Behind the Brand with Designer Nyorh Agwe

“The prophets in the beginning were musicians. They were poets, writers. That’s what we’ve been tasked within this life. We’re the whistles. The wind goes through us, we make noise.”

– Jay-Z 4:44 Album

ART LIVING Founder/Creative Dir. Shea Zèphir in Nyorh Agwe

ART LIVING Founder/Creative Dir. Shea Zèphir in Nyorh Agwe

When I first heard this lyric off Jay-Z’s latest album it stopped me dead in my tracks. I had a moment, it transcended my thoughts, I was overwhelmingly happy to be a fellow creative of the multiverse. I finally understood why the creative part of my brain always bleeds through whatever I do, see, touch, and hear. For some reason that line, that space in time, and those words stuck to my bones, my skin, and in my mind. For the multifaceted artist juggling to balance the duality in their creative psyche most days, these few words solidified our organic beings.

At ART LIVING, we undress each visionaries’ creative process because there is so much power in the unveiling of that storytelling and its sacred process. Historically as Black folk we have for centuries learned to conquer life’s unpredictable experiences through the lessons in storytelling, oral histories.  Going back to that sacred space in a new authentic visual way is why we exist.  The empowerment manifests in the reveal of the story when shared amongst the community.  Our latest “Behind the Brand” welcomes the story of a well-traveled young African woman whose roots began in the capital city of Cameroon, Yaoundé. Though her roots are laid in Africa, her frequent childhoods travels from Italy to Maryland have exposed her cultural senses into a melting pot of bold traditionalism and edgy modernity as a designer. In the age of fast fashion and tattered luxury designer, Nyorh Agwe creates sumptuous fashion carrying a special cultural and historical declaration to her roots. No, Nyorh is not a poet or writer although if you follow her social media posts you will see she has a way with words that reflect a wise maturity way beyond her years. I like to think of Agwe as a conductor/sculptor of wearable art as her garments lend themselves way beyond the normal top, pant, or overcoat. You almost feel guilty for just calling her garments “clothes” because they transcend so much more than fabric that covers the body. The designs that ornate her clothes allude to her many childhood travels yet they eclipse the old traditional practices of Cameroon with the present-day modernization of edginess that will cause you to pause, in a good way stirring up the feelings of supreme royalty like that of old childhood fairytales.

Designer Nyorh Agwe, 22

Designer Nyorh Agwe, 22

A graduate of the Parsons School of Design young designer Nyorh Agwe decided to make her debut to the world of fashion canvassing the transient traditional craftsmanship of the “Tugi” people of northwest Cameroon, the birth culture of Nyorh. It was her personal ode to tradition that was the nucleus of Nyorh’s graduate collection at Parson’s titled, “M’ba M’etta – We the Metta People.” The essence of her collection’s and its gorgeous body of work notarized the importance of cultural and historical declaration within the fashion industry.  Nyorh’s gift, is this delving into the creative historical citations corroborating her cross-cultural experiences planted amongst her luxurious threads. Simply put, the garments speak, they move, they tell one hell of a visual story. There is a rich vocabulary of tone and hue within her fabric choices that make them so memorable and resonant. I experienced those threads first hand when dressed by Nyorh for ART LIVING’s 1st Year Anniversary Dinner this past summer and we played dress up in more of her collection during our “Behind the Brand” interview.

Naturally, Nyorh’s color palette choice draws the initial eye of her designs, but more interesting is what she does with each piece, showing their odd relationships and juxtapositions, whose couplings are historically and aesthetically revelatory, yet so effortless. “My goal…is always to envision what Cameroon would be like if modernity didn't come up and just sweep up the culture. If that didn’t happen how would we have evolved our own fashion and cultural sense.” She introduces a cultural conversation that awakens a necessary consciousness especially to American clients. It leaves you no room but to reassess the limited way we’ve been encouraged to see shape and color. Nyorh explains, “Watching my mom and dad growing up I saw that a woman wears a certain silhouette different from a man. I never thought of fashion as a means of having a career until I saw Project Runway which sounds so cliché, but before that moment in my life fashion was something we just did.” The longevity of any visionary lies in how they harmonize the pendulum of authenticity and individuality amidst today’s social media obsession of crash and burn trends, click baits, and cultural appropriation. Clearly the journey of sharing your gift with the world is not for the faint of heart nor ignorant. It takes a conscious effort to not only make a name for oneself, but in the words of Dr. Dre, “…Remember, anybody can get it, but the hard part is keeping it, … (I’ll edit out his last lyric PG-13 style, but you get the gist).

Designer Nyorh Agwe, 22

Designer Nyorh Agwe, 22

This aspect of borrowing from various cultures and time periods as the backdrop for influential fashion concepts is nothing new be it, art, music, dance, or any other artistic expression but some creators craft an overly obvious costumey collections reflective more of an invented passion so to speak rather than an organic evolution of experiences. They say the difference between a copyist and a designer is one that contrives his materials into something else that is purely his own. He does not reveal it, unaltered as his original, but instead modifies. Nyorh spoke to the distinction of her designs, “I tend to focus on the core aspects of Cameroon which goes back to scale, fabric type, and most importantly for me too is the staying away from using westernized finishes like zippers, buttons, and belts. All things that came with the western influence.” Growing up with American fashion we’re more used to the expression of loving a woman’s body to equal sculpting clothing that reveals the entire woman’s shape or the exact extreme opposite. Androgyny is also a key element woven in to Nyorh’s style of design that really breaks the traditional mold of what you see typical from a young female African designer. It is that deliberate boldness that draws you into her collection and accessories that we at ART LIVING has fallen in love with. As artist of expression we are always able to use our artform in ways that are sometimes more impactful than any classroom or dining room table. We can subvert the status quo and power structures by intentionally curating. Nyorh Agwe is a designer who understands the power of her linage within her garments. Her choice to not use manmade fabrics and instead use only natural organic fibers that feel good on the body reminiscent of the available fabrics worn before modernity defines the middle ground between the past and present. It defines the simplistic genius of the past that so many our ancestors innately developed while giving us a glimpse of what the world might’ve looked like if we controlled the narrative of modernity at our own pace. I don’t know about you, but I really love the looking glass Nyorh has created for us to wear, to appreciate, and to learn from which is why she is more than a designer. She is a creator whose brand is synonymous with the woman she is becoming.

Find out more about Nyorh Agwe on www.nyorhagwe.com

All  video & photography was captured by www.lostartbk.com

 

 

Behind the Brand with Urban Peace Squad

"I don't believe you can go through adversity without believing in a greater power than yourself."

-Oprah Winfrey

Shea Zèphir, Founder of ART LIVING, Bre Scullark, Founder of Urban Peace Squad, & Mimi Woods, Mental Health Specialist at Urban Peace Squad.

Shea Zèphir, Founder of ART LIVING, Bre Scullark, Founder of Urban Peace Squad, & Mimi Woods, Mental Health Specialist at Urban Peace Squad.

In a world where celebrity, privacy, and fame are blurred lines of unethical marketing strategy click boosters, it is all too easy to become over exposed to the personal live of our favorite celebs. Somehow we actually believe we know them and their stories through the over saturated merciless lens of social media and the tabloids. What we think we know, what that celebrity choose to reveal and what is really happening will never be an authentic testimonial, which is why we at ART LIVING began the series, "Behind the Brand". To allow the artist to tell their story, their own way, and respectfully share their journey. Because it is personal, it is necessary, and most of all it is sacred. 

Edit wout logo 4.jpg

Our newest "Behind the Brand" episode is extra special feature because it reveals the stories of two Harlem native sister friends joining forces to heal the community one yoga workshop at a time. How do you heal urban communities when you have been broken yourself and have hit rock bottom? How do you heal others when you are still healing yourself? Where does one find the strength to rebuild, re-create, and share from a different space of love? Well, we sat down with model, entrepreneur, yogi, documentarian, and founder of Urban Peace Squad  Bre Scullark alongside mental health specialist, performing artist, and licensed social worker Mimi Woods to divulge into why Urban Peace Squad was created in the first place.

We we first introduced to the gorgeousness that is Bre Scullark on Cycle 5 of ANTM in 2003 almost 15 years ago. Since then life has taken her on many journeys and pathways throughout the unpredictable highs and lows in the entertainment industry. Along that journey, Bre was able to birth a new passion while attending rehab as she was introduced to yoga as a positive form of self-reflection and healing movement. Upon her completion of her rehab program, she moved back to her hometown of Harlem from LA, used an old job check that came through at the right time to rent a dance studio to teach community classes and what began as her form of personal healing became a community mission and workshop program called Urban Peace Squad.

Urban Peace Squad - a donation based peace workshop providing live music, yoga, meditation, and open discussion in underserved communities. Focused on a supportive environment for mental wellness Urban Peace Squad encourages self-acceptance, self-healing, and self-discovery to urban communities with the least access to taught self-empowerment practices.

MODEL . ENTREPRENEUR . YOGI . COMMUNITY ACTIVIST . DOCUMENTARIAN 

-Bre Scullark

Edit wout logo 2.jpg

ART LIVING: "Why Urban Peace Squad? Why Yoga? Why Urban Communities?"

Bre: "I wanted to create an organization that supported prisoners the way they had access to healing tools on the inside, I wanted to create that environment for them outside when they came home."

ART LIVING: "Mimi, what about for you?"

Edit wout logo 7.jpg

Mimi: "I chose to be apart of the movement because it was very much aligned with the work I do in my career every day. Bre was really passionate about bringing peace to trauma infested communities and we both live in the same complex across from the projects. And it was about, how can we have all of this knowledge on the other side of the street and not share it with the community. So I was really passionate about her movement of bringing peace, of bringing yoga, talking about mental health in the community because that's the biggest issue we have is NOT talking about mental health, NOT talking about how we are feeling and I knew that by joining this movement, it would increase that awareness and definitely get folks talking, which is why I joined."

ART LVING: "I think its so important to examine our WHY purpose when we commit ourselves to the community for healing. I believe setting that intention and being clear about the goal is why becomes that invisible thread of unbroken communication and education we need so much within the Black communities. Buttttt its not all serious with stats and numbers, so to switch gears a bit, what are some of cool things about Urban Peace Squad that makes its workshops so unique?"

Everyone is going through something, has been going through something, or will go through something.

-Mimi Woods

Mimi: "I think one of the coolest things about Urban Peace Squad is that you initially you see this beautiful familiar face and you think we are going to talk about beauty and ten she gets you like... nahhhhh, we're here to talk about PEACE! and you begin hitting people at the core and you then began creating a space where people can be open and candid. So the response has been overwhelming and I think is has been overwhelming because you realize everybody has a story. Everyone is going through something, has been going through something, or will go through something.

And its so interesting in how similar we are. We did a live instagram this summer and the direct feedback was amazing because people we asking, "When is the next one?" and "Where are you guys doing this?" So you realize, "WOW" there is a real need for this and more importantly anyone can create this type of space within their own communities and within their homes to have these conversations. And really, that is what we are doing. We are pushing the envelope on conversation where ever we show up."


Bre: "When I give eye contact, when I give hugs, when I give touch all those things matter and I have to literally say to myself sometimes that, "I am not alone on any island. if it matters to me, then I know it matters to someone else...to be seen and to receive. The importance of really asking, "How was your day?" or "How can I support you?" and realize that in those moments and when asked those questions you are not alone. That is really what my workshop is all about because that is where the healing process begins. Honestly, it just starts with saying, "You are not alone." 

I don't think there would be a community called "Urban Peace Squad" if we didn't love on each other and acknowledge the presence of each other while we are there."

ART LIVING: "Why is it so important to not only give back, but to directly be hands within our own communities?"

MENTAL HEALTH SPECIALIST . PERFORMING ARTIST .  EDUCATOR . COMMUNITY ACTIVIST

-Mimi Woods

Edit wout logo 12.jpg

Mimi: "So, I am a licensed social worker and like I said before, Urban Peace Squad is aligned with the work I do daily. I work with incarcerated youth. Bre mentioned visibility and that's important because people want to be seen and people want to know that you see them. Even when my students say something to me on Monday I am following back up with them on Thursday, because I want them to know I am paying attention. I believe Dr. Cornell West said it best, hopefully I am quoting this as the right quote but I believe it goes like, "You can't lead the people if you don't know the people. And I think its important that we are so hands on. Which is why we say, "We are in the trenches." I can't lead you if I don't know you. I am really big on knowing your name and face, making eye contact, getting to know your story, being there when you are happy and when you are sad. That is the work we do and what we are passionate about." 

ART LIVING: How do you guys center yourselves to get back you your happy in the midst of the work you do?

Mimi: "I started reading again, I started writing in my journal again, and really I am just marching to my own beat. If I want to put on my oils that day then I just go with that you know. I've just been pulling from my basket full of goodies when I need to."

ART LIVING: "What is your wish for the future of the urban community?"

Bre: "I wish for peace. I wish Black men so much peace and internal peace. Because I see them struggle a lot within themselves and it actually speaks symbolic to what is going on with them. I wish them a journey back to self. I really do. I wish depression was talked about more with men and wasn't seen as a weakness. I wish suicide was talked about more in urban communities especially with men. And I wish they let this burden go that they have to do everything and allow us women to be partners...sisters, wives, aunts, mother's whatever. That is my wish a better space for men to bloom because they deserve to bloom too. Men deserve flowers too.

ART LIVING: Ladies this was so, so, good. Thank you for all that you do!

 

Checkout our exclusive photos from the interview and of us pretty brown girls getting real out yoga and community healing. 


Checkout our *BONUS footage of this interview and founder Shea Zèphir getting in on Bre's impromptu private yoga session at the conclusion of the interview.  

 

All photos and video have been captured and edited by J. Mandela of www.lostartbk.com media and production company.

Duffy's Hope 15th Annual Celeb Basketball Game


Jackie Long and Ray J fighting for the tip off at the start of the game.

Jackie Long and Ray J fighting for the tip off at the start of the game.

Last weekend non-profit community organization Duffy's Hope held its annual basketball game at the Bob Carpenter Center on the University of Delaware's campus. The day began with their annual Teen Summit hosted by radio DJ and media personality Angela Yee. Teens ages 13 - 18 alongside their families enjoyed open discussion on current peer pressure issues, participated is some dope interactive workshops reflecting on the real life circumstances of prescriptions drug use, dating, under age drinking and even finance. You have to love the full commitment by Duffy's Hope to deliver the most proactive resources and this amazing one day event that propels the youth in the direction of purpose driven success.

Supporters and fans had a blast watching the hilarious friendly competition between former basketball players, community leaders, and celebs. VIP guests enjoyed an exclusive and private celeb meet and greet which included autographed paraphernalia and selfies of course. The turn-up was major as local dance troupes heated up the court with their exciting half-time performances. 

Half-time Performance!!! 

Half-time Performance!!! 

Actors Christian Keyes, Bobb'e Thompson, Jackie Long and Ray J kept the funny going on the court as they battled back and forth to see who still had those high school hops and those agile teenage skills.

Founder and fellow basketball enthusiast Duffy Samuels has gone above and beyond with his dedication to the community combining his passion and love of the game for basketball with community outreach for Delaware youth with a group of fearless volunteers. Duffy's Hope was founded in 1988 by Allen "Duffy" Samuels with the purpose of providing accessible resources for at-risk youth ages 12 - 17. The organization has successfully impacted the lives of over 4500 teens within the last 18 years of their existence amongst the Delaware community. The Duffy's Hope annual games serves as the ultimate community gathering and celebration to generate revenue to support their various programs throughout the year. But this has to be some of the best work and play youth prevention programs we have seen yet on "Inside the Cool".

 

Check out the fun highlights from the basketball game below...Stay tuned for the "Inside the Cool" video to be released this week!!!

 

   

25 Years of Iconic Hip-Hop Fashion with 5001 FLAVORS

"It's business and pleasure, family and friends... it really doesn't feel like work at all."

- Shay Wood, Founder/Co- Owner of Harlem Haberdashery & 5001 FLAVORS

The First Family of Fashion...

The First Family of Fashion...

By now if you haven't heard of Harlem Haberdashery the Harlem family responsible for styling hip-hop and entertainment royalty for the last 25 years, you must be on a little media/internet fast, but we won't hold it against you. They are the veteran creatives behind outfitting everyone from Tupac to Lebron James and even Elmo.

Last week we headed over to the Museum of the City of New York in East Harlem to check out their annual Uptown Bounce: I Love the 90's free block party featuring 5001 FLAVORS of Harlem Haberdashery. Displaying their most iconic fashion garments over the last 25 years within the hip-hop industry we headed over for some fashion history and one hell of a good times capturing this latest "Inside the Cool" exclusive.

 

"When the love and influence of the culture overrides that traditional fashion degree..."

-Shea Zèphir, Founder/Creative Dir. of ART LIVING 
 
Tupac - 5001 FLAVORS.jpg

Tupac Shakur

Custom designs by 5001 FLAVORS for Tupac in the movie "Above the Rim"

The 5001 FLAVORS spark began in the early 90's with one of their first clients, charming rapper Heavy D aka The Overweight Lover. As fate would have it Heavy D's cool old school charm and unapologetic fashion swagger turned heads of fellow industry talents who swarmed 5001 FLAVORS for their custom design. It was the traditional word of mouth referrals that increased the industry demand for 5001 FLAVORS as Heavy D sported their designs working as an executive at Uptown Records. The in-house label began dressing artists at Uptown and Bad Boy Records evolving beyond the hip-hop circuit customizing garments for A-list celebs including Kanye West, Will Smith, Al Sharpton, and a host of others within the entertainment industry.

IMG_1777.jpg

2016’s Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour

5001 FLAVORS custom Bad Boy team attire

5001 FLAVORS operates and had always thrived as legit family business, in fact all members of their family are involved in all facets of their businesses manifesting from custom-made apparel company to a retail boutique Harlem Haberdashery housing local designers and exclusive ready-to-wear pieces by 5001 FLAVORS. So how does a designer from Harlem without a fashion degree pull inspiration to design? Designer, Guy Wood creates some of the boldest, most colorful, layered garments from the inspirations of his family genetics, as his mother was a seamstress who made his clothes as a kid. Enamored by tailored clothing worn by icons like Harry Belafonte, Guy has a special love for large cuffs and extravagant button down shirts with bold color.  He wore his moms designs and garnered the reputation of being the cool kid with a mature sense of some serious fashion swag throughout Harlem. The other inspirations that influenced 5001 FLAVORS designs were the historical and fashionable periods of Harlem.  The bold architecture of design within their garments, alongside exotic fabrics, and surprise artistic elements embedded within their custom designs, are a tribute to Harlem's past with the unapologetic creativity of present day ideas. In the words of Jay Z, "the essence of our creativity is that we borrow from our ancestors. We are all vessels right? We're whistles and the wind go through us, we make the noise.   Harlem natives have always held high esteem to one's personal style of dress, it's a special pride that resonates deeply within the neighborhood like the food and music of New Orleans and Chicago, like the influences of Philadelphia and DC. Much like any other place in the world Harlem takes is style of dress personal, besides they don't call Harlem the "Mecca of Fashion" for nothing. 

 

Check out the gallery below for a little throwback hip-hop fashion history of 5001 FLAVORS unforgettable designs

Our 1yr Anniversary Film Screening + Dinner

" We are sewing this artistic quilt of change makers who are using their art and entrepreneurship for social change right here in our own backyard of Harlem and Brooklyn. I am ART LIVING, YOU are ART LIVING, we all are... ART... LIVING." 

On Monday, June 19, 2017, 25 special guests got to experience an ART LIVING exclusive film screening and dinner party hosted by Founder/Creative Dir. Shea Zèphir. The summer thunderstorm didn't keep the guests away as they trickled in welcomed by original artwork and earth tone lighting setting the ambiance in the private gallery and garden of "For My Sweet" in the heart of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. 

IMG_0505.jpg

The night was permeated with positive vibes and warm energy, an ode to the ART LIVING's first year of success as a lifestyle brand and digital content platform telling the stories of multifaceted Black artists who are using their art and entrepreneurship for social change. The evening was filled with great conversation, food, and art admiration between old and new friends.

Shea, tapped budding chef Dwayne Chase to prepare a vibrant summer menu also vegan-friendly menu, but first guests were greeted with hors d’ouvres assorted chips with black bean avocado and mango salsa, and hummus — created by "Chef Spank". The invited company sipped on Vanilla Cucumber Mint Lemonade and Strawberry Mango Sangria to soak in the art love aura of the evening.

 

In truly memorable fashion, Shea kicked off the event with her welcome to the guests and the release of 3 new projects highlighting ART LVING's inaugural year of content, an exclusive "Behind the Brand" with Founder/Creative Dir. Shea Zèphir, and new "Behind the Brand" episode featuring LeAsha Julius and duo Quincy Vidal. After the screening commenced Shea and her guests joined for dinner served by beautiful event staff! But the most charmed moment of the entire night came when artist LaChrisha Brown closed dinner with an interactive poem reminding everyone of the importance of staying present and loving on those around you. The evening of breaking bread and engaging conversation concluded with Shea expressing her thanks for everyone’s attendance leaving a special soul-stirring warm energy all with home with that night.

Check out the exclusive photos of our AMAZING night below!

All photos were capture by "HONDO" of www.lostartbk.com

Check out the highlights of our AMAZING evening with family & friends below!!!

The Neighborhood Centric that is Harlem Shake

"Our policy is to give back to the community and you can do that in a boring way or a fun way. We thought Miss/Mr. Harlem would be a really fun way to give back." 

-Jelena Pasic, Founder Harlem Shake

                             Former Miss Harlem Shake Shannon Thornton

                             Former Miss Harlem Shake Shannon Thornton

Harlem is ever-changing and its change is drastic and rapid. Many of the local favorite mom and pop shops are trading spaces for big retail chains and expensive high-rise luxury residential apartments amidst its popular cultural scene filled creative transplants all migrating to the historical mecca that is Harlem. Alongside its constant evolution is the wave of survival for independent small businesses establishing themselves in the heart of the cultural atmosphere that Harlem brings. The new brand of Harlem's businesses or what some call the "Second Renaissance" seems to stray away from is the traditional mom and pop legacy thanks to increasing gentrification, but there are new local businesses trending back to the local, intimate, curated neighborhood experience. Make no mistake about it, the ones assembling Harlem back into an essential must-see New York destination are local independent small businesses.

                                 Harlem Shake Diner in the 1940's

                                 Harlem Shake Diner in the 1940's

Combining the vintage charm with a contemporary vision, continually building on the foundation of genuine relationships, community, and integrity is the only way for small business survival in historical cultivating communities like Harlem. One restaurant intent on honoring the Harlem legacy with a modern retro twist for locals and visitors is Harlem Shake restaurant. the award-winning restaurant donning its famous classic burgers with old school milkshakes has earned its popular reputation as a neighborhood eating staple in Harlem. Known for its affordable eats, sociable atmosphere, and retro Harlem style decor, the flagship location on 124th Street and Lenox Ave. is a rebirth of the original diner which was occupied in the 1940's.

Owner, Croation born Jelena Pasic bought the location wanting to preserve the history that was already there with a few cool modern updates. Sitting amongst retails giants like American Eagle, Red Lobster, and Whole Foods, Pasic thought it was significant to preserve the vintage old school vibe especially for the locals during the current climate of neighborhood favorite like "Lenox Lounge" once the soul of Harlem closing its doors left and right. This is not Pasic's first shop as she formerly owned a coffee shop in Washington Heights, but she teamed up with interior designer Dennis Decker on her newest venture Harlem Shake. To preserve and capture Harlem's past they kept the original stained tin ceiling and hexagonal tile flooring that was restored alongside vintage Jet magazine covers as bathroom wallpaper and autographed photos of local residents and celebs on the other remaining walls. 

                    Harlem Shake Lenox Ave. location "Wall of Fame"

                    Harlem Shake Lenox Ave. location "Wall of Fame"

After 3 successful years on the west side of Harlem, Harlem Shake expanded to its sister location in El Barrio. Following the signature retro swag of its flagship restaurant, the new El Barrio location customizes it's very own Wall of Fame this time called "Wall of Fro" which is a stunning wall of local Harlemites showing off their head-turning natural hair styles.  The East Harlem location also channels the nostalgic themed designs of vintage diner decor with a 1962 coin-operated jukebox and Luke Cage Power Man comic book covers as wallpaper in the restrooms. The cool is also turned up a notch at the newest location with is customized menu to celebrate the culture of El Barrio with specialty food dishes like "Guava Iced-Tea and the "Pulled Pernil Sandwich".  

The creative idea interaction theme seems to be one of the strongest assets of the Harlem Shake restaurant as they just celebrated its first pop-up shop "Shop, Sip, & Shake" last month in celebration of the conclusion of Women History Month and the newest search of the next 2017 Miss/Mr. Harlem Ambassador. Curated by the Young Brown Collective attendees enjoyed complimentary wine selections, with spa treatments, as well as fashion and beauty products created by local women of color. With food specials on Harlem Shake's signature menu items, an appearance from Miss Harlem Shake 2016, and an on-site kiosk to submit headshots for the 2017 Miss/Mr. Harlem Shake contest they are making sure the voice of the people are being heard, seen, and enjoyed with some good food and beyond. 

   

 

 


We had a chance to interview interior designer Dennis Decker and Miss Harlem Shake 2016 about their journey with the popular eatery and the inside scoop on that bold decor.

ART LIVING: Danielle, what made you sign up for Harlem Shake and what was your expectation for joining the contest?

                              Miss Harlem Shake 2016 Danielle Fontus

                              Miss Harlem Shake 2016 Danielle Fontus

Danielle: I have fallen in love with Harlem. The people and the vibe are so magnetic. I saw this as an opportunity to be a Harlem ambassador - to share my love of Harlem and get to appreciate it on another level. 

ART LIVING: Danielle, how has your experience been since accepting the title of Miss Harlem?

Danielle: It has been amazing. I've gotten SUCH a warm welcome from everyone I've met - from the little girls who waved with awe and excitement at the African American Day parade to the parents who expressed gratitude for our holiday story time and book giveaway event. Harlem has touched my heart even more deeply. And I am beyond grateful for how this role as Miss Harlem Shake has allowed me to grow into an even better version of myself. 

ART LIVING: Danielle, what is your hope for the future of Harlem and Harlem Shake?

Danielle: That love continues to be the fuel that makes this place thrive. 

ART LIVING: Dennis, with Harlem being this historical central nucleus space for Black culture how is Harlem Shake able to contribute to the traditional legacy of community engagement and cooperative economics? 

Dennis: Many of Harlem's longstanding restaurants have been recently replaced with higher end alternatives and much of the relaxed feel of our recent past has been rapidly disappearing. Harlem Shake was created to provide an approachable, inviting neighborhood eating option for everyone who wants to sit down and eat great food or have a beer in a casual, relaxed Harlem-specific setting, rather than in a national chain or an expensive and/or "high end" setting. And now we are also in El Barrio on 111th and 2nd. 

While many Harlem restaurants feature historical Harlem Renaissance references, Harlem Shake references the recent past to the present through features such as JET Magazine covers (50's to present), Luke Cage comics wallpaper and our Wall of Fame. Our jukebox (when it's working!) at our 111th St. and 2nd Ave. location evokes great memories as well. We want to help bring back memories and create new ones as well. The point is, Black History is not just the past. It is being created daily.

Ultimately our restaurant is for and about the people of Harlem. Our Wall of Fame features many of the famous and notable of the current Harlem community. On our Wall of Fro, any customer with an afro (past or present) may be showcased as well. Our Mr./Miss Harlem Shake contest is only available to Harlemites. And even the kids get a chance showing their talent in our windows each year during the Easter Egg Coloring Contest. 

Harlem Shake continually contributes to Harlem community organizations such as Harlem Hospital, Mama Foundation, Harlem Children's Zone, MMPCIA and many others. As well, we are committed to staffing our restaurants from the nearby community, and we enjoy being a participant in the annual African American Day Parade.

ART LIVING:  As the interior designer for Harlem Shake what made you choose the vintage diner concept?

L-R: Jelena Pasic, Founder and Dardra Coaxum, Partner, of Harlem Shake courtesy of Eric Levin

L-R: Jelena Pasic, Founder and Dardra Coaxum, Partner, of Harlem Shake courtesy of Eric Levin

Dennis: Most of the humble, old school and well-loved soul food restaurants which were here in the 90's, unfortunately, are no longer around. The experience of eating in them was one of casual, familiar comfort and most were the diner-type design you see at Harlem Shake. I have fond memories of the building of our first Harlem Shake location, as the area facing 124th St. had previously been a take-out food joint. Those of us at the old Lenox Lounge across the street would get food from there when we wanted to eat inside the bar. 

When we got our space on 124th, it had low ceilings, fluorescent lighting, vinyl flooring, cut-up rooms with white walls and very little personality. During excavation, we discovered the original tin ceiling, steel columns and hex floor tiles which showed a hint to its past. We decided to keep the old neon LIQUOR sign in part as a link to its past. We wanted to make Harlem Shake feel like a place that has been in operation for decades so we incorporated formica, vinyl covered booths, swivel stools and vintage hex tile patterns, along with a backlit menu board. We tried to embody some of the old-school feelings of an older Harlem which is too quickly disappearing. The old M&G diner on 125th St. was a big inspiration.

ART LIVING: Dennis how did you develop the contest Mr./Miss Harlem Shake? What is the purpose of the community contest?

Dennis: The Mr./Miss Harlem Shake contest was made to be a fun summer competition and not overly serious. It was loosely inspired by the Miss Subway contest that the MTA held for years. In it that contest the subway riders would vote for their favorite "girl next door" and the winner was by popular vote. We have opened it up to both men and women, but there will just be one winner. Mr. or Miss Harlem Shake represents Harlem Shake for a year, gets lots of cash, a nice contribution to a Harlem charity, a free year of burgers and gets to ride in a cool vintage car at the African American Day Parade. What's not to love about that? 

The point is that any Harlemite from 18 to 98 can participate. Ten contestants will be displayed in our windows with short bios. Every time a customer eats at Harlem Shake they may cast a vote. So ultimately, our customers are the ones that decide who will be the winner. We have had amazing winners and contestants so far. (Harlem is the incredible place it is, not because of the architecture, but because of the people that live here!) This is the second year that we've opened it up to guys, so this year we'll see if we get a Mr. Harlem Shake. As well, let's see if a senior will win the title. The people of Harlem will decide!

 

 

 

Inside the Cool with Harlem Haberdashery's 2017 Annual Masquerade Ball

Guy & Sharene Wood with Guests

Guy & Sharene Wood with Guests

Last month Harlem Haberdashery held its 4th annual Masquerade Ball celebrating the fearless trailblazers of Harlem making big community change  The stylish affair included curated cocktail food stations featuring locally based restaurants such as Row House, Harlem Shake, Lolo Seafood Shack, as well as an exclusive open spirit bar. Guests' illuminated the Harlem Hospital Pavilion donned in feathered bejeweled masks' as they grooved to live music by the Rakiem Walker Project and DJ Olivia Dope that excited the atmosphere and turned up the mood for the evening.

DJ Olivia Dope

DJ Olivia Dope

Hosted by "La Loca" (Sharon Montero) of Radio 103.9 FM, the award-winning bespoke boutique infused high fashion and philanthropy as they honored the brightest trailblazers of Harlem while raising money for the Harlem hospital Center. This year's honorees included: Todd Stevens of Douglas Elliman Real Estate for Man of the Year, Dominique Jones of Harlem Boys & Girls Club for Woman of the Year, Alison Desir of Harlem Run for Trailblazer of the Year, and Larry Scott Blackmon of Fresh Direct for the Harlem Legacy Award

Harlem Haberdashery has sustained its success by staying rooted in its surrounding community of Harlem. Sitting on the sacred soil of the former home of Malcolm X in the heart of Harlem with over 20 years of industry experience designing custom-made apparel for exclusive clientele under 5001 Flavors ,the birth of its retail store Harlem Haberdashery is an ode to the rich history of Harlem while elevating the community by selling the garments of emerging local designers. Earning the name of the fashion Mecca of Harlem the family run business is the birth child of wife and husband duo Guy and Sharene Wood. You have to be a special gift rooted in community consciousness to be able to serve as a successful business both fashion and philanthropy during the time of saturated gentrification. It is no secret that Harlem Haberdashery is way more than a retail boutique, as they have mastered the delicate balance between staying true to Harlem's vibrant yet unapologetic history of fashion, art, and culture, all the while sustaining an authentic brand that replenishes the community. 

Check out our photo gallery below of the best moments of the night


Check out our exclusive #INSIDETHECOOL highlight video of all the fun!

All photography by Amir Chase of www.lostartbk.com

Get Your Brand Right! Lecture Series with motivateArt

Our 2017 year has been off to a killer productive start bringing you cultivating event highlights on our Inside the Cool section as well as our LADIES FIRST series featuring powerhouse women doing dynamic work through their creative business platforms. But our biggest accomplishments to date is curating our first lecture series in collaboration with motivateArt !!!


Jennifer Heslop is the CEO of motivateArt a New York-based creative resource consulting firm that specializes in information, inspiration, and interaction as connective empowerment tools for creative entrepreneurs to authentically engage with their audience. Simply put, they specialize in brand and consumer relationships. Applying over 20+ years of experience in the arts, media, and entertainment industries motivateArt's clients have included S.O.B.'s, Reel Sisters Film Fest, MTV, VH1, World Music Club and more.

jen101-Editnew.jpg

Hosted by motivateArt, this lecture series is about authentic connectivity as we define the key elements of using branding and content marketing to establish your company no matter what industry. We will utilize think-tank exercises to develop your true brand voice with relevant content that adds real value to your company offerings while elevating your social media presence.

This is for the startups, the newbies, the beginners and those who need a refresher course who have decided to take on the demand of creating a company brand with an online presence that wants to evolve their social media platform with a popular thriving digital community. Essentially this is your opportunity to remove those barriers, share your biggest branding challenges while launching efficient ideas, solutions, and resources.

 

 

 

 

 

Check out the lecture series schedule below

 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 5:30pm - 7:30pm

Part I: "The Basics of Branding"

  • What is Branding?

  • Brand Strategy

  • Defining Your Brand

 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017 5:30pm - 7:30pm

Part II: "Content Marketing for Your Brand"

  • What is Content Marketing?

  • Content Marketing Strategy

  • Visual Content for Your Brand

 

 

 

Inside the Cool with Afropolitan Insights 2017 Ankara Bazaar

Afropolitan Insights celebrated the fusion of African fashion, art, and culture at their annual Ankara Bazaar. Presented in Dumbo Brooklyn during NYFW 2017 the eclectic bazaar highlighted the diverse beauty and culture of independent artisans, entrepreneurs, and creatives of the African Diaspora.

So, who is Afropolitan Insights and what do they do? They are a collective of young Africans, Black Americans, and Caribbeans from the continent and in the Diaspora, that curate various events and create safe spaces for cultural exchange and social dialogue, celebrate diversity, innovation, and ideas.

This year's Ankara Bazaar was a little slice of heaven, to say the least as we indulged in the endless Afrocentric creativity beaming the entire afternoon. Filled with independent and local vendors, 2 pop-up fashion presentations, live performances as well as a DJ the Ankara Bazaar was an experience of pure celebration of the African Diaspora.  

                                Shea Zephir talking to founder of www.whatisyouraccent.com

                                Shea Zephir talking to founder of www.whatisyouraccent.com

Everywhere you looked there seemed to be more and more exquisite fashion and accessories that any true fashionista would literally melt and die over. The happiness in the atmosphere was contagious as onlookers walked past trying to see what the excitement was all about, while the African music blared from the speakers. Guests' came by the droves in groups, many with their girlfriends, family and loved ones making it a memorable family outing like no other trying on garments and accessories. Customers were snapping away on social media gadgets in awe of the expert craftsmanship and vibrant creativity of so many of the designers accessible to them in one place. 

Now, although we were there for work, I made sure we got in on all the fashion and accessory action too. Talking to the vendor owners, trying on accessories, and feeling on the material of the garments was the best part of the entire event, besides going home with a few special pieces to add to the wardrobe.

 

Check out the gallery highlights of the incredible afternoon below

All photos were captured by www.lostartbk.com

 

See the "Inside the Cool" highlights of this year's Ankara Bazaar here!

LADIES FIRST with Ellisa & Eden Oyewo

THE AWAKENING 

"Stay true to yourself and never play small in order to make others feel better about themselves. I would reassure her that every goal and dream you have is obtainable with self-discipline, a clear mind, and an open heart. I would tell her to always protect her spirit and creativity. To always keep your trust in God."

-Ellisa Oyewo

LADIES FIRST: AT WHAT AGE DO YOU THINK YOU GUYS RECOGNIZED YOUR SPECIAL GIFTS OR TALENTS?

Eden: "I believe the age I recognized my gift was early childhood, because my family was always giving back. If it was mentoring others, allowing people to live with us until they got on their feet, or giving the little money we had to them. Giving was something that I was surrounded by and what I thought was normal."     

Ellisa: "Oh, there’s so many different points in my childhood that were key in me discovering my passions. My parents always pushed the importance of traveling and seeing the world very early on in our lives. Our first overseas family trip I was in the second grade to my father’s native country, Nigeria. This automatically switched my mindset that life was so much bigger than the city where we grew up. I was also surrounded by nature in my childhood.  In middle school I would stay outside for hours by myself exploring + allowing my thoughts to roam free. By high school, it all came together of me enjoying long periods of freestyle writing. Solitude, dreaming and words all swirled into one for me." 

LADIES FIRST: WHAT WERE THOSE SPECIAL TALENTS?

Ellisa: "I would say writing and honestly expressing myself is a special talent of mine. It pours out of me very naturally and I tend to be able to do better in written communication than verbal." 

Eden: " I believe my special gift is giving back in the form of creating opportunities to empower young ladies of color."

LADIES FIRST: HOW HAS GROWING UP FEMALE IN THE CITY WHERE YOU WERE RAISED FORMULATED YOUR PERCEPTION OF WHAT POWERFUL WOMEN LOOK LIKE, HOW THEY ACT, AND WHAT THEY ACQUIRE TO BE "SUCCESSFUL"

Ellisa: "My sister and I grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. I was surrounded by powerful women. My mother of course was my first superwoman. She has a true relentless spirit with a heart of gold. She pushed herself past the limit to be the best version of herself and expected the same from Eden and I. She always taught me that I’m a person first and a woman second.Balancing her life as a career woman, wife and mother, she encouraged me to live life to the fullest and overcome obstacles. She taught us no one or nothing defines us. Our strength comes from God."

Eden: "I was raised in a bicultural family. My father is Nigerian and my mother is African-American. If anyone knows Indiana the demographics is very black and white. In a separate sense. As a child I was blessed to formulate my perspective of what a powerful woman looked and acted like through my mother. My mother is such a great example of going against the odds and defining her own power. She travelled across seas, when it wasn't the cool thing to do. She took me at a young age to Haiti to do missionary work. I had to be no older than 12 yrs. old when I was exposed to helping others. and understanding the joy I was able to bring at such a young age."       

LADIES FIRST: WHEN YOU LOOK BACK AT THE GIRLS THAT WERE ELLISA & EDEN WHO WERE BECOMING WOMEN WHERE DID YOUR MOTIVATION, CREATIVITY, AND COURAGE COME FROM?

Ellisa Oyewo

Ellisa Oyewo

Eden: "Wow my motivation, creativity, and courage came from my family and what I was blessed to be exposed to as a child. As a child I was surrounded by educators, entrepreneurs, and artists. My motivation came from my mother. She is a hard loving woman that doesn't understand the term 'can't'. She is a fighter and I was blessed to have the same fight in me. my creativity came from my exposure of life. The good, the bad, and the ugly. This allowed me to be comfortable in who I am. My courage came from my father, who is never afraid of going after his dreams. Being an educated African man in Indiana, who was able to develop his own business was not an easy journey. There were definitely setbacks my family overcame as a while. And all these journeys developed me as a person."

Ellisa: "My motivation, creativity and courage were instilled in me from both of my parents but it truly flourished when I was on the journey that God had already planned out for me. The most difficult issue for people to succeed is quieting their minds long enough to see where God wants you. Once you’re placed on that journey it doesn’t mean you won’t have trials but it means that you’ll obtain a quiet confidence in your spirit that confirms you’re on the right track."

LADIES FIRST: HOW WERE YOU ABLE TO GET COMFORTABLE ACKNOWLEDGING, LISTENING, AND TRUSTING ALL THAT IS EDEN & ELLISA ASIDE FROM THE PUSH OF FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND MENTORS? 

Ellisa: "One of my greatest gifts is knowing how to embrace solitude and stepping away from the crowd to carve out my authentic thoughts and ideas. When you’re in tune with yourself you can take suggestions from friends and family but you’ll instantly know if something's not right to you. It’s a gentle wrestle within your spirit but you have to be still long enough to acknowledge it."

Eden: "I was able to get comfortable in trusting all of me probably when I started college. During that time I was able to create who I was as a person outside of my family. I was able to take the tools of my childhood and develop and understand who I was. Now this was not a smooth journey, definitely a lot of bumps in the road, however the lessons that I learned were unforgettable.

LADIES FIRST: WHAT SHOULD EVERY GIRL BEGIN TO LOVE AND UNDERSTAND ABOUT THEMSELVES BEFORE WOMANHOOD?

Eden: "Wow. I like this question. Every girl should love and understand that they are powerful individuals and beautifully unique. It's hard for young girls to understand that who they are may not be what's so-called popular, what's seen in the media all the time. But once a young girl embraces who she is, it is so powerful. 

Ellisa: "Each girl has a hidden diamond inside of her. It’s up to you if you decide to share it with the world or keep it hidden to make others feel comfortable around you. The first step to womanhood is the moments a girl knows & believes that she holds unlimited power. Always remember it’s a journey. It’s not something that is completed once you graduate high school, college or even in your twenties. Womanhood is a trail you walk daily and discover a little bit more about yourself each and every day." 

 

why c.o.r.e. magazine

Beautifully Bold Teen Panel Event Dec. 2016 by photographer EJ White

Beautifully Bold Teen Panel Event Dec. 2016 by photographer EJ White

LADIES FIRST: WHEN DID YOU HAVE YOUR "AH HA!" MOMENT TO BEGIN C.O.R.E. MAGAZINE?

Ellisa: "My sister and I always wanted to come together to create a project and our passion was both in mentorship and the empowerment of young women of color. Before launching CORE Mag I had intern with at major publication geared toward teens and studied in the field of Fashion Marketing. I couldn’t help but noticed how underrepresented girls of color were and how we were never the true target market. I remember being a teen and even though I was surrounded by successful black women there was no representation for my age range when it came to publications. I became obsessed with being online because I discovered a whole new world of creative women of color. Also, there is such amazing content, blogs and publications blooming on the scene for women of color ages 25 years and up. We wanted to take the knowledge break it down to a teen level so they can start building a strong foundation at the beginning of their youth."

Eden: "The awakening moment happened to my sister and I at the same time. When God places your purpose in you life it is definitely a powerful moment. I was living in Huntsville, Alabama at the same time and my sister was living in Chicago, Illinois and we came home for the holidays and decided to go to Starbucks. In that Starbucks we both brought out ideas together and C.O.R.E was actually birthed on that day. 

LADIES FIRST: TELL US ABOUT YOUR COMPANY C.O.R.E. MAGAZINE AND THE WORK THAT YOU GUYS DO?

Eden: "C.O.R.E (Creating Opportunity to Reach Empowerment) Magazine is a digital platform that develops awareness of self-understanding and worth for females ages 12-18. We reach girls through different subject matter: finance, relationships, fashion, health/beauty, and current topics. It is also a movement where we offer onsite workshops, events, and speaking engagement to empower our young girls. We have teen writers who share their thoughts, express their opinions, and interview people who they feel are positive influencers in the world."

Ellisa: "Exactly, we also have on-site programs where we bring the content of the site alive with girls for an interactive experience."  

LADIES FIRST: WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CONCERN AMONGST BLACK GIRLS AND WOMEN RIGHT NOW?

 Ellisa: "To understand their strength, beauty and passion while releasing any stereotypes that society has put on them. I want to shake the label of the ‘strong, black woman’ and unpeel it for them to just be authentically who they are. It’s okay to be vulnerable or creative or goofy, whatever your heart desires but just be you. Because that’s where your true power lies."

Eden: "The biggest concern amongst Black girls at this age I would say is the lack of self-love. We work with so many girls who don't understand that what is seen in the media is not a reflection of who they should be and who they are. And i would even go even further to say that the lack of self-love is a huge concern in young women my age as well. Without the platform of self-love we are either walking robotics just moving to maintain sanity or we get caught chasing acceptance that is not required. And the lateral is what most of our young girls get caught in."       

LADIES FIRST: WHAT KNOWLEDGE AND SKILL SET DO YOU WANT BLACK GIRLS TO MASTER ON THEIR JOURNEY TO SUCCESS REGARDLESS OF ANY FIELD THEY CHOOSE FOR THEIR CAREER PATH?

 

Eden Oyewo

Eden Oyewo

When your mindset only understands how to be a winner, when challenges come they don't stop you but make you stronger."

-Eden Oyewo

Eden: "When I speak to girls I tell them to develop a mindset that everything is possible and nothing is impossible. Regardless of the circumstances, everything is attainable. And hard work is the partner to this mindset. When your mindset only understands how to be a winner, when challenges come they don't stop you but make you stronger."  

Ellisa: "Master how you communicate uniquely to your personality. I’m a true introvert and even though I wasn’t the loudest in the room or wouldn’t talk to a million people at a networking event I was able to create strong personal and business relationships by communicating in my own style. I learned quality over quantity and naturally nurtured the connections I had to make them extremely solid. Every mentor has become family and has taught me numerous life and business lessons. I would say learn your strengths and make them work for you."

LADIES FIRST: WHAT IS MOST REWARDING ABOUT BEING THE ENTREPRENEUR BEHIND C.O.R.E. MAGAZINE THAT MAKES IT ALL WORTHWHILE?

Ellisa: "I absolutely love the quote that states to be the person you needed when you were younger! I love the fact that I see myself in these amazing teen girls and when I’m writing or speaking to them it’s as if I get a second chance to pass down wisdom I would’ve shared with a younger Ellisa. And I love encouraging them to not lose their sparkle on the road to their dreams!"

Eden: "The most rewarding thing about being the entrepreneur behind C.O.R.E Magazine is seeing our girls take this opportunity given to them and shining. All people, not just the girls, just need an opportunity created for them in order for them to become successful. Our teens join C.O.R.E and get opportunities to speak to great women in their interest, express themselves through writing, and create their ideal environment."  

 

reflections & lessons

LADIES FIRST: IF YOU HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF, TO THAT GIRL AT AGE 15, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUR THEN YOUNGER SELF ABOUT SELF-LOVE AND RESPECT?

Eden: "I would tell my 15 yr. old self it's okay and that you are fine just the way you are. I would tell her to stop comparing yourself to others and tearing yourself apart. And to understand where she is in life is not the end because there's so much life to live. And even though she may feel not comfort or acceptance in her current state, that she will definitely feel it once she is able to fully accept all of herself as a person."

 Ellisa: "Stay true to yourself and never play small in order to make others feel better about themselves. I would reassure her that every goal and dream you have is obtainable with self-discipline, a clear mind and an open heart. I would tell her to always protect her spirit and creativity. To always keep your trust in God."

LADIES FIRST: WHAT ACCOMPLISHMENTS ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF TO DATE?

Ellisa: "I’m most proud of starting and growing C.O.R.E because it’s such a reflection of my sister and I. It’s a platform where my creativity can flourish while making an impact. I believe that’s a powerful moment in life when your passion and talents collide in order to give back + impact your community."

Eden: "One of my proudest moments is being a Black female engineer and developing my own business with my sister." 

LADIES FIRST: HOW DO YOU KEEP A HEALTHY WORK/LIFE BALANCE?

Eden: "Healthy work/life balance was hard to develop at the beginning, because you feel obligated to complete everything at the same time. However, I have learned to say 'No' to things that just do not work with my schedule and take time for myself. I learned this from my sister. Being a co-founder with my sister is a blessing because we understand each other and know what we need to give to each other to support us through our journey."

Ellisa: "Balance is key. Since both my career and C.O.R.E allows me to work from home, work can go into overload. I focus on my career doing the day and C.O.R.E in the evening. Sometimes, I’ll give myself a time to shut down and unwind. I’ve learned it’s better to create when you’re fresh sometimes than to constantly having late nights and not putting your best work out."

LADIES FIRST: CAN WOMEN IN FACT. HAVE IT ALL?

Ellisa: "Absolutely! I believe women can reach their dreams, raise a family and do anything else their heart desires. The key is letting go of the timing of when we can have it or how it will look. If you trust the timing of your life everything will fall into place."

Eden: "Women definitely can have it all. Again, everything is possible. I look forward to continue being a business woman and seeing C.O.R.E develop. I see myself being a wife and mother in the future. My mother and millions of women have shown me that it is possible to be a career women, wife, and mother."

LADIES FIRST: WHEN YOU THINK OF THE FUTURE AND THE KIND OF WORK YOU HAVE DESCRIBED WITH THE C.O.R.E MAGAZINE MOVEMENT WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE & PRIDE WITH THE FUTURE GENERATION?

Eden: "What gives me hope is when I speak with the girls and you can see how their mindsets have changed once they are exposed to the world outside of their day to day environment, and they start thinking big. They not only see their possibilities are unlimited, but understand this concept as well."

 Ellisa: "The up and coming generation is proud of who they are and owning their identity. They get to grow up with more women of color in a variety of powerful positions. The power of seeing women who like you at that age reaffirms who you are and encourages you to be your true self."

LADIES FIRST: AND FOR THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION OF THEM ALL, WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOURSELF?

Eden: "I honestly love that I love myself. And I have finally become comfortable in who I am and I understand me."        

 Ellisa: "The absolute best compliment I receive is when someone tells me I have a beautiful spirit. I literally stand there in awe! Beauty fades and knowledge is great but for someone to be able to see and feel my spirit means the world to me because it’s a spark of a genuine connection. I love that I can connect to the root of people and have an open spirit to learn who they are as an individual."

LADIES FIRST: LADIES THANK YOU SO MUCH, THAT WAS PERFECT!

 

Checkout the recap photos and video of C.O.R.E Magazines teen panel "Beautifully Bold"!

The Beautiful Vocal Imagination of KAMAU

" ...Consciously contribute something as great and beautiful as our existence to the world and do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community and the world more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it." 

Feel good music that is seamless, laced with an impenetrable flow, and mesmerizing lyrical rhythms is a gifted combination of genius few artists embody. This type of music is so much more than layered grooves when presented by an artist who puts their soul into every rhythm. The fusion of cultural influences, emotional vulnerability, frustration, and innovative vocal artistry is what elevates the music from average to transcendent.

 KAMAU Mbonisi Kwame Agyeman (which translates to "Quiet Warrior) better known to the music industry as KAMAU is a new transcendent multifaceted artist shelling out raw, cool, innovative ancestral sounds satisfying way more than our eardrums. We first came across the lyrical mastermind at the African Health Now Annual Cocktail Benefit last year as a guest performer newly featured on the critically acclaimed Birth of a Nation soundtrack. The rapper, singer, producer, and visual artist hit the stage with his signature vocal percussion and lyrical mastery performing his popular single "The Icarus"   We were completely blown away and mesmerized by his spirit moving performance.  Reminiscent of the powerful Nina Simone's diverse musical body of work that has always run the gamut of human emotion with her music ranging from pain and sorrow to anger and tenderness, KAMAU also managed to blow out the speakers during his performance set for 10 minutes sending him into an acapella musical testimony of improv with audience participation that left our souls on fire. It was after that performance that we realized the experience of KAMAU's performance was an absolute reflection of creative fearlessness and frustration illuminating the ancestral spirits if civil rights pioneers Malcolm X, Fredrick Douglas, and Marcus Garvey.

With a voice that effortlessly belts out percussive explosions and unorthodox yet exhilarating melodies, to call KAMAU a rapper simply diminishes his eccentric edge and musical versatility. Shattering mainstream media's notorious carbon copies and manicured archetypes, KAMAU's musicality has no containment. It implodes on the stage spilling over onto it audience as this unpredictable therapy session of Black conscious realness. 

The cornerstone of KAMAU's musical philosophy begins at the Agyeman family home. Born and raised in Upper Marlboro, MD, and Washington, D.C. KAMAU's cultural influences were heavily solidified and enforced outside of his family home within his first academic school The Ujamaa Schule. The Ujamaa Schule is an independent private school in Washington, DC founded on the philosophies and elements of the Nguzo Saba (7 principles of Kwanzaa). To be fair KAMAU's creative expression and mystical talent was always nurtured by his parents. That deceptive ease we experience throughout KAMAU's funky progressive sound are a direct reflection of the diverse musical palette celebrated within his home. With legendary favorites from Vieux Diop to Sam Cooke to Bob Marley to Andre 3000, KAMAU's framework of music spans from harmonious and layered spoken word infused with ancestral beat box percussion juxtaposed upon stacked ad-libs evocative of jazz staccato scatting rhythms. There is no denying his vocal fearlessness in experimenting with is instrument box. The satisfying experience of a KAMAU's performance that connects with so many are embedded in his influences obviously but more impressive is how his sound echoes the indigenous cadences of both the past and the present, Black and Aboriginal cultures and a futuristic yet multicultural synthesis of music.  

KAMAU's intuitive sense of musical expression has recently graced the airwaves of the industry with his new EP, "A Gorgeous Fortune" released this past summer in July. The rapper-singer-songwriter released popular track "Justfayu" the first week of his EP release and Issa Rae saw fit to add KAMAU to her ridiculously epic and eclectic soundtrack list on her acclaimed HBO show "Insecure".  KAMAU cranked out another fire hit with his unique style giving us the remix to "Justfayu Remix" with duo Lion Babe

We knew we were on to another multifaceted visionary once we began binge watching all of KAMAU's work after his great performance at African Health Now. The dopest part of his story as an artist is probably that KAMAU is a college graduate with a BA in film from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn where he currently resides. Conscious artist like J. Cole and KAMAU continue to debunk the myth between choosing a creative career and obtaining a college education. These artists have proved that they can not only obtain their degree and pursue their artistry but in fact, become internationally successful as well and reach the masses with authentic thought provoking and social changing content that can propel their career to places they have never imagined. The example of using music to show what you learned about your roots and who you are while motivating and inspiring the people is something we need so much more of. That manifestation of artistry that integrates various genres is a greatest way to show one's true appreciation for all art forms of art. And yes, the music can be reflective of nature, universal principles while being playful, sexy, and light-hearted to the ear. KAMAU hasn't compromised who he is for his music. He has unleased of beautiful complexity to some of the most thought provoking music we heard in awhile and, we love it. And we think you will love it too.

 

Check out KAMAU's EP "A Gorgeous Fortune" here:

LADIES FIRST with Kim Knox

From pre-law student to global independent event producer, multifaceted visionary, Kim Knox is a woman on a mission. She talks about her humble beginnings and her fearless creative ideas with her company Ubiquita Worldwide.

You can always tell a powerful creative when you see one because their fashion style acts as their protective armor. Kim Knox is no different as a veteran event producer in the industry, rocking her signature shaved fade of locs as we met at the super cool and cozy lifestyle lounge bar Ode to Babel. Engulfed amongst the calming space of curated artwork by local independent Brooklyn artist with dim lights, handmade furniture, and a beautiful teak bar with brass fixtures, it was clear Kim knew the perfect backdrop local venue for our exclusive interview. If you were lucky enough to be a young creative on the New York scene during the mid-90's you experienced the free-spirited magic of the thriving underground art and soul music scene. This was a subculture that emerged from local favorites spots like  Brooklyn Moon, Nkiru Books, Sunday Tea Party and Nuyorican Cafe where art, music, and fashion, formed an incredible mix that is still identifiable today. 

It made perfect sense to feature Kim Knox as our latest LADIES FIRST entrepreneur because she has been the creative collaborator behind so many prolific artists including Alice Smith, Somi, Dannis Winston, Alicia Keys, Goapele, Raye 6, Imani Azuri, Tamar-kali and a host of other emerging artists of the soul music genre. 'Starting out as a volunteer event producer with a crew of artists called "The Sunday Tea Party" in Brooklyn was the best boot camp ever. It was the best for me learning how to create a full experience for people.' Knox says reminiscing enthusiastically. 'People were artistically fed and physically fed at our events. For starving artists and the everyday folks that $5 dollars of an open mic, dance party, and food on Sunday's was everything.'

"We influence the influencer at Ubiquita Worldwide. That's what we do."

Photography by Barron Claiborne from the debut "Afropunk Liberation Sessions Portraits"

Photography by Barron Claiborne from the debut "Afropunk Liberation Sessions Portraits"

Over the past 18 years, Kim Knox has produced, developed, and created a diverse catalog of entertainment events and marketing campaigns for creatives of the world of film, music, art, and fashion. With the fickle entertainment and media landscape constantly changing throughout wave periods of major layoffs and power positions becoming scarce, you had to be more than just creative to survive. To be a respected tastemaker of the dopest event you not only had to be clever and smart with your finger on the pulse of the underground trends, but you also had to be multifarious and ready to feed demands of the people. The artistic street cultivators shaping the art and music scene.

Versatile is an understatement for the former pre-law student who stumbled across a dope night of poetry that would ignite a new passion for her career nowhere near a court room, but instead under the lights, camera, and action of live audiences.  She has handled her career changes with graceful aplomb and we got a chance to sit down with Kim and get the inside scoop on her entrepreneurial beginnings and the influences responsible for her creative unit at her company Ubiquita Worldwide.

Ladies First: Let's begin at the awakening moment. How did you figure out that your career path was not going to be pre-law?

Kim Knox: "I didn't figure it out. I showed up at a 'Sunday Tea Party' event and never left." (Laughs) I first began producing events with a company called "Sunday Tea Party" in Brooklyn who created these weekly open mics with dancing and food on Sundays. Starting out as a volunteer event producer for them was the best boot camp ever. It was the best for me learning how to create a full experience for people."

Ladies First: So, your after college experience is what really exposed you to a new scene of cool creative people doing these art based things you had never seen before?

Kim Knox: "Yes. I took a job at a major jazz recording studio after college where I met all these great legendary musicians and I think that is what started the curiosity bug in me a bit. I loved the behind the scenes of watching the album happen. At the same time, I was throwing these parties with 'Sunday Tea Party'. I came into this new world as a spectator really, and then 6 months later I was a performer."

Ladies First: Performer? 

Kim Knox: "Yes, I always wrote in college. I let a friend of mine who I went to college with, Tai Allen read a little something I was working on and he was like, 'Kim this is dope, you gotta perform this.'  Tai was into all the activities on campus, I mean he was in everything, but that really wasn't me. I wasn't a performer per se. I was not trying to hear his antics of trying to convince me to perform and then he ripped the page out of my notebook and said either I was going to perform it or he was. (Laughs) And I always remember that moment of me walking into that poetry space packed wall to wall with people sitting on the floor all stacked all on top of each other and seeing this other female poet, Sydnee Stewart perform her piece live with a violinist, and I became completely transfixed within that world after that show. I was done. I was like this is where I belong. At 20, 21 years old I had never experienced this level of people so connected to art and I was extremely drawn to it. I didn't know exactly what it was, but I knew I liked it and I liked it a lot."

Ladies First: Talk to me about staying true to your inner voice during this new experience and being open to exploring this new path which was completely different from your academic background.

Kim Knox: "Actually, I had no intention of going into the arts. I was pre-law. And it wasn't even like I wanted to do something related to the field, like entertainment law. No, I wanted to be a divorce attorney and I was serious. (Laughs) My momma is still mad. She is still mad until this day at me. (Loud, Loud, Laughs) But I will say this. I am an only child and I grew up in a Caribbean single parent household. I am Jamaican and Nigerian but my Jamaican family raised me. With that being said, as much as you have the inclination to be the good girl and do what the family wants, being an only child you almost have to listen to your own voice cause ain't nobody else around. (Laughs) And so, I have always felt like I am very much my mother's daughter. My mom is an extremely strong woman and is definitely very self-assured and focused around what she wants to do and I think I am the same way, it's just that we are different as people and what we value is very different. 

I felt like my career path wasn't a plan, it kind of chose me. I went through school and did really really well, but I ended up graduating early at 20 and I was like, 'now what?' I knew what my mom wanted me to do, but I still didn't know what I wanted to do. Things didn't awaken in me until my twenties. Experiencing these new people and this new world and they thought I was talented. I don't even think I thought I was talented. All of these things kind of happened and I didn't make a conscious choice to do it. It chose me and I was like, 'I am here.'

"Partying with a purpose"

 

Ladies First: Now having this experience under your belt and discovering this new passion within the arts, when did you decide it was time for your own ideas to become your own company? 

Kim Knox: "'Sunday Tea Party' was very Brooklyn, but my business partner who I founded Ubiquita with, Deshawn Maxwell was a Brooklyn-based party promoter working the LES scene in the city. He was the guy doing the Baby Phat parties back when Kimora and Russell ran everything. He also did a really important party called 'Low Profile' with DJ Qool Marv on Monday's at Ludlow Bar. And what happened was the Brooklyn kids met the Lower East Side kids and fell in love and Ubiquita was born."

Ladies First: Ok, so you merged the two worlds together.

Kim Knox: "Yea, because we were both on the spoken word scene together. DeShawn was in a group called, 'Social Outcast" and I was in 'Black Lotus'.  Everybody went to 'Sunday Tea Party' and it was all of these little crews and cultural factions. We were families that interacted with each other and partied with a purpose."

Because I was about 5 years younger than the 'Tea Party' staff I was kind of the bridge person for the cool trends. I would go to the city and be like, ' let me see what's going on,' which is how I found out about Qool Marv's parties. I partied at his spot on Monday nights and really connected with DeShawn."

Ladies First: I see, and it was during this time that you guys figured out your talents and connections?

Kim Knox: "Exactly. My day job and I what I started out in the business doing was being a talent agent. I used to work for at the time Innovative Artists. and I was one of the only people of color there. I helped people like Saul Williams get signed and it was during that time when 'Slam' (the poetry film) had just came out and I became the Negro ambassador (Loud Loud, Laughs) at that time."

                                                                                               The Ladies of Ubiquita on the cover of the Village Voice 2007

                                                                                               The Ladies of Ubiquita on the cover of the Village Voice 2007

Ladies First: Ha! You were the liaison for the urban side of things... (Laughs)

Kim Knox: "Working at this agency in this legit department was great. I mean, it was an amazing learning experience. So I always felt like I have owned my career working on both sides of things. 

I think my experience as a performer while it was good, I realized personally that I didn't love performing. It's like sometimes you are told you are good at something and you should just want to do it. Right? But I for me it was more like, I knew I was good at it and I like writing but I didn't like being on stage like that... And so, I felt like I understood performing enough to know what an artist needs. I have always felt that I have a gift for presenting artist as well. So that's when I decided that I wanted to go into artist representation. Now, artist representation had always been a part of what I did and productions was a part of that as well. Those two things always went hand in hand. I started Ubiquita in 2000 after approx 4 years of working with 'Sunday Tea Party'"

Ladies First: I understand. This was the first opportunity to merge those skills together and be apart of artists development directly under your very own platform. 

Kim Knox: "Absolutely. The artists' management thing I fought against doing kicking and screaming because it's a lot of work. It's a lot of hand holding and it is very personal. But initially, when we were just doing Ubiquita as an event, the things that made us stand out were that fact that we were the first all female DJ residency in the city and we were also a party that always had live performances. During the golden era of Ubiquita around 2003 2004 when it was really popular, my business partner, DeShawn and I were doing 3 shows a week on top of our full-time jobs and we worked at the same gig...! It was a fun, hilarious, and amazing time for us. The company evolved but you can't keep up that pace forever.  So we branched off into doing these special one-off reunion parties during different times around the holidays of the years. Because we were in a bunch of different creatives spaces we decided to take the leap into event producing for cultural institutions. 

We evolved and grew to a certain point and DeShawn and I realized we wanted different things. So he gave me his blessing to continue on with Ubiquita the way I wanted. And it was time for me to figure out my personal evolution within Ubiquita as well."

"I don't believe artists need to starve. That should not be the norm" 

Ladies First: How were you able to stay resilient throughout the ever-changing entertainment biz while evolving the brand and staying true Ubiquita's authentic signature?

Kim Knox: "Well, working on the agency side of thing helped me understand how to handle artists. I also understood the ABC's of the business itself and I don't believe artists need to starve. That should not be the norm.... Trust me it has been a struggle. I definitely feel like I am not quite where I want to be fully yet, but I am proud of my career. I am proud of the things I have been able to do. I am proud of the firsts we have had with Ubiquita. We had the first female DJ crew to be on the cover of the Village Voice..."

But I think there are two things that have kept me resilient over the years. I think reinvention is key number one. I believe the main reason I have always been able to reinvent with Ubiquita is because I work from a place of a collective mentality. Even if I am driving the car, the car is only as good as the sum of its parts. You know what I mean? I feel I've been blessed to work with so many diverse artists that I have honed different skill sets and become multidisciplinary along the way. I switch up the mediums I use whether it's is theater, a live band, a tv pilot or a multimedia installation. The key is I try to push myself to do things that I've never done before and I have always been a visionary. I see things way past what I am currently doing..." 

In my mind, I want the urban alternative Ibiza and call the 'Isle of Ubiquita'. Like literally off the coast of Africa. That is the long-term goal straight up. I think it's important to be someone that is about continuing to proliferate positive images from ourselves. The fact that we are everywhere. We are omnipresent. We are ubiquitous. That is what Ubiquita Worldwide means. It is about pushing yourself and making the world better than the way you found it. And try not to phony it. If you are feeling complacent, it's time to do something else.  

Ladies First: Kim that was excellent. It's 8:01 pm and that is a wrap. Thank you so much!

 

 

Check out a snippet of our interview below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INSIDE THE COOL: The 25th Annual Double Dutch Classic 2016

"Knees up!" "Push!' "Focus ladies!" were just some of the exciting support words yelled from the teammates of this year's double dutch competition at the World-Famous Apollo Theater. Hundreds of kids showed up and showed out with a mix of gymnastics  infused with upbeat dance music inside swirling ropes this past Sunday at the 25th Annual Double Dutch Classic held by The National Double Dutch Leauge.  

Before we get into the insane highlights from some of the most talented kids on the planet in this year's competition, let's get the real scoop on the story of double dutch. Jump ropes games are not a new discovery, but for urban American communities the jump rope game of double dutch holds a special space amongst the Black community. Double Dutch was first seen played by the children of Dutch settlers here in New York City. The English immigrants coined the term "Double Dutch" after seeing Dutch children play jump rope games with two ropes instead of the traditional single rope games. The popular street game was specifically adopted and perfected by Black girls in the urban communities of NYC after World War II. While the games had various popularity waves throughout several decades, it was until the late 1970's that the schoolyard game gained a new rebirth of flair and exposure with help of two community NYPD officers who wanted girls and young women to positively develop their athletic skill and be celebrated.  

Detective Ulysses Williams – 1st Double Dutch Clinic for Mobil Oil 1975 (Archive Photos Courtesy of Mike Williams)

Detective Ulysses Williams – 1st Double Dutch Clinic for Mobil Oil 1975 (Archive Photos Courtesy of Mike Williams)

In the 1980's double dutch really cast its spell amongst the urban communities of New York City after founders of The National Double Dutch League and former NYPD detectives David A. Walker and Ulysses Williams decided to transform the street game into a competitive sport with intricate rules, score sheets and tournaments. The development of The National Double Dutch League allowed for the organization to incorporate double dutch in the public school gym classes and city intramural programs. The street game also became synonymous with the beginning elements of Hip-Hop culture and its performance showmanship. When the fellas have football, basketball, baseball, and hip-hop, how do you break up that male-dominated scene and bring positive female energy? You pay real attention to the community and highlight their talents by bringing the sources to develop those skills to them. 

Fantastic Four, Lincoln Center

Fantastic Four, Lincoln Center

 

From the old recreational activity of jumping with two ropes to an Olympic-style competitive international sport that combines art, culture, and athleticism, double dutch has always been more than just a street a game.  In a world where social media and video games have stifled the physical activity of children, experiencing the competition sport of double dutch reveals the importance of positive creative physical activity amongst children.  Creating teams, working together, developing new ideas, and establishing leadership skills and athleticism are just some of the things that go into development when pairing up with a double dutch team.  

Each year at The Annual Double Dutch Classic teams competes from all over the world showcasing their creative skill between the ropes. This year's competition brought a team as far as northern Africa hailing from Morocco. Ariels, round-off, and flips are just some of the gymnastics tricks these competitors pulled out their back pockets during the competition. It was an afternoon of high-level excitement, team chanting, and fastest most creative footwork movement of all times on that Apollo Theater stage.  Lauren Walker the president of The NDDL admits she is proud to see the legacy of her father continued each year with so many competitors. Mor important than having the competition itself is filling the world with positive activity and keep it going. Watching new faces come in and break old records while creating new innovative routines that stay true to its urban roots is proof of how big the influence of culture and sportsmanship is to all communities.

Check out our exclusive highlight of the exciting competition

 

 

 

 

 

The Street Culture Story behind The Double Dutch Classic

Found on the many sidewalks and playgrounds of New York City's concrete streets, Double Dutch a childhood game was birthed from the Aborigines and the Egyptians. It has been practiced for centuries by various cultures around the world. Fast forward to the 1940's and 1950's , the popularity of jumping rope became a playtime favorite amongst girls because of NYC's narrow cramped apartments that came with sprawling concrete front yards. Girls would take their mother's wet clotheslines and rush to the sidewalks eagerly creating funny and clever song chants with jump rope games.

Art by Chris Kindred

In the 1970's jump rope games became popular again going back to its concrete roots when former NYC Police Community Affairs Detective, David A. Walker, and his partner Detective Ulysses Williams reinvented the street game adding rules and regulations to turn the game into a nationally recognized competitive sport. That transformation from a simple playtime game favorite to an exciting sport of intense competition has manifested  into the international class sport that it is today. Detectives David and Ulysses realized that the NYC's sports culture was geared towards boys and men. The community sports culture was male dominated and just not fun and competitive for girls and women.  Together the NYPD veterans decided to create a community sports league that was safe, fun, and competitive for girls and young women. The female youth were able to develop skills, esteem, and discipline for showmanship competition and at a cultural sport they loved. Essentially, the double dutch sport was hand built by the community with the support of the police department. As The National Double Dutch League began to reach out to public school gym teachers, the sport began to spread throughout New York City and the competition was bold, exciting and fierce. 

By 1974, David and Ulysses launched the first American Double Dutch League championship at Lincoln Center. Laren Walker daughter of the late founder David A, Walker, and the leagues' current president says, " the leagues' goal was to take double dutch, and urban traditional sport and take it to the next level and really let Black girls and the community shine. It was an opportunity to make double dutch an Olympic sport." With 25 years of competition under their belt there is no denying Lauren's father's legacy has unfolded right before her eyes in with its roots in Harlem.

The emergence and popularity of hip-hop played a key role in popularizing many facets of hip-hop street culture and one of the most interesting creations with the sport of double dutch. Hip-Hop catapulted the double dutch phenomenon from New York City streets to overseas in cities like Paris, France. The innovate bold personality and freedom of creation of hip-hop culture captivated the masses around the globe. Fab 5 Freddy particularly solidified the concept of merging hip-hop and double dutch because it was an authentic fabric piece to the street culture and a great element to add to the diverse umbrella of hip-hop art culture. Hip-hop pioneers Grand Master Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and Fab 5 Freddy alongside graffiti writers, rappers, DJ's, and double dutch girls all defined the birth of hip-hop. It was the popularity of NYC's street force, the 1980's influence of hip-hop, and the community support that allowed the league to not only be a competition program but become a catalyst in fighting the drug era in NYC and creating opportunities for the youth in spite of the times. Growing from a community sports organization on the street of Harlem to citywide and nationwide championships with nearly 100,000 girls and boys representing schools and communities from all over the US.

As the predecessor of her dad, Lauren Walker plans to continue her father's legacy of community teamwork, cooperative economics, and positive self-esteem by expanding the competition circuit of the teams internationally. The National Double Dutch League is continuously developing its sports programs and adding them to community organizations and specialty camps for the youth.

For the celebratory 25th year, The Annual Double Dutch Classic will be held at the World-Famous Apollo Theater this Sunday, December 4, 2016, from 1pm - 4pm. The competition will be hosted by OWN TV's star of Tyler Perry's "Love Thy Number" Kendre C. Johnson. Coined, "The Superbowl of Double Dutch" by president Lauren Walker the competition highlights national and international communities competing in three categories:

  • Speed & Compulsory (fastest team)
  • Fusion Freestyle (double dutch choreographed with music)
  • Best in Show: (the championship title for the best Fusion Freestyle team)

This year's participants come from Africa (Morocco and South Africa,) Belgium, Dominican Republic, France Japan, Trinidad, and U.S. states which include CT, DC, NJ, NYC, NC, and SC. The 2016 Double Dutch Holiday Classic is sponsored by American Dairy Association & Dairy Council, Coca0Cola, Eastport, Con Edison, and New York Daily News. The NDDL 25th Annual David A. Walker  Memorial, Double Dutch Classic makes possible speed and music fusion events for the best Double Dutch teams in the world. Each year since 1992, the double Dutch Classic has previously sold out to parent supported, standing room only audiences.

Tune in next week for our exclusive "INSIDE THE COOL" coverage of the 25th anniversary!!!

 

 

Inside the Cool with African Health Now's 2nd Annual "Gift of Life" Benefit

Since 2006, African Health Now has impacted 20,000 men, women, and children across Ghana. For the last several years they have honored the leaders and champions of the African Diaspora who command, inspire, and demonstrate through their individual talents the quintessential best within the African community. Each year the proceeds from the "Gift of Life" benefit support AHN's "on the ground" health programming in Ghana, West Africa.

Dana Johnson of www.essence.com

Dana Johnson of www.essence.com

On October 20, 2016, African Health Now hosted its star-studded "Gift of Life" benefit with Dana Johnson  as the mistress of ceremonies and Lola Ogunnaike formerly of Arise TV and CNN as the VIP Reception host. It was a celebration of the 2016 honorees that included some of the biggest newsmakers of the year in community arts, healthcare, and entrepreneurship. NY State Senator, Kevin Parker, Producer to Jidenna, Nan Kwabena, and actor Gbenga Akinnagebe were among the esteemed professionals and tastemakers gathered to praise the honorees of the night. The night culminated with a special guest performance by artist  Brother Kamau who wowed the audience with his latest single from The Birth of A Nation soundtrack titled "The Icarus"  

Each year the annual gala never disappoints and is always a swanky mix of high-powered networking for the new professionals, a family reunion for regularly committed supporters and a revival for all as DJ D-Nice always cranks out the best jams all night long.  Founder of African Health Now, Nana Eyeson Akiwowo manages to highlight the most eloquent and impassioned movers and shakers for equality, social justice, healthcare, art, and culture. Honorees Child Liberty recipient of the Humanitarian Award, (BAM) of the Grassroots Community Foundation SUPERGIRLS recipients of the Youth Leadership Award and Dr. Theodore Hanley recipient of the Health Advocate Award were among the highlights of the evening as they each accepted their well-deserved accolades.  Celebrating the prominent minds of the African Diaspora for their success and offerings to the community that honors their values, and aptitude for reciprocity, optimism, image and cultural pride is really what makes the evening so epic. African Health Now's successful healthcare campaign has reached thousands with so many examples of education and giving back by being deeply rooted in the community of Ghana. The organization has undoubtedly laid the foundation for a long-term strategy to enhance healthcare and its relevance within Ghana and beyond.

Click through the gallery for a brief glimpse into the magical evening.

All photos were captured by Olu Waz  and Hannah Saleh

Watch our exclusive coverage of the honorees and familiar faces of music and movies as we experienced the momentous night.

Behind the "Master Class" EP with Dannis Winston

When it comes to introducing a talent like Dannis Winston, it begs the question: Where should one begin? The composer, classically trained vocalist, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist has quite a story to tell.

                                                                    ONE BROOKLYN COMMUNITY CAMPAIGN

                                                                    ONE BROOKLYN COMMUNITY CAMPAIGN

Growing up in foster care as a young child, the idea of music as a career for Dannis was a dream nowhere in his horizon during his early childhood. As life would have it, a small neighborhood talent show would be the creative pressure cooker to awaken the singer and reveal that his gift was so much more than a hobby displayed around the house during holidays and family functions. Way before founding his roster of bands under his own company DWP (Dannis Winston Presents),  it was Winston's childhood favorites like Prince, David Bowie, and Stevie Wonder that formed his musical palette and manifested his current day sound and artistry. Fast forward past the adolescent gospel choirs and bands, Winston took a leap into entrepreneurship at the young age of 22 to create the Winston's Crew Collective. Determined to control his own career path and hone his musical sound, he used his unique performance artistry to make a distinctive name for his band so much so that New York Magazine named his band one of the Top 100 Wedding Bands to have at your wedding. The multi-instrumentalist has managed to merge the worlds of music and art from leading his fleet of bands to music art philanthropy as well as releasing his solo EP "Master Class". Leading up to the exclusive release of his newest EP "Master Class" we spoke to Winston about the development of his musical sound, his personal inspirations, and of course, the impact of today's cultural climate for Black folk and how that has powered his music. 

"I am a master of the art of the class of learning, forever.

Winston's perspectives and tastes in music were cultivated by years of heeding the greats. There are something about those family BBQ's and weddings that blared the classics embedded in the fabric of our DNA catalog of funk melodies and rhythm and blues soul, the entire world still can't get enough of.  We can not deny musically and culturally. Like many artists Winston to lives by a set of personal mantras that have matured his creative vision and seeps throughout his range of music. A true master of any art form is always in that state of evolution for the sacrifice of their gift, but it is that conscious state of mind that propels his gift beyond that of just another good singer. For Winston, that famous Nina Simone quote

"You can help it. An artist's duty as far as I'm concerned is to reflect the times...I choose to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself. How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?"

holds true to his music. After coming back from a great performance at Essence magazine's annual summer festival in NOLA Dannis was faced with the news of yet another Black man killed by another police officer.  "I couldn't stop crying about the loss of Black men, said Winston bearing the tormenting truth behind his first single release "4 Black Men" from his new EP "Master Class".  "My skin is Black / And as I roam, I live in fear / Not for myself, an aging man / For murdered boys, before they're men, " are some of the stirring lyrics that to invoke Nina Simone's signature lyrical truth serum. Dannis narrates the riveting stories of youth, poverty, and homosexuality from the souls and voices of Black men within this track. But even more undeniable is that essence of piercing yet relentless pride to overcome and carry on is what continuously echoes throughout the arrangement.  

Dannis is not one for labels, traditions, and rules as his music is a montage of many elements from African rhythms to jazz classics. Between the soft sensual sounds are the grit and funk soul bounce that will get you in the groove. This EP is Dannis' ode to being unafraid to represent different stories of Black men and be a truthful voice on that journey. " I want to use my gift to have a global conversation, but I had to gain my sense of self to do that. I had to practice the inner walk of life to be able to educate through my music and be a voice for Black men, " said Winston whose path to music was challenging with varied experiences. There is something very distinguishing about a man who holds the beautiful compassionate spirit of Nelson Mandela, the unapologetic confidence of Prince, and the fusion of Anderson Paak's artistry as their creative formula. When you are an artist that has practiced the same values and beliefs as the great legends with a different tolerance for ambiguity, it is organically experienced within the culture of the music the evolution happens.

Dannis served up an exclusive performance for his audience at Minton's Harlem last weekend and had this to say about his latest work, " Master Class speaks to my commitment to being a student of the greats everyone from Duke Ellington to Quincy Jones to Harry Belafonte and master of my own sense of class. It is a reflection of my journey as a singer/songwriter, creating a music career managing nine bands and performing music around the globe for crowds from 50 to 500."  The EP was produced by Winston himself, with additional production from Matt "eCussionist" Vorzimer (Robert Glasper) and Joel Gonzalez (Big Daddy Kane). The project was mixed and mastered by Grammy Award winning engineers Bassy Bob Brochmann and Mark Christensen. The five-track EP highlights Dannis’ talent as an arranger, musician, songwriter and vocalist inspired by #BlackLivesMatter movement. It also pays homage to Black men that Dannis has been influenced by both musically and socially.

Check out highlights from his debut of the EP at Minton's Harlem and have a listen to "Master Class on Soundcloud below.

 

Photo Credit Stephen Smith/Guestofaguest

 

 

Inside the Cool Exclusive with Artist Isis Kenney

 I have realized that as people of color we like a visual communication, we like visual images and so I was trying to figure out  ways to be able to educate and be able to have a different type of dialogue about the issues that are going on within our community ” Says Artist Isis Kenney In This Exclusive Interview

LAST WEEK THE HARLEM SCHOOL OF THE ARTS PRESENTED ARTIST ISIS KENNEY'S THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED, A POWERFUL DIGITAL ART EXHIBITION THAT COMBINES HIP HOP CULTURE, FINE ART, CURRENT EVENTS, AND POLITICS TO ADDRESS CONTROVERSIAL SOCIETAL ISSUES. THE EXHIBITION CURATED BY HSA VISUAL ARTS DIRECTOR JONATHAN "JP" PATTON, SHOWCASED 15 PIECES OF ARTWORK THAT FEATURED HIP HOP AND POP CULTURE ICONS POLITICIANS AND VICTIMS OF POLICE VIOLENCE, INCLUDING THE LEGENDARY MUSICIAN PRINCE IN "PRINCE NELSON", PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA IN "BARACK OBAMA FEAR NO EVIL," HIP HOP ARTIST KANYE WEST IN "KIM K MIND CONTROL," MIKE BROWN IN " MIKE BROWN IT WAS MURDER" AND NBA PLAYER LEBRON JAMES IN "JAMES BLACK MIDNIGHT," ON BOLD COLORED BACKGROUNDS. 

ARTIST ISIS KENNEY OPENS UP TO ART LIVING ABOUT HOW IMPORTANT ART AND HIP-HOP IS TO THE COMMUNITY AS A CATALYST FOR POLITICAL AND SOCIAL EXPRESSION FOR PRODUCTIVE CHANGE MAKING CONVERSATIONS. SHE UNAPOLOGETICALLY SHARES LIBERATING INSIGHT INTO THE GENERATIONAL PROBLEMS WITHIN THE BLACK COMMUNITY TRYING TO BRIDGE THE GAP BETWEEN THE ELDERS AND THE YOUTH, WHILE THOUGHTFULLY EDUCATING US ON A NEW PERSPECTIVE ABOUT HIP-HOP AND THE POWER UNSHACKLING INFLUENCE. 

Art Living: I am here today with artist Isis Kenney. It is a pleasure to meet you. 

Isis: Thank You.

Art Living: Can you tell me about the exhibit you are currently showing at the Harlem School of the Arts

Isis: Well I've been working on this collection for about a year now. with everything that's been going on in the news, everything that's been going on in our community, I have realized that as people of color we like visual communication, we like visual images and so I was trying to figure out ways to be able to educate and be able to have a different type of dialogue about the issues that are going on within our community. We don't really have a lot of platforms and outlets that have these discussions especially amongst our elders and amongst young people and bridging that gap. And so, because I love my people and I know exactly what we want as far as nice shiny entertainment, I tried to wrap the news, social issues, my passion for my people and what's going on and addressing these issues in art, in the form of art. 

So Hip Hop Fine Art has been the brand has been created since 2011 and I started doing collages at first, like cutting up magazines and doing physical collages, trying to do storytelling through collages. Now I am doing storytelling through digital art. 

Art Living: So, the exhibit is a progression of the original idea?

Isis:  Yes, it is. I am really trying to have a platform where our issues are able to be seen, be heard, and be recognized. Whether it's police brutality, whether it's how we feel about any presidential candidate that is running or has run. A lot of celebrities that claim to care about us but don't really care about us. A lot of celebrities that are straight up and down distraction from what we need to care about. So really just fusing all of those different elements in a visual display of art. I am very big on positive images and positive energy.

Art Living: Yes, I love that. And it's so meaningful that you say that because as I am looking through your work you have a few mainstream subjects. From Obama to Donald Trump to Stokely Carmichael in your pieces but they seem to be juxtaposed with these comic book nostalgic hip hop youth period that we love so much. Can you talk to me about the influence of hip-hop in your mixed into work and how translates as a language? I know I am a hip-hop head and so when I see certain colors, fonts, I automatically stop dead in my tracks. LOL Talk to me about how strategic you were in using that for this exhibit.

Isis:  Well hip-hop has always spoken for the voice of people of color and also young people. Hip-Hop has been again our platform but it has also been our voice to be able to address things that are going on in our communities. And whether it's mainstream or not that has been the essence of the culture. So with that and taking the essence of the culture, the vibrancy of the culture, because we're very vibrant colorful people, okay. So taking that movement, taking that energy, and putting it into something that is going to be thought-provoking. Something that is not only going to be thought-provoking or be beautiful but be something possibly inspiring. A lot of times young people don't see, and not even just young people, but we don't see the struggles that people go through.  We see the outcome.

Art Living: Right, we don't see the behind the scenes

Isis:  We don't know that they couldn't get a job and they were broke for however many ever years. And even when we do hear these stories we don't necessarily take it that seriously, you know what I'm saying. And so with that, children need to understand and people need to know because everybody's going through it. People need to know they are not alone and with that, I'm hoping that my artwork is allowing people to be able to see for instance in the Chris Brown piece, which someone asked me about, and I explained that I felt that particular piece was important to the collection because not matter what status you may have, if you are a person of color in this community, in this world, in this country, there are certain things that you are going to come across whether it's you know racism, discrimination, police brutality, I mean all of these different elements and all of these obstacles occur regardless of how much money you got, how much fame you got, or how many girls you got. Regardless of all of these things that people look at and aspire to be and look at as far as fame, we are still all dealing with the same struggles. 

Art Living: On all levels

Isis: Right, and then it's ongoing. Every time I turn around I am recognizing that can throw up my art on this site or that site and it's going to be constantly on point because a lot of these issues that we're dealing with we been dealing with. And I don't really know when we're not going to deal with it. Because we don't have people that are passing legislation on our behalf, we don't even have people that talk for us that truly are and represent us.

Art Living: Right, Right, so is this exhibit sort of your way to progress the conversation.  I find that art is a little bit easier to swallow when talking about the controversy it is not as intense. I think sometimes it is a little masked because we know the are is going to be bold, colorful, and in your face, but I think often times the part that gets overlooked is the healing process once we have the conversations and we've seen the pieces, I always think to myself, "what's next? And this is the responsibility we have for making sure everyone can see your art, knows what it's about in its content and move on past that.

Isis: The Revolution.

Art Living: Exactly.

Sitting down for this candid and authentic interview with millennial artist Isis Kenney was a breath of fresh air, to say the least, as we delved into her purpose, her passions, and her future as a creative with the power of visual stimulation. It is clear that Kenney's upbringing of Black pride and education, as well as her sensitivity to the pulse of her community, is the driving force within her artwork. in the words of Kenney herself, "the revolution begins at home." You can catch the exhibit at Harlem School of the Arts from now until November 27, 2016.

Write here...

Write here...

Art Living NYFW2016 at Eden BodyWorks #StylewithEden Presentation

EDEN BodyWorks celebrated the fusion of fashion, hair, and style last week during their #StylewithEden presentation for NYFW2016. The hair & style presentation tributed the diverse beauty culture of Black women by teaming up with jewelry metalsmiths Lorraine West and Shayla Milan alongside fashion designers  Chen Burkett and Whitney Mero of Onion Cut & Sewn for two stunning presentations featuring four unique styles for the everyday woman.

Celebrity hair stylist Felicia Leatherwood and celebrity makeup artist Camara Aunique were the geniuses behind the flawless cast of must have looks using Eden BodyWorks hair products. We were graced with beauty and travel maven Africa Miranda as the Mistress of Ceremonies and TV Host and style authority, Kela Walker covering the green carpet street style gorgeousness of the night. Ghanaian designer Chen Burkett began the presentation with a casual chic safari style collection full of beautiful earth tones and natural textured fabric that the audience simply loved.  Each garment was paired with Shayla Milan jewelry, whose accessory designs are inspired by functional modern art, primitive artifacts, and architectural elements. Also dressed n Chen Burkett for the evening was Eden BodyWorks VP of Marketing, Ylorie Taylor and TV Host, Kela Walker. 

Designer Whitney Mero kicked off the second presentation with her exquisite bold printed dresses ranging looks from a one shoulder asymmetrical silhouette to a short sleeved fishtail look that can be dressed up or down. Lorraine West's illustrious brass cuffs and leather earrings were the perfect pairings of accessories to compliment Onion Cut & Sewn's garments that we just could not get enough of. Her jewelry inspiration stems from symbology, geometric shapes, minimalism, and equipping her clients to connect to their own power. No wonder we were in complete awe!

The evening was filled with a divine mix of beautiful women adorning the hair, fashion , and styles they love so much!

Check out our highlights of the stylish evening and stay tuned this week for exclusive guest interviews!