Interview by Hannah Sprouse
Dr. Mark Lomax began playing the drums at age two, and by age 12 had become a “professional,” playing for short tours at the age of 14. After his first daughter was born, Lomax began his career with nonprofits, working at Directions for Youth and Families, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus, and now The Columbus Foundation where he serves as Community Research and Grants Management Officer.
Name: Dr. Mark Lomax, II
Profession: The Columbus Foundation, Community Research and Grants Management Officer
Neighborhood: Northeast Columbus, just outside of Easton
Connect: Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram | Facebook
Where are you from, and what brought you to Columbus? I was born in Blacksburg, VA when my parents were working at Virginia Tech. We came to Columbus because my father attended graduate school at Trinity Lutheran Seminary. I’m still here because my wife and I think it’s a great place to raise our daughters.
Tell us more about 400: An Afrikan Epic. How did this 12-album, 400 artist concept start? 400: An Afrikan Epic is a musical narrative of the journey Black America has been on from pre-colonial Afrikan history, through the Ma’afa (1619-2019), on to 400 years into the future when humanity has healed from the atrocities of the past and made peace with the Earth and each other. The concept was birthed from the realization in 2016 that we were only three years from this significant marker, 400 years since the first Dutch slave ship forcibly brought the first 20 enslaved Afrikans to what would become American shores. The now critically acclaimed 12-album cycle is 8 ½ hours, and is comprised of seven different ensembles. More information can be found here.
What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek? My work as an artist and in the world of philanthropy is concerned with doing what I can to help optimize Human capacity in ways that facilitate the agency everyone has to create transformative change in our communities and, by extension, the world.
What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way? I’ve not been fortunate enough to have mentors that removed barriers by way of professional introductions or in the workplace. I have, however, had many mentors who have shaped the way I see and engage the world. Beyond my parents, Raymond Wise and Frank Lane helped me understand the role of music in religious settings, James Elliott and Billy Brown are drummers who were very important to my formation as a professional musician outside of the church, Pharez Whitted never let me rest on my natural abilities, Linda James Myers introduced me to the concept of optimal psychology and how important it is in the world and work of critical race theory within which my artistic philosophy is grounded. I’ve also been fortunate to be observant in such ways that allow me to learn from antithetical examples. There have been many!
Explain some of your work-life balance challenges and how you achieve success in spite of the hustle and bustle? Work-life balance? If it exists, I haven’t found it. As fortunate as I am to work at a place like The Columbus Foundation, I still need to earn income outside of the Foundation to pay for my children’s education, student loans and other such expenses. That being the case, I haven’t had a vacation since 2006. However, I am intentional about being present with my family as often as possible, and I ride a bike 2-3 times a week. I say “no” more than “yes,” and any work that I do has to be aligned with my own mission, vision, values, and brand.
Success is relative. I’m more focused on adding value to the world through my art, and working to strengthen my community through my work at the Foundation.
What do you do or where do you go to unwind? I go home, hang out with family and friends, and look forward to the few times I can enjoy a good bourbon and a new book.
What might someone be surprised to know about you? I’ve been married 18 years!
If you could have a superpower, which would you choose? I’d choose to have telekinetic powers.
As a child, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up? I’ve always been and wanted to be a musician.
What books or podcasts are you reading/listening to right now? I’m currently re-reading the Dune series by Frank Herbert, The Color of Money by Mersha Baradaran, and Democracy and the Next American Economy by Henry A. J. Ramos. Podcasts I listen to are The Breakdown by Shaun King, Strong Black Lead by Tracy Clayton, The Daily with Michael Barbaro, This American Life with Ira Glass, and On Being with Krista Tippett.
What would your autobiography be called? My autobiography will be called Drumversations: Creating a Life in Rhythm
What are among the top places you’d recommend to someone who is visiting or new to Columbus: This is really my wife’s domain! I’d recommend COSI, Franklin Park Conservatory, the Short North, and a tour of our great breweries.
Which organization(s) are you involved with around the community? I’m fortunate to be involved with a number of organizations in the community. I appreciate the partnership of all the organizations working to ensure that all youth enter adulthood prepared to pursue opportunities to live well!
Tell us about a community initiative (or initiatives) that you’re most passionate about? As alluded to above, I’m passionate about ensuring our young people are able to flourish and thrive. Specifically, I am able to engage this work through the Opportunity Youth initiative at The Columbus Foundation. Through this work, we partner with a number of organizations, government entities, educators, and concerned community members to create equitable pathways to success.
What are three things that you think Columbus needs (or wish Columbus had)?
1) We have a vibrant arts scene (across disciplines), but we lack the infrastructure to export our artistic excellence to the world.
2) We need to see each other in ourselves in such a way that ensures everyone can participate in the cities success and work together to learn from our failures. I’m certain our best ideas aren’t being engaged because so many of our neighbors are ostracized.
3) We need truly transformative leadership that can get all of us excited about, and engaged in the creation of a 21st century city.
If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them? Our neighbors in Linden, Bronzeville, the near south and west sides have always been the soul of our city. So, I’d say the “pulse” of Columbus has always been its people.