It’s hard for anyone to miss the massive multicolored mural created by Jackson State University alums Charles and Talamieka Brice. Their image of former President Barack H. Obama covers nearly the entire south wall of the public school once known as Davis Magnet IB.
Named for Confederate President Jefferson Davis, the predominately African-American school was renamed Barack H. Obama Magnet by students, parents, and educators because it was a more “fitting” choice.The husband and wife design team spent several weeks in blazing temperatures working to complete the larger-than-life depiction of Obama by the Friday, Aug. 17, unveiling ceremony in commemoration of the school’s new moniker.
The president’s quote: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” sits slightly above the painting. It is a message of inspiration.
“All of us, in a sense, are broken and flawed, but that still doesn’t mean we can’t enact change for the better,” said Talamieka, when asked her reason for choosing that particular quote to complement the mural.
“With the children that are coming up behind us, I wanted to instill in them essentially what Barack would say because it’s his own words,” she added.
The Greater Jackson Arts Council put out a call for local artists to reinterpret a preselected photo of Obama for the magnet school.
The couple, owners of Brice Media, submitted separate entries, but as Talamieka proudly and jovially pointed out: “My sketch was the winning sketch.”Despite being each other’s biggest competitor, Charles Brice, a photojournalist, shared his wife’s elation over the win.
“We’re husband and wife. You have no choice but to help the other person succeed,” he said.
The two agreed that taking on such a momentous task was not easy. The dimensions were off the first time they plotted and traced the outline, so they had to start over. But their years of working as a team came in handy for the project.
“We both know our strengths and weaknesses, and we learn a lot from each other,” said Talamieka, who has devised several award-winning logos and campaigns.
“Charles is really good with oil paints and watercolors. When it comes to pastels, he’s really good with oil pastels and markers,” she said.
Preferring colored pencils, chalk pastels and acrylics, Talamieka credits her background in graphic design for her skill at selecting color combinations.
The couple said they used a tag-team approach to finish the president’s jacket. “I would lay one coat down, he would lay a complementary coat down and lay it heavier in some areas,” Talamieka explained.Sweltering temperatures were not the only obstacle that arose during the painting process. Talamieka divulged that she accidentally slammed her finger in the garage door one morning and had to finish the final touches of the piece with a broken finger.
“It was five days before the unveiling, and I couldn’t let the kids down. Just like modified yoga, I had to do modified painting,” she said.
Relieved, excited, honored and overjoyed are some words the design duo used to describe their emotions when the mural was finally complete. Talamieka called the work a community project and said that she and her husband were humbled and grateful to be the vessels to bring the vision to life.
“We did it together. All I can say is we balanced it out in the end,” said Charles Brice.
Perhaps the balance he referenced comes from their 12 years of marriage and 18 years together. Meeting at Jackson State, Charles Brice said he knew Talamieka was going to be his wife from the moment he laid eyes on her.
“This black goddess walks through the door with this belly chain and poufy hair. I just kept staring at her, but she wouldn’t stare back,” he said.
After a little persistence from Charles Brice, the two began dating. The art majors connected over their love for design, establishing a “true friendship.”
“We used to sit on a bench in front of Charles F. Moore late at night and talk about what we wanted in life and art and all that stuff,” said Talamieka.In ‘03 Talamieka graduated and Charles Brice, a member of the university’s ROTC program, decided to enlist in the Army.
“It was called a shaking of the spirit,” he said. “I was depressed and felt like nothing was going right for me. I needed something drastic to get me out of that depression mode in my life.”
He explained that his problems stemmed from being young and unsure of what he wanted to do with his art and graphic design career. He felt that joining the military would give his life some order.
While deployed, Charles Brice served as a paratrooper and eventually delved into photojournalism where he joined the media operations center in Afghanistan. He later proposed to Talamieka in a letter and the JSU alums were married in ’06 in the capital city.
However, a 2008 phone conversation would mark a pivotal change in the couple’s career paths. Talamieka said she could tell by her husband’s tone that his deployment was starting to take a toll on him.
“He sounded really low because he had been pushing for us to start our own company. But I had been a freelancer, and I knew how hard that was,” said Talamieka.Her husband said that he had grown weary of military life and was tired of documenting death. He urged Talamieka to consider the idea of entrepreneurship.
Once the soldier was back on U.S. soil in 2009, he gave his wife an Afghan ruby necklace to replace his dog tags that she faithfully wore around her neck. In return, Talamieka handed her husband the business cards to their company – Brice Media.
Since then, Charles Brice has graduated with his art degree from JSU and Brice Media has been providing graphic, web design and photography services throughout Mississippi.
“She has her aspect of the company, and I have mine. I want her to be the face of Brice Media. I want her to be in the forefront. I’m kind of like an operations guy,” said Charles Brice, whose role in the business focuses on websites and digital designs. “We complement each other. Although we are competitors, we’re also big team players.”
Parents of a 4-year-old son, Honor Kal-El, and 14-month-old daughter, Love Elohim, the couple said Jackson State is the source of their union and passion for art.“I can’t tell you how empowering it was to be around such a beautiful sea of black and brown people. Being able to see yourself in all your shades was amazing. We are forever thankful to JSU for that experience,” said Talamieka.
Although Charles Brice credits his uncle, a JSU alum, for teaching him the principles of art at an early age, and Talamieka’s mother nurtured her drawing abilities, the couple shared that their creativity and collegiate experience was greatly influenced by their professors and the history of the university.
Talamieka said: “We are ‘Thee I Love.’ It’s one thing to learn art, but to learn art through your own lens, it’s so empowering. It allows you to really connect with who you are, so we are eternally grateful to JSU.”