Join the city of Norfolk’s finest for a day full of music, art, food, good people, and most importantly…good beer.
It’s safe to say that after the past year, people are yearning to get back together and celebrate life and all of the beautiful things that come along with it. Luckily, the good folks at Smartmouth Brewery have got us covered with this Saturday’s Juneteenth Solstice Festival.
In honor and celebration of Juneteenth, Smartmouth has teamed up with local NFK brands and organizations to throw a good-ole fashioned block party. The day’s festivities will consist of a black-owned art & vendor market, food market featuring black and POC-owned restaurants, chefs, and food trucks, and a diverse range of musical acts throughout the 757. The festival will be held at the Smartmouth NFK HQ from 12 PM – 10 PM, is free, and welcome to all ages.
Listen to our specially curated Popscure playlist while you get familiar with the stacked lineup below:
Well seasoned producer Gabe Niles is a household name in the city of Norfolk. When he’s not producing earworm tracks like Shelley FKA DRAM’s “Cha Cha”–or working with his partner-in-crime for experimental outfit, Sunny & Gabe–the producer is delivering larger-than-life mixes that are bound to whisk you away.
Hot off her latest EP release, “All My Friends,” Koren Grace is more than ready to take on the masses and introduce them to her world. There’s no plane of emotion and existence the singer/songwriter can’t take you with a discography rich in colorful sounds.
Dariel Clark has a powerful, magnetic presence about him that amplifies when he cranks the amp up. Sparing no niceties, the Virginia Beach musician delivers a one-two combo through his weapons of choice—his guitar and voice.
Headed by the musical virtuoso Big Torrin himself, Big Torrin’s Fusion Groove is the sonic definition of the phrase “good vibes.” With tasteful flecks of jazz, r&b, house, hip-hop, and soul, Big Torrin’s Fusion Groove is sure to satisfy every groove nerve in your body.
Rapper/lyricist Cam Murdoch is known for his pensive, neo-soul inspired raps that focus on the ‘self’ as much as they do fictional characters. His latest single, “The Wave,” carries on this wave of introspection through an unlikely combo of soothing ukelele riffs and strong trap beats.
While fairly new, Kyere Laflare is not to be underestimated. Debut single, “How Does It Feel,” brings in a throwback r&b vibe that’s sure to remind you of simpler times.
If you go by 1pump and wear Scott Summers-esque visors, you better come with the heat and charisma. 1pump certainly doesn’t disappoint with a strong, bombastic release in Scott Summers II: The Light Within.
Known for her hypnotic but real delivery, Lex Lucent is ready to put you under a spell with a laidback flow and unique instrumentals. Her debut project, “Incase You Forgot,” solidifies the rapper as one to look out for.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – a nonprofit working to strengthen the Asian American community by providing the tools and resources for building the capacity of local and state-based counterparts and Asian American youth leadership, educating the public and media about Asian Americans, and strengthening the voice of Asian Americans in national politics.
CAAAV – a pan-Asian, community-based organization that works to build the power of low-income Asian immigrants and refugees in New York City.
Asian Law Caucus – an organization that works to promote, advance, and represent the legal and civil rights of Asian Pacific Islander communities.
APIENC – a Bay Area-based grassroots organization dedicated to empowering the queer and transgender Asian and Pacific Islander community.
Asian American Federation – an organization dedicated to raising the influence and well-being of the pan-Asian American community through research, policy, advocacy, public awareness, and nonprofit support.
Asian Americans for Equality– a nonprofit organization that works to advance racial, social, and economic justice for Asian Americans and other systematically disadvantaged communities.
Hate Is A Virus – a nonprofit community of mobilizers and amplifiers that exists to dismantle racism and hate.
Gold House Co. – a nonprofit collective that works to connect and create bonds across professional, familial, and community life throughout the pan-Asian community.
Butterfly – a Toronto-based organization that works to provide support and advocacy for the rights of Asian and migrant sex workers.
Swan Vancouver – a Vancouver-based organization that works to promote the rights, health, and safety of im/migrant women engaged in indoor sex work through front-line service and systemic advocacy.
Red Canary Song – a grassroots collective of Asian and sex migrant workers organizing transnationally with a labor rights framework.
WPN Power, Co. – a sex rights advocacy organization working to advance sexual rights and freedoms, address rape and violence against women culture, promote harm reduction, self-care and empowerment for individuals in the sex trade industry in the Atlanta area.
Asian American Resource Center – a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing programs (e.g., EL/Civics Class and Rapid Re-Housing Program) for the disadvantaged in the AAPI community.
Center for Pan Asian Community Services – an Atlanta-based, private nonprofit dedicated to promoting self-sufficiency and equity for immigrants, refugees, and the underprivileged through comprehensive health and social services, capacity building, and advocacy.
Raksha, Inc – a Georgia-based nonprofit with a mission to promote a stronger and healthier South Asian community through confidential support services, education, and advocacy.
Asian Mental Health Collective – a collective dedicated to making mental health easily available, approachable, and accessible to Asian communities worldwide.
Asian Immigrant Women Advocates – a community-based organization dedicated to developing the collective leadership of low-income immigrant women and youth to organize for positive changes in their living and working conditions.
Asian American Advocacy Fund – a grassroots, social welfare organization dedicated to building a politically-conscious, engaged, and progressive Asian American base in Georgia.
Asian American Feminist Collective – a collective dedicated to engaging in intersectional feminist politics through public events and resources to provide spaces for identity exploration, political education, community building, and advocacy.
AAPI Women Lead – an organization dedicated to strengthening the progressive political and social platforms of Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the U.S. through the leadership of self-identified AAPI women and girls.
National Organization of Asians and Pacific Islanders Ending Sexual Violence – a program under the Monsoon Asians & Pacific Islanders in Solidarity with a mission to support local and international community-based programs and governmental organizations in enhancing their services to victims of sexual violence from the Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the U.S., U.S. Territories in the Pacific, and Asia.
Embark on a one-of-a-kind expedition through time to Slawstrips Kalb–“a hyper-satiric alternate reality” where the audience is subject to the “Black American life” by way of four teenagers working through the challenges brought on by “the choices they make and temptations they follow.” Written, composed, and directed by the Newport News Contemporary Arts Network’s (CAN)Tunny Crew, Black Spirituals is a “retelling” of the black individual’s story “from a place of empowerment.” The art installation will debut this Saturday, January 23rd at the Newport News CAN HQ, and will run on each consecutive Saturday for the entirety of Black History Month (visitors may also purchase tickets to tour the exhibit on Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the month of February). Purchase your tickets here and read up on Popscure member Jasmine’s pre-debut thoughts on Black Spirituals below!
There was a general route I would take during my daily commute from the James River Bridge to the far ends of Newport News. Every day I would pass through this monochromatic route of grays and browns—heightened especially on gloomy days. And each day, I would scan the surrounding buildings…my mind always on autopilot mode. That is…until I saw a building I’d seen a million times, but this time things were different. This time the building had character…presence. Funnily enough, the building’s side was painted in a pattern of black and white—yet, it was as if it was saying, “Look at me!” As time passed, more murals were added to the lone building, ultimately creating a beacon of life amidst the lifeless stretch of road—signifying the possibility of what could be, of what can be.
Little did I know that I would be in that same building (many) months later taking in before me a vast set-up for an art installation—Black Spirituals. But just limiting it to the description of “art installation” almost doesn’t seem to do Black Spirituals, or its vision, justice. Deemed “an emancipated Negro Spiritual,” the experience is a stimulating amalgamation of mixed media creating an alternate reality as expansive as its goals to produce dialogue and education through topics ranging from mental health surrounding grief and loss, police brutality, racism in America, the drug epidemic, familial dysfunction, and exploitation within industries. With works from the CAN Foundation’s First Patron artists (Mahari Chabwera, Nastassja Swift, Asa Jackson, Hampton Boyer, and Adewale Alli) and CAN artists (Dathan Kane and Alex Michael), the collaborative venture bypasses traditional limitations in favor for delivering its message through a play and exhibition, original motion picture, and album. And really, I think that is the underlying beauty of Black Spirituals.
The topics in and of itself are undoubtedly important and way past overdue for discussion, but the true gem of Black Spirituals lies in the possibility…the possibilities. To me, the reclamation that is Black Spirituals transcends past its initial purpose to educate and furthermore invites you to imagine…to manifest…to change…to reclaim. The black narrative has been tainted throughout all aspects of life in history with black people being consistently portrayed as lesser than…lazy…sexual deviants or violent criminals—all damning qualities consciously and subconsciously taken without any further thought. You see it in the way the media portrays black individuals after the umpteenth fatal death by a police officer’s hand, or the way young black girls are seen and treated as sexual beings before they’re even able to comprehend what that even means. No one ever seems to ask about the “how’s” or “why’s” of social disparities as it relates to poverty and welfare, lack of education, drug abuse, or the most favored red herring of debate—“black-on-black” crime. How do you think a young child would feel if they were constantly inundated with such toxic preconceptions before knowing what that word even meant? Black Spirituals reclaims the black narrative, reimagines the story, and reveals the possibilities. Black Spirituals is the reclamation of identity…sense of self-worth…sense of purpose…sense of belonging. Black Spirituals is the possibility of what could be, of what can be.
Black Spirituals will debut tomorrow and run from 7:00-10:00 PM. Can’t make it? Don’t worry—the installation will run throughout Black History Month every consecutive Saturday and be open for Wednesday and Thursday tours throughout February. Get your tickets and find out more information here, and be sure to stay tuned for more from Black Spirituals.
There’s something that has really been grinding my gears lately (amongst the million other things that have made the past year more than trying). Admittedly, it doesn’t take a lot to make me agitated (s/o to my fellow fire sign friends), but there have been slights about a particular music genre that has seemed to increase in volume as of late.
I’m talking about Kpop.
You may have heard it. Western coverage on big groups like BTS (who just became the first Kpop group to be nominated for a Grammy in a major category) have been on the rise since 2017, when the Korean group became the first Kpop act to perform on a major American awards show. Performing their then single, “DNA,” the group wowed just about anyone that was completely unaware of them.
Personally, I had no idea about who these guys were or what their music sounded like. I tuned in with a peaked curiosity that was satiated far past expectations. It was more than their sound, or their ability to sing and rap…more than their charisma or their impeccable style. It was their aura. There was an overwhelming sense of passion that exuded from them that was undeniably alluring.
The next day I decided to play their recent release, Love Yourself ‘Her”, on my commute to class. I re-listened to the song, “DNA,” bopping along as I crossed the bridge to my destination, but what ultimately sealed the deal was the track, “Intro: Serendipity,” performed by one of the members, Jimin.
The best way to describe the song would be to personify it as the feeling of finally finding someone or something and euphorically falling in love. For instance, my euphoric moment would be my first true discovery of music. There are no words to explain that feeling because it’s just that—a feeling. So, flashback to my car commute…I hear this song…and I experience that feeling again. Without warning, I fell in love again, and I realized that those three letters, “BTS,” were more than an acronym.
But we’re not here to talk about just BTS or Kpop for that matter. Instead, I want to impart a broader lens on the bigger picture of music, culture, and entertainment between the western and eastern world, two worlds with so many differences, but even more similarities. And because I don’t want to bore you to tears, this will be an ongoing series because I got a lot to say. So sit down, get comfy, grab a drink (preferably water-stay hydrated), and get ready to have a much-needed discussion on some things.
Hip-hop. We all know it and love it (at least, most of us do). And when we think of hip-hop, what culture do we immediately associate it with…black culture. And nothing is inherently wrong with that, right? Because hip-hop has been a part of black culture since that first Bronx basement party in 1973, thrown by DJ Kool Herc. Hip-hop is to black culture as black culture is to hip-hop.
So what happens when other cultures latch onto arguably one of the most defined, prominent, and influential music styles of time?
Of course, there are going to be emulators and inspired artists; good music is supposed to move people and create some sort of manifestation of influence. With the decades of hip-hop and rap, there’s bound to be a major movement of others feeling the need to express themselves in the same way.
So picture this – It’s the 80s, and the top-charting pop songs in your country are placid, “safe” ballads with predictability waiting around every verse and chorus—this was the case for Korea. The country had what they called “healthy songs,” songs that were non-controversial and patriotic wrapped up in a pop-ballad formula for the mainstream airwaves…the only airwaves. With limited access to other various styles of music, the hunger for something different swelled, leading to a much more significant result than imagined.
Flash forward to 1992. Trio, Seo Taiji and Boys enter the scene with a loud western presence. I mean these guys were wearing the baggy clothing, breakdancing, and owning the stage with a charisma that rivaled any American performer. So you can imagine how the older generation felt with apprehension and confusion filling the minds of many—a classic case of the “moral panic.” That same group would continue to pave their way towards becoming one of the first coined Kpop idol groups for Korea, further spurring what would become known as the “Korean Wave” or Hallyu.
But what really drives this event home (at least for me) is their unapologetic fervor to speaking and expressing their truth. 1995 track, “Come Back Home,” a song about the enduring, societal pressures facing the younger generations, presents hard-pressed questions like, “What am I trying to find now?” or affirmations like, “My rage toward this society/Is getting greater and greater/Finally, it turned into disgust/Truths disappear at the tip of the tongue.”
What they did was bring an element of connection and catharsis into their music that seemed to be lacking from previous Korean pop music. They spoke their minds and expressed their feelings allowing for a space of connection and dialogue to occur amongst the younger public. You could say that “Come Back Home” was the Korean equivalent to 1982’s “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five—a very pivotal song in the history of hip-hop and social commentary.
This brings us to the two main topics of discussion—representation and cultural appropriation.
Representation and Double Standards
Whether we realize it or not, all forms of media have had, and continue to have, outstanding implications and influence on our daily lives (think the Arab Spring protests and the BlackLivesMatter movement). At this point, you may be asking, ‘Why are we talking about this? I thought we were talking about hip-hop and Kpop?’ Well, as the lovely subtitle above says…this is a section on representation and double standards, much of which is very reliant on entertainment and media.
For example, the late 19th/early 20th century introduced a western portrayal of Asian immigrants through film with roles that were meant to degrade and subjugate. Belittling generalizations like fictional character, Fu Manchu, depicted Asian people as cunning invaders biding time until achieving global domination, furthering the perception of Chinese immigrants as the evil “yellow peril.”
And yet on the other end of the spectrum, fictional characters like Charlie Chan would paint Chinese immigrants as passive and intelligent but socially inept with a poor grasp on the English language. Rest assure, however, that there was more to add to the representation package of Chinese immigrants with coveted roles that included playing servants and prostitutes. For the cherry on top, these characters were performed under the guise of “yellow face.”
Consequently, these stereotypes defined Chinese immigrants as either sinister masterminds or buffoons, inevitably leading to a distasteful amount of xenophobia and nationalism.
So how does this relate to today? As many like to say, history repeats itself, and while things are arguably better, there are still insinuations of the past that linger in a more covert manner. Enter the stage—double standards. New York Times piece, “Why do Asian-Americans Remain Largely Unseen in Film and Television?” by Thessaly La Force, speaks on the persistence of worn-out prejudices towards Asian-Americans with tired tropes depicting them as smart and hard-working, but boring and plain.
I mean c’mon…we all know we’ve heard or said something along the lines of Asian people being so good at math or the martial arts. We never, if rarely, see Asian actors consistently occupying a prominent part in a feature film – nor do we see them ever playing the roles they were originally written for (e.g., Ghost in the Shell, Doctor Strange), until recently with films like Crazy Rich Asians. And sure, we have classic martial arts films like Enter the Dragon, but there’s more to Asian people than just martial arts—their identity is as dimensional as anyone else’s.
Furthermore, Asian artists in the music industry are not taken seriously in comparison to their peers of non-Asian descent. Groups like Far East Movement experienced xenophobic insults and harping on social media during the height of their career in the United States. 2010 single, “Like a G6,” took off and launched the collective to become the first Asian-American group to reach #1 on the Billboard’s Hot 100. Yet, that wasn’t enough for some American consumers as condescending comments aimed at the group “to go back to Asia” filled social media.
Which brings me to a more recent example from the 2019, “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” special. BTS was scheduled to perform during the night’s festivities, something that many fans were excited about, me included. It was an opportunity for more representation on a program being watched by about7.2-10.7 million viewers, but with one step towards progression are two steps backward. CNN correspondents for the night, journalist Anderson Cooper and Bravo TV reality host Andy Cohen, couldn’t help but make snide comments about the Korean artists as they proceeded to talk throughout the entire performance.
It’s remarks like these that make me wonder what else Asian entertainers can do to gain the respect of the western world? Breaking all of the records possible or achieving the unthinkable are all great and fun, yet seem to never amount to anything in the western gaze. Maybe that’s the lesson in all of this – they don’t need the approval of others…they’re surely accomplishing much of what they set out to do, regardless. But I can’t help but think about La Force’s words, “And that is why we will never be compelling enough to be the hero in your eyes.”
Cultural baggage…what better way to start this section than with those two words. Cultural baggage is in the words we hear… the songs we sing… the thoughts we think. Like anything else in this world, it’s complex.
For this section, the words “cultural baggage,” mean the long, long years of history that have resulted in the suppression of black voices. I’m talking about the years and years of thievery against black artists and the black identity. As a result, there may be a better understanding of why there is an expressed need for gatekeeping within the hip-hop community, consequently ensuing discussion on what counts as cultural appropriation.
While writing this, it really dawned on me how interconnected moments in time really are. The year 1900 may seem so far away, but when you really analyze it, you start to realize that underneath it all, some things (a lot of things) really haven’t changed. Frankly, it uncovers the interpellated state that really all of us are in for most of our lives, that is…until we start to question.
Growing up, I was inundated with all kinds of music, ranging from merengue to disco to grunge rock to R&B; there was no genre untouched. I remember one artist in particular that my little, Hispanic grandma loved, Elvis Presley. Growing up during his heyday, my grandma was a big fan, so naturally, I thought he was cool because my grandma is cool—duh. There wasn’t really a specific moment in time when I found out that Elvis sung songs that weren’t his, the realization just kind of accumulated throughout the years.
Songs like “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog,” originally written for and performed by Big Mama Thornton, were “culturally cleansed” to appeal to the masses—the white consumer. Where once existed a drawl and lag of ache and soul, came a sterile, clean, upbeat version with plain accentuations and musicality to dazzle the uniform minds of white America. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t anything innately wrong with enjoying the Elvis version over the original. Music is subjective after all, and some people may prefer a cleaner pop sound as opposed to a grittier, soulful sound. That’s fair.
The gripe resides in the fact that so many black artists of that time delivered really good, authentic music, but because they were black, that owed success was never met. Elvis was just another symbol of appropriation…another symbol of control over the life of the black individual. He was the ultimate signifier that, ‘Yeah, you’re good…you have talent…but you’re black. But this guy over here? This guy has got good looks, can carry a tune, and he’s white.’ Of course, this sentiment was carried out in a more subdued manner, but you get the gist.
Yet some black artists had nothing but respectfor “the King.” Artists like Little Richard to James Brown respected Presley and Presley, in turn, praised the many black artists before him. But like I said, the gripe was never fully against the individual—it’s always been against the system. The system that has been against black people since the beginning. Detailed accounts of minstrel entertainment in the mid/late 1800s to early 1900s proves that this notion of “theft” has been around for longer than many would like to admit. However, in this case, the theft wasn’t solely music-related but instead immersed in the stolen sense of identity.
Minstrel entertainers like Thomas Dartmouth Rice (also known as “Daddy Rice”) or the Virginia Minstrels were all the rage for white Americans who lauded at the overly dramatic, blackfaced performers; meanwhile, black slaves toiled away to survive, nevermind live. If our translated emotions of hardship into sounds of raw expression weren’t enough to take away, then the identity of who we were would surely solidify the feeling of humiliation that was meant to define our status in life—our status in the system.
So you can see WHY gatekeeping in hip-hop is almost a means to survival—it’s ingrained in the nature of the people who created it, who lived and breathed it, who depended on it. It’s more than a fad or a trend…it’s more than fame and accolades…more than a genre or a simple name. It’s one of the few things that hasn’t been totallycapitalized by others outside the black community—in a way I think it’s almost sacred. When you have the public and music industry saying your sound is “too black” to be considered country (e.g., Lil Nas X – “Old Town Road”) or your simple blackness is “too sexual” (e.g., Little Richard – “Tutti Frutti”) it gets old…fast. And that kind of gatekeeping is still prevalent today. Like I said…some things haven’t changed.
Why is it that music has been categorized into an ignorant, social construct? Why was there even such a thing as “race music” in the 1920s-1940s? Why do black kids get made fun of for listening to “white people music”–in other words, rock–from their own community? Give me a break. Music, in its purest form, is a feeling…an expression of emotion…an outlet of happiness, anger, joy, pain. Morris states that it’s more complicated than any word could define. The term “appropriation” only skims the surface of what we are really talking about here.
So where does that leave us? I think we would all be doing ourselves, and music, a disservice by falling prone to these invisible boxes of delegation. That’s not to say that respect shouldn’t be given where respect is due. All of the Chuck Berrys, Sister Rosetta Tharpes, Sam Cookes, Rakims, and Notorious B.I.G.s (the list can go on and on) should undoubtedly be given the respect they deserve—because, at the end of the day, it all comes down to a level of respect and understanding.
The most important takeaway from all of this is the transcendence of music. Music transcends all languages, expectations, judgments, skin colors, ideologies, wars—it transcends all.
You see it in songs like the 2000s-esque, R&B “Lookin 4” (Crush feat. Devin Morrison and Joyce Wrice), trilingual homage “Chicken Noodle Soup” (BTS’ J-Hope feat. Becky G), or bias challenging “FSU” (Jay Park feat. GASHI and Rich The Kid); all songs that bring various representations of culture and flavor under one umbrella.
Again, I stress that that isn’t to say that respect shouldn’t be given where it’s due. Many love to take and suck all that they can from black culture—from our music, to our clothes…even to our hair; yet, they fail to show that same appreciation and respect to the people behind that culture—black people. It’s, unfortunately, seen countless times in Kpop, and as we move forward it is my hope that the respect will become second nature to artists and labels of that industry.
Being a homogenous culture, it’s a work in progress but recent events have shown that there is solidarity and respect with Korean artists like BTS, Jay Park, Crush, Tiger JK, GOT7, and others showing their support through statements and donations towards the BlackLivesMatter movement this past summer. Crush aptly said, “Many artists and people around the world get so much inspiration by black culture and music, including me. We have a duty to respect every race.”
That level of recognition and awareness is key to moving forward into a realm where respect is formed and nurtured through conversations between one another from different cultures. Korean YouTube channel, DKDKTVhad a segment on cultural appropriation in Kpop, imparting the valuable lesson to “not fall trapped in our own world…to engage in conversations with people from different cultures…to widen [our] views of the world.” It’s so simple, yet unbelievably overlooked.
And with that, I hope the main thing you get from all of this isn’t me telling you that you should listen to Kpop because I think it’s good. Rather, I implore you to take a quick minute of introspection and look at your own biases—whether that be in music, culture, food, WHATEVER IT MAY BE. Because it’s in those moments where you may realize that we all aren’t so different after all.
As we wrap up one hell of a year, we thought it was only best that we took some time to reflect on some of the really goods things that have come out of this year, specifically with Popscure. Thank you all for making this year a special one—here’s to many more.
What was your favorite write-up from this year? Why?
Tyler W: It’s probably a tie between theDawit N.M. interview conducted by Cam Murdoch and the Q+A I did with members of the Wild Bunch before the “Our Streets” exhibition, both of which focused on photography. Since practically everyone in the digital age can capture an image with ease, it’s really interesting to me to hear how photographers approach it as an art form.
Jasmine R: My favorite write-up probably has to be “Whose Streets? Our Streets!”— a Q+A written and conducted by Tyler. Documenting the (without a doubt) historical summer of activism and unity is so, so crucial to say the least.
Cam M: The Tyler Donavan piece, I just want that guy to win and have his story shared, so it was big for me to see the response he got from that.
Shannon J: From Overseas, Tyler did a great job poetically telling the story of Kevin Sery and made the piece just as atmospheric and grounded as his music. Otherwise, I was excited to have a couple pieces I wrote go out (“Treasure,” “Bubble Ball“). Since I started working full-time, I haven’t had much time to write for Popscure, so I’m glad I can contribute, and I’m excited to have some new writers on this year too (Allison, James and Noah).
Noah D: Oh jeez, I don’t know. I hate to self-plug but maybe the Why Bonnie interview. It was the first time I’d interviewed a bigger name band, and I just really enjoy the chances it gave me, and I was proud to see it get feedback. Other than that, I loved the recent article [“25 Local Places to Get Gifts in the 757”] focusing on shops in the 757. I think it gave some really solid media coverage to businesses that needed it, and I think it influenced a lot of peoples’ decisions in gift buying.
What was your favorite piece to have edited and published? Why?
Tyler W: I really liked how Jasmine’s interview with LEYA came together because I see that as a great example of how Popscure can create connections both online and IRL. We were able to create a relationship with both the band and their label through email correspondence and then reach new readers through social media shares by the band and label. At the same time, we were telling our local readership about this emerging band that was on tour coming to play in our town. And then we were able to go to the show, meet the band, network with local musicians, etc. I also just really like them and their album—their album was one of my favorites this year. 🙂
Jasmine R: One of my favorite pieces that I helped put out was the Shaina Negrón feature by one of our writers, Darryan. It was a super cool look inside the conjoining of art and self-expression from Negrón. I’m also really proud of our Black Experience Collective that we put together as a response to the events of police brutality and blatant murder and injustice that occurred this year. The collective serves as a platform to amplify the black voices unheard in this country.
What was your favorite standout moment for Popscure this year?
Tyler W: One moment that stands out for me is posting the Fake Uzumi feature on our new WordPress site in February. Around that time we were leveling up, and I felt proud of the efforts from our newly-formed team. I knew the feature was going to get a lot of exposure, and I remember feeling like our operations were just starting to run smoothly; we had all been working hard getting ready for this new level of attention.
Jasmine R: One of my favorite moments from this year absolutely has to be the Valentine’s Day-themed party we did with Smartmouth Brewing Co. and Citrus City Records. This may sound cliche, but the energy was literally full of love that night. It was literally “nothin’ but love.”
Cam M: Nothin’ but love show with Smartmouth.
Shannon J: Stay Put Fest 2020 was amazing. It was such a fun challenge to translate the exhilaration, fun, and camaraderie of live music onto people’s phones. It was the first time I’d chatted with local showgoers and saw my friends play music in months. There were technical difficulties and a learning process for sure, but I think everyone appreciated it. FlyyScience’s COVID info takeoverwas super interesting too, and getting to know her and her work was awesome. We just really had to think outside of the box this year with events. No one stole our Instagram account either, which was a plus!
Noah D: I haven’t been on the team long enough to comment!
What do you most look forward to in the future of Popscure?
Tyler W: I look forward to us continuing to grow our team. By adding more contributors, Popscure will expand our investigation into the various aspects of culture and bring our findings to our community.
Jasmine R: Our growth!!!
Cam M: Breaking boundaries and bringing obscure talent to the masses.
Shannon J: Parties, hopefully we can do something fun in the summer!
Noah D: Writing more, editing, carving a voice for myself in the team, etc. etc.
Thank you all for the love and support you showed us this year! On to the next one…
We all know supporting local is important year round, and the holidays are no exception. Skip the Amazon orders and last-minute Target run for something more unique! Not to mention after a year like 2020, our small businesses need us now more than ever.
According to 13 News Now, local retailers predict a 15% drop in holiday sales, and have experienced 50-75% lower sales since shutdown in March. 20% of businesses had to close temporarily or permanently, with 75% closing for 15 days or more.
Some businesses that did not survive the pandemic include sister bars Saint Germain and Pourhouse in Downtown Norfolk, Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, and Jones’ Restaurant in Portsmouth, the latter which has been opened for 34 years.
If you’re running around the 757 still trying to figure out gifts for loved ones, here’s a few places to start:
Restaurants have been hit especially hard with dine-in service being limited, so buying a gift card to give your loved ones a nice night out is a good option. Here’s some restaurant suggestions:
Dirty Buffalo: With basketball season underway, it’s only right to grub on some wings while watching – they’re currently doing dine-in and takeout.
Kappo Nara Ramen: This place is the real deal ramen joint, starting with the edamame and finishing with the black tonkotsu ramen is the way to go. If you buy their cute t-shirt as a gift, your loved one can wear it in there and get 10% off every meal – the gift that keeps on giving.
Noodeman: Speaking of noodles, this Chinese restaurant is named one of the best in the world with their diverse menu of handmade noodle dishes. Hot and Spicy Soup and the Jalapeño Chicken are the way I roll.
El Rey: With the best shredded beef tacos this side of the border, this family-owned restaurant gets a lot of bang for your buck with $2 tacos on not only Tuesday, but Sunday as well!
Skip Starbucks, there’s plenty of great coffee shops in the area that need support. Whether your giftee enjoys making fancy french presses at home or knows someone who needs to break from their work from home desk for a few hours, there’s a gift within this option of roasteries and cafes.
Kobros: With their new location in the works, the veteran-owned coffee joint is sure to be a great spot to unwind. Pop in their location on 24th street during your weekend shopping for a rotating specialty latte.
Lucky Cup Coffee: This shop is a cute spot to get some work done, or grab a bag of CBD-infused coffee to wrap up.
Looking for that special something for the music lover in your life? Check out one of these locally owned record shops for something new they can spin.
Freshtopia: Home of Real Fresh Radio, this spot is the place for hip hop records and I really want one of those hoodies…
Vinyl Daze: One of the larger collections of vinyl in the area, this place specializes and only sells records. They’ve had to expand not once, but twice to hold their collection!
AFK Books: A great spot for not only records but a wide variety of books. If you have old records bring them in for consignment to get some extra Christmas cash.
Speaking of books… avoid Amazon or Barnes and Noble and shop local book shops! Many of these places have used books, which is a great way to not only support our economy, but reduce our carbon footprint as well.
Prince Books: Right around the corner from Waterside, this place is a hidden gem with a wide range of titles. It’s a charming place with a good selection of fiction novels and biographies.
Book Exchange: This place has a wide range of used books, which is a great way to not only support our economy, but reduce our carbon footprint as well.
Beer is one gift you cannot go wrong with! With so many great breweries across Hampton Roads, a six-pack could be the tastiest site under the tree for an indulgent giftee.
Veil Brewing: Some of the most unique brews in the country let alone the area. Not only is their beer delicious for any palette, but their merch is very cool, too.
Big Ugly Brewing: Over a decade in the making, this spot has some solid brews you can get in growlers or giant cans. If you have someone in your life that loves old cars and motorcycles, this spot is a great place to get a gift card to.
Commonwealth: Armed with the knowledge of European brewers, this family-owned spot went from homebrewing to big time after years of perfecting the craft of, well, craft beer.
Plants are the hottest trend right now, and a gift that most folks can appreciate (well, at least I can – I’m pushing 70+ plants in my home currently). Whether your loved one is a self proclaimed black thumb or has accumulated a jungle during quarantine, these are some of my favorite nurseries in the area:
Plantbar: More on the boutique side of the nursery spectrum, this spot is super cute and offers take-home terrarium gifts for a more interactive planty present. Not to mention you get a free alcoholic beverage while you shop, which is very clutch.
Anderson’s: This huge location is worth the drive to Newport News, and has a lot more than just plants available in their gift shop. It’s a great place to knock out a good amount of shopping.
Norfolk Feed and Seed: This place has a good selection and great prices, with one section that has smaller plants for $1.50. Plus, there’s store cats, which makes it even better in my book.
If you’re looking for other unique gift items such as jewelry, home goods, and so much more, these are some really cute spots to get your shop on:
Velvet Witch: If your loved one is obsessed with crystals, is a foul-mouthed feminist, and/or personally identifies with their star sign, this is the spot to buy for them.
Kitsch: This was my first spot in my Christmas shopping journey, and I knocked out a good amount with their wide variety of items.
Mrs. Pinkadot: I got a lot of my ornaments and Christmas decorations here, so they have a great selection of borderline tacky but utterly charming gifts for everyone.
Stuff is great and all, but what about something fun you can do together? Here’s some interesting activities that can get your giftee out of their comfort zone.
Mambo Room: Get your favorite couple or significant other a different kind of date night. With the clubs closed, anyone can use an excuse to get dancing!
iFly: For those who have a fear of heights, this may be as close as they’ll get to the thrill of skydiving.
Hot House Yoga: They’re offering a 10-class card right now good at multiple locations, and this could be a great gift for someone who has mentioned detoxing and getting more mindful after a crazy year. We could all use a little of that after 2020, couldn’t we?
2020 has served us all a harsh reminder that “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” Late-night hangs with friends are cut short…big celebrations are canceled or reimagined in a new way fitting of a dystopian novel…things that were once a lighthouse amidst the storm of life have gone dim. I mean, things weren’t perfect before COVID, but at least we had those small sanctuaries of respite. Now, as society begins to rebuild itself to a “new normal,” many will be left struggling to keep their heads above water. And unfortunately, many of those will be members who have brought us that joy and happiness that we took for granted—from artists and musicians to venue workers and small business owners, everyone in the music and entertainment industry has inevitably been affected. To make matters worse, the disparity of who will be affected is disheartening with minority-owned businesses and BIPOC & LGBTQIA spaces being most at risk at closing due to financial struggles.
And this is where we come in. A collective of New York’s finest–ranging from community organizers to music professionals–have come together under the organization, NYC Nightlife United, to support the community that has given them so much life and joy, and they are asking for our help. The organization has launched a fundraiser via Kickstarterto raise $20,000 for NYC’s nightlife–specifically the cultural hubs that have fostered a kinship of community and creativity in BIPOC and LGBTQIA spaces. Kickstarter works off a “pledge” system where you can pledge a specific amount of money and get a reward in return. Rewards include specially curated NNU merchandise, vinyl bundles, and some amazing works by Ebru Yildiz, including exclusive zineprints from For The Record and her photography book documenting the days leading up to the closing of Brooklyn music venue staple,Death by Audio.
You know…there’s one more thing 2020 has taught us—the importance of community. I think it goes without saying that we all have a strong love and appreciation for the arts and for the feelings of camaraderie and pure bliss that come along with it. While NYC is miles and miles away from Virginia, I’d like to think of them as part of our community…and us a part of theirs.
To learn a little more about the initiative, check out the Q+A I did below with NNU member, Morgan Schaffner, and don’t forget to view the Kickstarter here!
Did NYC Nightlife United form as a response to COVID-19 and the closures that came along with it? If so, do you see the organization branching off into other avenues of action in the future?
Yes! We formed back in March as an emergency relief fund to save NYC’s nightlife cultural spaces and those in the nightlife ecosystem. Since initially forming NYC Nightlife United, we’ve refocused our efforts on prioritizing aid for the most vulnerable, specifically BIPOC-owned and led businesses who create safe spaces for the BIPOC and LGBTQIA communities.
Why choose Kickstarter as your platform for funding?
We decided to roll with Kickstarter as a fundraising platform because we wanted to give something back (ie: rewards) to the individuals who wanted to donate to our cause. With Kickstarter, we found it incredibly easy to tell our story and display a lot of the awesome rewards!
In what ways are you all aiming for this fundraiser to tangibly provide?
Our Kickstarter profits will be going towards providing venues and individuals in the NYC nightlife ecosystem with emergency relief grants.
How does the organization plan on distributing the donations? Is there a process?
The first round of applications for the grants just closed on 9/23, but the money from this Kickstarter will be going towards the second round of emergency grants. Once the applications open for the second round of grants, we hope to help even more folks in the community!
What do you think is the biggest misconception about BIPOC and LGBTQIA cultural spaces, such as music venues and nightlife hubs? Music and entertainment industry?
If you take anything from these words, please know that nightlife IS culture. And specifically, throughout much of popular American, music and culture has always been appropriated from BIPOC and LGBTQIA cultural spaces. You see it again and again from American music’s black roots–where white artists became the faces (and highest earners) of genres with overlooked, underpaid black originators.
You also see it in the co-opting of “Voguing” culture from the young, brown, queer youth of NYC’s ballroom scene. Ultimately, we need to work hard to protect our cultural spaces where folks gather–the music venues…the nightlife hubs–because without them, we don’t have culture. And without culture, what do we have?
Will the NYC Nightlife United Sessions livestream series continue after the fundraiser deadline?
Yes! Absolutely. We’re already planning Volume 2 of the next NYC Nightlife United Sessions livestream series. 🙂
Any more plans for another pledge reward to be added amongst the great options you all have already provided?
Yes! We are adding more pledge rewards every day between now and the end of the campaign (which is Oct. 17 @ 9AM EST).
Have you all found much support outside of New York? (Sidenote: We are based in Norfolk, VA)
We’ve surprisingly found a lot of support outside of the NYC area! I think it’s humbling and honestly awesome that our cause relates and speaks to so many folks, especially since so many artists have had their first “break through” moment in their careers while in NYC.
The current pandemic has illuminated a significant amount of flaws within our society at every level possible. What, if any, flawshave become glaringly apparent during thisnew environment within the music and entertainment industry?
There’s so many flaws, especially in NYC, that have been incredibly obvious. Flaws that come to mind include the lack of rent protections for commercial lease holders, the lack of federal funding and support for small businesses outside of the PPP loan, as well as venue and live entertainment businesses’ inability to thrive at a reduced capacity.
Concert venues were the first businesses to close due to COVID-19 and will be among the last to return–while there’s some talk of venues re-opening with social distancing and 25% capacity, that’s just really not a sustainable business model. While it hasn’t been easy, I do also believe that the Paycheck Protection Program and rent moratoriums in NYC are the only reason more venues haven’t closed permanently (yet).
In what ways do you think NYC Nightlife United will provide education, or spur conversation, on these flaws? Is education of such topics something you all are interested into exploring more?
Yes! I hope with the work we’ve done, we can continue to educate folks on the issues that those in NYC nightlife ecosystem face, along with providing secure funding for those who are truly in need.
What is one thing you all hope people will take away from this?
I hope that folks will recognize, that while organizations like NIVA + NYIVA are doing amazing work actively lobbying local and federal governments, our aim is to provide direct IMMEDIATE emergency relief for folks in the NYC nightlife ecosystem. We established our Kickstarter campaign as a way to provide rewards and something in return for all the folks who are interested in helping the community ASAP. ❤️
We wish Morgan and the rest of NYC Nightlife United the best of luck and success in their mission to providing BIPOC and LGBTQIA spaces the help they need during this time! The fundraiser only has 4 MORE DAYS before the deadline on Oct. 17th @9AM EST, and they are just under $2,000 shy of their goal to $20K. For more information on the cause, and to donate, click here!
Hailing from California, our next ART BISH artist profile is model Ashourina Washington. Taking pride in her Assyrian and Black culture, Washington had planned on becoming a role model for girls of color in the television world by developing her own show. But as life has it, things don’t always go to plan. After juggling several jobs, she ended up taking on her dream in a whole new avenue, modeling. Working under Natural Models LA, Washington has worked with an array of names likeNasty Gal, Danielle Bernstein’s Macys summer collection, Savage x Fenty, SKIMS, House of CB, and Target all while advocating for true, authentic diversity in the world of fashion, beauty, and entertainment. It’s individuals like her that continue to break down the social “standards” of who and what success looks like.
You can learn more about how to make your passions a reality at next Wednesday’s ART BISHDigital Festival at 5 PM//8 PM EST! More info on the event here. Be on the lookout tomorrow for our next ART BISH profile!
Our next ART BISH artist profile is Ali, also known as Sweet Mutuals. Within a short timespan, the young artist has shown that age, experience, and location (Ali is based out of Georgia) is not the end-all be-all to guaranteed success. Self-taught, Sweet Mutuals has developed a career as an editorial make-up artist working with esteemed artists like Solange Knowles and Rina Sawayama.
Each concept and design possesses a certain aura that is treated with the utmost care and nurture–allowing her work to take hold with its limitless, innovative, unique, and one-of-a-kind energy. And just like her work, Sweet Mutuals has boundless dreams to go even further with hopes of establishing a career in the model industry and becoming a role model for black youth looking for representation. There’s no doubt in our minds that she will achieve just that.
Don’t forget to read up on our ART BISH articleto find out how you can attend the festival and gain some wisdom and valuable advice from artists like Sweet Mutuals!Keep your eyes peeled for our next profile.