Forever Our Lady: Remembering Kim Porter

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On Thursday, November 15, 2018 we lost Kim Porter. We are truly devastated. As a brand that honors the ones that made it possible for us to even be known as Creatives, we thought it would be best to celebrate her and the spirit of community, culture, and creativity that she embodied with a story. Having just made the switch over from festival and concert professional to day-to-day manager of Jidenna, Yusuf Muhammad’s journey throughout the industry is full of incredible opps - one that will forever be marked by Kim Porter, through her youngest son, Christian. Yusuf recounts how he came to work with Christian and in turn delivers a testament to Kim’s heart for her family, authentic collaboration, and the culture that she selflessly help build. 

And she did it all with style and grace. 

We will miss her dearly. - the #blkcreatives team

“The level of respect everyone had for her was because of her direct and beautiful spirit.”

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“In the summer of 2017 my incredible friend and close to the family @DamnAfrikaaa contacted me about working with Christian. I wanted to but naturally I had questions. So I was connected with Kim to start the process of seeing what it could be.

Our first call was incredible and she started by telling me how much she respected that I wanted to speak to her first before working with her son. She said I want you to work with him but I have to speak to his dad. And that she would.

Within a week I am at an party and run into Puff and to my complete shock he tells me he knows who I am because of how highly Kim spoke about me. That's the type of woman she was. She talked to me a few times and vouched for me.

As the next few weeks rolled by she structured a team around her son and took lead on our calls and more. She was moving mountains so we could produce for her son. The level of respect everyone had for her was because of her direct and beautiful spirit.

I worked with Christian for 10 months and it was an exciting and wild ride. Out of all our calls, texts, hangouts when we saw each other, long phone calls and more. One memory truly stands out.....

One day randomly she calls me and simply said "are you ok?" And I was taken back because I didn't understand why. She then goes on to say as a mother she can just feel energy sometimes and wanted to make sure I was good. She allowed me to vent & gave me love genuinely.

I will never ever ever forget you, Kim. From you I experienced some of the best times of my entire life. You always reminded me that I was fit to be there & even showed me so much love when I decided to move on. You are a goddess and we will always celebrate you. Rest well. ♥️”

Editor’s Note: This originally appeared as a Twitter thread, thank you Yusuf for allowing us to re-share it.

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The Black Culture Experience That Was The Chapelle Show

**NOTE: This piece first appeared on Ebony.com during Chappelle’s SNL appearance when our Founder & Editor was the brand’s Senior Social Media Manager.

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While learning about Dick Gregory, I read his groundbreaking stance on The Jack Paar Show from Joe Morton: 

“In Dick’s case,” Morton said, ‘I will not do your show unless you allow me to sit on the couch and make a connection with the audience after I’ve done my routine.'”

There’s an opportunity and advantage that comedians have that most professions don’t: the ability to connect. No matter your style, you get the chance to use the universal language of laughter to move hearts.

Dave Chappelle was a comedian who understood that concept.

Though Chappelle had breakout moments in movies like Half Baked, The Nutty Professor – where he and Eddie Murphy circulated comedic jabs toward one another,  and the Russell Simmons’ created Def Comedy Jam, he had a small amount of visibility in New York City. It wasn’t until the launch of The Chappelle Show on Comedy Central that changed his trajectory and ultimately, the representation of us on television.

Before Atlanta and InsecureThe Chappelle Show was a cultural statement that said Black art and Black creativity do not have to be placed in a politically correct package. Not only can we be wide awake (aka woke), we can also be entertaining, and thought provoking. The “box” doesn’t exist because our voice matters, no matter what the conversation. For two seasons, the satirical show contained the below elements, which led to the ultimate expression of Blackness on TV in the early 2000s.

The Storytelling

Bold is a Black man making fun of the Klu Klux Klan on national television. The skit where Chappelle plays Clayton Bigsby,  a blind Black man who thinks he is a White supremacist leader, is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.  Controversial? Hell yeah. But it was Chappelle’s voice and his way of bringing stereotypes and harsh realities of a culture to the mainstream. The comedian created moments that were simultaneously hilarious and poignant of the issues at the time.  He told stories with humor and heart while never lowballing his perspective on culture, race, and being Black in America. The Racial Draft. Remaking Roots.  Every laugh could be turned into talking points of discussion and a nod to our culture.  Where else could a new generation learn about the greatness that is Prince and Rick James?

The Music

As a kid, one of the best parts about classic comedic brands like In Living Color and the Arsenio Hall Show, was getting to see the musical acts. I can’t remember exactly when Soul Train went off the air but for awhile there was a void of Black artists performing live on national TV. And then, here comes Dave and friends. Kanye West. Q-Tip. Talib KweliCommon. Hearing Mos Def freestyling in the car as Dave drove around the city was the cool predecessor of the pop culture moments that now go viral. Could you image FLOTUS in a carpool karaoke set-up with Dave Chappelle?! That idea alone would change the world.

The Statements

Hurricane Katrina. Bush. Incarceration rates. Drug policies. It didn’t matter the topic or the issue, Chappelle was going to let his voice be heard. It didn’t matter who was trying to trademark Black culture at the time, he would talk about corporate America in their face and ON their network. The beauty was that he refused to be contained. When he decided to abruptly leave the show, he didn’t fear being black balled in the industry. He held his ground in the same way that Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, and Dick Gregory had before him.

“And eventually, Jack Paar relented,” Joe Morton continued. “Dick Gregory went on to respond to the show and in that one moment, broke the color line in terms of comedians on late-night television.”

What lines will Dave Chappelle cross tonight on Saturday Night Live?

We’re not sure but as we head into this #NotMyPresident aka The Trump Era,  we do know that we have A LOT on our minds. Whatever he pulls out of his hat tonight, we know that he’ll make us proud.

A Celebration Of ‘Coming To America’ On Its 30th Anniversary

*NOTE, this article originally appeared on EBONY.com when our Founder & Editor served as the Senior Social Media Manager. 

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Today in 1988, the classic Coming To America was released in theaters. The already successful 27-year-old Eddie Murphy, had proven his Hollywood star power with several box-office smashes (48 Hours, Trading Places and two installments of Beverly Hills Cop). But it was the movie he wrote and starred in as an African prince that changed his career trajectory. Not only did it cement his legacy as a comedian but it also opened doors in the industry for Black people. The EBONY Magazine July 1988 cover story written by Walker Leavy on this Black American classic shows the Eddie Murphy we know at his finest – creative, influential, and most importantly, woke.

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On Coming Up With The Script

The story was written by Murphy after he became frustrated with a number of scripts for other movies that had been presented to him. And he admits that this story loosely parallels his own life. “I think everybody who doesn’t have somebody is looking for someone to call their own, even though they might say they want to be single. When I’m talking to my friends, I say the same thing about wanting to be single, but if I met the bomb tomorrow…I don’t care who you are, what you have or what you did, there’s always a woman out there who can bring you down to one knee."

On Taking A Stand In The Industry

His forthright comments during the Academy Awards telecast in April were a reflection of his deeply felt convictions about persistent racism in the U.S. He took to task the movers and shakers of the film industry, castigating the 60-year-old Academy for having awarded Oscars to only three Black actors. “We aren’t due until about 2004 [if this trend continues],” Murphy said before announcing the winner of the Best Picture award. “Black people will not ride the caboose of society, and we will not bring up the rear anymore.”

On Creating Opportunities for Blacks In Hollywood

To combat the racism [in Hollywood], Murphy has acted as a catalyst to open Hollywood’s doors of opportunity to other Blacks. He has led the way by hiring a number of Blacks, including his publicist Terrie Williams; Darlene Jackson, who designs much of his personal and stage attire, and concert promoter Alan Haymon. Several other Blacks hold key positions in his film/TV production company, and he has tried to include as many Blacks as possible in his movies. “I’ve been acting 22 years, and I’ve never seen this many Blacks on a movie set. It’s all because of Eddie Murphy,” says John Amos. “Despite what people might say about him, Eddie’s social consciousness speaks for itself.”

In the fast-food restaurant, Murphy and John Amos position themselves as photographers prepare to shoot the scene.

In the fast-food restaurant, Murphy and John Amos position themselves as photographers prepare to shoot the scene.

Read the full story via the EBONY Archives.

Our Duty, Their Greatness: Michael Jackson

Of course he was ordinary.

He was just an ordinary child from a family of ten, the second youngest boy, born on the ordinary day of August 29, 1958. He went to an ordinary school, lived in a ordinary house in Gary, Indiana in a house too small to fit his ever-growing family. He had an ordinary story of the same ordinary, poor black family that faced the same ordinary struggles of Black America in the early sixties on the brink of the Civil Rights movement. And then he discovered an ordinary talent for music, the gift of song and dance-the same as any other child who has ever had to dance in their pajamas in the middle of the night to entertain company.

Michael Jackson was ordinary.

You see his story was simple - no formal training, no vocal coaches or pageants, or no scholarships to performing arts schools. Just his talent-nurtured and surround by his family; his love of song-secured and supported by his brother’s instruments; and his gift of dance- a homage to the rhythm of the soul and funk gods and tribal beats of our ancestors. Yes, it ran deep within him. Who would have thought that an ordinary little black boy with the blood of African queens and kings running through his veins would turn out to do the extraordinary?

Few of us in our lives are ever really able to witness magic happen. With Michael, not only were we blessed to witness it but we were able to share it with each other. When he captured our eyes as a kid, we were amazed. By the time Off The Wall was certified platinum, the hold he had on our hearts was immortalized. By simply studying and perfecting his craft, our beloved MJ took the most ordinary pleasures- singing, dancing, recording, arranging- and fueled those things into an extraordinary career and life that touched the world.

By simply studying and perfecting his craft, our beloved MJ took the most ordinary pleasures- singing, dancing, recording, arranging- and fueled those things into an extraordinary career and life that touched the world.

His biggest legacy is not solely in his music. It lies in the way he made us feel. Amazed, excited, happy, hysterical, frantic, proud that one of us had not only been a success story but became the ultimate success story. An example of ordinary perfection taken to iconic heights. A true testament to the fact that you can definitely start ordinary, but you don’t have to end up that way. If you put enough fire, passion, discipline, work ethic behind your dream you too- no matter where you’re from, no matter how many obstacles you’ve faced-can make it.

Our Duty, Their Greatness: Coretta Scott King

“I want people to know that I was committed to leaving an eternal flame, built on love, that would never be extinguished. I wanted this flame to touch lives, communities, and nations. I wanted it to be an urgent call to community and public service. My story is a freedom song from within my soul. It is a guide to discovery, a vision of how even the worst pain and heartaches can be channeled into human monuments, impenetrable and everlasting.” - Coretta Scott King

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Here at #blkcreatives, we believe in not just sharing our stories, but also stories from our ancestors. Being Black and creative in this country, didn't just start with the rise of the Internet, we've been creating a way out of no way for centuries. We've featured nods to greats like Harold Washington and  Muhammad Ali on our Instagram feed and now we want to take it a step further with our new feature 'Our Duty, Their Legacy'.

Why the focus on those that came before us?

Because they sacrificed and fought for us to be where we are now, and that should be honored. It's our responsibility to continue to build together and make real change as homage to them.

Today would have been Coretta Scott King's 90th birthday. Our Founder, Melissa Kimble wrote about her legacy for EBONY Magazine:

Even in today’s times, Black women’s contributions can tend to be overlooked. The most dangerous part about this particular form of erasure is that it doesn’t give us a full picture of who we are and where we’re headed. If we’re not careful, it can undo our progress. Released just one day after #MLKDay, a holiday whose existence was catapulted by King herself, the pioneer gives us a powerful inside look into her world and her life.

Read the full story here and purchase her book below!

CORETTA SCOTT KING BOOK

Dave Chappelle + The Artist's Job In Times Of Chaos

Dave Chappelle was the king of not giving a fuck. Not in a way that was careless - it was actually the opposite. It was evident that he was FULL of Black pride, due to the fact that he carefully articulated the best in our creativity: incredibly funny commentary on what it means to be Black in this country without losing your soul. With television, he used his Blackness as a vehicle for change but for the sake of creativity, he used it as a statement of purpose. The Chapelle Show, the sketch comedy show that he dreamed up and then executed, was his value proposition. 

In Living Color, Arsenio Hall and Soul Train were no longer with us. Gems like Moesha, Martin, Living Single, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, In The House, A Different World, had come in, made some noise and left with the '90s. Our representation in TV had become a little bland.

As we entered into the 2000s, the land had been cleared for Dave Chappelle to set up shop. It didn't matter if he was making fun of the KKK or trading America's favorite Black athletes in a racial draft, he always owned in own narrative. During a time where Hurricane Katrina devastated our families, Kanye West told the world that George Bush didn't care about Black people, and we were dealing with the war in Iraq, Dave Chappelle never wavered in sharing his perspective. He used the art of comedy to shed light on what it was like to be Black in America at that time. It wasn't always funny or easy to digest but he fed the world our truth one episode at a time. 

Even when he walked away from the show, he always made it known that he couldn't be bought. His blackness was not up for sale and either he would own his work or the network would own him.

Luckily for us, he choose the first option. That reverence for being true to who he was, for never backing down from his position, for creating the type of work that reflected our people, was what allowed him to connect with Black history, past and present, and ultimately our futures. 

Watch his interview with Maya Angelou below.