Connect with us


Person of the Day | Andrea Thomas: Graphic Designer, Radio Host and Tougaloo Village Product



On Saturdays, when Christian Union Missionary Baptist Church was quiet and still, void of the clacking sound of people banging tambourines against the palms of their hands and soulful shouts of “Hallelujah” and “Amen,” 14-year-old Andrea sat at an old computer in one of two small offices in the back of the building. There, she reviewed handwritten notes that a church elder, Carrie Jefferson, had given her.

Many Black singers and entertainers get their start as performers in church. Some begin as drummers or organists. Others lead the gospel choir. And some get a knack for public speaking because of their experience reciting speeches or performing skits on Easter.

But it was at her church in Tougaloo, Miss., just outside Jackson, where Andrea Thomas discovered her first opportunity to hone her creative skills as a graphic designer of Christian Union’s programs, T-shirts and community newsletter.

Young photo of Andrea Thomas
Andrea Thomas, pictured, was 14 years old when Carrie Jefferson, a secretary and event coordinator at Christian Union Missionary Baptist Church in Tougaloo, Miss., asked her to design the church’s programs, T-shirts and newsletter. Photo courtesy Andrea Thomas

Jefferson organized and coordinated events at the church, where Thomas’ grandfather served as an associate pastor. She often wanted church programs, stylized agendas listing the day’s speakers, topics and musical selections, as well as T-shirts and a community newsletter, all of which she trusted Thomas to design.

“Ms. Jefferson wore a lot of hats. They called her the church secretary, but she touched so many things,” Thomas said. “I think she just saw that I was pretty obedient as a child. She realized my interest in computers and just took me under her wing.”

Today, Thomas owns and operates The Everyday Graphic Designer and co-hosts Third Coast Radio (powered by Jackson Indie Music Week and Mississippi Public Broadcasting).

“My trade is graphic design, but I do all the marketing things from email campaigns to buying media to pitching stories. I do it all,” Thomas said. She also manages social-media accounts for businesses and at one point served as the graphic designer for The SIPP-FM, Jackson State University’s urban alternative radio station. Previously, she was a graphic designer for the Jackson Free Press.

Sipp Launch Day Flyer
Andrea Thomas designed this event flyer for The SIPP-FM, Jackson State University’s urban alternative radio station. Flyer courtesy Sipp FM

Thomas said that while she didn’t always know she’d be a graphic designer, she was always passionate about visual storytelling. She considers herself an eclectic creative, but she draws the line at calling herself an artist.

“I create beautiful things, at least that’s what people tell me, but I create it for a specific intent, and I don’t think art works that way, not to me. Art is emotion-driven. I don’t consider myself an artist, I consider myself just a creative,” Thomas said.

Thomas also curates The Plug JXN, a Facebook-based guide to local businesses and events in Mississippi’s capital city. She wanted to create an inclusive resource guide for people across Jackson and surrounding areas to know what’s happening in their communities and have the chance to experience all that Jackson has to offer.

“It’s in the midst of a rebrand. People in different silos of Jackson don’t know what’s going on in the other silos in Jackson. So I wanted to create a platform that was inclusive and told everybody about everything,” she said.

‘They Call Tougaloo Village The Village For A Reason’

Thomas credits Carrie Jefferson and other adults in her life who saw a glimmer of promise in her as a child and supported her creative ambitions. As she stood outside her childhood home, she beamed while reminiscing about the “team effort” it took for her to become the woman she is today.

There was the middle school teacher who invited cartoonist Marshall Ramsey to a career-day event so that Thomas could meet someone who could talk to her about her career aspirations. Then there was the high school teacher who taught Thomas tools of the trade like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.

Thomas said these are just some of the people who made up her village: the teachers, mentors and supporters who believed in her potential and invested in seeing her evolve.

But, she said, her tenacity to pursue a career in design started with her mother and grandparents who raised her to go after her creative interests, even if they couldn’t quite visualize how she could make a living as a graphic designer. “I know they’re proud of me, for sure,” she said.

“You start building community in your home,” Thomas said. “They call Tougaloo Village that for a reason. Lord forbid, if anything happens to me in Tougaloo, I can go to my neighbors’ house and say ‘I’m going through something’ and they’re going to take care of me,” she said.

Two women in blue dresses pose inside a church
Andrea Thomas is pictured here with her mother Hilda (left) at Christian Union Missionary Baptist Church in Tougaloo, Miss., where she got her first chance to practice her skills as a graphic designer. Photo courtesy Andrea Thomas

Thomas said that village is what has kept her afloat since she moved back to her family’s Tougaloo home about six months ago after a brief stay in Texas. “When I moved (to Texas), I didn’t realize how blessed and privileged I was, not just growing up near Jackson but also being in Tougaloo. Tougaloo is a whole Black community,” she said.

She went to Texas a couple years back to further her career as a graphic designer in the marketing industry but said experiences with racism and a toxic work environment there made her long for the support and community she had back home in Mississippi.

Now, she is preparing for Jackson Indie Music Week, which is January 7-14. Years after she got her initial design experiences at that community church in Tougaloo, right outside Jackson, Thomas said she is right back where she belongs.

“I love Jackson. I don’t care what anybody tries to tell me,” she said. “I’m really community oriented. I think I just belong in Jackson.”

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply