Karen A. Clark
Naeem Clark, Karen (mother), Gara Clark
By Brandon I. Brooks
Assistant Managing Editor
Karen A. Clark is not your average everyday woman. Better stated, Clark is not your average everyday mother.
This mother of two defines the phrase “triple threat”, as she juggles her busy life as a corporate executive, talented artist and loving mother.
Since the release of her second album, “The Karen A. Clark Project”, on her family owned label, C-Sick Records, Clark’s life has been busier than ever fulfilling her dreams as a performing artist and making history as an executive force in the banking industry.
2011 has been one of the busiest times for Clark as she transitioned from her job at US Bank, where she worked as the multicultural marketing manager, to now working with City National Bank, where she works as Senior Vice President. Clark was brought in to help City National build a multicultural marketing program and to assist them with building their base of diverse customers. Her other focus is to assist City National Bank with talent acquisitions and to bring in some highly seasoned African American professionals across business lines.
With such a demanding day job it’s hard to believe that this working mother can find the time to do anything but work in the corporate world.
“I’ve been in banking for twenty something years,” Clark shared. “But how I got into it was my husband and I had two kids in college and we were both artist, he more on the production side and film making and me as a performing artist. But when we came to L.A., I went to a head hunter and had to get a day job because I wasn’t making money. I had a degree in economics and fell into banking but I always pursued the arts, I have always been into arts in some form or fashion.”
Clark has been writing poetry all of her life. She shared with the Sentinel that she thinks she wrote her first poetry book in the 5th grade. Clark said that she started doing talent shows in junior high and high school.
She was even blessed to have performed with bands such as ConFunkShun before they hit the road and got their big break.
“When I went to college I was doing a lot of live theatre, musical theatre,” said Clark. “And sometimes just to support myself and get paid, I would go into clubs and dance while the jazz band was playing and then I would spit some poetry. I always had that kind of flavor. So doing the live theatre kind of gave me that performing arts style to my poetry and the dance, so I’ve been doing it for a long time.”
Clark and her late husband, who passed away about three years ago, produced many plays, wrote many plays, and even produced many artists.
“We had started a little business, an independent record label.” Clark shared. “We have done all types of shows, big theatres and little theatres. The company is called C-Sick Records.”
Clark recalls, one day her late husband was like, “I want to produce you.”
They went in the studio and did a project immediately. The project was not all spoken word as it showcased Clark’s singing ability but after meeting some new producers and connecting with the right people, Clark went back in the studio and found spoken word would be the genre that she would go after. Her poetic style of writing was magnetic and had to be center stage.
“When people started doing spoken word, you know that whole resurgence, a decade or so ago it was lovely,” said Clark. “I grew up doing spoken word…I do sing, but I want to drive the spoken word home.”
When Clark performs, she does throw in classics. “I have a nice voice,” boast Clark. “I am most comfortable on stage.”
Clark says her style is somewhere between Sade’ and Jill Scott. Her lyrics are biographical. She is proud to write about what she has experienced instead of making things up along the way.
Her favorite track on the album is “Determined” because the word determined sums up what we all have to do to in order to make it in this world.
“No matter what you are trying to do, you have to be determined,” shares Clark. “Keep on the grind and keep going. It kind of combines a whole earthy thing about how I have to keep it moving. I am determined to reach my dream. But then it also builds in some real sexy content and takes it to a different level talking about relationships.”
Clark is a lyricist. You normally hear the term lyricist when discussing hip-hop music, but to be clear, Karen A. Clark is a lyricist with lasting impression. She combines words and phrases as if she was a Shakespearian poet and delivers them in a passionate tone to capture the audience.
Being that Clark is a corporate executive, performing artist and dedicated mother, she was asked by the Sentinel to share and give advice to women who balance many things on their daily plate.
“I would say this to people, life is short, in the twinkling of an eye it is over,” said Clark. “So every day you wake up, you better figure out how you want to use those 24 hours because we all have 24. And people think that I don’t have enough hours in the day, but they, a lot of people who spend six to seven, to eight hours, doing their thing (job) that is dictated by somebody else because they have to make the money or do whatever to take care of the kids, that leaves a whole lot of time on the back end that people just waste. I mean it’s not a waste if they are enjoying time but if they say I don’t have enough time and I couldn’t get something done, than that means you wasted it.
“Everybody has had someone in their life that has died and when that happens, you just have to realize, you know what, that could be me tomorrow, that could me tonight, so I better do what I want to do now because the thing is, when you are laying on your death bed, you are not going to regret the things you did in most cases because those things had past. What you are going to regret is what you didn’t do. You are going to be laying there thinking, I wish I had tried. I wish I had done this.”
Karen A. Clark is leaving no stone unturned as she lives out the rest of her life. She may have lost her husband but she will never lose her passion for music and life. She is a living testament to mothers everywhere that you do deal with the cards that are dealt but always remember you play the cards you have your way.
“You know I’ve just been blessed in my corporate life to always meet people who always put me in a place to have unique jobs,” said Clark. “And I’ve been traveling for 20 to 25 years through my job and seeing the world. You know it’s all God but in terms of this project, I just love to perform, so I have never stopped. I’ve always performed and so now this just gives me another vehicle to share. I just have joy when I am on the stage and I just love being in front of people.”
Karen A. Clark will be performing live at UCLA’s Reggae Jazz Festival on Sunday, May 29th. The Karen A. Clark Project is available via ITunes, spoken word category. You can also purchase the album on CDBaby.com and mostly all other digital outlets by searching Karen A. Clark. For more information, please visit www.thekarenaclarkproject.com.