We’re back with out latest INSIDE THE COOL feature with CORE Magazine at their 2018 annual “Bold in Health” event. CORE Magazine is an acronym for Creating Opportunity to Reach Empowerment (CORE) and is a movement to develop a strong and positive foundation for females ages 12 to 18. Allowing females to understand and maintain a healthy level of self-worth through our digital media and our 501c3 nonprofit with on-campus development. The Oyewo sisters and founders of CORE Magazine were interviewed and highlighted in our LADIES FIRST segment last year for their great work empowering our young Black women leaders that we had to come back and checkout their exciting health event.
“Hip-hop is a powerful art form that played in the backdrop of my peoples’ lives. As we faced success or tragedy and created better relationships with our human spirits, hip-hop culture motivated us, provided lifelong affirmations and inspired ideas. It became very important for me to chronicle that energy in the American Theater.”
-Shaun Neblett, MC & Playwright, & Educator
Supported by the CRITICAL BREAKS residency of the Hi-ARTS Performance Space, Shaun Neblett’s 7 Homages for 7 Emcees play cycle is a collection of seven original plays that originate from the spirit of classic hip-hop albums. In commemoration of the 30th-anniversary celebration of The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, Neblett presents his theatrical work that pays tribute to the seminal recording. Shaun Neblett, a Brooklyn native known as MC SNEB during his rap days, is a playwright, educator, and founder of Changing Perceptions Theater.
His creative niche throughout the theater industry has been birthing original plays. The plays themselves are not about the Hip-Hop MCs that Shaun holds sacred, but instead they are inspired by the themes of the songs on those classic Hip-Hop albums personally selected for his Homage cycle. When the rapper Slick Rick was engaged in his notorious trial against deportation from the USA, he cited Homage 2: The Great Adventures of Slick Rick as an example of his inspiration on America’s next generation of influential artists. Billboard magazine hailed Homage 5: Life After Death as, “a street-smart production that pays homage to Biggie’s classic double-disc in both overt and subtle ways.” His other accolades was for “Homage 3: Illmatic," inspired by Nas debut album was presented Off-Broadway, and also received a reading at the Schomburg Center in 2014.
More importantly as a socially conscious creative, Neblett takes us on his intimate journey as a playwright with his chapbook “From Playwright to MC SNEB,” which can be purchased at www.Shaunneblett.com. Described as Hip-Hop theater, a genre written by artists who were born before and during the emergence of hip-hop as an art form, Nebelett’s plays examines the mortality of African American men depicted in the overshadowed life of urban America. He unapologetically addresses the themes of education, popular culture, art, family and crime through the lense of Hip-Hop within his works. We had the opportunity to see Homage 3: Illmatic, at The Schomburg a few years back and as quoted by Dr. Michael Eric Dyson it was, “A great play that evokes a sense of history and a sense of intimacy with people who nurture you, surround you and are a mystery to you”, it was truly a special experience of witnessing the Black male voice as he searched for the strength of his independence and manhood despite his circumstances.
When I decided that I would write seven original plays that originate from the spirit of seven classic hip-hop albums, a lot of people wanted me to create a play for an album by Notorious B.I.G. or Tupac. I wanted to recognize artists who hadn’t already received the adulation of Hollywood.
-Excerpt from an Essay by Shaun Neblett “Harlem Lab on My Mind
In the true spirit of a multifaceted artist who has kept forward momentum merging his talents as a MC, educator and playwright his greatest accomplishment has been as the Executive Director and Owner of Changing Perceptions Theater. Creating and managing multiple youth theater programs throughout low-income neighborhoods in New York City and in Newark, New Jersey the organization has successfully created “Happy Birthday Malcolm and Lorraine!” an annual production that unites a company of established theater artists to create original plays inspired by Malcolm X and Lorraine Hansberry, who both share the same birthdate.
To See HOMAGE 2: SLICK RICK in NYC tomorrow Monday, November 5, 2018 at 730PM
215 E 99th Street
New York NY 10029
Hailing from Washington, DC stylist Trisha Dodson shares with us in an intimate interview what inspires her stelections during her creative process. She takes us through her style evolution and the people that have truly influenced her work over the years as a stylist and costume assistant in the entertainment and fashion industry.
“I believe that African-American women are some of the strongest people on earth. I grew up around incredibly strong women and continue to be inspired by the female strength I see around me, mainly in my mom, wife, and daughter. I thought it was important to recognize that strength through this shoe.”
“African-American women are the most powerful women in the world.” It was this post game remark said by LeBron James that began the journey of a historical fashion & sports collaboration never done before. Not one for mincing his words on and off the court, LeBron James is no stranger to advocating for the overlooked and underrepresented communities of our time, but he has always held a special space for the women in his life who are responsible for the evolution of the man we see today.
On Friday, September 7, 2018 at 10:05am LeBron James unveiled his 16th Limited Edition women’s sneaker which sold out in a remarkable 5 minutes. The sneaker is the first James shoe designed by an all woman collective. The HFR x LeBron 16 develops from the LeBron 15 Flyknit design, but instead is cleverly adorned with gold accents and a 3D-sculpted lion head on the back with laces that ties up the ankle to compliment the main ivory colorway. The interior of the sneaker is also inscribed with each woman designers’ signature and motivating words loyalty, dignity, strength, and courage alongside leather buckles that double as both a choker or bracelet.
Spearheaded by Harlem’s Fashion Row CEO, Brandice Daniel the sneaker collaboration with James and Nike was produced to honor Black womanhood and culture as well as their organic essence of fearlessness, power, and resilience. Daniel, created her organization Harlem’s Fashion Row 11-years ago to champion the visibility of underrepresented Black designers and create equal opportunities for them just like their counterparts. Just last year, Brandice received a phone call from a colleague who reached out to her in search of Black women designers to partner with for a great project, but never revealed the brand that was in need of the collaboration.
The very next day, Brandice received a call from Nike exec Melanie Auguste who revealed LeBron James had done and interview where he expressed wanting to develop a shoe for women by women in honor of the strong women in his life. The designers Undra Duncan, Fe Noel, and Kimberly Goldson had all worked with Brandice on different projects for Harlem’s Fashion Row with such great integrity and innovation that Brandice decided to include the three Brooklyn-based women designers along for the major collaboration opportunity. “I sent three designers to Nike, and they were supposed to pick one to handle the design. But they asked for all three to collaborate on the shoe,” said Daniel. For over a year the 3 designers, Brandice, the Nike team and LeBron partnered on the design to capture the perfect aesthetic. Inspired by James’ mother, wife, and daughter the collaboration invoked the bonding of sisterhood as Goldson, Duncan, and Noel developed the shoe.
“This was LeBron’s ode to woman. The shoe is about how much he respects and loves us.” said Noel about the design experience.
HFR kept the big reveal for their bi-annual fashion and style gala set at New York’s Capitale in partnership with Nike and King James himself last week. With the dress code of black tie and Nikes Daniel opened the night addressing the guests on the importance of being a catalyst for change by elevating Black designers and demand inclusivity as a wide-accepted standard throughout the fashion industry. “...It may have started with a sole fashion show, but its importance and significance has grown way past its runway productions: It’s a community of like-minded people steadfast in their mission to prove there is no shortage of Black creatives.” Daniels said. The annual style awards and fashion presentation kicked off in a packed house of celebs, taste-makers, and industry notables culminating with 4 fashion presentations, a 2-course dinner, and 4 award presentations. This years prolific honorees were Jason Rembert recipient of “Stylist of the Year”, Bethann Hardison recipient of “The Trailblazer Award”, Dapper Dan recipient of “The Lifetime Maverick Award” and LeBron James recipient “Icon 360 Award”.
“I thought it was important to lend that platform to a group of people that I believe are undervalued,” he says. “I want women to know that they are recognized, that there are people who appreciate them and know that they are facing odds that others are not having to face. In spite of those odds, I want them to know that they can succeed and create the positive change that we need more of right now.”
The entire evening was filled with surprise celebrations like the video highlight that featured Floyd Mayweather and LL Cool J paying homage to Harlem phenom designer Dapper Dan before his acceptance of the “Lifetime Maverick Award”. In a pair of diamond-encrusted sunglasses with dress shoes lined in silver for his Black Tie & Nike dress-code, Dan expressed his immense gratitude for HFR on the red carpet before the ceremony stating, “When I first came out to the underground after 20 years when nobody knew about me or where I was at, they were the first ones to reach out and ask me to be apart of a panel of young designers coming up. That was the most exciting thing of my life. The outpouring of gratitude culminated on an emotional high for the night when founder Brandice Daniel pausing through a wave of happy tears presented LeBron James his “Icon 360 Award”, “This one,.... This is probably one of the most amazing things to ever happen to me in my life.” In true admiration James carrying daughter Zhuri in his arms and wearing Moscot sunglasses, dressed in a Thom Browne shorts suit with the new Nike Element React 87 sneakers took the stage to accept his award thanking all the women in his life — his mother Gloria who had him at 16 years old, his wife Savannah who has been by his side both on and off the court literally and his daughter Zhuri who is responsible for making the 250 pound small forward a stronger more sensitive man. James humbly thanked the women in his life — for being examples of how African-American women are the most powerful in the world. He concluded his speech giving his personal thoughts on Nike’s latest campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick stating, “Last but not least, I stand for anybody that believes in change. I stand for anybody who believes in a positive attitude and positive manner, and I believe in and stand with Nike everyday, all day.
This historical campaign partnership between Nike, HFR, & LeBron James is a ground breaking accomplishment that is aligned with mission to control and share the full authentic narrative of the Black experience while changing the marginalized status quo. HFR’s mission has always been centered around creating a robust community of change makers who are focused on the creation of inclusive and equal opportunities for Black designers and creatives. With 11 years of experience amidst the industry of fashion it is abundantly clear that organization HFR is making international progress amongst the fabric of the industry dismantling the old ways of selective business practices and awakening corporate commercial brands to the valued inclusivity of Black creatives. The inner workings of their progress as an organization has been relatively low key until now and with Nike as their newest corporate campaign collaboration and their success has only just begun.
Here’s a peek into the creative process collaboration with designers Undra Duncan, Fe Noel, Kimberly Goldson, and Brandice Daniel
Checkout the Red Carpet Lineup of Celebs Who Attended the Magical Night
Check-out our newest #INSIDETHECOOL feature with lifestyle and fashion brand Nyorh Agwe as we take you through her intimate summer pop-up shop filled with authentic Cameroonian food, AMAZING one-of-a-kind fashion, the culture story behind the Nyorh Agwe brand and more!!!
Here are some of photos from our great interview!!!
"But, if this part of our history could be told in such a way that those chains of the past, those shackles that physically bound us together against our wills could, in the telling, become spiritual links that willingly bind us together now and into the future - then that painful Middle Passage could become, ironically, a positive connecting line to all of us whether living inside or outside the continent of Africa..."
-Tom Feelings, Illustrator "The Middle Passage"
Happy Juneteenth! Happy Freedom Day! Happy Emancipation Day!
Commemorated on this day June 19, 1865, slavery was officially abolished in the United States in a proclamation delivered by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger. Although slavery had been abolished by Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, because there weren’t many Union soldiers in Texas to enforce the January 1, 1963 mandate, African Americans were still in bondage until they were informed on June 19, 1865.
Despite the deliberate delays and disproportioned systems of freedoms and justice for Black Americans throughout American history our ancestors and peers have remained resilient, courageous, and creative. It is for this very reason that we memorialize the ancestors of our past who were pioneers while remembering the bondage of our African people who endured generations of enslavement for a stake in a country with a population of people constantly fighting for democracy and human rights.
The visual art space as always been an expression of representation and revolution for Black & Brown artists. Today we especially champion the artistic pioneers of our past and the innovators of our present who have redefined and shifted the consciousness of the art industry through their adversity, their unique creations, and their choice to express the very complex, beautiful, and diverse experience of Black American life.
"Rendering the invisible, visible."
Edmonia Lewis aka "Wildfire", Sculptor
“My mother was a wild Indian, and was born in Albany, of copper colour, and with straight, black hair. There she made and sold moccasins. My father, who was a negro, and a gentleman’s servant, saw her and married her.”
~Edmonia Lewis (c.1844 – c.1907)
Born in Greenbush, New York in 1844 to a Haitian American father and a Chippewa Indian mother, sculptor Edmonia Lewis aka "Wildfire" was known for her Neo-Classical sculptor of figural work in carved marble. "Wildfire", a nickname given to her by her mother's Chippewa Indian tribe who raised her in a nomadic lifestyle, was most known for her busts of abolitionists and patrons as well as subjects depicting her dual African-American and Native American ancestry. Her atrocious experience with anti-abolitionist vigilantes in Ohio where she was accused of poisoning two white female classmates at Oberlin College, beaten and arrested compelled her to move to Boston and pursue a career as a sculptor. She studied at Oberlin College from 1859 to 1863 and met sculptor Edward Brackett shortly after her ordeal in Ohio, who taught her to model in clay. Soon afterward she settled in Rome, Italy, where her sculptures, created in the prevailing neoclassical style, garnered her great recognition throughout the United States and Europe. A remarkable figure in the history of American art, Edmonia Lewis boldly breached barriers of race, ethnicity, and gender becoming first Black sculptor to receive international acclaim in fine art.
Kehinde Wiley, Visual Artist & Sculptor
“What I choose to do is to take people who happen to look like me — black and brown people all over the world, increasingly — and to allow them to occupy that field of power,”
A native of South Central, Los Angeles Kehinde was born to a Yoruba, Nigerian father and Black American mother in 1977. At the age of 11, he took art classes at a conservatory at California State University, and at 12 years old he attended a six-week art program outside Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) sponsored by the Center for U.S./U.S.S.R. Initiatives. Those community programs ignited a major passion for Kehinde in the world of art and he decided to pursue art as a full-time career earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (1999) at the San Francisco Art Institute and his Master of Fine Arts (2001) at the School of Art at Yale University. Wiley's early works were portraits based on photographs taken of young men found on the streets of Harlem. Is was this style that would cement his influence from the art space to the community among he was directly influenced by.
Wiley is most known for his larger-than-life figurative portraits and sculpture. Like his fellow elder counterpart Wildfire, Wiley's special gift is the essence of fusing traditional techniques with modern motifs that produce this captivating soul-stirring photorealistic style. His bold, robust representation of the African-American culture, putting persons from hip-hop culture in Renaissance poses against colorful, patterned backgrounds is how his artwork intersects the lines of class, race, gender, and sexuality defying the traditional categories of art unapologetically.
“When I am left to my own devices, I am about as fashionable as Kanye is Black - only when its convent. You guys, that joke was my choice, just like slavery,”
Who is the world uses a black belt accessory to hit the red carpet with all eyes on her to make a powerful bold cultural statement? My guess is you would most likely think of a renowned artist or a rapper/singer/musician first before you would think of a Black woman comedian and actress. But Issa Rae has always understood her kinetic wow factor when it comes to the unapologetic celebration of her Blackness. A modern-day Renaissance woman in her own right within the industries of Black TV, Film, and Comedy but she is also making a whole lot of ‘first-ever’ historic moments to add to her beautiful funny persona and screen-writing brilliance. Steven Kolb, President and CEO of the CFDA described her artistic voice as, “...the leading new generation of performers who use their voice and humor to discuss social topics in a way that is relatable and poignant.” in their press release for the annual Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Awards last week. The CFDA began in 1981 to celebrate the work of menswear and womenswear designers nationwide but the Insecure actress and comedienne made history by being the first Black entertainer to host the fashion awards in its 37-year history, as well as the first woman to host in nine years.
To officially commence the historic moment Issa stepped on to the red carpet like a seasoned star in her signature chic fashion boldness wearing a stunning Swarovski-encrusted a one-shouldered jumpsuit gown designed by Black designer Kerby Jean-Raymond for Pyer Moss. And just when you thought Issa couldn’t be bolder in her cultural pride, her most memorable statement of the night was her jaw-dropping black belt accessory, which cinched her waist in an embroidered white stitching that read "Every N**** Is A Star." It was that unspoken clever cultural nod that cemented the historic fashion moment like no other on the red carpet appearance before. The iconic raw, statement "Every N**** Is A Star. " originates from Jamaican artist Boris Gardiner's 1973 song and film of the same name. The 1973 song was also re-featured on the soundtrack for Moonlight, the Best Picture winner at the 2017 Oscars and you probably know the phrase most recently from a sample on Kendrick Lamar's 2015 track, "Wesley's Theory."
"If you don't get it, it's not for you. If you don't get it, you weren't supposed to. It's not meant to be political. It's meant to be uplifting."
Designer, Kerby Jean-Raymond for Pyer Moss
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter designer, Kerby Jean-Raymond revealed that the belt accessory was actually added at the last minute and was inspired by the cultural phenomena that depicts Black people as just tragic figures. "We never talk about who they love, people with their children and their love for their families. It's always a tragic figure or as firsts—first black man to do this, first black person to do this—but what about just a bus driver?" he says. "We don't have to be Jay-Z, we don't have to be Kerby Jean-Raymond, we don't have to be Issa Rae, we can just be who we are and just exist and we're still superstars in our own rights, no matter what we do." Simply put, Kerby and Issa wanted to champion the phrase and flip the controversial yet poignant phrase on its head and illustrate a new language of beauty. As for the uncomfortableness of the use of the word N**** on the belt, Jean-Raymond has this to say, "If you don't get it, it's not for you. If you don't get it, you weren't supposed to. It's not meant to be political. It's meant to be uplifting." There is a necessary grandiose creativity of wordplay and fashion expression needed within the fashion and entertainments industries because of the under-recognized community of American Black designers, despite the direct global and historical influences of the culture for centuries. Ironically, none of the Black designers who were nominated for a 2018 CFDA Award won on that night, but it is for that very reason of underrepresentation that Issa & Kerby would team up for such a powerful and political visual fashion statment, "it’s important to know that being there was already a huge achievement," says Jean Raymond in his elle.com interview.
Issa made her hosting debut at the Brooklyn Museum with a no holes barred opening monologue addressing the political climate and controversial comments of Kanye West with Mrs. West sitting right in the front row. Representation was Issa's focal point for the fashionable evening, which is why Rae teamed up with her stylist, Jason Rembert, chose five different looks for the night, all designed by black designers as well as Black accessory designers too.
“When I am left to my own devices, I am about s fashionable as Kanye is Black - only when its convent. You guys, that joke was my choice, just like slavery,”
The evening brought A-list celebs that included, Oprah Winfrey, "Black-ish" star Tracee Ellis Ross, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o, singer Ciara, model-actress, Comedian & Host Trevor Noah, and more. The Fashion Icon Award went to model-actress Naomi Campbell, and Donatella Versace received the International Award.
Being the face of Insecure has led our beloved Issa to many new opportunities in her career because of her ability to authentically literalize the Black experience and all of its cultural nuances without an explanation even as the modern tv-landscape becomes more inclusive. Coined as the "vanguard of young creators in television" by GQ magazine in their June 2018 edition, it is more than obvious why her charismatic and bold funny has led her to other industry stages that she would have never imagined. Her unapologetic and unwavering comedy content that refuses to bend to the traditional network's expectations is why her career is crossing pollinating amongst so many other creative entertianment spaces. We can only imagine what next for this "It Girl" who made the words "Awkward" and "Insecure" seem cool and hella relatable and championing the complexity of the Black womanhood experience.
Check out her funny opening monologue below!!!
"Any kind of business outside of art and culture and hip-hop, I have to have full creative control... And having that control, I always wanted to have something that represents more than just a price tag."
— Kendrick Lamar
The lineage of hip-hop begins from the ancestors' tradition of vivid storytelling. What hip-hop did was birth a new modern day musical language of the struggle within Black American life, blending the old traditions of oral storytelling and innovated complex lyricism filled with verses, tracks, hooks, and eventually, classic historical albums with narratives so rich you couldn’t help but experience the sound just like a Hollywood movie, only better.
It is no secret that hip-hop has also had a constant battle for institutional legitimacy because of its original global musical phenomena and unapologetic expression of Black American life. Over the decades, hip-hop has without a doubt matured and manifested into subgenres rooted in a competitive art form that has cemented global music history with decades of unforgettable modern-day storytellers. The unveiling of the many facets of Black American life and the complex dimensions of its beauty and pain has always been hip-hop's allure. The music has always been diverse and evolving with its variety of musical styles and influences. Sometimes it is filled with braggadocious cadences of fun and play and other times it is a vivid, raw, mind-searing tale that you can’t unhear, but no matter what your musical palette preference, hip-hop’s creative range of influences an innovative musical architecture has single-handedly changed American musical history and the outlook on Black American life forever.
"Putting a positive light on where I come from is important to me. When you think of Compton, there is this idea that it’s numb with negativity"
KING Kendrick, hip-hop's modern-day storyteller has exquisitely documented the experience of the struggle throughout Black life in its past, present, and near future, in both sound and narration. His pure vulnerability within his music is transcendent in a feel good, DAMN kinda way. You go through all types of emotions with Kendrick along his musical ride.
Most recently he made a new stamp on music history this year when he became the first non-classical and non-jazz artist to receive a Pulitzer Prize for his third studio album DAMN. Kendrick was the first to win the honor since 1997 when the Pulitzer Prize for music went to a jazz work by Wynton Marsalis’s oratorio “Blood on the Fields.” Decades earlier in 1965, the Pulitzer jurors recommended awarding a special citation to Duke Ellington but were rejected.
A little over 20 years later hip-hop's own Kendrick Lamar's music is acknowledged as a preeminent masterwork by an age-old institution calling his single, DAMN a “triumphant piece of art,” by Pulitzer Prize administrator Dana Canedy. Kendrick was awarded the Pulitzer Prize over classical musicians and co-finalists Michael Gilbertson and his string Quartet and Ted Hearne's cantata Sound from the Bench. To get a sense of the magantitude of this historic momement in hip-hop and American history, the jurors were: violinist Regina Carter; Paul Cremo, a director at The Metropolitan Opera; Farah Jasmine Griffin, a professor of English, comparative literature and African-American studies at Columbia University; David Hadju, music critic for The Nation; and David Lang, a composer.
Kendrick accepted his Pulitzer Prize for Music inside Columbia University in New York City saying, “It’s an honor,” during his acceptance speech, after receiving a standing ovation, “Been writing my whole life, so to get this type of recognition is beautiful.” Kendrick was also granted $15,000 as the top prize winner for his musical accolade.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Kendrick revealed this about his creative process for the album, “The initial goal was to make a hybrid of my first two commercial albums," he said. "That was our total focus, how to do that sonically, lyrically, through melody – and it came out exactly how I heard it in my head. … It's all pieces of me. My musicality has been driving me since I was four years old. It's just pieces of me, man, and how I execute it is the ultimate challenge. Going from To Pimp a Butterfly to DAMN., that shit could have crashed and burned if it wasn't executed right. So I had to be real careful on my subject matter and how I weave in and out of the topics, where it still organically feels like me." Late last year, Lamar released a "collector's edition" of DAMN. with the original album's tracklist reversed — played back-to-front revealing even more depth to his musical palette of creativity shifting the album's focus to the contrasting revelations of self, something we can all relate to in the current times.
Solange's Cultured Art and Music Conversation Over the Years...
It has been her bold fashion choices, her artistic innovative risk-taking, and an overall unapologetic creative expression from entertainment to art that has extended her musical career into a cultural and artistic global hybrid in entertainment. From her critically acclaimed album, A Seat at the Table, to performing for former President Barack Obama at the White House as well as her performance art shows at the Guggenheim Museum, the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, and an art installation at London’s Tate Modern Museum, Solange has established herself as a visionary leader amongst the entertainment, fashion and visual art spaces.
Her 2016 critically acclaimed album "A Seat at the Table" honored and empowered Black womanhood in all of its beauty and complexities. Her confident and unapologetic foray into the art and fashion world has defined her artistic persona that is so beautifully different from her iconic megastar sister Beyonce. Most importantly, the 31-year old visual artist and singer-songwriter has used her platform to advocate for mental health, representation, and justice.
On Monday, May 21, 2018, Solange Knowles was honored by the Parsons School of Design in New York City for her global impact as a pioneering figure that has been committed to supporting future generations of designers by creating opportunities for inclusivity in design, entertainment, and fashion. Arriving with fellow eclectic music artists Kelela and Dev Hynes. Solange stunned on the red carpet in an all black sleek and sexy jumpsuit with pepping cutouts designed by Parson's alum and current faculty member Shanel Campbell.
The exciting evening featured special presentations by fellow ground-breaking and renowned music artists Erykah Badu, Missy Elliot, and Pharrell. Powerful newcomer rapper Vince Staples and media personality Lala Anthony kicked off Solange's honoring with an introduction of heartfelt remarks. The Parson's School of Design honoring at its 70th Annual Benefit is the latest accolade in Solange’s notable creative career. This year alone has been an exhilarating tour of recognition as Solange has been awarded a Grammy, the 2017 Glamour’s Woman of the Year Award, Billboard’s Impact Award, and Harvard University’s Artist of the Year Award.
Solange’s latest art project was featured this past Spring in April at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, where she premiered Metatronia (Metatron’s Cube), 2018, an interdisciplinary video and dance performance art piece. The video visual highlights a new sculpture titled, Metatron’s Cube, 2018, that was conceptualized and created by Solange. This summer the sculpture will be featured at select locations across the United States.
Somehow Solange has kept her artistic passion burning and maturing with constant new projects in various artistic genres over the years, through the challenges of life. She spoke very candidly about being teased and often compared to others throughout her adolescent years that has not been easy for her during her acceptance speech at Parsons. But their is always a special admiration for the complexities in artist development that allowing them to produce mind blowing conscious work that reflects the times and transcends us in to the future. Art is one of those healing expression that unites us all and Solange has a way with the world when she lends her vision. It's been a pleasure watching her unfolding her beautiful multidimensional imagination.
Check out the photo gallery from Monday’s event.
Celebrity stylist Karla Welch is best known for her signature look on Hollywood's red carpets worn by A-list celebs such as Lorde, Justin Bieber, Tracee Ellis Ross and more. To pay homage to the 145th anniversary of Levi Strauss & Co. receiving its rivet-pocket patent, which birthed its iconic denim blue jean; Levi released its latest campaign on May 20, 2018, with Welch titled, "Levi & Karl's 501 Day"
Welch collaborated with Levi adding her creative modern twist to the timeless aesthetic of Levi's 501 jeans featuring a 9-piece capsule collection. The black and white campaign video filmed by her husband Matthew Welch featured newcomers and some of our favorite "IT" girls shining their unique and radiant Black Girl Magic all over the screen. Angela Davis, Tracee Ellis Ross, SZA, America Ferrera, Ke'Andra Samone, and Natalie Manuel Lee were among the impressive roster of celebrities as they starred in the portrait campaign dancing along to Yoko Ono's 1973 song, "Yang Yang".
To find inspiration Welch pulled directly from her own childhood revealing that her collaboration was about reinventing not only what vintage looks like, but re-imagining not only what vintage looks like, but re-imagining what the future of vintage could be. "If people inhabit Mars 200 years from now, what are the kids going to wear? This idea of creating something that would eventually become an iconic piece of vintage clothing is the basis of the whole collection said, Welch in her press release.
A portion of the profits from the capsule collection will be donated to "Everytown" an organization committed to ending gun violence through gun safety education. Welch explained, "We're in this superficial business, which I love. I think fashion is an art, but I do look at myself and say, 'What am I doing?' So to be able to partner with the Levi foundation to do social good was everything. That's a new way of consumerism, to use your platform to do something meaningful. And when they agreed to donate to Everytown, I literally cried."
On May 16, 2018, at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Lauryn Hill, and SZA performed at the official campaign collection launch event. Each piece in the collection is priced from $150 -$450 available at select Levi stores levis.com, xcarla.com and Dover Street Market in New York.
Check out the official campaign video below!!!
“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
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.
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).
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
"I don't believe you can go through adversity without believing in a greater power than yourself."
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.
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
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?"
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: "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: "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.
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.
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!!!
"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
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
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.
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
Checkout our new interview series "BEHIND THE BRAND" where we get intimate and personal about the artists' creative process. We kicked off our latest episode with Le'Asha Julius and Quincy Vidal.
Checkout our new interview series "BEHIND THE BRAND" where we get intimate and personal about the artists' creative process. We kicked off our 2017 episode with Founder/Creative Dir. of ART LIVING Shea Zèphir.
" 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.
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!!!
"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
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.
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.
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?
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?
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!
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.
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
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.
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?
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