Scalawag is thrilled to announce that Zaire Love has joined our team as our first-ever Creative Director! 

We knew from the jump that Zaire was the right person for the role—a hunch that was only further confirmed when her pillow printed with the words: "honor, amplify, archive, Black Southern stories," was visible in the background of a recent Zoom call.

Zaire is a multimedia storyteller who uses film, photography, audio, graphic design, and writing to craft captivating stories about the Black South. As our first-ever Creative Director, she will work closely with our new Editor in Chief, Sherronda J. Brown, to create a consistent and dynamic visual brand for Scalawag that reflects our mission of telling powerful stories about the South that would otherwise go untold.

Bringing a unique presence to Scalawag's brand and media vision, with this new role she will guide our visuals and multimedia, keeping readers both curious and engaged. Or, in Zaire's words, "bring liberatory flyness to an already liberated and fly publication."

"I feel like true liberation has always been fly. Because you have to make it fly. If you want to get a great amount of people into the movement, people have to first SEE that they actually want to KNOW what it's about."

Visually, that looks like messaging and branding that is not only on point and organized, but also serves the purpose of drawing folks in: "You come for the flyness, and you leave with the liberation. It's flyness with a deeper purpose, cause, and mission."

An award-winning filmmaker, music maker, writer, and educator, Zaire Love proudly hails from Memphis, Tennessee. She sees her personal mission as that of honoring, amplifying, and archiving the stories and voices of the Black South, bringing honor to the people, traditions, and cultures she calls home.

She crafts her art as a love letter to the Black South, celebrating its richness, diversity, and resilience in every medium she touches. Zaire refers to her work in this way as "creative cornbread," or Black, Southern sustenance—filled with knowledge, discovery, imagination, and authentic artistry that nourishes those who partake. The Black South has always had meaningful "cornbread" to share. 

She took these personal mantras to the screen in her 2021 short film TREES, which she began work on in August of 2018 as a part of her MFA in Documentary Expression program at the University of Mississippi.

"It was about my granny. Because I think Black women are the trees of the South. They are so beautiful. They are so majestic. They give us oxygen. They are the reason why we breathe, in the sense. And they are here—they are planted, they are rooted—but we don't see them."

The resulting work is a video archive of her grandmother Dorothy's story, voice, and image blended with her own. Reading Zaire's own poetry, her grandmother stands in the trees of Shelby Farms park and makes visible the ways the Black women, like trees, provide shade, shelter, and a sense of home for generations, even as they go unnoticed in our day-to-day lives.

As Zaire wrote for Southern Cultures:

"My short documentary film TREES stars my grandmother Dorothy. My grandmother is a storyteller, and her stories uncover the South that raised her. They tell of the one-bedroom house in Sledge, Mississippi, that sheltered ten siblings and her parents, both sharecroppers in the 1950s. They tell of her work picking two hundred pounds of cotton a day, and, if lucky, getting fifty cents for her labor. They tell of poor country meals and her excitement on Sundays when there was meat to eat. My favorite of her stories is about my great-grandmother, Mrs. Mary Patton 'MaeLee' Presley. MaeLee was all about liberation. She took no mess from Black folk or white folk and was a well of country knowledge. She poured that knowledge into the heart and the mind of my Granny, and from time to time, I am able to draw from that well."

As a filmmaker, she brings a brand-new set of skills to Scalawag's team—and a unique perspective on storytelling.

"I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary," Zaire says of her storytelling process. "The awe is in the ordinary."

Especially when it comes to Black Southerners, she says. "A lot of things that we do, other people don't do." Zaire points the spotlight on those everyday experiences that are otherwise taken for granted.

"We're creating together; this is a relationship. It's not just solely me trying to make a film. A film is the byproduct of what we do together."

Zaire is passionate about telling those stories—and she is not alone in that passion. Other folks notice it, too—which has resulted in a wealth of connections and networks that she brings to her work with Scalawag. 

"My hope is that we are the blueprint—and not in a selfish way, not in a domineering way, but like: 'y'all are doing it right.'"

She hopes that Scalawag can continue to distill the information from "heady concepts" into something engaging, beautiful, and cultural—dispersing our stories not just to the largest audience possible, but to the folks who need our stories the most.

"Taking that kind of cultural branding and melding it with the liberatory editorial work and information that folks need to really liberate themselves—that's what I want to be behind. My goal is for Scalawag to be that."

Day-to-day as Creative Director, Zaire will develop and manage Scalawag's visual storytelling processes from ideation to execution, as well as work with our audience team to turn stellar stories into irresistible multimedia content. "I want to do so much. And then there's also room to do so much."

The first task on her plate is heading up Scalawag's strategy as we make our way through a long overdue full-fledged visual rebrand across Scalawag's website and social media.

"I'm really ready for that to morph into something like really, really dope."

Join us in welcoming Zaire Love as Scalawag's first Creative Director! We are thrilled to have her on board and can't wait to see what she creates next by bringing her distinct vision of liberatory flyness to light in our stories, campaigns, and storytelling.

Zaire Love [she/her] is an award-winning filmmaker, music maker, writer, and educator whose mission is to honor, amplify, and archive the stories and voices of the Black South. Her life's work brings honor to the Black South, its people, its traditions, and its cultures in the past, present, and future. Catch her living her best life, loving her folks deeply, and leaving trails of flyness in every room she's in 'cause "she from Memphis!"

Get to know Scalawag's first-ever Creative Director: Zaire Love

Who inspires you?

Fannie Lou Hamer. That's my girl!

"And if the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America. Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?" All because we want to register for our right to vote. Stand in line. That's my girl. Love her. I feel like she is my great-grandmama. From the stories that I hear about my great grandma, that's why I do the work that I do about the Black South—because of her life. She was a rebel. She wasn't docile. She wasn't slow to speak. She wasn't "Yes, sir. No, sir." And I don't think a lot of Black people were. The narrative is like no, but we ten toes down on it in the Mississippi Delta—that's where my great grandma is from. Fannie, I feel like she embodies that, where it's just like, you don't think that she's uneducated because she uses her double negatives—she don't care. Her testimony changed a whole lot, you know what I'm saying? Like, Lyndon B. Johnson, over here trying to interrupt her testimony, and folks were just like, run Fannie Lou Hamer back! And boom. You tried to, you know, water down or remove her from history, but now she's forever seated there.

What does your Southern utopia look like?

It would look like acres and acres and acres and acres of free, green, lush lands. There would be gardens. It would feel like the Black Garden of Eden in the South. Delicious food grows. Beautiful dwellings. Black folks just on land handing a good time. A lot of electric slides and just joy. Who will be there? Black people. Black folks—past, present, and future—just there, having a good time, sharing knowledge, sharing good times, and things of that sort.

What is your favorite Scalawag piece that you've worked on so far?

How to Build the End of the World. I really enjoyed that, not just because of the visuals that happened and how it was executed, but because of the conversation that I had with Miliaku—how passionate she was. I don't think that meeting was supposed to be an hour and plus minutes, but because we were like just vibing and having a good conversation, I think that was the one that I feel deeply invested in.

See also:

How to Build the End of the World

In the Black Radical Tradition, chaos and experimentation are required to challenge the state and build a reality worth defending. In the Cop City movement and beyond, Chaotic Protesters create meaningful resistance by disrupting the state's order.

Scalawag is a Southern, Black-led and centering, digital-first journalism and storytelling organization that works in solidarity with oppressed communities in the South to disrupt and shift the narratives that keep power and wealth in the hands of the few. Collectively, we pursue a more liberated South. Online, in person, and through meaningful engagement with our readers and supporters, Scalawag reimagines the roots and futures of the place we call home.

Latest Scalawag Updates:

Out Loud on the Gate City Front

Legacy media and tech titans have been instrumental in promoting and protecting Atlanta's Cop City project. Pack City Hall is just one example of the power of alternative media and grassroots organizers mobilizing to challenge the state narrative.