Ak McMorris: Advancing Impact
Moderating the NAACP’s Black and Blue forum, a dialogue between law enforcement and the public, Ak McMorris opened the floor with a simple declaration, “We have questions, and we want answers.” Never at a loss for words or causes, the Power 88 host is a gang intervention counselor for Clark County, on the executive board of the NAACP and a stand-up comedian voted “Best Host, Comedian and Philanthropist” by Vegas Seven magazine.
I fit what I could into a couple of suitcases and I moved to Las Vegas. That was 2007. I had not been here before, ever. I was around 22, 23. I just knew that there would be more than just getting up Monday and waiting for Friday. The jobs that I quit to leave St. Louis and come here were a massage therapist and two bartending jobs. I never did comedy; I never did radio; I never did philanthropic work. I never did any of those things until I moved to Vegas. I never knew what direction to take. I met a man when I was bartending at the Ice House downtown. I was expecting him to give me that proverbial, “What do you want to do?” Instead, he asked me my blood type. We started talking about different things, from hair to eating habits. Anywhere he was, was where I was trying to be. He was an electrician. Obama’s first-term situation was going on, and he had to leave Vegas to find work in other cities. So, I packed my little life up and moved with him. We drove from Vegas to deep down in California, from Vegas to New York, from New York to Atlanta, from Atlanta to Texas. When I finally decided to stop following him, I stopped to look at myself. Then a lot of things just started to come my way. Each has its own story. The way I became a comedian is that I was bartending at the Ice House. There were two local comics who had a show on Tuesday nights. I would be talking and doing my job, and they were listening. One night they said to me, “Hey, you are really funny. You should get up there.” I went up that next Tuesday and got a standing ovation. Fast forward, some years pass, and one of the comics, Jay Reid, now has a show down at the Plaza. I’m one of the comics on the lineup and he has me go into Power 88 for a promo. While I’m there, I meet Carlaya, the Queen of Flow. She invites me to come in as her unofficial intern. One day, she calls me in to do traffic. One of the listeners calls and says, “Hey, folks aren’t showing up to vote.” I went on the air and encouraged the community to go to the polls. Craig Knight, the general manager, got on air with me and we were literally watching the numbers go up — it was pretty insane. After that, I was hired to do The Breakdown. I had a friend approach me; she was tired of everybody doing the ice bucket challenge. She wanted to do a “Give Back Challenge,” giving water and hygiene products to the homeless. We went down across from Shade Tree, started giving stuff away, and the people asked about clothes. I said to them, “You want clothes. I can get you clothes.” I called up friends and went into their closets. Sweet Lou Collins saw all this stuff loaded in my car and he asked what happened. “Did you get put out of your apartment?” I told him, “No, this is the stuff I give to the homeless.” He said this was something the community needed to know. “Do you mind if we mention it on the radio?” He did. In that moment, he named it Ak’s Closet. My vision for Ak’s Closet is for it to be a boutique. Essentially, a person in need will come in and have an actual shopping experience, stop at the counter and simply leave whatever information the city, state or whatever grant says is needed. Fill that out, get your shopping bag and leave out as though you’d gone shopping. That’s the vision. I did all this sometimes when I didn’t have an address. I didn’t have a car. I was giving out clothes and hygiene products and I didn’t have a place to call my own. If I can do it — trust me — all day, you can.
Jeff Scheid of Jeff Scheid Photography