Dear Culture

‘Dear Culture’: Celebrating Black Excellence

Episode 24

Dear Culture is on location for a star-studded evening in Los Angeles, Calif., as some of the biggest names in Hollywood gather for theGrio Icon Awards.


Panama Jackson [00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. What’s going on, everybody. Welcome to this special episode of Dear Culture here on theGrio Black Podcast Network. We’re here at theGrio Awards in L.A. at the Beverly Hilton, interviewing the honorees and some special VIPs that are going to come through the building. So make sure you check us out. Who knows who’s going to come through? Who knows what kind of conversations we’re going to have? But it’s going to be all good, all fun, all Black, all the time. The first person I want to share with you all is legendary. I’m talking icon status. You know her from shows like 227 and Sister, Sister. Oh, yeah. I’m talking about none other than Emmy Award winning actress Jackée Harry. 

Jackée Harry [00:00:48] Have you heard? 

Panama Jackson [00:00:48] Listen, I would love nothing more than for you to be heard. My name is Panama Jackson. 

Jackée Harry [00:00:53] Wow. 

Panama Jackson [00:00:53] Yeah, I know. Sometimes people. Sometimes people react like this, like. Wow, that’s an interesting name. Yes. I have a podcast called Dear Culture at theGrio. And the whole purpose of it is to highlight and celebrate Black culture. Right. Everything that’s wonderful about us. theGrio, obviously the tradition of storytelling. Do you view yourself as a grio? 

Jackée Harry [00:01:13] Yes. I had to think about it because grio is an African word for the storyteller keeps the history of the people going when they don’t have a written history. Right. You thought I didn’t know that. 

Panama Jackson [00:01:23] Oh, no, no, no. Listen, I assume you know that. 

Jackée Harry [00:01:25] But we’re telling our stories now on the Internet, of course, and all platforms, this one being one. So, yes, I’m a grio, but I have yet to tell the story of how it all came to be for me. So maybe one day I get up because I haven’t thought about it. I kind of just, work. 

Panama Jackson [00:01:40] Are we going? Are you going to do that at some point? Can we expect? 

Jackée Harry [00:01:43] Oh, yes. 

Panama Jackson [00:01:44] The story of how it all came to be? 

Jackée Harry [00:01:45] Couple more people gotta die first. But I mean, it might. 

Panama Jackson [00:01:50] Be like the Temptations movie, huh? What does it feel like to be a legend? And I don’t say that lightly yet. Ma’am. Ma’am,. 

Jackée Harry [00:01:56] I’m an icon. 

Panama Jackson [00:01:57] Oh, you know what? I’ll take that. You’re an icon. So what does that feel like? 

Jackée Harry [00:02:01] I don’t know yet. I don’t think about it. Really. I think about I’m being flippant but serious that there are some legends. I’m not there yet, but I’m almost. Maybe by Thursday. 

Panama Jackson [00:02:13] Okay. Well, let me say, as a person who’s grown up watching shows and films and everything that you’ve been a part of, you’re part of my household. We were the 227. We were. We were we were there. I watched all that. 

Jackée Harry [00:02:25] You were Sister, Sister. You’re too young to do 227, you gotta be Sister, Sister with the twins.

Panama Jackson [00:02:29] Well, yes, that was also. So I was a little bit older then when my parents loved 227. So we used to watch that show religiously. I’m just saying you’ve been a part of my life. 

Jackée Harry [00:02:39] You look 12. 

Panama Jackson [00:02:39] I am 43 ma’am.

Jackée Harry [00:02:40] Black don’t crack. 

Panama Jackson [00:02:41]  I love that that’s the case. Hopefully that stays that way forever. You know that personally firsthand. So, look, one thing we always do on my podcast and every podcast episode is we do a Blackfession, which is a confession about your Blackness, something somebody would be surprised to know. Because Black people, we’re not a monolith. We love to say that. Right? So we all have these interesting things about us that people like. Really, that’s not that’s what you like. Do you have a Blackfession? 

Jackée Harry [00:03:02] A Blackfession? 

Panama Jackson [00:03:03] A Blackfession. 

Jackée Harry [00:03:04] I grew up in the Lincoln Project in Harlem, New York City. How Blackfession is that? 

Panama Jackson [00:03:09] There you go. Listen. 

Jackée Harry [00:03:10] I ran the streets, not the streets to screets. Yes. Born and bred. You know. Is that something? I didn’t think about that. And I make the best fried chicken in the world. 

Panama Jackson [00:03:19] Okay, now, is this tested? 

Jackée Harry [00:03:21] You go slap yourself. 

Panama Jackson [00:03:22] Oh, now that’s some good fried chicken. Listen, I believe in food to make yourself feel so good. 

Jackée Harry [00:03:26] You’ll eat with your hands. That’s right. 

Panama Jackson [00:03:27] Well, thank you so much for taking a few minutes with us here at Dear Culture. It is truly an honor. It is truly a pleasure. Thank you so much. 

Jackée Harry [00:03:35] Thank you. Panama. 

Panama Jackson [00:03:36] Tonight was all about honoring 12 Black icons. And one of those was real estate entrepreneur and author Don Peebles, who was named the business icon for his work and commitment to diversity and equity in the business world. Here now, joined by Don Peebles, one of our honorees this evening here at theGrio Awards. How are you doing today? I’m doing. 

Don Peebles [00:03:54] Great. 

Panama Jackson [00:03:55] Now, you’re from D.C., right? From D.C. So I live in D.C. right now. I live in. I live in. I live in Congress Heights. The Congress Heights area. Southeast

Don Peebles [00:04:04] Okay. I built my first building on MLK. 

Panama Jackson [00:04:07] You’re right. MLK. 

Don Peebles [00:04:08] Martin Luther King Avenue. 

Panama Jackson [00:04:10] Yes, sir. So, how much is D.C. changed since you were since you don’t live in D.C. any more. 

Don Peebles [00:04:15] Right. 

Panama Jackson [00:04:15] Okay. 

Don Peebles [00:04:16] But my family still there? Okay. 

Panama Jackson [00:04:18] Have you watched and seen what some of the as a developer, as somebody who is creating part of the landscape for the city? How is it how has it been been watching the growth and the change in D.C. over the past, I don’t know, 20, 30 years? 

Don Peebles [00:04:31] Well, you know, it’s interesting. So I was born in D.C. and when I went to college, I came back home and we started working there in 1979. But when I grew up in D.C., there was always a Black mayor. Yes. The chief of police was Black. Right. And the relationship that the police have with us as young Black men and women was a very positive one overall. It was not this adversarial. And the government was focused on creating economic empowerment. And D.C. got a very transformative mayor. He had his problems, but he was very transforming. 

Panama Jackson [00:05:04] Mayor for life. Talk about mayor for life. Marion Barry. 

Don Peebles [00:05:07] And if it wasn’t for him and it wasn’t for me being in D.C. at that time in the 1980s, I wouldn’t be here today. So I got my first opportunity to build my first building from Marion Barry. And before that, I got my chance to be involved in real estate and. And then there’s the pollen you see through here. And so Washington, D.C., throughout the 1980s, it was a strong commitment for economic empowerment for Black businesses. And so D.C. became the Mecca, along with Atlanta for Black businesses. And Ward eight, where you live, where. 

Panama Jackson [00:05:41] I live. 

Don Peebles [00:05:41] It was the most influential ward because Barry and the government cared about Black Americans and Black D.C. residents. And so what I saw was transformative economic empowerment throughout the 1980s. And then it changed. And so it slowed down. So today, Washington, D.C., has had tremendous development. Right. Tremendous. 

Panama Jackson [00:06:03] We always build in something. There’s always something being built. It’s always something. 

Don Peebles [00:06:06] Look at Southwest, which is urban renewal. Yes. For really for economic empowerment. For Black people. Got redeveloped into the wharf. Yes. Very limited opportunity for African-American businesses. So if I look at D.C., I see great progress as a developer and businessperson, but I see tremendous lost opportunity and exclusion because D.C. is a tale of two cities. There is no longer the Black economic power base, which they had before, but now in Prince George’s County. Right. And so what I see is a lost opportunity. And I’m hopeful that Black Washingtonians and Black businesses will go back and look at D.C. now, that it’s going to have some problems as a result of, you know, the change of how people work and so forth. But, I mean, D.C., there’s never been any place like it when it was there in the 1980s, glossy Black business people. And I’m grateful that I happen to have been there. Right. And and without transforming. And it’s important to show the power of politics. If it wasn’t for a transformative mayor. Right, I wouldn’t be here. 

Panama Jackson [00:07:11] Fair enough. 

Don Peebles [00:07:12] So and so many of us got our start here. 

Panama Jackson [00:07:14] Absolutely. So how does it feel to be an honoree at the first Grio awards? 

Don Peebles [00:07:18] Humbling. I mean, humbling and a great sense of pride, you know, to be, you know, in, you know, being being honored with someone like Patti LaBelle, who I have admired forever. Absolutely. Someone who was creative and transformative as Tyler Perry. You know, my friend Robert Smith, who was knocked down tremendous barriers and set, you know, a tone of philanthropy. I mean, it’s humbling. But I also feel this sense of responsibility and a renewed sense of responsibility that we have to step up the volume and the pressure for economic inclusion. Because if you think about going back to what happened during after the murder of George Floyd. Right. And how there was this day of reckoning and this time of reckoning. Absolutely. But now we’re losing the momentum and we are not on the forefront of the discussion. And we need to get back on the forefront of discussing economic growth. 

Panama Jackson [00:08:18] All right. Well, sir, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate all that you do, all that you’ve done, all that you will do. And I hope you enjoy your evening. 

Don Peebles [00:08:26] Thank you very much. Thank you, sir. 

Panama Jackson [00:08:28] From business talk with one of the country’s wealthiest Black men, Don Peebles, to laughs with the legendary comedian Luenell. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m a fan. I’ve been a fan for a long time. And I know first off. 

Luenell [00:08:42] You didn’t say it. 

Panama Jackson [00:08:43]  First off, first, though, I was getting there. Thank you very much. Allow me to do my thing. I’m the host right now. I’m the host right now. This is their cultural Panama. Jackson I’m gonna step away and be back here. Now we’re at theGrio and Grio means storyteller. You view yourself as a grio, as a storyteller? 

Luenell [00:09:02] Absolutely. In my comedic delivery, I’m not a joke teller. I don’t even know how to write a joke. I wouldn’t know how to remember. But I do tell stories. And that way I don’t have to memorize because everything I talk about on stage is true. 

Luenell Standup [00:09:17] I had to train like an athlete to get this body. You don’t just wake up and look like this and eat midnight snack in between meals snack. And then you have to lay immediately down at all that eating. 

Luenell [00:09:33] So definitely I’m agreeable. 

Panama Jackson [00:09:35] I recently did a podcast episode with Guy Torry talking about the Phat Tuesday documentary that he did. And actually, since I have you here, I wanted to ask you about that. Can you tell me a little bit about that time in the L.A. comedy scene and because it seems to have I mean, listen, y’all, we’re all in every movie that I watched in the nineties. It was like everybody like that whole scene was so essential to my own upbringing and influenced me so much. Like, what was it like back then as being a part of that scene? 

Luenell [00:10:01] It really was sort of like an explosion. And I think that it started exploding with Robin Harris. Yes. And then people started taking notice of all theGrios that we’ve always had and the stories that we’ve always told. And they noticed that, hey, these Black folks like to have a good time and make a good movie and they make money. 

Panama Jackson [00:10:29] Yes, they do. Yes, they do. Yes, they do. 

Luenell [00:10:32] They put a lot of people on. You know, we had never had national television exposure as convenience until BET’s Comicview and Def Jam. 

Panama Jackson [00:10:41] Right. 

Luenell [00:10:41] That’s the first time we had national exposure and from those days spun out many, many absolutely multimillionaire stars today just from that era. And one guy put together Phat Tuesday P.H.A.T. 

Panama Jackson [00:10:58] P.H.A.T 

Luenell [00:11:00] It took us back, but we were watching. It really took us back to that time. And things were less complicated. It wasn’t social media. It’s like that person funny, go see him. Right. That was before social media. And we didn’t have any of that, you know, cyber bullying or anything like this or haterade and stuff like that. There’s always going to be problems with people. But it wasn’t like, you know, beefs and stuff like that. Right. And while social media is great for us to promote and and we’ve come a long, long way, you know, for me, like looking at comedy, even on a special, it’s just not the same as being in the room. 

Panama Jackson [00:11:36] Gotcha. Yeah, I agree. 

Luenell [00:11:38] You just get a different energy. 

Panama Jackson [00:11:39] The vibes is different and the feeling is there. Yeah. 

Luenell [00:11:42] Yeah. But I think that that documentary was a great, great thing. And I think being here tonight, being at the first one is really amazing. Rarely in town on the weekends ever. So to be here, to be able to come is great to be here and after, you know, quarantine. I still am amazed when we come together and pull together all dressed up. You can’t have dressed us. They tried at the Country Music Awards, but you can’t out style us and Black people who walk in pride and with our heads held up. And now you’re in a whole room full of them. Yes. And it’s like a heard. I love it. But the energy rubs off from yourself to other people. Other people, too. 

Panama Jackson [00:12:25] All right. The last question I’m going to ask you. This is something we do at the end of my podcast, every episode, which is we ask everybody for a Blackfession, which is a confession, a Blackfession, a confession about your Blackness. Something that people will be surprised to know about, you know, because you’re Black. What’s something that people will be surprised to know? Put you on the spot. 

Luenell [00:12:47] That if some of my friends knew how much I don’t care about them, they’d be really hurt. 

Panama Jackson [00:12:57] Oh. That’s a that’s a confession right there. 

Luenell [00:12:58] That’s a Blackfession. 

Panama Jackson [00:13:00] Yes, indeed it is. 

Luenell [00:13:02] That you know, that I eat it because some time they may need me, you know? 

Panama Jackson [00:13:07] Yes. And so we all need you. We all need you. We appreciate you. Look, seriously, thank you for everything you’ve done. I when I was not a joke, when I said I’m a big fan. You’ve been in all kind of movies and everything that I don’t love. I’m a Black movie connoisseur. I consume Blackness in an amazing clip. 

Luenell [00:13:24] That’s wonderful. We should get together,watch movie one night. 

Panama Jackson [00:13:27] Listen, You call me, you let me know. Oh, I mean, I live in DC thought. 

Luenell [00:13:31] I don’t call men, though. 

Panama Jackson [00:13:32] Well. 

Luenell [00:13:32] I only called back. 

Panama Jackson [00:13:34] You know, I don’t even know what to do with this right now. I ain’t gonna lie to you. 

Luenell [00:13:39] I have a theory you can cut out or whatever. I don’t call men because A. If you don’t answer, I’m mad. 

Panama Jackson [00:13:46] Okay, fair. 

Luenell [00:13:47] B. If I leave you a message and you don’t return it. I’m mad. C. If you say I’ll call you back. You don’t call me back. I’m mad. So to avoid all that, I just don’t call men. I only call back. 

Panama Jackson [00:13:56] The logic works. It works out that math. Ladies and gentlemen, that math. Right. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. We appreciate you. Enjoy your night. As someone I was really excited to see was Nikole Hannah-Jones. You know her. She’s the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who covers racial injustice at The New York Times and the creator of the famed and landmark 1619 Project and is currently the founder for the Center for Journalism and Democracy at Howard University. Oh, yeah, she missed Howard homecoming to come hang out with us. What’s going on? We are here with Superstar. Come on now. Nikole Hannah-Jones, one of the most famous Black people, probably in white America. Black America, anywhere at this point. The name of my podcast is Dear Culture and you are the culture at this point as much as you have given and done. So we’re part of theGrio. And I’ve been asking everybody this just because I think it’s an important question. But do you view yourself as a grio? 

Nikole Hannah-Jones [00:14:57] Oh, yes, I guess I do. I guess I do. Right. I mean, I definitely see myself in the tradition of Black storytellers, of Black people who are determined to do as the very first Black newspaper, The Freedom Journal said, We wish to plead our own cause. No longer should anothers speak for us. So I hope so. It seems like a big title to kind of bestow upon yourself. So. 

Panama Jackson [00:15:21] Well, I would happily bestow upon you. 

Nikole Hannah-Jones [00:15:24] But yes. And if I’m not, I hope to get there. 

Panama Jackson [00:15:27] Yeah. Well, as as a fan, as somebody who’s obviously engaged with your work culturally, just in many ways, I absolutely view that way. What does it feel like to be missing, Howard homecoming right now? 

Nikole Hannah-Jones [00:15:41] Man You know, I have never been to a Howard homecoming because before I worked there, I always said I couldn’t go because I feel so jealous that I wasn’t part of the Howard family. And now I’m there and I’m missing it. So just understand how important it is for me to support Black media that I would miss. Howard homecoming to be here. 

Panama Jackson [00:15:58] I like that. That was very well done. So the last thing I’m going to ask you here, so one of the things that I do on my podcast is when everybody at the end of every show we do a Blackfession, which is a confession about your Blackness. We ask everybody to come up with something, something that people will be surprised to know about Nikole Hannah-Jones because as the arbiter of Black culture, the way that you are, what is something somebody people would be surprised to learn? 

Nikole Hannah-Jones [00:16:19] I’m about to get canceled over this. 

Panama Jackson [00:16:21] Oh, let’s do it. 

Nikole Hannah-Jones [00:16:22] But I’ve seen Gone with the Wind about ten times. 

Panama Jackson [00:16:24] Really. The whole thing? 

Nikole Hannah-Jones [00:16:28] The whole thing. 

Panama Jackson [00:16:30] So what, you like it? You actually, like, Gone with the Wind? 

Nikole Hannah-Jones [00:16:33] I feel like it’s an amazing, one, it is amazing storytelling. 

Panama Jackson [00:16:37] It is amazing storytelling. 

Nikole Hannah-Jones [00:16:38] The fashion is beautiful. But also, if you want to understand how Black people and slavery were conceptualized in the white mind, there’s almost no better case study and then Gone with the Wind. So for all of those reasons, yes, I’ve seen that movie many, many times, but I, I, I’ve never admitted this publicly before. 

Panama Jackson [00:16:56] Exclusive right here on the Dear Culture. 

Nikole Hannah-Jones [00:16:59] This tape was doctored. But yes, it’s yes, for many reasons. It it tells you everything about how white people thought about slavery and Black people at that time. And in many ways, how they think about it now? 

Panama Jackson [00:17:11] Fair enough. Well, thank you for taking a couple of minutes with us here at Dear Culture to share your story about Gone with the Wind, which is not what I thought you were going to say. I literally never saw that coming. We appreciate you. We love all the work that you’re doing. Sincerely.  

Nikole Hannah-Jones [00:17:25] I’m going to edit this, hold on. Can I get a. Nah, I’m playing. It’s all good. 

Panama Jackson [00:17:28] Thank you so much for joining us. 

Nikole Hannah-Jones [00:17:29] Thank you. 

Panama Jackson [00:17:30] A member of theGrio family, Michael Harriot, also made some time for us. We’re sitting here with Michael Harriot writer, wypipologist, one of the most famous Black people on the planet. He brought us such threads as “Are these people Black famous?” And well, he likes to tell stories. He has a book coming out specifically for that purpose. This is the one and only Michael Harriot. 

Michael Harriot [00:17:54] What’s going on there? 

Panama Jackson [00:17:55] I am well. And I’m so happy to have you here on Dear Culture. So we’re here at theGrio Wars. What are you looking forward to most tonight here at theGrio Awards? 

Michael Harriot [00:18:06] You know, one of my favorite things in general is watching Black people stunt. Right. And like, this is the perfect event for stunting. You know, even more so than the BET Awards or any other awards show where this is like the highest level of stunting. And I’ve already witnessed some. And I’ve seen somebody walking around with a crown. So, yeah, I just love to witness the stunting. 

Panama Jackson [00:18:35] I can’t remember exactly which poet laureate said it best. But stunting is a habit. Is I do believe, the way that we live life. And I agree with you. That’s why we are here. That is why we are gathered in where more than two are gathered. Like, well, I’m just remixing Bible verses at this point because, you know, but the point is. 

Michael Harriot [00:18:56] Ultimately, isn’t all awards shows just a conduit for stunting? 

Panama Jackson [00:19:02] That, you know what? You’re absolutely right. And when I walk out of here tonight, I’m standing on somebody. I don’t know who, but I’m starting on somebody. And you’ve inspired me to do so. Since we’re talking about being so Black. Do you have a Blackfession? Blackfession being a confession about your Blackness? Something people might not expect, especially out of you. 

Michael Harriot [00:19:20] So my Blackfession is kind of embarrassing, but most Black foods I cannot eat or I have never eaten. So I have a terrible I’m allergic to all milk products. So I’ve never really had macaroni and cheese, although I make a good macaroni and cheese I am told. 

Panama Jackson [00:19:40] Okay. About to say because you can’t really verify that. 

Michael Harriot [00:19:42] And I grew up not eating pork. So like, I’ve never I’ve never had most pork. I’ve never had a hog maw. A chitterling or a chitlin. 

Panama Jackson [00:19:52] Okay. By the way, he’s a Black man from South Carolina. I just want everybody to be very aware of this. 

Michael Harriot [00:19:58] I have seen more actual pigs than I have eaten. 

Panama Jackson [00:20:04] So I don’t even know what to do with this information. But I appreciate you sharing it with us because that lets me know that you love and care about me as a human, that you would share something so antithetical to your very, very career. 

Michael Harriot [00:20:17] Yeah. So this is the worst point, right? This might even get me kicked out of the club, okay. Because of this. Because not eating pork. I have never had the balogna with the red string around it. 

Panama Jackson [00:20:32] I’m not sure you’re missing anything. Because I have had that, and a while I remember eating that, I don’t remember that being a choice. So, you know, well, look, we appreciate you being here with us here for a minute here. 

Michael Harriot [00:20:44] And I feel like I’ve cleansed myself. If this was a cathartic moment. 

Panama Jackson [00:20:48] We’re gonna let the people decide on that one, because we’re definitely airing this. So we’re going to let the people decide on what that means and how that impacts where you go for the future. All right, my brother Michael Harriot, I love you, man. Appreciate you. And it did not take long for a very famous face to react to Michael’s mac and cheese Blackfession. One of our writers, Michael Harriot, don’t even eat mac and cheese. What’s this is exactly what I did is the same thing I did. 

Sheryl Underwood [00:21:12] Macaroni and cheese. 

Panama Jackson [00:21:13] And he makes macaroni and cheese. We don’t need it now. He has reasons. He’s allergic to dairy, but that’s beside the point. I’m not going to let that get in the way. 

Sheryl Underwood [00:21:19] There’s different type of cheese, vegan cheese. 

Panama Jackson [00:21:21] There’s all kinds of stuff. All kinds of stuff. 

Sheryl Underwood [00:21:23] Where the camera. We gonna take this brotha Black card. 

Panama Jackson [00:21:27] The one with the Blackest jacket in the room. The one with the Blackest jacket in the room. 

Sheryl Underwood [00:21:31] Okay, boy, tell me why you eat macaroni and cheese. Okay. You’re allegric to dairy, they have vegan cheese. Now, what’s the other answer? Why you can’t. Cashew. Cashew, all that different stuff. Come here. Looking sharp, boy. Looking all sexy. 

Panama Jackson [00:21:46] Looking casket sharp like we say. 

Sheryl Underwood [00:21:49] Looking casket ready. Ready to lay him right down. They laid him down nice. Now, listen with your little chocolatey self. Why don’t you eat Macaroni and Cheese. You know, they fried, they put lobster in it. Aren’t you a chef? Where’s your companion? I know somebody love you. Okay? Somebody. You trying to fall in love? You’ll love it. And if they say, baby, if you love me, eat a spoon full of macaroni and cheese. You’re doing it? What’s happening? 

Michael Harriot [00:22:14] Like? Yeah, I would do it. 

Sheryl Underwood [00:22:17] You would do it? 

Michael Harriot [00:22:17] I’m not Anti-macaroni and cheese 

Panama Jackson [00:22:19] Right. 

Michael Harriot [00:22:20] My stomach is. 

Sheryl Underwood [00:22:21] Oh oh well get the get the good the best cheese, government. Because you make grill cheese. Government cheese very good. Hard to cut because you got to stand on top of something to smash that knife down and it never cut right. 

Panama Jackson [00:22:36] You need some leverage. 

Sheryl Underwood [00:22:37] It’s a triangle. 

Panama Jackson [00:22:38] Okay, trying to get ugly. You got to get all right. 

Sheryl Underwood [00:22:40] And with the good grape jelly. That’s the good sandwich. 

Panama Jackson [00:22:43] That was easily one of my favorite moments of the night. Sheryl Underwood is a beloved comedian, but she was actually one of the host for the big show. 

Sheryl Underwood [00:22:51] This first annual Grio Awards celebrates our culture in all levels of every endeavor that Black people are part of. 

Panama Jackson [00:22:58] I love it. I love it. And that’s exactly why we are here. Like, what does it feel like to be able to be one of the first people to come and do like you literally get to set the tone where we’re going with this. Like, what does that what does that like for you? 

Sheryl Underwood [00:23:10] Well, wait a minute. Don’t forget Taye Diggs, you know, because we we’re we’re a hosting duo. 

Panama Jackson [00:23:15] Don’t tell him this. He’s probably my favorite actor. 

Sheryl Underwood [00:23:17] And you know what? An amazing actor, but a comedian. But he’s got to play straight, man. 

Panama Jackson [00:23:21] He’s the straight man. Okay. 

Sheryl Underwood [00:23:23] All right, man. Tonight. But you know what’s great about this, that Byron Allen had the vision to put this together. And I think we got the most powerful of the most powerful. And what I’m hoping is that children’s families will come together and watch this, but children will look up at that stage and see examples that they can follow. 

Panama Jackson [00:23:41] I love it. Last thing I’m going to ask you this something we do on my podcast, to end every episode, we do a Blackfession, which is the confession about your Blackness. Something that folks would be surprised to learn about you because you’re Black. We always have those things that people like, hmm. 

Sheryl Underwood [00:23:53] I think I’ve done everything that the culture will allow. 

Panama Jackson [00:23:56] And you know what? That is the best answer that one could possibly give. 

Sheryl Underwood [00:23:59] And I put God first and everything else fall into place. 

Panama Jackson [00:24:01] There you go. 

Sheryl Underwood [00:24:02] Amen. 

Panama Jackson [00:24:02] Amen. Amen. Amen. God is good. 

Sheryl Underwood [00:24:04] All the time. 

Panama Jackson [00:24:06] They go. 

Sheryl Underwood [00:24:07] Now, if you as my pastor, I come to church more often. 

Panama Jackson [00:24:12] Up next is R&B singer songwriter Goapele, whose name means Move Forward in Setswana, a South African language. I bet you didn’t know that. I know I didn’t know that. What does it feel like having a name that people don’t know how to pronounce? 

Goapele [00:24:28] It’s my only experience in life. I think it’s been like a real coming of age thing for me. You know, when I was little and I had to repeat it over and over. And really it’s a family name, pronounced Goapele, which is even harder than. 

Panama Jackson [00:24:43] I’ve been saying it wrong, too. I thought I had it. 

Goapele [00:24:45] But the thing is, when I got into entertainment, I was like, let’s just do it phonetic, Goapele. You know? And in South Africa, people still make fun of me because it’s a family name. But I think, you know, when I was younger, I didn’t want to stand out. And then when I really stepped into being an artist, I just claimed it and claimed my uniqueness. So it’s just like something I had to grow into. 

Panama Jackson [00:25:05] So you didn’t want to stand out? Somebody. 

Goapele [00:25:09] As a little kid, no. 

Panama Jackson [00:25:09] Really. 

Goapele [00:25:09] I wanted to fit in. 

Panama Jackson [00:25:11] And how did that work with you? Obviously became this, because everybody I know is a huge fan of yours. Like Closer is one of those songs that everybody knows you’re going to hear forever. Like you actually you legit landed a classic song that I think you’re going to be hearing for eternity. 

Goapele – Closer [00:25:26] I’m gettting higher. Closer to my dream. 

Panama Jackson [00:25:33] So was that like them? Because that’s the complete antithesis of that? 

Goapele [00:25:37] I don’t know. I mean, I think Closer was a song that was so personal to me, and it was really outside of the box of anything that I feel like would have even got play on the radio. I just feel like the stars kind of aligned and people resonated with it. And I’ve always loved art and always loved music, and so I just kept going with it. But, you know, all the all the other stuff that, you know, feelings have to catch up, you know? But the creativity has always been there. 

Panama Jackson [00:26:07] Gotcha. The last question I’m going to ask one thing we do on my podcast, too end every podcast is we ask all of our guests for a Blackfession, which is a confession that people will be surprised to know about you because of your Blackness. So what is a Blackfession that you have, if you have one to share. 

Goapele [00:26:24] Give me some examples, how far am I going to go? 

Panama Jackson [00:26:26] Okay. So, you know, a lot of people have never seen Friday, which is always surprising to me. Well, people are still finding out that Bobby Caldwell is white, which I’ll give you one. I’ll give you one. I just came up with. 

Goapele [00:26:36] I didn’t know that. 

Panama Jackson [00:26:36] Oh, well Wow. 

Goapele [00:26:37] I didn’t know that. 

Panama Jackson [00:26:38] So you were today years old when you just I just I just told Goapele that Bobby Caldwell was white. Yo, I think I live just unlocked the level of Blackness. 

Goapele [00:26:45] When you listen you can’t tell. 

Panama Jackson [00:26:46] Listen, I didn’t Nu Shooz that song I Can’t Wait, I genuinely thought they were, they was some Black people. I didn’t know that until two weeks ago. This is what I mean. 

Goapele [00:26:53] I’m happy we share that. 

Panama Jackson [00:26:54] We are sharing moments. 

Goapele [00:26:55] I don’t have to be embarrassed on my own. 

Panama Jackson [00:26:55] So that’s what I mean by Blackfession, something that people wouldn’t wouldn’t expect. 

Goapele [00:27:00] Wouldn’t expect. That’s not personal. That’s just about the culture. 

Panama Jackson [00:27:04] It could be. Listen, it could be anything. 

Goapele [00:27:07] I don’t know, that I it’s okay. 

Panama Jackson [00:27:09] Because if you don’t. 

Goapele [00:27:09] Curse because I like everything when you say one, I like ratchet music. I don’t know. 

Panama Jackson [00:27:15] That’s surprising. 

Goapele [00:27:16] I don’t know. Oh, maybe not. That’s okay. I’m from the Bay Area. 

Panama Jackson [00:27:19] Well look, you found out Bobby Caldwell was white in real time, and I think that counts as much as anything. So. Well, thank you so much for joining me here for a few minutes. A Dear Culture. It is a pleasure to meet you, big fan. Enjoy your evening. Thank you. Another singer songwriter I chatted with was Damon Elliott, who was also a music producer and the son of Dionne Warwick, who talked about collaborating with his iconic mother. 

Damon Elliot [00:27:43] My mom, Dionne Warwick, producing her. Her latest project is my favorite. 

Panama Jackson [00:27:47] Oh, what was that like? 

Damon Elliot [00:27:49] It was nerve wracking. The awesome because it was my fault, you know? So. Telling her what to do is difficult. 

Panama Jackson [00:27:58] I can’t imagine. Culturally speaking, we all do that. That ain’t something that you do. 

Damon Elliot [00:28:04] Well. She let me and it was fun because, you know, she let me sit in the producer’s seat. 

Panama Jackson [00:28:09] Okay. 

Damon Elliot [00:28:10] And it was awesome. This is something that I’ll never forget. 

Panama Jackson [00:28:13] So here’s some fun. Her version of So Amazing is my favorite one is my favorite verse between her and Luther. I know that’s probably sacrilege to say, but. 

Dionne Warwick [00:28:22] Amazing to be loved. I follow you to the moon in the sky above. 

Damon Elliot [00:28:33]  I’ll have to call her and let her know that. That will make her happy. 

Panama Jackson [00:28:36] I listen to it all the time because I didn’t even realize that I knew he wrote the record. I didn’t realize that was that was the single for Dionne Warwick first. 

Damon Elliot [00:28:44] Yes. 

Panama Jackson [00:28:45] And when I discovered it, I was like, yo, that’s that’s that’s a that’s amazing. 

Damon Elliot [00:28:49] They were very close like, you know. 

Panama Jackson [00:28:50] Yeah, absolutely. 

Damon Elliot [00:28:52] Makes sense. Well, look, thank you for taking a couple of minutes with us here at Dear Culture at theGrio Black Podcast Network. Thank you for all the work that you do. Appreciate you. Enjoy your evening. Moving on to actress Brely Evans, who’s been in dozens of films and TV shows and is best known for her roles on Ambitions and everyone’s favorite Being Mary Jane. You are somebody who is shared your light with the world cinematically on the big screen, little screen. TheGrio is a storyteller. You view yourself as a grio? 

Brely Evans [00:29:24] I believe that I am. And I’ve been loving watching how this is just turned into this big conglomerate of, you know, sharing Black excellence. So I’m happy to be a part of it. 

Panama Jackson [00:29:35] Well, we appreciate that. Something we do on my podcast at the end of every episode is a Blackfession, a confession about your Blackness, something that Black people would be surprised to learn about you, considering that you know you are Black. Do you have a Blackfession? 

Brely Evans [00:29:51] Let me see what would be mine. I don’t know if you guys would be surprised to know that I can go from the ghetto to the White House and have a good time. 

Panama Jackson [00:30:02] Like any White House, any version of the White House. 

Brely Evans [00:30:05] Any version of it. Any version of it. Because I’m a bring my Blackness with me. 

Panama Jackson [00:30:09] 2016 to 2020 White House? You can do it? 

Brely Evans [00:30:12] I can handle it. 

Panama Jackson [00:30:13] Okay. And you know what? I believe you because the energy that you’re giving me right now, I believe fully that you can do that. 

Brely Evans [00:30:18] I really believe that I could. No, absolutely. I think is something to find your most authentic self. And that’s been my superpower. So yeah, I think that that’s going to I’m gonna go on a roll with that. 

Panama Jackson [00:30:28] All right. Well, we appreciate you taking a couple of minutes with us here at Dear Culture to share your grioness, to share your stories. So thank you for everything that you do. Thank you for for just being Black excellence. 

Brely Evans [00:30:39] Come on. Don’t we love that phrase? 

Panama Jackson [00:30:41] We do love that phrase. 

Brely Evans [00:30:42] I might get a tattoo. 

Panama Jackson [00:30:43] Especially when it’s true. 

Brely Evans [00:30:45] That part. 

Panama Jackson [00:30:46] Thank you so much. Model and actor Brandon Williams was also in the building. He’s been featured in ads for Ralph Lauren in Under Armor. And before his modeling career kicked off, he was a decorated Navy pilot who served in eight missions. So in a book of your life, what was going to be the title of the book of your life? 

Brandon Williams [00:31:03] Never give up. 

Panama Jackson [00:31:04] Elaborate on that, if you will. 

Brandon Williams [00:31:06] Well, you know, I am from Texas. 

Panama Jackson [00:31:09] Okay. What part of Texas? 

Brandon Williams [00:31:11] Dallas,Texas. Dallas, Texas. 

Panama Jackson [00:31:12] I live in D.C., so I’m a Commander’s fan. You all have our number at all terms. But anyway, that’s not it’s not about me. It’s not about me and my sore spots. Continue. 

Brandon Williams [00:31:23] Well, thank you for that. But you know, I’m from Dallas, Texas. I grew up you know, I mean, my mom worked, you know, in the industry. My dad, you know, worked for the city. You know, you just believe in just hard work, putting your best foot forward every day. Did I think I was going to end up doing anything in entertainment? Probably not. But at the end of the day, you know, experience is something that you can’t really emulate, you know, or just make up, you know, you live in the moment every day. And I think that just having different challenges come your way and seeing different opportunities come your way as well. You’re kind of like, you know, I’m I’m a religious man, you know what I mean? And I know there’s God. 

Panama Jackson [00:32:09] Absolutely. 

Brandon Williams [00:32:11] Because I’ve had a lot of blessings come my way. And, you know, they’ve created where I’m at today. You know, what I mean. 

Panama Jackson [00:32:17] I was about to say. 

Brandon Williams [00:32:18] I’m talking to Panama. 

Panama Jackson [00:32:19] Well, I appreciate that. I appreciate that. So what has been your favorite opportunity has presented itself so far? 

Brandon Williams [00:32:27] I just thankful to be alive. 

Panama Jackson [00:32:30] Okay. 

Brandon Williams [00:32:30] I’m thankful that I’m able to be here at places like this and, you know, speak to people and network within my community. 

Panama Jackson [00:32:40] Absolutely. 

Brandon Williams [00:32:41] I think that’s something that, you know, speaks volumes. Speaks volumes as far as, like, you know, where we started and where we are now. 

Panama Jackson [00:32:49] Absolutely. Well, I appreciate you taking a little bit of time out to speak with us here at Dear Culture. Best of luck in all of your endeavors. Enjoy the evening and we’ll see you up. We’ll see you out there. Alright, brother. And rounding out the night was the impressive Michele Ghee, who’s the president of multicultural advertising for theGrio. She’s also served as the CEO of Ebony and Jet magazines and has a long history as a BET executive. Basically, she’s everywhere blackness is. Why do you think it’s important to to celebrate the way that we’re doing it? 

Michele Ghee [00:33:20] Because who else is going to. So my grandmother told me, if not you, then who? So if we don’t celebrate our own across different categories and disciplines and different people, we know that the world is not celebrating us, whether it’s in the hallways of corporate America, whether it’s on a stage or an award show. So we got to honor ourselves and tell our stories so that we become part of the fabric of this amazing country. 

Panama Jackson [00:33:43] Now, did you rehearse that? Because that was perfect. I felt like that was that was a perfect response. 

Michele Ghee [00:33:48] I’ve been that person. 

Panama Jackson [00:33:50] I was about to say. 

Michele Ghee [00:33:51] I’ve been invisible. Come on now. 

Panama Jackson [00:33:52] Listen, and we appreciate everything that you have done and are doing and will do. Last question I’m going to ask you is when on our podcast, at the end of every podcast, we do a Blackfession, which is a confession about your Blackness. Something like, for instance, a couple of weeks ago, I just realized that the people that sing the song I Can’t Wait, Nu Shooz. I did not know those were not Black people. I made that discovery. I was very surprised when I discovered this. Do you have a Blackfession that you can share with in. 

Michele Ghee [00:34:17] A Blackfession? So I’ll say this. I’m a little girl from Oakland, California. Okay. And my mom is Canadian. She’s, you know, white with blond hair and blue eyes. And my dad was 6’4, a Black dude, you know, and we grew up in Oakland. And often times I’m required to say what I am. Like people want to know. They want to put me in a box. And I just grew up in a culture that’s amazing. I’m a Black woman, and I’m proud to say that. And so, you know, I don’t talk about one side of my family, but I love my mom. I love my dad. But we have an opportunity to choose a culture, and I choose to to walk in my amazing Blackness. So that’s my that’s. 

Panama Jackson [00:34:54] There you go. I will take it. 

Michele Ghee [00:34:56] You’ll take it. 

Panama Jackson [00:34:57] I’ll take it. Thank you so. 

Michele Ghee [00:34:59] Thank you. 

Panama Jackson [00:34:59] Thank you so much. That’s gonna do it for Dear Culture. Black voices are amplified.