By Brian Carlson (Website)

You can’t deny people are awesome. Who doesn’t like sitting down with good friends to ask them interesting, insightful, and funny questions? With that in mind, local photographer Brian Carlson introduced an ongoing photo and Q&A series called “11 Questions” where he interviews Orlandoans he looks up to as well as people within the community that he’s always wanted to get to know.



“Fighter.” That’s how I’d describe Shawn Welcome. But you would never know it as you shake his hand and are blinded by the reflection of the sun in his disarming smile. The guy is just plain nice. Shawn does battle with words. Those beautiful words he weaves together as he speaks truth and power to the ears of the apathetic, disenfranchised, and destitute. His words will awaken you. They are a call to arms for all who hear. And when you’re on his side you know you have more than a fighting chance.

Who do you look up to?

There are several people who have been a mentor to me over the years that I admire. But there’s only one that I can honestly say I aspire to be like, as disconnected as this may seem to some readers, and that’s Messiah Jesus.

Do you have a favorite book or album?

The first two books that come to mind that I love are John Elderidge’s Beautiful Outlaw and Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. Beautiful Outlaw walks readers through the humanity of Christ and removes the broad brush ideas many perceive Jesus to be. And I’m actually not finished with Just Mercy yet, but social justice is a topic that Bryan Stevenson gives some of the best language to and speaks of his own journey as a civil rights lawyer who made tremendous strides and expresses thoughtful ideas for change in our current day. As far as artists go, I like Eshon Burgundy, Propaganda, Ezekiel, Preston & Jackie Hill-Perry, Misty Edwards, Andy Mineo, and Da’ Truth to name a few.  This is more on the poetry and rap side but I love other genres like reggae, jazz, oldies, old school hip-hop, blues, and doo-wop as well. I will say that as much of a fan I am of Propaganda’s work, it’s both flattering and annoying that people confuse me for him. I’m the other black guy with locks that performs animated thought-provoking performance poetry people! I live in Orlando, FL! And my name is Shawn Welcome!

Favorite place to eat in Orlando?

One of my favorite places to eat in Orlando is Mamak- Asian Street Food (Facebook | Website). So stinking delicious!

If you could mate two different species of animals what would they be?

If I had to mate two species of animal, it would be a gecko and a hawk. Why you ask? Well… Hawks are cool looking and could post up in the corner of my house like a gangster waiting for drama to pop off so she could have a reason to spring into action… and I’ve learned that geckos are predators of roaches. So… in addition to being a dope security guard, she’d kill roaches in her spare time with the classic tongue extension move. 😉

What gives you inspiration?

Learning different things about anything tends to inspire me. The “How I Built This” podcast where innovators are interviewed about the business empires they built is super cool.  Other podcasts like “The Ted Radio Hour,” “Code Switch,” and “Revisionist History,” are my brand of content. That mixed with the amazing biblical accounts I read in scripture and people demonstrating Christ-likeness on the Earth are among the things that keep me inspired.

If you had a chance to live in a different decade, what decade would you choose?

If I had the chance to live in a different decade, it would be 2030-2040. My youngest boys would be wrapping up high school. Orlando would be just a more awesome city to live in. I should have bought a house by then. People would be dressing 2000’s retro because that’s how fashion works. The tech world would be very interesting. And I’m hopeful that racial inequities lessen as time moves forward.

What in your personal life has influenced you to choose your career?

I think my career chose me rather than the other way around. I’ve always had a natural bent towards learning and therefore teaching and working with people in some capacity. Discovering my talent as an artist only accelerated that journey as well as my influence that landed me in the spaces I’m in today. When I reflect on the jobs that I’ve had in the past, it’s all kind of like the same thing. From serving at Captain D’s to customer service at Hewitt Associates to the different high schools I mentored youth at through different non-profits to teaching to facilitating poetry camps and classes to finishing school with my B.A in English Literature, and so on. It’s been a goulash of doing what felt natural and attracting opportunities that have allowed me to eventually formally exercise my gifts and talents.

How do you balance your personal and professional life?

My wife has been a tremendous asset with regards to balancing my personal and professional life. Between her holding me accountable to our family and actually utilizing my calendar, I’ve been able to stay fairly stable.

Is there anything you haven’t done yet that you feel compelled to achieve in the future?

In terms of future projects, I’d love to complete a poetry workbook in print and audio for facilitators to use, a string of videos and maybe audio recordings of my latest works (My CD is so old. Lol!), a children’s book, and whatever else comes my way. I’ve been fortunate enough to do NBA commercials and voice over branding for universities so anything creative up that ally would be a fun space to continue in.

What are your other interests?

About a year ago, I learned to play chess and it has become an interest of mine as of late. I also enjoy documentaries about anything! I could watch those till the cows come home, whatever that means. I don’t play basketball as much as I used to, but old passions never really die.

What rejuvenates you?

I’m rejuvenated in both solitude and among many. Quiet times alone or with my wife or in the scriptures or watching a documentary brings me as much energy as the beautiful chaos of the open mic night I’ve been hosting weekly since 2006. I love God and I love people. And I find myself refreshed in either of those spaces.


Click HERE to read more “11 Questions” columns by Brian Carlson.

Brendan O'Connor

Editor in Chief of

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