More than a Panel: A New Bites and Beats Experience

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Shyra Gums Photo by Tati Butcher
Shyra Gums
Photo by Tati Butcher

On Friday, March 6, I worked with Youth Radio’s Remix Your Life to host a special edition of its monthly “Bites and Beats” showcase. In addition to the monthly youth performance showcase, I wanted to commemorate Women’s history Month by hosting a panel of women who are all hip-hop artists.

Bites and Beats has never had such a special kick to it, until March 6, when 1719 went from a empty old clothing store with no color, scratched up floors and a strong odor, to a comfortable, clean, vibrant and spacious venue space to host great events. Though our Bites and Beats shows are always fun, we couldn’t just let this one happen without a twist to it, and I felt it was about that time.

I had dreams of bringing in a panel of all the women who inspire me, from all over, to 1719. But then I had to be realistic and evaluate how far I was from the event, which was 4 months at the time.

I am influenced by a whole lot of empowering women. There was no way I would have every single one of them to 1719 in 4 months. But I got something better, 7 successful artists who all are from the Bay Area, who are more familiar with Youth Radio, and  who could speak truly and comfortably with the youth, as well as be thought provoking and inspiring.

The panel featured gifted artists who are multitalented in journalism, youth advocacy, poetry, authorship, production, in addition to making powerful and meaningful music. The panel included MADlines, Coco Peila, Dom Jones, Rocky Rivera, Hazel Rose, Jazz Monique Hudson and Talia Taylor. This celebration of women in hip-hop allowed community members to be part of a special artist-to-artist conversation, and an opportunity to witness and receive knowledge from a powerhouse of women who have and are still greatly contributing to the arts and society. Each panelist had so much knowledge to provide, it would take more than a blog to share what all was discussed, but there were some very valuable advice that stuck to me (not completely in their exact words):

Teaching and educational experience contributes to music.

Reading is fundamental, it can help you tell stories and connect with that setting in that way, and be a vessel to whatever message comes into your mind.

There is a higher nature that you can tap into and  ignore the materialism constantly fed into mainstream music.

Be authentic, “what comes from the heart reaches the heart.”

Being human, and instilling the feeling of healing and waking up and feeling alive is a message in everything that you do.

Your message depends on the context of your song. It can be simple or complex, but it is what you feel in the moment.

Part of your success is the craft, and part is studying the business, you can teach yourself.

Don’t push out messages  that are adjacent to a man’s message in hip hop or that is stereotypical of a “female emcee.” Your message is good enough, don’t convey the same messages to please everyone else.

A woman who is an emcee is an emcee, NOT a female emcee.

There are women who are responsible for the success of any male who you idolize.

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I had to make sure that I was as descriptive as possible with the ladies in what my vision was and made sure they were represented correctly for this event, meaning contacting them in a timely manner (2 months before the day of in this case; but earlier is always better), following up with them in a week-span manner, sending them schedules, both rough and final drafts, sending them rough and final drafts of the flier and receive their confirmation of approval with their images. I also had to make sure I had their information correct, including names, bios, websites and social media addresses. Though I am close with the ladies, the process of getting them all together was pretty challenging, and 7 is just a fraction of all the women who I thought of for this event.

I had to contact people from other departments to help construct the setting of the event, such as the video department to record the panel, the C.H.E.F. department for food (“Without bites, its just beats”-Ms. Lydia), the web radio department & the social media department to help promote the event, the facilities team who helps organize the space and the tech department for sound quality at the space. Along with that, I had to manage the performance lineup by making sure the artists rehearsed and were prepared with all of their music and materials.

I also had a lot of training and assistance from our new communications manager with promoting and contacting the media press to help spread the word about the event. Not only did I contact press, I also constructed call scripts for when I speak to them over the phone, created a media advisory to send to them (stay with me people), emailed the departments within the building for assistance in organizing the event, and constructed questions to ask on the panel.

This was my first time ever moderating and organizing a panel at the same time. Usually when organizing an event such as this, you would find it to be completely challenging, but there were many more thoughts that came to mind to describe this experience.

It was hilarious because of the humor and down-to-earth environment the panelists and the audience shared with each other. It was also intriguing, inspiring, stressful, constructive, unique, and insightful. Most of all, it was highly intimidating. When that work is put forth for something amazing that you have envisioned for so long, you still worry about the results.

I have never thought to have all 7 of these amazing ladies in one setting, I was intimidated about how they would perceive my management, but the moment they thanked me and told me that this was one of the most organized events that they have been apart of, I knew that I was doing something right, and could not wait to see what the future holds.

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