A Vessel and a Voice for Black Literacy: Nikko Toogood on Curating the Black Authors Matter Book Tour
In order for there to be change, there must be a discussion. And for there to be discussion, there must be intentional awareness of a problem. Nikko Toogood is an advocate for both. The curator of the National Black Authors Matter book tour firmly believes in the need for more representation of Black voices in literature. There is a lack of diversity within the publishing industry, which means that stories by and about Black people are not being told or made aware of — unless it is Black History Month.
I got to chat with this business book tour curator and entrepreneur to discuss the importance of black authors having a platform to share their stories, how BAM can amplify author voices to empower other black readers and more. Nikko’s candidness and honesty are both appreciated and motivating.
What inspired Black Authors Matter (BAM), and why is it important for Black culture?
BAM was inspired because I get so many authors who want a publicist but cannot afford a high retainer. I felt my duty was to create a sense of community among black literary creators and give them something they could make sales from and get publicity and marketing opportunities. Therefore, BAM was born. It woke me up in the middle of the night and was the thing where I bought the EIN, business license, and trademark all within a week. It was a passion project for me, and over the last four years, it has grown to walk on its own two feet. We have been able to shape and inspire culture for people to read the stories from our black writers, see the synergy that comes from the iconography, and help put authors on the trajectory of success.
You have curated a major national book tour and opened the doors for others to share their stories. How would you describe your story? And can your audience expect a book from you?
My story is about the little engine that could. When people didn’t see it for me, when I didn’t see it for myself, when I didn’t understand something, I continued to make my way. I did my research. I grew up being somewhat of a socialite in the public eye, being in media and publicity. So, many people got to see me fall, and I didn’t understand that I was building and engineering something great, and it does take time. I’m amazed at myself for continuing to push through adversity, self-sabotage, not allowing my inner saboteur to get the best of me. Finally, someone spoke over me, and I was given a vision already provisioned for me. The only thing I needed to do was walk, keep my eye on the prize, make the things in my head happen, and continue to do it with my team.
And can your audience expect a book from you?
I think that’s the million-dollar question. Is Nikko Toogood, the National Black Authors Matter Book Tour creator, going to become an author? And the answer is yes once I have time to sit on a tiny remote island and write. However, I have begun to work on it. Multiple books are already being birth through me, from branding and marketing to just my story of the little engine that could; the underdog who became the overachiever. So, I’m excited to write these books and get them out to the people, and they’re coming in 2023.
What has been the biggest lesson putting the BAM tour together?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that you cannot please everyone no matter how good, concrete, or stainless something is; someone will always find fault in your foundation, and that’s okay. Understand that you are the only surveyor that matters when it comes to your vision. Many authors see the book tour as a fantastic thing, get on it, and do extraordinary and unprecedented things, grow, and manifest. I’ve had other authors who feel like they need more than what we are offering, and that’s fine too. As long you’re opening a door for someone and helping break the glass ceiling, you’re making a difference. My favorite saying is, “when you’re breaking glass or jumping through it, it’s okay to get cut. Leave a drop of your blood on every piece of glass that falls because there are a million pieces of you within that glass, and that’s what I do with BAM.” It’s a million pieces of me in the business of BAM, and I learned it must have that. It must be authentic to me and my vision, no matter what others think. The other lesson I’ve learned is to remain consistent in what you’re doing. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, but build, grow, and extend.
You wear many hats and juggle a busy schedule. Who is Nikko away from the grind? What do you like to do?
When I am not curating book tours, speaking engagements, and all the other things that come with my life, I drink champagne and St. Germain and laugh with my friends and team. Outside of the grind, I am the hopeless dreamer forever trying to navigate the many playing fields in life beyond business. Many people don’t know that I started my journey as a chef. I attended AI, Le Cordon Bleu, and studied in Paris for six months. I’ve managed to create a culture for myself. But I guess that’s the word; I’m creative outside of the grind and just putting together the things that make me happy, bring me joy, and make me smile.
What do you hope for in 2022 for business and personal growth?
I’ll start with business first:
Expanding BAM, I’m so blessed to announce the Black Literacy Awards coming fall 2022. It will be an amazing award show honoring black literary trailblazers, new authors, different genres of books and giving us accolades and flowers while we are still here and understanding the groundwork they are laying for us.
In my personal life, I want to become closer to myself. I want to begin the journey of writing my books and creating that lane for myself. And that means self-reflection, understanding myself, and ironing out what I want to do. I also want to grow personally with people, knowing who Nikko is, my name is synonymous, and a household name for the fantastic work I am doing for the culture and the community.
How can people connect with you and be part of the BAM tour?
BAM 2022 is hot and on the way. It starts February 12th in Washington D.C. We are always accepting new authors. Reach out to us at www.thebamtour.com/jtm, our social media pages, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.