A Mother of the Movement Bares Her Soul and Stands Her Ground

Lucy McBath suffered a string of miscarriages so, there was a time when she grappled with the fear that she might never be a mother. But she never in her darkest dreams imagined becoming a mother who would have to bury her only son.

There are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published worldwide each year, depending on whose statistics you trust. It’s a big number, so standing out is tough. But McBath’s Standing Our Ground does.

Part memoir, part history lesson, it is also, as its book jacket attests, “a faith-based exploration of how the nation’s gun laws put a deadly target on American lives,” and African American males lives, especially. “Lucy has become the David to the gun lobby’s Goliath, proving that when gun violence survivors and mothers speak out, we can and will win,” says Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Few are better positioned to expound on these matters. McBath is a woman deeply grounded in her Christian faith. It is how she was raised, and she has nurtured the seed her parents planted through many a trial, disappointment, and devastation, including the 2012 murder of her teenage son.

Jordan Davis

(Instagram)

When his killer invoked Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law as a defense, McBath was propelled into a passionate fight for gun control and justice, not merely for her own child, but for all. She retired from a 30-year career with Delta Airlines to become the national spokesperson for both Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Unwittingly, she also became one of the so-called Mothers of the Movement, along with eight other black women most of whom lost their sons to senseless and unjustifiable force at the hands of police. Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, was the only other mother who lost her son to a self-professed vigilante in the state of Florida. Her son’s murderer succeeded in using the Stand Your Ground law to gain an acquittal. McBath’s son’s killer is now serving a life sentence in jail.

A Bright Future Ends on Black Friday

It was the day after Thanksgiving 2012: Black Friday. Jordan Davis, 17, sat in the rear of his friend Tommie Stornes’ red Dodge Durango with two other friends parked in front of a gas station convenience store. Michael Dunn, who was white, pulled into the space alongside them and waited while his girlfriend went into the store.

Jordan Davis

Jordan Davis (lucyforcongress.com)

After telling the young men to turn down their hip-hop music and a brief exchange of words, Dunn grabbed a gun from the glovebox of his own car and opened fire on the unarmed teens inside the Durango.

Terrified, Stornes threw the car into reverse, trying to escape the hail of bullets. As they sped away, Dunn exited his car and continued to aim and shoot. Three of the teens survived that day; young Jordan Davis, shot several times, died in his best friend’s arms.

It is not surprising that McBath’s book, written with collaborator Rosemarie Robotham, is so moving. The surprise is that it is so uplifting. But if you know Lucia McBath (full disclosure: I do), you know that’s who she is.

Now running for Congress from the state of Georgia, McBath has seized every opportunity to educate the public, call out the gun lobby for the blood on their hands, and change the gun laws to preserve lives. She has even faced down the provocative issue of anti-choice-pro-gun evangelicals as a featured subject in the award-winning documentary, The Armor of Light. McBath, the former flight attendant, has shied away from nothing that she sees as her divine calling to reduce gun violence in this country. Hillary Clinton, who has endorsed McBath as a congressional candidate, also endorses her book, saying, “Lucy, in the face of tragedy, turned her sorrow into a strategy, and her mourning into a movement.”

As McBath notes repeatedly in the book, she’s not trying to be a hero. She simply sees no other choice. “When tragedy arrived at my door in a sudden senseless burst of gunfire, I thought I had failed my child,” McBath writes movingly in her book’s introduction. “I believed my life was over. And perhaps it was. But a new life opened up before me and there was nothing else for me to do but claim it.

“In telling my story—and honoring the life of the child God entrusted to me—I am claiming it still.” It’s how she loves Jordan now.

 

 

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Small Business Owners Ready to Hit Ballot Box Big Time in Midterm Elections

When it comes to the midterm elections in November, small business owners will be more registered to vote than the overall population.

That, at least, is among the findings of a new survey by Thumbtack, an online service for small businesses. The survey indicated 85% of small business owners surveyed report being registered to vote, versus 70% of all Americans signed up to vote.

Further, 93% of small business owners who are registered to vote say they “definitely” or “probably” will do so, while only 88% of registered voters nationwide say the same, a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll shows.

The survey showed 17.1% of small business owner respondents reported the No. 1 issue in determining their vote this November is the economy and taxes. Some 5.8% named healthcare as their top issue, making those the most important issues for nearly one-third of small business owners. There are roughly 30 million small businesses in the nation.

“Small business owners continue to tell us they want their representatives to focus on the issues that impact their businesses and their families like the economy and healthcare,” said Thumbtack Head of Public Policy, Kellyn Blossom stated in a press release.

“Small business owners are going to be a crucial constituency for every campaign this November. They care deeply about what affects their communities and plan to turn out in large numbers to vote.”

Thumbtack surveyed 980 small business owners from late August and early September nationally in hundreds of categories, including electricians, music teachers, wedding planners, and wellness professionals to name few. Entrepreneurs were asked about their voter registration status, plans to vote in the upcoming election, and the issues guiding their political preferences.

Additionally, Thumbtack and the Small Business Roundtable are partnering to make sure business owners’ voices will be heard this election.

The Small Business Roundtable is a membership-based group comprised of the Small Business Entrepreneurship Council, National Association of Women Business Owners, National Association for the Self Employed, U.S. Black Chambers Inc., National Small Business Association, and Asian / Pacific Islander Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship.

 

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Kanye West’s Basketball Sneaker Banned From NBA

National Basketball Association league officials confirmed that players will be allowed to wear any sneaker they wish this upcoming season, regardless of color. Any sneaker that is, except the basketball sneaker created by Kanye West.

In prior seasons it was mandatory for players to wear league-compliant sneakers or they would face a hefty fine. This will be the first time since Adam Silver became NBA commissioner in 2014 that players have their choice of footwear.

According to an ESPN report the stringent rule change is an effort on the NBA’s behalf to allow players to express themselves while on the court. Until now, the rule on player footwear was that all sneakers worn on the court had to be 51% white or black with minimal team color accent to top it off, depending on home and visiting teams.

Rapper Kanye West, who is in partnership with Adidas for his Yeezy product line, took to his Instagram account to debut a first look at his “YZY BSKTBL” sneaker.

(Instagram)

 

Prior to this model, all of West’s sneaker designs have been for lifestyle wear and not for athletic purposes. This is the first time that the Yeezy brand is venturing into sports footwear since he released his first sneaker in 2015.

However, according to industry sources, the NBA is banning the current version of Kanye’s sneaker. The move is not because of the colors in the sneaker or because of his recent controversial comments made on social media.

The ban is because of the shoe’s gleaming, reflective-material heel. The NBA fears that the 3M material would be distracting to the crowd and also for those watching the game at home.

The Yeezy basketball sneaker was supposed to be worn during the regular season by Adidas signees like Nick Young, Donovan Mitchell, and Iman Shumpert, to name a few. With the ban on the current model of Kanye’s basketball sneaker, there is no word yet if Adidas will make the necessary adjustment to appease the NBA.

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A Podcast Network Putting the Spotlight on Women Who Amassed Millions

After two years of hosting Switch, Pivot or Quit, a widely popular podcast, Ahyiana Angel gained two valuable insights that inspired her to launch Mayzie Media, a podcast network for women.

I realized male-led shows dominated the podcast charts and the news headlines,” said Angel. “I also noticed a trend on social media with women asking their communities for podcast recommendations with a female lead or host. They were very vocal about being tired of the same dude style talk and content dominating the space and as a result controlling our narratives. Oftentimes, new podcasts have a hard time breaking through to the masses because the discovery of new programs is challenging. My logic was to create a hub where those who want podcasts produced with their interests in mind can have a sole location for discovery and entertainment.”

With a focus on providing podcasts in the categories of inspiration and self-care; society and culture; and business, Mayzie Maydie has a refreshing line-up of programming.

A Milli, the first podcast to launch under the network, takes listeners behind the scenes with women who have amassed a minimum of 1 million in funding, sales, subscribers, net worth, etc. in business. These are dynamic women who collectively have more than $60 million in annual revenue, 5 million in social followers, and have amassed more than $116 million in funding. Special guests include Janice Bryant Howroyd, founder and CEO of The ACT-1 Group with a reported net worth of $420 million; Lindsey Andrews, co-founder of Minibar Delivery, the direct-to-consumer wine, beer, and liquor delivery service with $5 million in funding; Myleik Teele, founder and chief experience officer of beauty subscription brand curlBOX; and Sabena Suri, co-founder and CSO of BOXFOX a premier gift-giving company.

Book’d is the next show set to launch. This podcast features authors of new releases in self-help, personal development, and more. The authors are not only talking about their book projects but also sharing their writing process and personal stories as well.

Beyond spotlighting the entrepreneurial process, sales. and success metrics, Mayzie Media is looking to make an impact from having uncomfortable conversations. “I want to make it easy for women to explore programming which speaks to the issues they are discussing on ladies night like: “how the hell did I get ghosted” or “how do I navigate being a new mom after maternity leave,” says Angel. “I also want to highlight the stories that need to be told like the accounts of women who have suffered due to the disturbing practice of sex trafficking, and addressing common themes that come up as professionals: managing money, getting the promotion you deserve, or navigating a micro-manager. I like to say Mayzie Media is a digital brunch date with your girls: fun, fulfilling, and empowering.”

Even major networks such as Spotify are embracing the power of women as podcast listeners and consumers. Recently, the music streaming service announced an initiative to amplify female voices of color through the power of podcast.

“With 18,000 women applying to the Spotify Sound Up Bootcamp I think it was a clear message that we can show up in large numbers, we want to be heard, we have ideas, and we are ready to make our presence felt in podcasting. The response to the boot camp also showed that if you speak to us we will show up,  shine, and glow up. It also proves my gut feeling that the interest is there but the mainstream opportunities are not plentiful. Spotify also launched a very similar program in the UK and I would like to think that it was in response to the overwhelming interest that women showed in the States. I’m excited at the idea of all 18,000 aspiring creators having a network to rally behind them like Mayzie Media,” said Angel.

Advertising spending in podcasting is forecast to grow from $326 million in 2018 to $534 million in 2020. With 61% of podcast listeners reportedly buying something they heard about on a podcast ad, it’s no mystery that major players in the podcast industry are cutting larger checks for female talent and signing breakout talent to other media related deals as a result of podcasting. Ultimately, there is significant revenue potential in pairing the influence of women with podcasting.

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Managing Your Career Through Breast Cancer

As we recognize October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I am reminded of the story of a woman I met a decade ago who serves as an excellent example of how to maintain your career, dignity, and mental well-being as you face this challenge.

In June of 2005, Hannah Burns was managing director of corporate communications at Lehman Bros., and fulfilling one of her major responsibilities: getting the company’s quarterly earnings results out to the public. As the numbers were being released, Burns set up a meeting with her boss – he believed she was going to update him on the media’s coverage of the data. Instead, she had to deliver a far more difficult story.

“I’ve got good news, and bad news,” she told him. “The good news is that it’s early and very treatable, the bad news is that I have breast cancer.”

Burns describes herself as a private person, but she went straight to her boss’s office when her doctor delivered the news over the phone. “Being in my function I couldn’t just disappear and not tell anybody. I just wanted to get it off of my chest and move on. It was an easy conversation. He was incredibly sympathetic, and shocked.”

The fact that this mother of two daughters had her disease detected early had her believing that she would be able to “get it off of her chest and move on.” The next few months, however, would prove to be a physical and emotional challenge that she could not have imagined.

Three weeks later, there was the surgery, which was followed by a rigorous four-month period of chemotherapy, bone marrow shots, and then seven weeks of radiation.

In a feat that can be described as nothing short of heroic, aside from a one week recovery period after surgery, Burns only missed one day of work throughout her entire four months of treatments.

“In addition to wanting to teach my daughters a lesson on how to work through adversity, the firm was so supportive that I wanted to do my absolute best to show my gratitude,” says Burns. “The firm said do whatever you need to do to get well. Knowing you’ve got that support is half the battle.”

Not only did Lehman provide Burns with inspiration, but the firm also gave her the flexibility to work through her challenge. She had her treatments on Wednesdays, did not have to return to work, and she was able to come in late on Thursday’s. Burns says her worst side effects set in on Friday afternoons, and Lehman allowed her to leave in the afternoon. The company also provided her with car service to and from the office throughout the entire ordeal.

breast cancer

(Image: iStock.com/Tagore75)

What to Do if This Happens to You

One of the many things Burns has taught me was that not everyone–not even corporate giants like Lehman Bros.– have all the answers. She simply had to tap into her courage and give the company a blueprint to help her best navigate this challenge. Otherwise, her boss may not have known what to do and there may have been a different result.

If you find yourself trying to work through this situation, here are some tips that may help:

1. Talk to your doctor before your employer

You need to know what you can expect physically and psychologically so that you can be clear about your needs to your employer. That way you can come to your boss with a clear plan of action. Burns, for example, purposely scheduled her treatments on Wednesday’s. That way she would have the weekend to recover when the worst of the side effects hit about 48 hours later. She knew she would need Friday afternoons off.

“Work is a very important part of a women’s life, and if she can continue to work, she’s going to do better,” says Dr. Ruth Oratz, renowned oncologist and associate professor of clinical medicine at New York University School of Medicine. “But they need to be flexible, and realize that they may have to make some changes.” Oratz adds that work is not going to be an option for all women.

2. Be true to yourself when talking to your boss

“How much you tell your boss depends on your own personal style,” according to Kate Sweeney, co-founder of Cancer and Careers. “If you have an open relationship, be open. If not, just present the situation, and tell them what you will need.” Also, if you have an open relationship with your co-workers, you will likely want to share details of your recovery. If you’re more private you may just want to say “I’m doing fine,” and don’t be afraid to leave it at that.”

3. Find out what your company has done with employees in this situation in the past

This is particularly true when it comes to leave and benefits. You are trying to determine if former policies will work for you. Suppose, for example, you want to work from home, yet you find out this has not been allowed. You want to be able to bring that up to your boss, as something you will need. Maybe your company has never been in this situation before. You need to find out if it is going to be up to you to guide them, when it comes to helping you remain as productive as possible.

4. Know your legal rights

In the U.S., for example, people with cancer are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act which gives you rights in the workplace. In addition, protection is provided under the Family Medical Leave Act, which provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year. The weeks do not have to be taken consecutively. Human resources departments can be a great resource when it comes to knowing your legal rights. They can also be of great help with your insurer. A company calling on your behalf will likely have a lot more leverage with an insurance firm than you calling as an individual.

5. Pay attention to how you feel

If you take time off for treatments, you can expect to have a lot of mixed emotions as you transition from patient back to employee. If you don’t feel psychologically up to speed, you may want to seek out some counseling, or attend workshops and seminars to refresh your work skills. Physically, take a look at your work space. Tell your employer if it needs to be redesigned with something like back support.

 


Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Oct. 1, 2018. It originally published on Feb. 4, 2016.

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BE Modern Man: ‘We Dat’s’ Chicken and Shrimp Food Entrepreneur

BE Modern Man is an integrative program that honors the essence, image, and accomplishments of today’s man of color. With features of today’s leaders, executives, creatives, students, politicians, entrepreneurs, professionals, and agents of change—these men share the common thread of creating a new normal while setting the bar in tech, art, philanthropy, business, and beyond. The BE Modern Man is making a positive impact, his way, and has a story to tell.

BE MODERN MAN GREG TILLERY

Name: Gregoire Tillery 

Age: 31 years old

Profession: CEO of WeDat’s Chicken and Shrimp 

One Word That Describes You: Passionate 

Social Media handles: Instagram: @Wedatfoodtruck_ Facebook: @Wedatfoodtruckllc

What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?

Being recognized as one of the 100 BEMM Man of Distinction feels amazing to me. Being a part of this platform is huge and I feel humbled to be chosen. I appreciate the acknowledgment.  For me to stand with other men that are dedicated to be the difference in their community and industries is an absolute honor.

What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?

My early life was filled with struggle. I was raised in the 7th Ward of New Orleans and it often times feels as if I’ve been continually backed into a corner for most of my life. Being in poverty and having grown up with a single mother, who worked two jobs to support our family, helped me understand that I had to work hard to support my family. I took the approach that wasn’t traditional for how I grew up. I decided to attend Tuskegee University, and went on to work in corporate America.  I was inspired to start a food truck after watching “Food Truck Wars” on Food Network and received confirmation from God to take the leap of faith. I took all the money I had and invested it in that food truck and had countless setbacks. I often worked on the food truck with no AC and it often broke down. Sometimes I didn’t have anyone in line at my food truck, but alongside me the longest lines would form for other food trucks. I often felt crazy for starting the food truck, but something in me told me to keep going and stay the course. I eventually started to gain a following in the city and via social media through people in my city like Supa Cent shouting me out and my food truck being featured in Tokyo Vanity’s “Best Friend” video. It was a pivotal moment in my entrepreneurial journey, and as more people started to support I became known best for my wings, but most importantly for providing top notch customer service to every single customer. I’m grateful for the struggle and the journey to now having three physical locations for my restaurant, We Dat’s Chicken & Shrimp in New Orleans.  

food entrepreneur

Greg Tillery, Owner of We Dat’s

What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?

The closest people to me must display integrity, loyalty, honesty, and last but certainly not least be God fearing. 

What are some immediate projects you are working on?

At the moment, some of my immediate projects include opening my third restaurant location, WeDat’s, that’s going to be located at 4905 Westbank Expressway Marrero, LA 70072.  We recently launched our seasoning line that’s available at select stores and online through our website.  So make sure you guys get that!  We are also relaunching our YouTube show, “Cooking with We Dat’s,” and a host of other things.

What is the best advice you ever received?

The best advice I’ve ever received is pray through all situations. No matter what trials and tribulations, prayer will get you through. 

What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?

Don’t just talk about it, be about it! “Just do it” and lead by example. Stand for something and be a man of your word.

food entrepreneur

(Yelp)

What is your “Extraordinary Impact”? (Describe how you are making a major difference for others, in a way that distinguishes you as extraordinary in your profession and/or day-to-day life).

I love my city and wake up daily with one goal and that’s “How to make my city better and be an advocate for my great people.” Some of the most important things to me are providing jobs, feeding the homeless, community outreach, and just being an example by working hard and showing others you can also do this with hard work. 

 

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Meet the Film Director Putting the Spotlight on Human Trafficking

Adisa Septuri is an award-winning director, producer, and philanthropist with a track record of putting the spotlight on traumatizing events and social injustices around the world. In 2009 he produced A Day Without Mines, a documentary on child miners in the Kono District of Sierra Leone. “I was in Sierra Leone as part of a film crew to capture something completely different but as fate would have it, I was exposed to the child miners,” said Septuri. While over there, I contracted the deadly Hanta Virus and nearly died over there as a result of it. After being hospitalized for several weeks on life support, I survived that incredible ordeal. While barely clinging onto life, I remember thinking in my darkest moments of the children that I met there and their innocent faces that gleamed with brightness when I gave them a soccer ball to kick around. It was those memories of children laughing and playing in Sierra Leone that pulled me through that ordeal, leaving doctors to refer to me surviving as nothing short of a miracle.” A Day Without Mines won Best Short Documentary at the Beverly Hills Film, TV & New Media Festival. It was also showcased on The National Black Programming Consortium, an affiliate of PBS.

The traumatic effects of babies born addicted to drugs are another issue Septuri has captured through the film. Now, with his recently released film Skin In the Game, he’s activating change by shedding light on human trafficking another topic affecting millions of people in the United States. While human trafficking is often thought of as something that happens overseas, a quick Google search tells a different story. Recently, Wisconsin and Tennessee have shown a spike in human trafficking and according to FBI statistics, Atlanta ranks among the top 14 cities in the United States for domestic minor sex trafficking.

Skin in the Game stars Erica Ash (Survivor’s Remorse, In Contempt) and is produced by Howard Barish and Kandoo Films, the production company behind 2017 Oscar-nominated, and BAFTA award-winning Netflix documentary 13th by Ava DuVernay. We caught up with Septuri to learn more about his career.

Where does your passion for putting the spotlight on traumatizing events and topics come from?

Although my parents were divorced, my brother, sister, and I had plenty of everything we needed—love, security, and a solid foundation. But growing up in West Oakland, I was surrounded by kids that were not as fortunate—kids that wore second-hand clothes, went to bed hungry or stole because they were trying to survive, so I kind of grew empathetic toward them. I always felt the pull to help and also wanting to be accepted played a big part. I would literally give someone the shirt off my back if they needed it. I saw so much at an early age that children always held a special place in my heart and that passion just continued to grow as I got older. So for me, vulnerable children are a top priority. I am drawn to their stories in a way that I can somehow help or shed light on or activate change.

Human trafficking came to my attention a few years ago and I have a deep compassion for the victims, which are mainly children. Again, I wanted to activate change, so I developed a script and directed a feature called Skin in the Game. I keep a healthy optimism. My work, although reflecting harsh realities, always leans on posting a vision of a future that can be shaped and altered.

Children don’t have many choices and it’s up to us as adults to assist them and give them the safety I felt as a child. So I guess I get it from my parents in that they blanketed and protected me, which is what I am continuously striving to do with them in my work and in my life.

What are the key messages that you want people to take away debut feature film Skin in the Game?

Human trafficking is a worldwide epidemic. It denigrates woman and makes us less than human. It destroys lives, families, and robs us of any hope for a future. The internet has grown so fast and so wide that predators, traffickers, and pimps are using it to recruit our children. They have all types of manipulative ploys such as “sexting,” which has to do with a young person sending a nude picture of herself or himself to them thinking they are sending it to a newfound love only to have that other person threaten to show it to their family, church, or friends if they don’t comply and many children fall victim to this type of manipulation. The threat is real and lasting and could happen to anyone of us or anyone we might know.

And just like our protagonist in the film Lena, who used to be an ex-prostitute and now rescues girls caught up in prostitution, never give up on our children. Lena may rescue a dozen girls and because of brainwashing, the girls often go back to their pimp, but Lena never surrenders her faith and belief in them. It can be an endless cycle, so try to always instill positivity in our young people and a sense that they are great and no matter what happens, we won’t give up on them.

The post Meet the Film Director Putting the Spotlight on Human Trafficking appeared first on Black Enterprise.

T.I.’s Business Partner On Building Brands That Intersect Music, Fashion, and Art

Hip-hop is one of those industries where most acts are here today and gone tomorrow. Behind-the-scenes, there’s usually a business-savvy wizard engineering the careful placement of that artist in the right space, at the right time. Jason Geter helped rap icon T.I. build a business angle into his brand. Geter also serves as co-founder of several companies associated with T.I. inducing Grand Hustle, AKOO clothing, and Culture Republic. 

Grand Hustle has produced five platinum albums, three double platinum albums, and 13 gold albums. Geter peeled back the layers of his success, explaining how he’s maintained consistency, lessons learned, and his new ventures. 

“More than anything, you have to educate yourself. That education can come from reading, observing, and having mentors. In music, the easy thing is that by the time I got in position I had studied the game so much through internships and other experiences, that it came natural,” he says.

“When it’s time to have more than one artist, you have to treat each one with priority and focus on them when it’s their time for that attention. It’s business, so the one that’s going to get most of your focus is the one generating the most business at the time.” 

In an industry where fame is fleeting, Geter helps artists create value for themselves in more than one arena. His approach to that is centered around being organic.

“It has to be natural, organic. First things first, each artist is different. I can’t expect the same thing from each person. You’ve got to tailor make the suit for the artist. We can’t build the skyscraper if the foundation isn’t right. More than anything, people want to diversify and have aspirations, but you’ve got to master one thing first. From there, branding is very critical. An artist is a politician in a sense. Their audience has to believe in them, and know they won’t try to just sell anything.” 

He talks about building AKOO Clothing. “We figured out the name, and I paid Max of Public School to do a book of designs for me. We took that inspiration and had meetings with Russel Simmons, Mark Ecko and his partner Seth, Damon John, and some others. I educated myself as much as possible. I was learning as I was meeting people and putting two-and-two together based off of what people said.” 

Geter doesn’t believe there are solid lines between music, fashion, film, and other forms of creativity. After building a lifetime’s worth of experience across multiple industries, he went on to create an imprint that would marry each world he lives in as an entrepreneur. Culture Republic was born in collaboration with colleagues Chaka Zulu and Bernard Parks Jr. 

“What’s interesting with Culture Republic is, I was always practicing the act of never seeing lines. Coming into the game seeing Master P, Russell Simmons, and Dame Dash, they showed me that there’s no boundaries. Once you have success in music, it’s a passport. I can walk into the room and talk about movies, fashion, and television. That was the premise of Culture Republic, being a boutique shop. We have experience in each sector. Whatever lane we want to go down, we have experience. Now with the resources, it can be made official.” 

 

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Connecting Hip-Hop to An Untapped $14 Million Vinyl Records Market

Urban Legends is a cross-platform initiative devoted to the curation and celebration of over three decades of urban music and culture. Launched just this year, it is Universal Music Group’s attempt to provide context around a retail product. Standing at the helm of this effort is Andre Torres, Vice President of Urban Catalogue at UMG. Offering classic albums in vinyl record form, Urban Legends is pulling on the heartstrings of its target demographic, while taking advantage of a bubbling market.

According to Billboard, vinyl sales hit a record high with over $14 million in revenue in 2017. It was the 12th straight year of growth in vinyl LP sales, making up 14% of all physical album sales. Retailers like Amazon, Urban Outfitters and Barnes & Noble have their hands in the pot as well, offering new and classic albums in vinyl format. Why shouldn’t an actual music entity join the party? Even if it’s focused on Hip-Hop & R&B, cornering the market for 13% of vinyl sales is a potentially brilliant move by Universal.

Torres’ task is to reintroduce the extensive catalog of material, owned by Universal, to the masses. By taking a hard look at the label’s intellectual property stretching across decades, he found a golden opportunity. Torres decided to redistribute countless hours of rare and unreleased albums, singles, remixes, photos, and video footage in a modern format, directly to the consumer.

“I imagined creating a platform that would utilize archived material to tell a story around the retail product, vinyl records.” he explains.

vinyl records

The eCommerce angle of Urban Legends offers some of the most classic material in rap history in deluxe vinyl packaging. This offer hinges on the emotions of consumers, and an undeniable retail trend. When new technology revolutionizes a cultural experience, we romanticize the experience in its prior form. Now that everything is digital, we miss the analogue ways of receiving music. Vinyls are a core component of that experience.

In 2018, U.S. vinyl album sales have already grown by 19%, according to Nielsen. Obviously, the demand is there, the hard part is cutting through the internet noise to get the attention of potential consumers. Urban Legends accomplishes this by sticking to an editorial calendar of musical milestones and anniversary’s that compliment products available for sale.

vinyl records

This has come to fruition through efforts like the Legacy of The Carter III campaign. To commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the album’s release via Universal Motown, Urban Legends crafted a campaign inviting today’s popular rappers to put their face on the cover and share anecdotes about how the album — and Wayne himself — influenced their sound. It was an effort to showcase The Carter III as the blueprint to the current musical landscape we see and hear today. The initiative was launched in collaboration with Spotify, seeing viral success. It all lent toward justifying the purchase of the album on vinyl through Urban Legends.

“There’s so much information, how do you cut through the chatter?” says Torres. “If something is for sale, people should know why it’s important to purchase. Context is important. As a consumer, I love the backstory, the narrative of the product. People want to spend their money on something meaningful. Music is such a personal thing for consumers that they look at it as something meaningful. We understand how well narrative and ecommerce go together.”

Since its inception, black music has had to fight for historical preservation. In black culture, jazz and the blues became the bar for musicality and documentation of the black experience. Older generations revel in the nostalgia brought on by our oldest forms of music. Now that hip-hop has turned 45, that same nostalgia lives in the fans who grew up with it.

“Those people are older with expendable income and they are able to buy this stuff that they grew up with,” says Torres.

vinyl records

Torres is well-versed in hip-hop history, while submerging himself in the present state of the genre. It’s that mix of historical knowledge with an openness to the new school that makes Torres perfect for his role at Urban Legends. Cultural progress requires an intersection between past and present, where veteran wisdom can be shared in the same space as youthful foresight. In the case of Urban Legends, that intersection pairs priceless context with a $14 million-dollar product market.

The post Connecting Hip-Hop to An Untapped $14 Million Vinyl Records Market appeared first on Black Enterprise.

Trump Appointee at Agency That Protects Against Financial Discrimination Wrote Racist Blog

The Washington Post is reporting that Eric Blankenstein, appointed policy director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) by President Trump, wrote a blog expressing racist views.

From The Washington Post:

In a 2004 post, Blankenstein wrote that a proposal at the University of Virginia to impose harsher academic penalties for acts of intolerance was “racial idiocy.” He questioned how authorities could know the motivation of someone using a racial slur.

“Fine . . . let’s say they called him n—–,” he wrote, spelling out the slur. “. . . would that make them racists, or just a——-?”

Blankenstein also wrote that “hate-crime hoaxes are about three times as prevalent as actual hate crimes.” 

Consumer advocacy organization Allied Progress is calling for Blankenstein’s dismissal. From a statement released by Allied Progress:

Among other things, Blankenstein wrote that calling someone “n—-r” (he actually used the word) didn’t make them a racist, asked “does it matter that someone got beat up because they were black,” claimed that hate crime “hoaxes” are “three times as prevalent as actual hate crimes,” blamed a woman’s right to choose as the reason a pregnant woman was murdered, and lamented that women can “‘f— someone [they] shouldn’t have’” and use abortion to “‘get rid of the problem’” but men can’t. He also likened stem cell research to the Holocaust.

Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress is imploring CFPB acting director Mick Mulvaney to fire Blankenstein.

“Before Mick Mulvaney took over the CFPB, the Bureau was an aggressive enforcer of laws protecting consumers from discriminatory lending practices, securing more than $400 million in fines and remediation for victims of redlining and other unfair behavior,” said Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress, a consumer advocacy organization that has been critical of Mulvaney’s leadership at the CFPB.

He continued, “At Mulvaney’s direction, the vigorous pursuit of bad financial actors participating in discriminatory lending has ceased to exist. He has gutted the fair lending division’s ability to enforce the law and left it in the hands of a man whose views on race and gender have no place in any position of public trust.”

“With such abhorrent views, Eric Blankenstein shouldn’t be let anywhere near the CFPB’s fair lending division let alone running it. Mulvaney must fire him immediately,” he concluded.

In a statement to The Washington Post Blankenstein addressed his blog. “The insight to be gained about how I perform my job today—by reading snippets of 14-year old blog posts that have nothing to do with consumer protection law—is exactly zero,” he said.

“Any attempt to do so is a naked exercise in bad faith, and represents another nail in the coffin of civil discourse and the ability to reasonably disagree over questions of law and policy,” he said. “The need to dig up statements I wrote as a 25-year-old shows that in the eyes of my critics I am not guilty of a legal infraction or neglect of my duties, but rather just governing while conservative.”

 

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