Sunday, October 8, 2023. Duggal Greenhouse, Brooklyn, New York. —In the spirit of Culture Con, on day two, I thought I would take a more immersive approach to experiencing the conference and the people, businesses and influencers that give shape to this BIPOC (black and indigenous people of color) artistic cultural movement. If you are just reading this article for the first time and missed the first installment “Culture Con, 2023: Day 1”, the 2-day event was created in 2019 by, The Creative Collective, a community organization made for black and brown creatives. Culture Con was created to celebrate change makers and culture shifters in the BIPOC community.
The conference has since grown in its offering, now including a Creative Career Job Fair that included companies: Amazon Studios, Clinique, Max, NBCUniversal, Google, Walmart, Shea Moisture, and Kickstarter; along with a seminar that offers industry insights to aspiring young black and brown professionals, creatives, entrepreneurs, techs, and so much more. The panels are designed to shine a light on potential professional and lifestyle pathways for the historically disenfranchised artistic community; encouraging them to build wealth, community and to utilize the resources within their arsenal. The panels also serve as a means to combat ‘gatekeeping’ a willful act or tendency of withholding essential resources and insights to our fellow brothers and sisters within the black and brown community out of fear of the scarcity and lack.
I arrived at 10:30 am sharp, enough time to sit in on the first panel discussion, “Nothing Moves Without Us: Reclaiming Our Stories” led by multifaceted creative and influencer, Kyle Price, the creator of the “Make It a Moment” , a lifestyle show that creates a safe space for Black queer & gay men to share their experiences through conversation in an attempt to build community. The multifaceted black creator began his career in media, starring on SlayTV’s, “Love @ First Night” (2016 – 2020, Terry & Sean Torrington) and shortly signed to the South African based “Cover Model Management” and “Vie Management”; he would now be adding a slash and the words “Culture Con Discussion Host”, beside his name. On his panel sat the invisible hands that moved the event, the Director of Integrated Marketing at AMC Networks, Sharese Bembury-Coakley; Vice President of Strategy at the award-winning, full-service consumer marketing agency, Team Epiphany, Jarrett Cobbs; and Carri Twigg, the Co-founder and Head of Development for Culture House media, a Black/Brown, Women owned, full service, premium film and TV production company that specializes in storytelling about the urgent cultural questions confronting America and the world.
The panel zeroed in on the impact of BIPOC culture and how the essence of our daily behavior and day to day activities (like social media engagement) drives compelling narratives the world takes notice of, and sadly capitalizes from without our knowledge. The panel highlighted the importance of data to support what we already know and its untapped potential as a career in the black community. The discussion delved into ideating more inclusive and equitable futures for BIPOC in the creative industry.
VP, Jarrett Cobbs, shared in a brief interview with The Knockturnal, the importance of data when stepping into a creative space, understanding the demographic within an audience and how the decision makers utilize that information to sell black narratives, create products or a “target audience” to promote media and products to, “…the people that sit on the other side of the decision making table, don’t know of, or understand our culture; so data helps them to translate that information through organizations. [That data also helps us] to get recognized, paid fairly and compensated. So without that information, we can be sidestepped and not paid our fair value. Data is extremely important to proving our use-case (a written description of how users will perform tasks on websites, with television viewing, etc) for what we do within culture.”
Jarrett also stated that though this isn’t the most glamorous career, as it is technical in nature and back-end facing it poses an ever growing need for BIPOC persons to be involved in the “millions of decisions being made every day based on the data generated from our communities, and we are not being included in it; from the reporting, to the recording, to even the questions they’re asking, we’re not being included and the information is not being properly applied to inform how our communities are being served. We need more people on the data analytics side and to take their businesses off of platforms and build more intimate relationships with their customers so that the data becomes more impactful.”
Shortly after the 30 minute panel discussion, I took advantage of the clear skies to venture across the lot and into the AMEX Express Shop that featured independently owned BIPOC businesses making a name for themselves and creating generational wealth for their families. The first vendor I met was Mariana of Cut + Clarity (Real Women, Real Stories, Real Jewelry). Branding themselves as a premier destination for customizable, fine jewelry, sustainably made in NYC, the jewelry brand aims to “drive meaningful and impactful conversations to amplify overlooked communities”. Cut + Clarity’s connection with marginalized communities exemplifies the mindful business practices that are valued within BIPOC company culture – to create a more fair and equitable world. Cut + Clarity’s pieces are all inspired creations, made and designed and through the inspiration of collaborations of the jeweler and her brand influencers. One particularly inspiring collaboration of Cut + Clarity included Stephanie Thomas, (@disabilityfashionstylist) and her fashion styling system. Their artistic venture led them to create a jewelry collection for those with physical handicaps; pieces that are “accessible, smart, and fashionable.”
The Amex Store also included Terminal B (Luxury scented Candles), created by a husband and wife duo in 2020 during the pandemic; the concept of the candles was to share their love of travel and for travel professionals and couples on the move. I was gifted with the NRT terminal candle after having a strong response to its fragrance. The couple crafted this wax blend in honor of Tokyo (Airport Code: NRT), the capital of Japan, the world’s most populous metropolis recognized for its technology and innovation while anchoring itself in timeless tradition. The scent was created reminiscent of elements found near the travel destination, black figs to evoke the essence of “a luxurious event spent on the top floor of a low lit hotel lounge, with panoramic views of Roppongi Hills”. I was immediately pulled in by the musk in the wax and the subtle smokey scent that lingered behind the aroma.
Other independent black vendors included accessory dreamland, Humans Before Handles and an independently owned art store Create The Culture Embroidery, that creates high quality textile art through hand-embroidery.
My last pit stop in the AMEX store brought me to Pretty Well Beauty, a premiere clean beauty and wellness destination retail outlet. The brand’s commitment is to offer the highest quality clean, natural, and sustainably-sourced products from across the globe. Their belief, as often echoed in the holistic BIPOC community, “Beauty is, first and foremost, an inside job and what you put on your skin is just as important as what you eat and drink. Clean beauty is more than a trend, it’s a lifestyle!” I fell madly in love with one particular scent, which also happens to be a personal favorite of Mrs. Beyonce Gisele Knowles-Carter, SKN MUSE, body oil that is laced with the fragrance oils of Egyptian honey, moroccan and rose hip; the body oil’s scent is sweet, light and powdery and dissolved as smooth as a serum into my skin. I highly recommend checking out her retail store, located in: Westfield World Trade Center.
Back on the Main Stage of Culture Con, the panel discussions continued, and high profile names such as Actress and composer Tinashe, who previously covered the 18th digital cover of, The Knockturnal, engaged the crowd in an interviewed by Sidney Madden. The Actress and composer, Tinashe, held a candid conversation about her new brand new album “BB/ANG3L”.
Additional speakers included Candiace Dillard Bassett of Real Housewives of Potomac; Faith Jenkins of Killer Relationships, and Preston Mitchum of Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard. Taryn Finley offered guidance on how to navigate your career after achieving the initial level of success, “the sophomore wins” that tend to trip successful creatives up. Inside insights on “Navigating Your Big Break” for attendees included transparent conversations on creating opportunities and strategic expansion of our career pathways, all while learning to navigate through social media engagement and overcoming with imposter syndrome.
Harlem’s social justice advocate and movement strategist Tamika D. Mallory discussed the state of our democracy, why voting in the BIPOC community is critical and how to effectively use our voice to initiate change for the collective. Moderated by Kahlil Greene aka ‘The Gen Z Historian’, the panel discussion captured the audience’s civic engagement and excitement to show up and show out in this upcoming election.
Other speakers included Imani Ellis, Cam Kirk, Luke Lawal Jr. , Brittney Escovedo, Rivea Ruff, Damian Marcano, Vanessa Clifton, Mercedes Cook, Scottie Beam, Sylvia Obell, and Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, with the Day 1 line-up including heavy-hitters like Issa Rae, Jharrel Jerome, Marsai Martin, Teyana Taylor, Ziwe and more (“Culture Con: Day 1”).
I wrapped up the events of the day, showing love, once again to the Resy and American Express curated Resy Dining Hall, featuring culinary delights from famed Black-owned restaurants across the tri-state region, such as Aunts et Uncles and their vegan eatery serving all plant-based dishes, that includes sandwiches and pasta to the likes of Chef Kwame’s Patty Palace for their Jamaican patties and coco bread curated by Chef Kwame Onwuachi himself. My pick of the day? I shimmed to the the long line outside of Charles’ Pan-Fried Chicken, the James Beard nominated chef and Harlem icon’s soul food for the soul welcomed the longest line of customers and the food did not disappoint. I enjoyed my soulful dish in the VIP section courtesy of MAX “Scene In Black” and sipped refreshing cocktails sponsered by Culture Con’s brand partner, Ciroc.
Culture Con 2023 – NYC, was jam packed with more events than I could (or anyone) cover in two days and well worth standing in the rain (on day one) for. I highly recommend that if you are low on inspiration and in need of a clear path to steer forward in your creative career, this is the place you need to be. If you ever have the opportunity to attend this cultural BIPOC movement, I highly recommend attending at least once in your lifetime; you will not be disappointed.