R.O.S.E L.I.F.E JAO

He use to have a loud heart but from past experiences and certain vibes he received from some of his peer's JAO's heart seems to speak low these last few years.

Art Sisters

Kira Dixon, Shanina Dionna and Ameerah K., came together and put together "one of the dopiest events this year" quoted from some of their peers.

R.O.S.E L.I.F.E Harrisburg

Recap of Jan 11, 2014 R.O.S.E L.I.F.E Harrisburg with video.

Media Traffickers

CEO of Media Traffickers International Jamie and his right hand and business partner, friend and artist B.P. to see what their viewpoints are as business men, rappers, relevancy of the music scene locally and the upcoming compilation mixtape their company is hosting.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

7/3/19 #JustReflecting ft. D. Watkins and Chris Wilson "Life is what you make it"


Life is what you make it: D. Watkins and Chris Wilson

Written By Anwar Curtis (A.C. the MaYoR)

I think it is fair to say no matter how big the world is when it’s time to connect with a person it will happen. Dwight "D" Watkins and Chris Wilson both are from the same city, Baltimore and experienced similar journey’s in life the city had to offer them while growing up. If you are unfamiliar with stories similar to theirs, don’t trip because it is one Hollywood loves to make billions of dollars off of yet I don’t recall Hollywood allocating money to rehabilitate the areas where stories like D. Watkins and Chris exist. 

So many people have dreams and want a fighting chance to pursue them. Many suffer from dream deprivation because for kids and teens growing up meant learning survival tactics...and some of those tactics could make your glass half empty even when you think it’s half full. Fortunately for D. Watkins and Chris Wilson overcoming hurdles (a glass half full tactic) was something they learned during their journey and now they are household names. I linked with these two King’s in Fredrick, Maryland, courtesy of Curious Iguana which is an Independent Bookstore exactly one day after celebrating Juneteenth and our conversation was inspiring...but don’t let me spoil it for you though...and don’t mind D. Watkins and Chris Wilson because they’re Just Reflecting.

A.C. the MaYoR: What does Black journalism mean to you?

D. Watkins: It’s kind of difficult because a lot of different publications think when they find one Black person to write about issues then that Black person has the luxury to speak for every Black person in the world and that’s not true.  A lot of op-eds I read, a lot of articles I read, a lot of perspectives I read from a lot of Black journalists are good but they don’t relate to me...they don’t speak to a person like me. I saw this one guy who wrote for the Washington Post go on television and said “every Black person living in America is living in a constant state of fear, all the time every day” and I’m like nah dawg I be chilling. I walk up and down my block every day. I just ate salmon with Cilantro drizzle dawg, lol. You’re the one in a constant state of fear so you should talk about yourself and not talk for everybody else.  That’s the difficult part about it. Trying to find that lane and be a person who can elevate voices, stories, and show love to people, and show that being Black is not monolithic. We’re complex, brilliant, beautiful, goofy, crazy, out of control and in control and smart like every other group of people.




A.C. the MaYoR: Chris, you mentioned being a free man for seven years now but I know you have been free longer than that. You started to piece your book together while incarcerated. What impact are you working towards with your book for the next seven years?

Chris Wilson: The experience in prison was a very strange experience, like being on another planet with different rules. The impact I would like to have seven years from now is having my book in every prison in America. There are three-thousand prisons. I started to get my book in juvenile and adult facilities in Maryland and schools.

A.C. the MaYoR: What impact are you striving for during the next seven years?

D. Watkins: I want to bring television to Baltimore. I want people in Baltimore to be able to work in television and work on shows and be actors, directors, and sound production you know. I want Baltimore to be a city where we can make amazing content and it ran by people from the city, without shipping in production companies from New York or LA.



A.C. the MaYoR: Wisdom is something we all have yet it takes circumstances in order for that wisdom to kick in. If you could share one characteristic about yourself from the wisdom you’ve established as individuals, what would that characteristic be?

Chris Wilson: I’m a very resilient person so regardless of what I go through or how many set-backs I have, I always get back up. I try to instill that in young people.

D. Watkins: In life, I have learned to treat everyone like they’re Jesus. It makes your journey so much easier. You can be mean to me or disrespectful and all I can do is embrace it with love and hope that you’ll be ok and keep it moving. That has allowed me to function. When opportunities I feel I should get don’t come my way I’m ok. When stuff does come my way that I don’t expect, I’m always humble and thankful. So, I just try to treat everyone like Jesus even when they don’t earn it lol.


A.C. the MaYoR: I learned a lot from you two earlier and I appreciate the time you took to share your insight on pushing for prosperity on Levels Ready's platform. Peace King's.


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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

7/3/19 #JustReflecting ft: Oschino Vasquez "Art just fell in my lap"


Art just fell in my lap: Oschino Vasquez


Written By Anwar Curtis (A.C. the MaYoR)

If you know me then you know how much of an influence the music group State Property was for me during high school and college. The body of work each member was writing back in the early 2000’s really made me appreciate rap music that much more. When I found out District Bar and Lounge was featuring Oschino Vasquez for June’s Art is Culture event during Third in the Burg, I had no choice but to pull up. What was dope for me was the fact that Oschino made himself available to converse with me about the things in his life that have made him who he is today...so don't mind Oschino because he's Just Reflecting.

A.C. the MaYoR: What keeps you hungry and creative as an artist?

Oschino Vasquez: When you are striving to be something, people get frustrated and want to quit. The part I love is that chase. I love the hustle. I love the grind. If you don’t have that you’re going to be frustrated and want to quit. I got signed to Roc-a-Fella Records in 1999. Mind you I come from the gutter, being f***** up, and not having parents.  Once I started tasting a little bit of success I said man I can’t go back to that, that life hurts to bad. Art just fell into my lap.



A.C. the MaYoR: Correct me if I’m wrong but you have been snapping with the paintbrush and canvas for what two years now give or take, right?

Oschino Vasquez: I tapped into painting about a year and a half ago but I’ve been drawing all my life. Somebody asked me to paint a picture and when they said what price they would pay me, I said let me try this real fast lol. I tried it and it worked. There was a rumor that said it wasn’t me painting this work. That’s why I come to places like District Bar and Lounge and paint in front of people. People’s reactions are always...yo he really sat there and did that. You see how that Mike Tyson painting turned out. That jawn looks professional. Mind you I did that jawn fast. Usually, a painting like that would take time to complete. I started and finished that jawn in three hours.

A.C. the MaYoR: How profound was growing up during the Mike Tyson era?

Oschino Vasquez: There's a lack of superstars now compared to back in the day. You had Mike Tyson, Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson and they made people stop everything and watch them. Jackson had crazy tours. Jordan was winning championships every year, and Tyson was knocking everybody out in fifty seconds or less lol. There was no social media so everybody had to use cable just to watch the fight and pay. It was different then, everybody thinks they’re famous now.



A.C. the MaYoR: You have been in the music industry for over two decades now, and as one of the OG’s who comes from an era where you spit what you live, how do you feel about the direction music has shifted too? I know for me it’s important not to shun youngbulls who express themselves in an “unorthodox” way.

Oschino Vasquez: Do you remember Das Effects “bum stiggedy bum stiggedy bum, hon, I got the old pa-rum-pum-pum-pum” they weren’t really saying anything crazy then and their music was popping. I don’t mind mumble rap. If somebody’s Black, from the slums, and is taking care of their family then that oversees everything else. Now I don’t listen to all of it but still. When I came home from prison Future was popping and it took me a while to finally catch it, I’m an old-school bull so I was saying it was trash, but working at the barbershop the other barbers kept playing it. It then started to grow on me and it started to make sense. It wasn’t about the lyrics but the vibe. Even Young Thug had a couple jawns and I started saying this is a vibe, so my ear began to change and I started to understand better. I have six sons and they also let me know what it is.



A.C. the MaYoR: How do you add today’s vibes with yesterday’s originality in your music?

Oschino Vasquez: I did a project called 50’16s last year and I did fifty beats. A couple of the beats were some new school beats. Mask Off, Slippery and a couple of Drake’s jawns are on it. I did that with some beats from the ’80s and 90’s to show my sons that I can get on any type of beat lol. The only thing that I really feel is missing is not enough conscious rap. The way sh!t is going on now, more people should be talking about it.

A.C. the MaYoR: You think there is a real void for content with a message?

Oschino Vasquez: There really isn’t enough mainstream artist that are really talking about what is going on. It is almost worse politically and racially now than when I was coming up. You see every cop to suspect shooting now that phones record everything. Cops were killing people before but we weren’t seeing it. The Rodney King incident happened in LA so cameras were more common because of Hollywood, but in Philly people didn’t have cameras. 

A.C. the MaYoR: You spoke on a lack of substance when it comes to mainstream music and many would say there is a lack of genuine Black leaders. You did a painting of Malcolm X and Nipsey Hussle being a split image of each other and building a plan together. When I found out that Nip didn’t survive being shot my entire mood changed that Sunday evening. As a Black man working to empower your hoods, how did that make you feel?


(this image can be found on Oschino Valsquez Instagram. We did not capture this)

Oschino Vasquez: I felt like I knew him like my own brother. When I saw it though, that destroyed me. His efforts are not going unnoticed at all which is a must. Nipsey became a Martyr faster than anybody I’ve ever seen in my life. It was like Nip came, gave his message, and then left. For him to be from the gutter and impact the world the way he did shows “them” how much power “we” have.  

A.C. the MaYoR: When it comes to music and art, people who are born and raised in Philly have always influenced other states and cultures. XXL the magazine just released its 2019 Freshman class and Tierra Wack made the list. How dope is it to have a Philly artist make the list this year?

Oschino Vasquez: Tierra Wack’s bars and flow are crazy. The crazy thing when it comes to Philadelphia...I don’t think it really matters. Philly is full of competition and is a BAR CITY! When a person sees an accomplishment from another artist, their first thought could be them thinking they were supposed to be on that list. That’s one mind state of Philly rap though. For an older person like myself, I see it as all love because that’s a great accomplishment. Most people that make that Freshman class go on to do great things.

A.C. the MaYoR: I’m glad you mentioned the mind state some people have even being in a big city like Philly. My hometown is Harrisburg, which is smaller than Philly, New York, LA, etc. For years it has seemed hard for support to truly stick, and a lot of us are stuck in the hand over fist mentality for some of the same reasons you just mentioned some people from Philly are in. I am 32 and even in my 20’s, I was extremely vocal when combatting my opinions with some of my peer's negative vibes. I understand now that many of us speak from personal experience, both good and bad yet not enough of us realize experiences only last as long as we allow them too. Thank you for connecting your big city experience with smaller city experiences.

Oschino Vasquez: Here’s what you have to understand, a person who comes from little to nothing and sees you having everything they wish they had, I feel as though has no right to hate if they lack working towards something. A person who puts himself or herself out there can fail in front of the world and many are afraid of that embarrassment. If a person is putting themselves out there and catches some shine then they deserve it. It is really easy to hate. I can hear people talk about all the shots Lebron misses but Lebron is one of the best to ever do it. Black people...we go through a lot so sometimes we just have to forgive each other and help each other.



A.C. the MaYoR: How can we as Black people get ahead of the curve and conquer the dumb sh!t together?

Oschino Vasquez: It always takes a person that they respect and that person has to have bread (money) for the majority to listen because people respect a person who has bread. It takes a person who people can trust because they been through something similar that get their attention. If one city does it and is successful like Atlanta as a city is doing it then everybody else can copy it.

A.C. the MaYoR: You mention Atlanta having the blueprint. The wild thing is and I’m connecting Harrisburg’s potential again, my senior year of high school, 2004 to be exact, Atlanta was super lit and I began to notice that many of my peers were starting to do their thing here as well. Even back then, I knew we had the potential as a small city to make a big impact culturally and creatively despite being frowned at because we weren’t from Philly or Baltimore or even New York. I can honestly say as a city where the population is majority Black, we are chipping away and what I saw Harrisburg being capable of when I was seventeen years old is coming to fruition hence you standing right here in front of me allowing a Black-owned publication to create content on you because a Black-owned restaurant invited you to showcase your craft with the owners patrons, King. Oschino, I thank you for taking the time to chop it up and reflect with me.




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Monday, February 4, 2019

9/25/18 #JustReflecting ft. @Nia Coombs founder of A.M.P. @art.music.ppl


Life will be life so just create: Nia Coombs (A.M.P. art.music.ppl)

Written By Anwar Curtis (A.C. the MaYoR)

I am a firm believer that everyone has a purpose no matter what, and once you find your purpose, you will not rest until you begin to pursue it.  Without realizing it our purpose begins when we are young children, most of the time sitting in on the stoop daydreaming, or as an adult seeing something that makes you say…THAT’S BEEN ME THIS ENTIRE TIME. No matter when you realize what your purpose in life is to pursue it. Nia Coombs creator of AMP (Art.Music.People) has believed her purpose…creating a platform for other creatives and those who have made it their business to utilize AMP’s platform. Making a way in a major market like New York City, which is known to be the city that doesn’t sleep, I can only imagine has its fair share of ups and downs, but that did not and will not stop this spirit who is full of spunk.  So lock in and allow Nia to share her journey with you, with no red tape because she is JUST REFLECTING.

Anwar Curtis (A.C. the MaYoR): It is a pleasure to finally build with you. Let's get straight to it…what inspired you to create A.M.P.?


Nia: What inspired me to create A.M.P. I noticed that there was an absence of platforms for artists, particularly artist of color and I felt like at the time in the black community in New York City, I feel like it’s much more prevalent but when I started it in 2013, I felt like the lack of platforms for artist without clout wasn’t really there. That’s what really inspired A.M.P… I myself am a musician; singer, songwriter, I went to school for music business, so with my background as both a creative and having the education in music business, I decided to start something that would be for us that would allow artist to express themselves without barriers, without worrying about paying this venue this much or bring out these many people, or I have to pay a performance fee which is not my cup of tea. I just wanted to create something where the artist could feel a sense of having a platform to put them out there without much pressure.


Anwar Curtis (A.C. the MaYoR): What does an A.M.P. event look like

Nia: A.M.P is a combination of a lot of different things.  It’s community…passion…fun. When I have a particular showcase I usually have every form of art, both visual and performing arts. Artist such as dancers, singers, rappers, and even spoken word artist can have a stage and a platform, but then I also give visual artist such as painters…I haven’t had any sculptures yet but looking into that, photographers…mainly visual artist’s that can do anything with either a canvas or a camera. The last portion of an A.M.P event is giving small black-owned business a vending space. An A.M.P. event is an all-inclusive event of different creative doing different things but coming together for one night.



Anwar Curtis (A.C. the MaYoR): When did you realize that you are creative?

Nia: I realized I was a creative at a younger age, but I never put a title on it.  However, now that I am older I do lol.  I realized I was a creative in junior high-school due to my many different interested. Every school that I attended with the exception of elementary school was performing arts based. I can say that elementary school exposed me to music first. I started off playing the violin at the age of six and once I got into a performing arts junior high-school I realized that I didn’t want to just be in the band or do one thing.  I also loved to sing and grew a deep appreciation for the other talents that were there such as dancing, visual arts, and drama. Now I am not a dancer or a visual artist but I grew a fond appreciation while in junior high and wanted to be a part of that community as an adult. That’s where the love of expressing yourself creatively came about.

Anwar Curtis (A.C. the MaYoR): What was your high school years like?

Nia: I attended Edward R. Morrow High-School. It had a mixture of both performing arts and a communication program. I auditioned on the violin, got in which made me a “music hall kid” lol but then I also explored the lane of vocal music. I did a few student-run productions and dibbed into custom making and photography. High school really opened me up…I considered myself shy and awkward while in junior high, as most of us are but my high-school years allowed me to explore what it meant to be creative.

Anwar Curtis (A.C. the MaYoR) Growing up what musicians and authors inspired you?

    
    Picture found on google

Nia: BLACK ONES lol…No I’m kidding. As far as authors go, growing up it was very elementary school stuff. I would read Goosebumps…lol…you know stuff like that. R.L. Stein was the homeboy back in the day lol. Growing up in an afro-centric household, my mom would always read Octavia Butler and Toni Morrison, which was of higher suffocation. For me, in junior high, I really wasn’t on that wave yet but I was reading Shel Silverstein in my younger years and as I got older as far as writers go, I started to develop more awareness of our culture in literature at the end of junior high and high school. Definitely black folks lol.  My mother had a very interesting upbringing so her influences became some of my influences. She would play everyone from India Arie, Lauryn Hill, a lot of soul and some gospel.  On Sunday’s she would have her set musicians that she would play, we called that her cleaning music like most black moms…the Kirk Franklins, Jill Scott, Noel Pointer, Regina Carter, and some Rock, Jazz. Our household was very eclectic.

Anwar Curtis (A.C. the MaYoR): Your catalog is pretty intense lol. What about actors?

I’m a 90’s kid so all of the big black actors and actresses in the ’90s. Jada Pickett, Lorenz Tate, Nia Long, Denzel, Will Smith, Danny Glover…you know! The people I gravitate towards now are the people I have always gravitated too.




Anwar Curtis (A.C. the MaYoR): Speaking of you growing up in an Afro-Centric crib, how do you feel about the movement now and do you think creative’s are pushing the envelope genuinely?

Nia: I actually feel like growing up we celebrated Kwanza and people would think my dad was Rasta because he wore loc’s and my family was on that tip. It was also weird because back then we would get made fun of too. If we said something that was too black people would be like whatever Erykah Badu and now she is idealized. I think it’s a beautiful thing that people are embracing it but I don’t think many are being totally genuine. I think once people start putting the ecstatic behind it aside, and the trend aspect aside, then people will really jump behind that wave.  I think to be Afro-Centric and proud of what’s in you, it’s not foreign but we’ve been so brainwashed to believe it is. I think the movement is a beautiful thing but we have to be clear and careful of our intentions. Like do we want to just wear our afro’s to look fly at Afro-Punk or do we really care about embracing who we really are naturally? Even with the hair movement, you’re not going natural; you’re just going back to what you were born with. I do believe some creative’s pushing it genuinely but then some creative are pushing it because it’s a wave and a market.

Me: How important is pushing the culture on the A.M.P. platform?

Nia: One of the reasons why I try to make as many events free, especially if I know how it will benefit us largely. A.M.P. is just not about singing and dancing but actually branching out for creative's to not only express ourselves but also to understand how the arts benefit our community. One idea my sister has is opening up her own venue for the artist and that’s practicing real state and buy back into our community. I feel like with so many stigma’s that both black men and women have against them, the arts is almost like our own sense of therapy. I know a lot of people who have healed through speaking creatively through songs and dance.

Anwar Curtis (A.C. the MaYoR): What is your formula when getting the artist to support your vision and not just ride the wave?

Nia: Lol…it’s still a struggle and a process. It’s all about not only being consistent but showing people and delivering people with quality content. I feel like that’s a big part of it. 2018 compared to the 2013 Nia sees what was done wrong during my very first event. The concept was there but I didn’t prepare for any quality control during the event. I was in college that year so I was passing out the flyer to my college classmates, I had one poet from Jersey and a singer from Brooklyn who decided to stay in the bathroom because there wasn’t a large crowd.  That let me know what to do differently the next time and a mental list of who to continue working with. I’m not a spiteful person and one thing you learn in performing arts school or not, when you get into the entertainment business is regardless if its only one person in the crowd or a thousand people in the crowd and you only expect twenty people, the show goes on. That experience helped shape my network because it taught me how to promote differently, and ask for help, have better communication with artists, and how to support artists, creatives, and business owners outside of your own show…that’s how you build your network.



Me: Is A.M.P. a one-woman army or a team full of individuals?

Nia: I believe I am a leader but I have a problem being a boss. I have such a team player spirit that it makes it hard for me to be like YOU’RE DOING THIS WRONG…lol. I’m still finding the balance of being taken seriously and getting things done effectively outside of myself. I started to build of a team back in August 2017 with two friends of mine but before then its just been me curating A.M.P. events in the past.

Anwar Curtis (A.C. the MaYoR): In my journey building Levels Ready Ent, I have struggled to find mentors. How impactful has mentor’s been for you in this journey?

Nia: Lol…honeslty I don’t have a personal mentor but I do have people I reach out to for support and advice. I do think having a specific, personalized mentor is important…I would like to have one. I do watch how people interact while doing business just to pick up little gems so that I can be a better business owner but a leader. 

Anwar Curtis (A.C. the MaYoR): Music festivals have been big especially for an indie artist. What are your feelings towards them?

Nia: Festivals are really important to me. To put both local and national acts together ultimately establishes a fan base. Festivals feed into a demographic and it's important more for the upcoming artist because it helps them build up their already established fan base with a national headliner performing as well. I’ve attended Pitch Fork and Lollapalooza, and I realized that we cannot do general admission anymore lol.  The first time attending a festival in Chicago I was almost stomped out by some ASAP Ferg fans because everyone was ready to mash pit but it was fun lol. I believe the festival experience is essential...I feel like to all artist careers and it's really dope.

Anwar Curtis (A.C. the MaYoR): As we wrap this up I would love to know…if you can give one characteristic of yourself to the world what would it be?

Nia: Understanding because in everything I do and wherever I am, I try to be level-headed, open-minded, and understanding of peoples situations. There are certain things morally that I do not tolerate but for the most part I try to be understanding of the world and the people around me. It helps put things into perspective and lessens confusion, hatred, and chaos.


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Thursday, December 20, 2018

12-20-18 #JustReflecting Yes, blood may be thicker than water, but everyone needs water to survive, and so does family!

Yes, blood may be thicker than water, but everyone needs water to survive, and so does family!


Written By Anwar Curtis (@acthemayor)

Some of the best advice my mother could have ever given me growing up was to be careful who I did business with. Many people are encouraged not to do business with friends or family due to the high-risk of being taken for granted. It's no surprise, everything isn’t for everyone however, I would encourage anybody who has an interest in becoming a business owner to do so with friends or family they connect with that will balance the decision making process.

Mid year (2018) I sat down with three friends turned business partner’s who found an interest in brewing beverages together thanks to their love for drinking responsibly together as a family. This brotherhood has faced many obstacles while pursuing ownership of the first Black-owned brewery in Pennsylvania, but then again what family doesn’t. Its like the movie Soulfood, when big moma said “ One finger pointing the blame don't make no impact. But you ball up all them fingers into a fist...and you can strike a mighty blow. This family got to be that fist.” I believe the masterminds behind the Harris Family Brewery has what it takes to be that fist, just like the family in Soulfood…but enough of me trying to tell you their story…let me allow these bruddah’s to share their journey…and oh yeah don’t mind them because they’re Just Reflecting!




A.C. the MaYoR: Let's dig right in, why a brewery?

Shaun: The whole idea behind what we really want to do is bridge the gap between people that drink Colt 45 and Miller Highlight and stuff like that and get them engaged in drinking craft beer. If the idea is to drink something that gets you buzzed, we can bridge that gap and give you something that taste unique and still gets you buzzed lol…while keeping that economic growth in our community.

A.C. the MaYoR: What is an obstacle when getting black people to buy into the craft beer culture…I mean from my own observation when I’m out, especially with friends, we indulge in light or brown liquor way more than a craft beer?

Shaun: We want to broaden people’s horizons…the problem with the craft brewery industry is it being extremely white and black people like myself and Tim, didn’t even know what craft beer was and that was five to six years ago. I honestly just thought all beer was beer.





A.C. the MaYoR: So what exactly is a craft beer?

Shaun: A craft beer is basically a beer that escapes that golden, bubbly beer that we have Americanized as like a Pilsner such as Bud Lite, Miller Lit, even Heineken to some extent and Corona, we are going to categorize as beers. A craft beer is something people can go outside the box with the flavors, textures, smells, and the profile of the beer in general. A standard beer has been made for hundreds of years, with craft beer people are pushing the envelop and trying to figure out different smells and tastes people can create while hitting home on the alcohol content.

A.C. the MaYoR: When did the conversation amongst you three begin, wanting to dive into the brewery industry?

Shaun: IMMEDIATELY! We are talking days after when we found out that we can make beer, which led to us saying we should sell beer.



A.C. the MaYoR: So you guys were on the type time of selling the beer that you make?

Shaun: Yes, immediately we were saying we should sell the beer that we make. And that’s because we brought a product out that was good and we enjoyed amongst ourselves.

JT: I actually didn’t start liking beer until we started to make them. Once we started making beer, I became a beer snob and it was a wrap from there lol.


A.C. the MaYoR: You have to share with me the experience when you all first starting brewing at the crib lol.

Shaun: We started with a home brew kit and ran through it. We then decided that this was stupid and that we needed more beer and with my background being in computer engineering, and we figured out that it was more about nobs and buttons, more water here and a different temperature, it was a wrap and we started to figure out how to make it bigger and bigger and bigger. Our task was how to make it as big as we could within the law. And all within a couple of days span, the light bulb when off and we believed that we could do this.

Tim: I must say that it was a learning curve. We’ve been home brewing ever since, so once we started we didn’t stop and Shaun and TJ perfected the craft as much as they could. One of the most beautiful things about this is there is so much research so you really don’t have to make anything up. The blueprint is already there and it just so happens that we are black and that’s just unheard of. Harris Family Brewery will be the first black brewery in Pennsylvania, and we are following the footsteps of Brooklyn Brewery and Black Frog.



A.C. the MaYoR: Lets go back for a second on how to draw people in…what are some goals you all have in mind to really make an impact locally and culturally? 

Shaun: Well just like the Black Brew Culture, we all are trying to bridge the gap and introduce black people into craft beer by sharing it with them and also bringing people into the fold who are black that make craft beer or home brew. Even that community is small and what we would like to do within the Harris Family Brewery is to do a lot to grow that home brewing community amongst African-Americans because we I mean lets be honest we’ve always drank lol, but we get stuff and are very innovative as a people, and the box that we are kept in most of the time is just a mental box. When I tell people that I make beer, there were people that said I can do this at my house too, and I said yes you can and let me show you how to do it because who knows what you have to bring to the table and that’s dope because I don’t want it to just be us making beer, or at home brew clubs because that’s what it was, just us and we were like nope, we were feeling it.



A.C. the MaYoR: How was that environment being the only blacks and participating in Home Brew Clubs?

Shaun: Some of those Home Brew Communities were extremely racist and it just wasn’t cool, so we hopped out of those Home Brew communities. Now we were in those communities at a time when the country was super divided which was in 2014…you know we have a Black President and people were mad, cops were getting off with police brutality, confederate flags were being hung up all over the place, and we weren’t feeling it. Like Tim said, the blueprint was out there and HACC and Shippensburg has courses on both the brewing side and the agricultural side.

Tim: My issue is this…craft beer is very popular in Harrisburg. There’s over twenty brewery’s locally and none of them are on our side of town. From Cameron Street all the way to the Colonial Park Mall, you finding a craft beer on tap is very scares, that’s the main population that we all live in first and foremost, we raise kids there, we go to school there, we work there, and now we want to really add to the community by starting a really strong business and craft beer is a booming business.


A.C. the MaYoR: And the Harris Family Brewery will be the first black owned brewery correct and how receptive were the other craft brewery owners if I’m saying it correctly lol?

Shaun: We will be the first fully black-owned brewery in Pennsylvania. No partnerships, no secret seed money, no silent partner, its all from the muscle. And the other brewery’s were extremely receptive and helpful to the point where we were almost apprehensive, thinking that they were competition, and what we learned is that everybody wants to help each other grow and when the craft brew culture in Central Pennsylvania saw us, do whatever they could to help us push forward, and that’s a dope feeling. 



A.C. the MaYoR: Tim what are you most excited about during this process?

Tim: That our brewery will only serve beers freshly brewed by Shaun and TJ from our location, and eventually will collaborate with other local brewers, and have our beers on tap at other locations that have been standing in Harrisburg for twenty to thirty years and then branch out to York, Lancaster, Philly, etc., from there.

A.C. the MaYoR: How important is this in regards to building this brotherhood?

Shaun: People ask us all of the time if we are really brothers and our response is always this…the Harris Family Brewery, we are not related by blood, but we are related by blood lol. But do you want to know how important this brotherhood really is…this whole company was derailed in 2017 because half of us weren’t speaking to the other half. Everybody’s energy was off and other businesses were being affected. So about November, December when we were like, alright its been a year, nobody is fighting nobody, so what are we really doing. After a year we felt like we wasted a year, and as soon as we got back on track everything started to click!



A.C. the MaYoR: Could you bruddah’s give me some insight on your specific roles regarding HFB?

JT: I am the co-brew master and also co-owner. I am the guy that stands with Shaun in the kitchen, making sure everything is correct. It’s all about team work!

Tim: I am co-owner and operations manager…I currently don’t brew and it’s no secret! It’s a science and I live it to scientist.

Shaun: I am also co-owner and brew master.

A.C. the MaYoR: What is everyone’s favorite in-house beer?

JT: My first favorite recipe is the flagship, which is Formula 58 is more citrus, my second is Bando Black is a dark stout, and my third is Cuban Must Die is a black chocolate smell, which we just created and each beer represents the three of us. When we first started to do this, it amazed me and now has a special place in my heart for Harris Family Brewery that will never go away. 
A.C. the MaYoR: Going into this would you consider it more of a dream or a passion:

Everyone: Passion!!!

Shaun: We found it or it found us, we clicked, and now we are REALLY passionate about making it happen. Kids grow up wanting to be firefighters and astronauts, I don’t know nobody that brews beer. It’s a passion because I’m telling you that first day that we first made beer and that light bulb went off, we said we can do this and people will buy this for three to five dollars, and it was a wrap from there and that’s what makes it a passion. You know, after all of the beer is gone and the pots and pans need to be washed, the passion keeps you going because that’s not the fun part but we know what comes after that.


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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

10/25/17 #WhatYouNeedWednesday (#JustReflecting article) Ft. Briana Synder' Charlie Lux Boutique

#JustReflecting with "King Bre"


Written By: Anwar Curtis (A.C. the MaYoR)

This past summer was eventful to say the least. Even though I had a lot to accomplish, I took some time to link up with an inspired individual who only seeks success, along with taking risks. Her most recent risk and achievement was launching her own boutique store “Charlie Lux Boutique” this year. Now let me introduce you to the brains behind the brand, Miss Briana Synder and oh yeah please don’t mind…..we’re just reflecting!



Bre: I came up with the idea to start Charlie Lux Boutique back in September/October. Trying to figure out where I was going to go with Marmoset Vodka, a liquor line that was started back in 2011. Not knowing how much capital you need to start a vodka line, or purchasing a liquor license, the distillery, etc....I decided to hold off on that idea while still fulfilling my entrepreneur ambition. I had so many other things in mind, but starting Charlie Lux was the most reasonable objective I could do right now. I had money saved up and said you know what, I'ma do it. I planned and organized. I realized who I wanted to market, found out how much I needed, figured out if I wanted a physical store or not. I then did some research and found out not having a physical store would cut off my overhead, and focus on selling specifically online.




A.C. the MaYoR: Were you always into fashion and do you remember your first outfit?




Bre: Yes, the thing is my style is very split. I’m either tomboyish, or girly girly. It’s kinda like the whole King Bre, Breezy, it’s totally specific. People that really know me, when they see me in heels they say I’m like day and night (lol). I’ll turn around and put on my favorite pair of One’s (Jordan's) and just rock out with a snapback (lol). The first time I wore a pair of heels, I was fifteen and I was like; I want to be like Beyonce (lol) you know. I absolutely love Aaliyah, and always looked up to and wanted to dress just like her, I even have an Aaliyah board on Pinterest because I just love her style. But you know Beyonce was the girly version of who was hot then. From those two, I started creating my own style.




A.C. the MaYoR: Is Charlie Lux Boutique a branch off someone else or your own line?




Bre: Charlie Lux Boutique is specifically my line. I do not make the clothing yet, but I want to in the future. I want to design specific pieces. Within my network I have connected with somebody that could do individual mockups for me, but I will have to find a factory to mass produce them. I will eventually have to visit LA, because here in Harrisburg the price for material and fabric is so much more expensive than in LA. Now I am granted access into showrooms in LA which took months.







A.C. the MaYoR: Can you explain the process of being granted access to showrooms?




Bre: I needed to have a business license, you must show certain invoices showing certain products are selling, I had to get my wholesalers certificate, vending license, anything that has do with retail. Then you have to meet with the LA showroom board for approval, and they grant you access to several manufacturer and distributor showrooms.




A.C. the MaYoR: And you completed that all in a several months?




Bre: Yeah and June first is when I opened up the store.




A.C. the MaYoR: Dope! I’ve noticed your IG handle is @KingBre….please break down what inspired you to go with such a nickname.




Bre: King Bre comes from what I dealt with, with the liquor line. When I turned twenty-one, I was in the downtown area, and Ciroc Peach was at its pinnacle. I went to at least four different bars trying to purchase Ciroc and they all told me, they don’t sell that type of Vodka.




A.C. the MaYoR: And what was their reasoning for not selling Ciroc…..I mean five years ago that was everywhere wasn’t it?




Bre: Well they told me that they don’t carry certain brands of alcohol because it’s an Urban drink….and that bothered me. So me being in mode (lol) I said to myself, I’m going to start my own liquor line and they won’t know who is behind it….I started googling and was so intrigued by the process. So fast forward how I came up with KingBre. I would go to the liquor control board, and the home brewer store, I began building relationships with certain people. That led to me asking questions, and soooo many times I was told that my vision wouldn’t work, due to it being a male dominated industry. There were three main reasons why people kept saying it wouldn’t work; one...because I was young, two…..because I was a female, and three….because I was a minority. And my response was how dare you! So one day I said this is my world and empire and I’m the King of this, and nobody will dictate what I will do with this.




A.C. the MaYoR: So what type of response do you receive from men when they find out you see yourself as a King?




Bre: Some men think it’s dope that I consider myself a King after they hear the story behind it. I didn’t do it to test the ego’s of men. It legit had to do with me being put down, and I wouldn’t say shamed, because I don’t let things get to me like that….but it showed me how narrow minded this world is.




A.C. the MaYoR: I definitely respect it, for the simple fact that women kinda have to force themselves to be equal to men at times, because let’s be honest, there are men who do anything in their means to make a woman feel uncomfortable, or less than. Corny!  Now me personally, I believe a King and Queen are equal, and when you put certain words in the atmosphere, certain meanings have the potential to change, but I get it.  So I say from one King to the next, and I quote the homie J.Cole “don’t give them too much you, don’t let them taint your soul”!




A.C. the MaYoR: So now that we cleared that up (lol) as explained you can switch up your style, one moment being a girly girl, and the next moment dressing like a tomboy….how do you appeal that with your brand, and incorporate that into today’s marketing, especially on social media?




Bre: Branding is very important and I am being strategic when it comes to me branding myself, especially on social media. Now that I am stepping more into the light, people are trying to figure out who is behind Charlie Lux. I am looking into what the layout, outfits and material I choose to post will be. I don’t want people to misconstrue WHO I AM, AND WHAT I STAND FOR! And even though I have two different styles, it is important to me that I pass on the same message. And that message is being an EMPOWERED WOMEN, but also inspire men too. And when a person visits my page, they can say ShE DIDN’T GIVE UP! As far as style goes, it’s not about me branding my style because there is a time and place for everything.




A.C. the MaYoR: Believe it or not but that’s apart of branding and you bring up a great point. Now that our youth are being exposed to so much, especially due to technology, many of them don’t have a clue which way to go when it comes to expressing themselves and the importance of protecting their character. And you are demonstrating that with the brand you are building.




Bre: I feel like it is very important that us as women demonstrate to young girls that people…..well America will say that you need to dress this way if you are a businesswoman. To me WHAT YOU WEAR ALL THE TIME WILL NOT CLASSIFY WHO YOU ARE. And when people underestimate me just because I’m not wearing something or look a certain way, that adds on to my drive. And I am glad that you brought up our young girls, because I want to start a mentoring group for young girls, and link up with other women who are on the same mission. I just want to help motivate our young girls, and tell them that they can do anything, no matter what their skin color is. I also want to explain to our youth that even though the support here is what it is…..there is enough opportunity out here for everyone to be successful. I live by the saying BE WHO YOU NEEDED WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER. I was raised by my dad, by himself. I didn’t grow up with that women’s perspective….so it is very important to me to be a positive spirit to young girls and lady’s.







A.C. the MaYoR: That message is very inspiring.  Now that we are on the topic of mentorship.....how has your journey been connecting with mentors?




Bre: I met a dope mentor, Nina (Philly Cheesesteak Tour) who was the guest speaker at the Build Your Business Bootcamp held by the African American Chamber Of Commerce in 2016. She has helped me so much getting over my fear of public speaking….and she has invited me to speak at some of her functions. I was supposed to pitch my liquor business at that event and didn’t…..but don’t you know she knew who I was because certain people brought me up in conversation once that event was over. She has been a huge influence this past year as far as mentoring. My aunt is also a mentor to me. She has helped teach me how to handle myself in conversation with certain people in business. Other than that, it’s weird but celebrity wise, I watch how certain people conduct themselves. I like Mary Jane’s business character (lol) and also Charlie from Queen Sugar. And no Charlie Lux did not come from that show (lol).




A.C. the MaYoR: (Lol) I figured as much. But where did the name Charlie Lux come from?



Bri: (Lol) my friend gave me that nickname in highschool because I had bright red hair. And then I would use that name at times when I would go out as an alias (lol). And Lux was incorporated because I like luxury (lol). So Charlie is the girly girl, and King Bre is me (lol).




A.C. the MaYoR: It’s funny because after you just broke down all three names, they all are the same person, which is really dope. Now I remember during Snobfest, this year that Dimitra held for her business, Urban Snob being in business for 5 years, she wore one of your lay’s (an outfit) while celebrating her accomplishment….and the homie Cordell is constantly shouting you out….with that being said, how important is it for you to make an impact locally when it comes to Harrisburg’s culture, especially Harrisburg’s Urban culture?




Bre: I would love to see my clothing incorporated with other entities here. We have a huge industry here and I am glad you mentioned Dimitra….she has been so supportive and everyone who is affiliated with Urban Snob has been so supportive. We support each other which is so dope! And as far as the music scene here; it is important that we support each other.




A.C. the MaYoR: Well I normally end these conversations with the question….if you could give the world one ingredient of yourself what would it be, but you definitely covered that!




Bri: It would be positivity….be who you needed to be when you were younger!



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