Sofia Legaspi Dickens, CityView Magazine
Tone The Movemaker is dedicated to progressing.
Raised on the south side of Chicago, he grew up in the shadow of skyscrapers and yachts along the affluent Lake Shore Drive. He wondered: Where was the divide?
“Coming from that, it always inspired the vibe to better myself, but I had to figure out how to escape the hood, the ghetto,” he said.
Now, Antonio Roddy— better known as Tone the MoveMaker — is an entrepreneur and artist at Mainframe Studios. His path here wasn’t easy.
“Where I come from, they told us we would be dead before 21. So, you kinda live life expecting to die, and then you realize, I think I’m gonna make it.”
Tone’s life trajectory began to shift in 2009. While visiting his brother at Iowa State University, he noticed thousands of people milling about Campustown, eight vacant commercial spots on the block — and an opportunity.
“I knew at that moment: I’m gonna stay,” he recalled. “I’m gonna stay and try to open up and do something different than what I’m used to doing.”
And so, naturally, Tone started a hot dog stand. While in Ames, he “stole an education” using a friend’s student ID, renting camera equipment, using computer lab software and absorbing lectures.
By the end of his time in Ames, Tone had bought all those vacant spots on the block. On top of his hot dog stand, MunchieZ Snack Stop, he had produced a radio show, worked as a cameraman, and hosted parties and variety shows.
With business doing well, Tone asked his best friend from Chicago to join him.
“But he made a mistake and tried to help me out. He tried to make some money, but he ended up going to jail with a kilo of cocaine,” he said. “At that point, I dedicated myself to helping people coming from my walk.”
Tone moved to Des Moines in 2015 and secured a spot at Mainframe in 2020. His clothing company, Designed by the Streets, is more than that.
In his shop, Tone packages T-shirts to resemble kilos of cocaine. When his friend gets out of jail, he’ll hand him a package and share his newfound mission: “Helping the streets turn their struggles into their strengths.”
Today, Tone doesn’t take his history for granted. Growing up creative kept him out of trouble. He’d seen his friends make mistakes, and he learned from them.
“I never went to jail. I never went to prison because I’d seen my friends going. I never had a bunch of random kids because my friends did before me,” he said. “I get the real story in the back, when nobody sees the baby daddy crying.”
Time stood still for many during the pandemic, but Tone worked harder than ever. He wrote a list of goals to hit before age 40 and began tackling them.
“Everybody’s got nothing to do, but I’ve been begging for extra time,” he said. “So I took advantage of it.”
Tone’s list is shorter now. He learned embroidery. He secured equipment and launched a shop: the first in the nation to dye thread as it sews. He created the first augmented reality mural in Iowa. He’s become more fluent in business, photography and various industries. He’s shared his story with others. Through it all, he’s learned to be vulnerable.
“It’s the things that I never wanted nobody to know: that I used to be in the street, that I sold drugs before, and all that stuff,” he said. “It was insecurity, but I couldn’t help nobody unless I told that part.”
Growing up surrounded by violence, oppression and incarceration, acting tough was necessary for survival. Tone taught other kids on his block to do the same.
“I used to think every place was like my neighborhood in Chicago. When I came to Iowa, I thought it was like gangs everywhere, that I had to worry about if I cross this street or cross that street.”
His brother helped transform his mindset, but Tone needed a new purpose, a new way to help people. Today, he uses his background to help the city address the issues he experienced. He works with kids from the street. He meets students where they are.
“The kids come to me because they can tell where I’m from,” he said. “It’s planting the seeds so that when they hit these forks in the road and they say, ‘What am I gonna do? Well, I talked to Tone before… and I think I can make it because I saw him making it.”
Change can’t be forced — Tone knows that. Instead, he leads by example: first, through his studio, where he nurtures creativity and community.
“Entrepreneurship and art lead you to self-improvement. It leads you to better mental health — you learn yourself. And then, once you learn yourself, you can see yourself doing certain things better. You make some art you didn’t think you could make, then you start saying, ‘Maybe there’s other stuff I can do that I thought I couldn’t.’ ”
Through the twists and turns of his life story, Tone sums it up best: “I make moves for the people. That’s what I do.” ♦