Inside the Cool

CORE Magazine's 2018 Annual "Bold in Health" Event

CORE Magazine Edits w_ Logo.jpg

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.


Checkout the Highlights Below!!!

7 Homages for 7 Emcees - Homage 2: The Great Adventures of Slick Rick

“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

HOMAGE 2 SLICK RICK NYC MED FLYER .jpg

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.

slickrick+and+sneb.jpg

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

Hi Arts

215 E 99th Street

New York NY 10029

Click Here to Purchase Tickets 

INSIDE THE COOL with Nyorh Agwe at her 2018 Summer Pop-Up Shop

Nyorh Agwe w_ Logo - Purse.jpg

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!!!

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

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!

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!

 

 

Art Living NYFW2016 at Essence Street Style Block Party 2016

Essence Magazine held its 3rd annual Street Style Block Party in DUMBO last Saturday in celebration of NYFW2016. Hosted by Essence.com's Dana Blair and Co-hosted by Naturi Naughton from the hit STARZ TV series "POWER".

The event championed real women with head-turning style during the day-long affair as a stylish sea of enthusiast, designers, stylists, bloggers and local fashion vendors came together to celebrate the art of personal style. Sponsored by Chevrolet and Shea Moisture the event was a super cool mix of music, fashion, and art culture good vibes and fun! 

ESSENCE also presented its 2016 Street Style Award to the hottest bloggers, designers, fashion stylists and trendsetters of 2016, including singer Kelly Rowland, celeb stylist Law Roach, dancer/actress Khadija Shari, fashion blogger, Blake Von D and designer Romeo Hunte. This year's cool activities featured:

  • Performance by singer Ayo Jay
  • Live fashion show co-hosted by actress Naturi Naughton for "The Best of Attendee Street Style"
  • Shopping experiences featuring local designers and local vendors
  • An interactive Kids Zone with face painting
  • ESSENCE Eats featuring curated local food truck vendors

Check out our exclusive "INSIDE THE COOL" highlight video of the intoxicating good culture vibes and gorgeous fashion fun!

All photos were sourced from Zimbio Images from photographer Bennett Raglin.

 

Art Living NYFW2016 with Harlem's Fashion Row 2016

Harlem's Fashion Row hosted its 9th annual style awards and fashion presentation sponsored by Covergirl and Motions last Thursday evening at Pier 59 Studios.

Founded by Brandice Daniel, Harlem's Fashion Row began as a movement to provide industry access, coaching, and financial support for designers of color to experience fair and equal access opportunities to sustain their businesses beyond the runway. Before "diversity" became the buzzword throughout the fashion industry, HFR was already championing designers of color underrepresented in the showrooms and retail space, with success stories like Omar Salam of Sukeina and Kimberly Goldson of Project Runway Season 7.

Brandice's relentless vigor for maneuvering designers of color from cutting and stitching in their living rooms to selling in showrooms and retails stores with her platform HFR has only solidified her national influence as a NYFW staple if you want to experience the collections of emerging designers of color.  It's no wonder why A list Black celebrities, fashion elite, cultural leaders, and everyday enthusiasts flock over to the must-see fashion presentation by cool creative entrepreneurs too often passed over within the mainstream fashion industry. 

Naturi Naughton, Ty Hunter, and Emil Wilbekin were amongst the fellow guests of tastemakers, entertainers, and cultural influencers on the front row supporting the honorees of the night that included which included:

 

Editor of the Year: Elaine Welteroth


When your resume experience journeys back to being the Style and Beauty editor at Ebony magazine from 2008 to 2011 and advanced to Glamour magazine from Beauty writer to Senior Beauty Editor from 2011 to 2012 all under the age of 30, it was abundantly clear why HFR celebrated this Black Girl Magic with the Editor of the Year Award. 

Harriet Cole, former fashion director, and editor, now lifestylist presented Elaine with her award recollecting the most memorable moments of their relationship over the years as colleagues. If you've followed Elaine's journey to becoming Teen Vogue's first Black Editor and the youngest person to appointed to the title of Editor-in-chief in Conde Nast history, you know that Elaine is a fearless trailblazer in her industry.  Beautiful, stylish, and innovative Elaine has never shied away from new ideas, progressive social media interaction and authenticity.

The Trailblazer: Kyle Hagler


imageedit_4_6472612697.jpg

You can not say Joan Smalls, Liya Kebede, and Hilary Rhoda without saying Kyle Hagler. So who is Kyle Hager? The man responsible for launching the million dollar careers of some of the world's biggest Supermodels. With a 17-year track record as Senior manager at IMG Models and managing his new position as President of Next Model Managment, Kyle Hager knows how to coif a brand to be around for a lifetime. He is the advocate for models that do not fit the norm of industry categories with their look. Hagler is the force behind breaking the barriers of central casting and expanding the boundaries of beauty as the industry knows it. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, model, and client Joan Smalls said, " Mr. Hager said I want brands to see you as multidimensional. You're Black and Latin. That solidified it. He just gave me hope to believe in myself and go for it no matter what. For a Latina, that's so relieving."

It is because of creative change makers like Kyle Hagler that models of color can navigate the fickle fashion industry and challenge the entire industry to expand is castings and representations from the stylist to the business company CEO's

 

Stylist of the Year: Eric Archbald


Best known for being the lead stylist to award-winning singer and actress Jennifer Hudson, Eric Archibald is known within the industry as a force to be reckoned with when it comes to red carpet fashion style. Eric always knew he wanted to be a stylist as a little boy in the Caribbean, but when he got his first break in 1994 he ran with his opportunity and never looked back. Most recently, he styled the honorees of the VH1 Hip Hop Honors: All Hail the Queens and Beyonce's internationally record breaking album "Lemonade".  Eric's organic ability to merge classic edge with chic sexiness is what makes his relationship with music and fashion so intrinsic. 

Icon 360 Award: Swizz Beatz


We gotta support each other more. We all are busy but if Tom Ford calls all of a sudden we make it work. I had to be here like it was Tom Ford when I got this call.

In recognition of his diverse talent and contributions to the entertainment industry with his music and astounding art expression Grammy award-winning, super producer Kasseem Dean, aka SWIZZ BEATZ,was the wildcard surprise for the night as the recipient of the Icon 360 Award. Since 1994 the Bronx native has been cranking out chart-topping singles and albums for the biggest superstars and entertainers to date. In 2015, Swizz released the pre-launch of The Dean Collection a personally curated art fair/ mobile gallery of the most renowned emerging global artist hot on the scene right now. An avid art collector, Swizz has always done great work within the art community, but as with many entertainment industries, he also saw the imbalances of the art system which propelled him to do more than just sign over a check. His creativity has opened doors for other passions such as philanthropy through the arts, education, and healthcare. Swizz humbly accepted his award and left these wise words with the audience,"We gotta support each other more. We all are busy but if Tom Ford calls all of a sudden we make it work. I had to be here like it was Tom Ford when I got this call."

After the awards and acceptance speeches, the fashion show began with HFR's 2016 Designers presentation. Creative Director Keith Campbell was the architect behind the edgy fierce hair looks for each designer. From chic loose ended ponytails to gold wire afros and gleaming  glitter roots, this season looks were about personalized artful expression.

Terese Brown: Terese Sydonna

Radhika Perera-Hernandez: Lois London

 

Kahindo Mateene: Kahindo

 

Jakai Franks: JRU

All photos were sourced from Getty Images from the following photographers:

Johnny Nunez, Arun Nevader, and Noam Galai

 

 

 

“The Crown Futures” Installation by Shani Peters at Sugar Hill Children's Museum

In the workshops we talked about the history of crowns and that led us to talk about slavery, racial inequality, and the concept of power. I am regularly pleasantly surprised with the ability of young people to talk about different subjects. These kids know what's going on. I hope we planted seeds in the minds of students so they continue these thoughts as they grown into adults.

-Shani Peters

What do Miss America, Jean-Michele Basquiat, Stevie Wonder, and Nefertiti all have in common? Ok, try adding Kwanzaa to the list and see if you can get a little closer to a common answer. Naturally, a host of good music, high crowns, and Black pride should begin to flood your memory bank, but for the artist, Shani Peters these familiar names proved more than just childhood memories.

Peters, a multidisciplinary New York-based artist decided to expand on her series The Crown which is an exhibit and series of projects that have evolved over the last several years. Her latest installation "The Crown Futures" at Sugar Hill Children's Museum celebrates the concepts of self-determination through the young eyes of youth ages 5-13 years old. Peters artistic content revolves around media culture, social justice, cultural record keeping and community building so this installation was near and dear to her heart as she reflected on her own childhood for inspiration and healing. Going back to those childhood memories resonates deeply with Peters thanks to her father who was a Black History professor who managed to keep her interest in Black history with the teachings of music, literature, and theater. Her inspirations began with the memories of family Kwanzaa celebrations and its 7 principles, particularly, self- determination. Peters reveals that it was the principle Kujichagulia aka Self-Determination that she struggled the most with to maintain and experience. Like her father who wanted to do so much more than teach Black History but instead create narratives around the lives of those affected most within history, Peters included the everyday children around her to examine, celebrate, and stimulate personal growth for viewers of all ages.

Her interactive workshops didn't just include the creating of the crowns, but also led to productive discussions about race, power, and civil rights. 500 feet of gold paper and 400 crowns later Peters would combine her childhood memories of Kwanzaa, Stevie Wonder's song "The Crown" her sightings of famous crowns like Nefertiti, Miss America, and Basquiat , and her student's creations into a breathtaking installation. An installation that transcends tradition, time, culture, politics, and social existence that we all can relate to. As Peters uses her work to facilitate healing, freedom, self-reflection for Black Americans in particular, you can not ignore the universal message of love, opportunity, and respect for all.

Check out Peters artist statement from earlier works of the Crown Project

The African’s experience in the Americas has been grounded in brutality and trauma. Through eras of forced enslavement, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, both clearly stated and veiled every-day racism, and now the most commonly perceived police abuse of power, Black people have exercised unimaginable degrees of determination to simply survive and persevere. The work in this exhibition is the most recent exploration in the theme of imagining crowns as symbols for Self-Determination and the complexity of the experience of the African people following the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade that my series The Crown has reflected on for the past few years. These new works begin to explore what Self-Determination means specifically for Black Americans situating both historical and contemporary images of Black Americans engaged in focused political protest within the visual narrative of The Crown project. James Baldwin famously stated, “Our crown has already been bought and paid for, all we have to do is wear it.”  These works illustrate the price that was and continues to be paid.

All Photos were capture by Michael Palma

Harlem School of the Arts Havana Nights Dance Gala

For more than 5 decades, the Harlem School of the Arts has provided quality arts training to children of color into the world of the arts that too often seemed out of their reach.  Students of the institution were taught all art forms under one roof from violins and other orchestral instruments to ballet and tap as well as Shakespeare to quench all their artistic desires. But it all began with the dream of a concert soprano, Dorothy Maynor, in the basement of the St. James Presbyterian Church in Harlem. The prestigious Harlem School of the Arts is one of New York City’s most pioneering and eminent institutions of quality arts education.  HSA’s notable alumni base of Tony-award winning actors, celebrated operatic voices, jazz musicians, visual artists and dancers has proven decade after decade that it is so much more than an art school that has become a neighborhood gem, but instead, a vital program that has reached thousands of youth across the country, providing direction, discipline, and hope to children who are most in need of knowing there can be a bright and successful future in the world of the arts. The historic establishment provides arts education in four core artistic disciplines: dance, theatre, music, and visual arts where nearly 4,000 children are served on site as well as in various schools throughout NYC.

On May 12, 2016, Harlem School of the Arts hosted a Havana Nights themed Dance Party Benefit sponsored by The Williams Capital Group and Sweet Hospitality. The evening featured live performances by HSA students, The Afro Latin Jazz Cats and the Afro-Cuban Dance Ensemble Oyu Oro.  There were over 200 attendees and others in attendance included HSA staff and supporters as well as community leaders, activists and  host of A-list actors and actresses. Despite almost closing its doors permanently in 2010 due to a financial crisis, the community and arts activist have been working tirelessly to spread the word about Harlem School of the Arts’ legacy, its current student body of amazing emerging artists, and raise continuous funds for the expanding institution. That labor love would finally prove worth it in 2012 when they received a $5 million grant from the Herb Alpert Foundation and raised over $1 million in 2015 at its 50th Anniversary Gala just last year.  This past spring President Eric Pryor in an interview with MetroFocus on PBS Thirteen revealed how HSA, facing difficult financial circumstances over the last decade and the receiving of a major donation from the Herb Alpert Foundation, has allowed the organization to restore its endowment. Pryor confidently expressed that, with the restructuring of a new board and executive leadership, HSA will continue to grow and expand its programming here in Harlem. They have held true to their mission of lifelong learning through the arts with the belief that all children deserve access to a quality arts education, empowering them to become the creative thinkers and innovative leaders of tomorrow.

I had the opportunity to not only come back and cover my arts alma mater but I was able to chat with President Eric Pryor about the importance of HSA’s art fundraising and what new programming we can expect this upcoming fall.