By Elaine Ayala : January 18, 2013
For 12 days in January, Shokare Nakpodia helped drive diverse and disparate groups to join in the first-ever DreamWeek, a series of panels, workshops and mixers celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.
A San Antonian by way of London, New York and his native Lagos, Nigeria, he is known for bringing people together and articulating a message.
Friends say if “Sho” builds it, they will come. In the end, more than 60 events made up DreamWeek.
“All in all, it was an incredible success,” said Nakpodia, who with wife Tracy owns The Mighty Group, a multimedia design, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Sunset Station.
The Mighty Group built DreamWeek’s vision and website. Already, he’s dreaming of 2014, when he’d like San Antonians to take the occasion to share their dreams and acknowledge reaching part or all of them.
“It’s one of the things we don’t do enough — celebrate our successes,” he said.
In just under a decade, Sho and Tracy Nakpodia built a clientele that has included various City of San Antonio departments and the Zachry Corp.
Friends and clients use words such as creative, innovative, even genius to describe him.
“He understands a client’s needs and delivers above expectations,” said Terri Toennies, general manager of the LA Auto Show, who hired him to rebrand Sunset Station and design its new website.
“He has the ability to look beyond what people see right away,” she said. “Then he tells you, ‘This is what you should be talking about.’”
Nakpodia, a permanent legal resident on his way to citizenship, declined to give his age. He and his Illinois-born wife have two children, Amaya, 10, and Edafe, 7.
He has come a long way from his village in Nigeria, where his father, the late Laggy Nakpodia, was a chief. Before anyone begins to conjure images of African royalty, Nakpodia explains that a chief is like a city councilman. His father, who had 12 children, was also an oil company executive.
His parents were first-generation college graduates at a time when that nation elevated such students to national leadership. But he speaks of his grandmother as having great wisdom.
From an early age, he loved language.
He read all of Shakespeare, and the works of African thinkers — but he came to see African American intellectuals as the most gifted on earth for their ability to overcome so much adversity. They became “the glue” between the West and Africa, he said.
“It was odd … they were looking at Africans,” yet they were the real Africans in the global sense, Nakpodia said.
He earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Leeds, mostly at his father’s urging — but it wasn’t his bliss.
His life changed when his father was killed by a gunman in the late 1980s for “political reasons,” Nakpodia said. Even today he can’t bear to talk about it, though he’ll speak of his father’s joy, his parenting by parable and his love of debate.
When Nakpodia got to New York, he did odd jobs and drove a cab, hoping to become a writer — but people seemed more interested in “the doodles” alongside his stories. He went to the School of Visual Arts and did several illustrations for the New York Times, he said.
It paved the way to his current work.
He came to San Antonio with his wife in 2001. He worked for his brother-in-law and taught himself web design and programming and in 2002 made “a mighty leap of faith” to start up his creative agency.
The dread he left in New York and Nigeria still surfaces from time to time — the idea that, “I haven’t created anything on this planet.”
DreamWeek helped. He’s proud it gathered so many kinds of people. He doesn’t like using labels such as black, white and Latino, because they don’t really help define people, he said.
Nakpodia also has served on boards and commissions, including Goodwill Industries and the Downtown Alliance of San Antonio, and has been involved in numerous East Side events.
His “adopted” sister Adaku Okoro said she’s glad he’s “no longer hidden,” and has a wider audience for his talents.
Aaronetta Pierce, a longtime arts patron, has adopted Nakpodia, too. “I often think of Sho and Tracy as a dynamic duo because, together, they represent much of what is good about a community business,” she said.
Nakpodia seems shy about those accolades. But he is his father’s son. Like the chief, he’d like to seek public office. He isn’t sure what, but he intends to run.