• Cierra Chenier

#UniqueSoulBrunch Recap: The Wave of Black Creativity

New Orleans is celebrating its 300th birthday, and it's only appropriate to acknowledge the wave of productivity occurring in the city. 2018 has felt a bit different than previous years. The city has a certain aura about it now, with the young people of New Orleans pursuing bigger and better for themselves like never before.

As NOIR 'N NOLA, it is no secret that we have mastered the art of resiliency, to the point where pain has almost always transformed into passion. We are the generation whose adolescence developed right along side the city's revitalization. We are the generation who grew up without an influx of entertainment activities. We are the generation that was forgotten in terms of mental health accessibility. We are the generation that is growing up without friends and loved ones due to gun violence. We are the generation that is now getting pushed out of the very neighborhoods that we grew up in.

But, we are also the generation that has grown to reclaim our city and re-establish it for what it has the potential to be. We are a plethora of aspiring creatives, entrepreneurs, rappers, singers, clothing designers, artists, photographers, videographers. We are graphic designers, DJ's, producers, comedians. Event promoters, makeup artists, hairstylists, fashion stylists, chefs, writers, models -- I can go on and on. This wave of creativity can only flourish in a city that is rooted in culture and entertainment.

This past weekend, I had the honor of covering the Unique Soul Brunch, courtesy of co-creator and my longtime friend, Aldon Harvey of Unique Visions. The "Unique Soul Brunch" was a breath of fresh air compared to the same ole scene that our generation is accustomed to. The event was an upscale affair, with young, Black New Orleans brightening up St. Claude Avenue with their finest brunch attire. The event sold out online, making for standing-room only in the sophisticated, warehouse-style Gather Gathering venue. Black Tide Entertainment (Tyler "Kai" Martin, Anthony "Khoda" Harrell Jr., Isaiah "Iso" Garner, Cierra Haynesworth) serves as a "supportive platform for all creatives." Unique Visions (Aldon Harvey, Maia Tillman, Isaiah Farrior) maintains the slogan, "The Vision is to be Unique."

Aldon Harvey, Founder Unique Visions

"Gather Gathering" venue on St. Claude Avenue

Curators of "Unique Soul Brunch" Left to right: Isaiah Farrior, Aldon Harvey, Tyler "Kai" Martin, Cierra Haynesworth, Isaiah "Iso/DJ Wizzard Kelly" Garner, Anthony "Khoda" Harrell Jr., Maia Tillman

Aldon Harvey, Founder of Unique Visions and Chicago's own Tyler "Kai" Martin, President of Black Tide Entertainment, collaborated to produce an amazing event of networking, empowerment, and good vibes. Also, with assistance from sponsors: Michelle Matthew, Michelle Bonds, and Angelique Francois. Brunch was provided by Chef Aldine Lockett IV, and let me just say that my plate of chicken and waffles + shrimp and grits don't owe me nothin'. Oh, and in true brunch fashion; a mimosa to compliment the aesthetic.

Sounds were provided by Isaiah "Iso" Garner, AKA DJ Wizzard Kelly -- with throwbacks, current hits, and just the right touch of bounce music. The entire afternoon was a vibe, hosted by the lovely Vic Anderson. Vendors lined the perimeter with live painting from visual artist Jermaine Robinson, local clothing presented by Fam Life Apparel, and a varied sunglasses display by Bold Lense. There was also a number of performances from local artists: BP, Allay, Kendal Banks, KVCYCOLLINS, and Keith Rashad. Black Tide's Iso "DJ Wizzard Kelly" and "Kai the Mind" even took time aside from running the beats and event to individually perform their musical pieces.

In a room filled with majority HBCU students, I knew that I was in good company. I made it a point to obtain content, but at the same time, sit back and enjoy the event as an observer and attendee. I attended the brunch with my friend Kayla Swanson, who assisted in event coverage. We talked about other events where people tend to be "booted up," (that's New Orleans for "unapproachable, unfriendly"), and how refreshing it was to be in a room surrounded by like-minded, young, Black professionals and creatives originating from cities all over the country. This wasn't your typical event where people show up to be seen, but not interact. There was no standing against the wall or being "too cool" to dance. There was no fuss or conflict, just a bunch of beautiful Black people celebrating themselves on a Saturday afternoon.

I have exceptionally high expectations for this wave of creativity and entrepreneurship that is among us, with forces such as Unique Visions and Black Tide Entertainment contributing to the blueprint. Young, Black New Orleans is in the process of creating the environment that we wish to see, instead of waiting on outside influences to do so. This is what NOIR 'N NOLA is all about -- recognizing the absences and issues in our community, and then filling in the voids ourselves. I would like to commend the hard work of Al and Kai, Unique Visions, Black Tide Entertainment, and every young, Black New Orleans-based creative that is fueling the culture. From mainstream references in Drake songs and Beyoncé performances, to upcoming and promising talents, industries, brands, and leaders -- every year is the year of Black people, and 2018 is the year of New Orleans. Katrina's babies are all grown up now, with the experience, skills, passion, and drive to shape the reality that was robbed of us when the levees broke. While both Black and New Orleans culture continues to influence modern society, we will continue to put in the work, laying foundations and providing examples for generations to come.

Check out more pics from the Unique Soul Brunch below: