Written by Imani Wj Wright
Photo by Lukey Lenz
My father, my sister, and I were all born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, my mother on the other hand, was not. Being that my mother grew up in San Francisco, I always had a strong urge to visit California when I was younger. I wanted to see the schools my mother attended, the sidewalks she walked on, and the iconic sights she'd see on a daily basis.
Along with my career as a journalist, I am also a musical artist. To be more specific, I am a singer-songwriter, pianist, and saxophonist. Last April, I was fortunate enough to be booked for three shows in San Francisco. Two of those shows happened to be at the Palace of Fine Arts, not too far from where many of my mother's family members live. The experience was surreal, as this was also my first time on the west coast. The fact that my family was there in attendance made it that much more blissful.
Fast forward seven months later, and I'm back in Cali again. This time around, in Los Angeles. Not only was I in town for two more shows, but also some journalism work. The excitement of just being in California had decimated, my mind was completely business oriented this time around.
Coincidentally, fellow DMV raised artist, Rico Nasty, and I (along with our crews) were on the same flight heading to LA. SwanoDown's President of Visual Affairs, Lukey Lenz, had spotted her before boarding. Rico was as humble and approachable, as I imagined. After we landed, we stopped in LAX to converse a bit before heading to baggage claim. Phone numbers were eventually exchanged, and then we went our designated ways. Quite a way to start the morning. One thing that can be a bit tiring about flying from East to West is the time being 3 hours behind. I always describe it as experiencing a 27 hour day, or two mornings. We left at 6am Eastern time, and after a 6 hour flight, it was still only 9am in Cali, but after such a positive interaction I now had even more energy to tackle all of my tasks.
The two shows I performed in that weekend were some of the best shows I had ever put on. The crowd was phenomenal, people were immersed in the moment, and one of the most inspiring comments I have ever received was said to me following the show. A woman walked up to me with great enthusiasm and stated: "You were amazing. I can't wait to tell my grandchildren one day that I saw you perform in Los Angeles." I receive comments, criticisms, and feedback all the time, but something about that just felt different, in the best way possible.
That same weekend November 9 & 10, artist and Los Angeles native, Tyler, the Creator, hosted his annual Camp Flog Gnaw Music Festival/Carnival at Dodger Stadium. Flog Gnaw was the second music festival that week founded and owned by an African-American male. Grammy nominated artist, Travis Scott, put on his Music festival Astroworld, just a day before on November 8 in his hometown of Houston. Both festivals garnered major attendance. To give a perspective of the festivals' magnitude, Astroworld alone had 40,000+ people in attendance.
After texting her road manager throughout the day on November 9th, I had a chance to catch up with Grammy Award winning artist, H.E.R.
During our conversation, I had an opportunity to ask her about the importance of African-American ownership in today's music industry. She went on to answer with a partial smile on her face: "Well, I also just did my own festival… in the Bay Area where I'm from. And I'm the first black woman to own a festival 100%." In the moment, I simply responded: "Whoa… that's major." She continued: "[African-American ownership], is extremely important to me. In order for us to change the system, we have to be the system. We have to be the bosses. And to make a difference, we have to be the ones to lead people into the change that we want to see."
To check out our entire conversation, here's the link below:
In the meantime.. Stay Virtuous. Stay Idealistic. Stay Progressive.