We had the good fortune of connecting with Ian L. Haddock and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ian L., we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
For me, The Normal Anomaly Initiative, Inc. came from needs that I was seeing in my community. I had worked in community advocacy and public health for over a decade and realized there was a gap in reaching and engaging the community with the tremendous work that was being done in the field. At that point, I began to research ways in which these gaps could be closed and, originally, began to create content for nonprofit organizations. From being a Center for Disease Control Let’s Stop HIV Together Ambassador to being a Social Media Fellow for the United States Conference on HIV and AIDS, I delved into making an impact through telling the stories of the most marginalized which had a two-fold response: it normalized us to organizations and organizations that used the content then expanded their reach by including people who looked like their focused populations in their imagery. As I began to tell more stories and listen to more narratives, I would follow up to see if any of the disparities of marginalized groups changed. By and large, they didn’t. From this, we moved into high gear to not only tell the stories but to change the negative pieces of the narratives that would eliminate barriers and create new norms. We decided it best to focus on the population in which I intersect– arguably the most marginalized– Black, queer folx and the rest is history being written.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
The Normal Anomaly Initiative, Inc. is a grassroots organization built with community support and advocacy. We do this through three major ways: direct services, advocacy programs, and research/ capacity building. As the premier organization focused on the Black, queer spectrum in services, we provide transportation assistance, employment services, and HIV testing and linkage. For our advocacy programs, we have four major programs that are funded to build the internal infrastructure of our community. Project Liberate is a 6-month program to launch or re-launch brands, organizations and businesses through leadership development, business planning, and community spotlights to get the businesses off the ground. We also have the Positives Organizing, Wellness, and Resilience (POWR) Program which is for and by persons living with HIV to increase their capacity for empowerment and advocacy. The Transgender Allyship Collective is an organization for people and organizations who have an interest in being better allies to the most marginalized community: Black Transgender folx. Finally, we have our Community Burial Fund which can assist LGBTQ+ people with laying their loved ones to rest. We also do research and provide capacity building at our organization and are one of the few Community Based Organizations in the state that have this lens that includes capacity building and technical assistance.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would begin with going over to East End 3661 Art Studio where there is a Black, queer-owned, and run art studio in EADO. We would enjoy the art and events that they curate and vibe out. We would leave there and go eat at Gotti’s HTX which is a Black, queer-owned restaurant that recently opened up in EADO. Then, I would look up the schedule for RECESS– an adult game destination company– and see where we could go play their big games (also Black, queer-owned). They would more than likely be at one of my favorite parks: Eleanor Tinsley. After that, I would head over to the “gayborhood” and go walk around to the bars down Fairview/ Taft. We would end the night at Culture at 2020 Leeland as it is a Black, queer-owned establishment that hosts 100’s if not 1000’s of people a weekend. That’s just the first day. The rest of the week, we would visit some of my favorite places in the city. We have to look at fashion. So we would eat at 51Fifteen in Saks after looking around in Saks Fifth Avenue and maybe doing some shopping. We have to see how beautiful our skyline is so we would go biking in Hermann Park and rest on the pedestrian bridge that looks at the Medical Center under the city lights. I unapologetically love chicken; so, we would have to go to either Chicken Plus or Almeda #1 Chicken and Rice. We would taste the city’s best gumbo at Bayou City Seafood and Pasta. We would go go-karting at Houston Grand Prix. Finally, we would go to Davenport’s and get a tequila martini– because guess who loves tequila? Plus, Davenports has the best martinis ever. So, many fun things to do!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many people that I owe where I am in life to. Countless people have poured into me in ways they couldn’t have imagined. People often hear me speak about my team at The Normal Anomaly Initiative, Inc.: Joelle Bayaa-Uzuri Espeut and Jordan Edwards. These folx hold me down on every side and I am nothing without them and their work. Still, there are others that I want to highlight.
There are three groups of people I rarely give kudos to. The first is Impulse Group Houston. Of course, our current board is a huge asset to my life as I serve as President of their Board (Jovaun Hicks- Vice President, Justyn Smith- Director of Operations, Kimberly Thomas- Director of Events, Andy Escobar- Director of Advocacy, and Wendell King- Director of Marketing). Still, the founding board of Impulse Group Houston (Deondre Moore- President, Nishia Jackson- Director of Marketing, Joshua Johnson- Director of Events, Rhys Caraway- Director of Advocacy, Jonatan Gioia- Director of Outreach) should be highlighted and Impulse Group as a whole. The founding board members are juggernauts across business ownership, fashion, advocacy, research, mental health, and event design. They helped to create my passion for excellence and vigor towards a vision of the forward mobility of Black, queer persons.
Another group I’d like to acknowledge is my best and closest friends throughout the years. From Justin Hogues to Dwyane Williams and everyone in between, these are the people who listened to my dreams before I had any actions or visions to accomplish them. More importantly, these are the people who had to grow up with me when I didn’t have therapy, language and wasn’t always a good person. I honor them for deciding to step away when they needed to and for being a support system when I needed them most.
The final group of people I would like to acknowledge that I rarely speak about is my family. We have a sordid past and an interesting dynamic, but I’d like to name some people that have been essential to my upbringing. My Aunt Kay was the first person to teach me how to advocate for myself, my Aunt Cynthia who gave me my first set of Black novels that we read together, my cousins, Kira, Neicey, and Brandi, who served as my protectors as I grew up and all of the rest of the Albert Street Fam. For the first time in over a decade, I got to spend a holiday with the entire family and it made me realize that my success was never in question because I had an army behind me since I was a kid.
People that I often speak about like the original squad of The Normal Anomaly Initiative, Inc.: Titan Capri, Kimberly Thomas, James Drake, and Denita Forges or my first podcast that included Corell James or even my Aunt Annette Walker and Pops Nathan Maxey have a central part of the story of my success, but the above mentioned are an essential part of my story, too.
Chester Paul Roberts and NBryant Photography