to be good, in fact it probably won’t be, but who cares? Creating is for you. It’s not for the world, although you might share it. It’s a way of freeing yourself, or working things out in your mind, or imagining possibilities. Don’t think so hard about what it should be, just start, and allow the experience to tell you of what it is. 

BGC: Do you have any future projects?

Marci: So, in the vein of challenging your perceived creative limitations, I am actually in the process of writing my first novel. It’s an idea that has constantly shifted and expanded throughout the years, but I’m finally working to actualize this creative vision. Details to come.

Ako: I’m really excited to one day start an animation company. Animation, to me, is such an innovative and dope medium. It allows a creator to play with so many aspects of storytelling. And when I think about how those aspects could be used to tell different perspectives I get really excited. So, that’s my dream and I honestly look forward to it.

Follow Marci and Ako on Twitter @TheColoredPages and find their podcast at www.thesecoloredpages.com.