Even before I knew of her own photography achievements, I knew that her work in this project was special and something that I had to own. I tracked down a hard copy at a fabulous black owned bookstore in Harlem called Sisters Uptown Bookstore and began my journey into a comprehensive history of black photography. I stumbled upon a Vice article about her and it quietly relit the flame under my own journey as a black woman carving out a space for herself in this white male dominated industry. As a 30+ year old digital photography student, it comes as no shock that most of the studied “greats” of this field look nothing like me and do not capture work that reflects my existence. Representation matters and Deborah Willis’ continued effort to share stories of our existence inspires storytellers like myself to soldier on and continue sharing our perspective. Check out the Vice article featuring Deborah Willis here and Reflections in Black can be purchased here.
As we continue on through this journey of my past life as a radio host, I present to you my series within The B Side Show podcast “Respect Ya Elders”. This was my opportunity to use an entire show to play nothing but the classics. This edition revolved around 70’s and 80’s black cinema. The songs chosen were the musical background to classics such as Sparkle (the original), Fame (the original), Claudine and Super Fly. I also took the liberty of adding clips from other classic films such as The Education of Sonnie Carson, The Warriors and The Mack to fully round out the show. According to my labels, this episode premiered in December 2008 and I must say, IT STILL SOUNDS DAMN GOOD! Listen below and judge for yourself!
The B Side Show “Respect Ya Elders Pt. 4” Originally aired December 2008:
I’m taking it back, way back! 10 years or so ago I created The B Side Show Podcast. The idea began with my frustration while a student at CSB (great school) with traditional FM radio and its limitations. The same songs being played every hour, the same dry talk breaks, interviews with artists who weren’t saying much with their music or in their interviews and hosts who didn’t ask the thought provoking questions that I thought should have been asked OR discussing topics that I felt were important enough for some air time. Back then, no one knew what a podcast was. People were still beginning to understand and accept the concept of satellite radio and paying for exclusive radio content so the idea of an online radio show kept many scratching their heads. Now, everyone and they mama has a podcast. I noticed the change in tide and began seeing the over saturation of the podcast platform early on, right around the time that I began expanding my brand and began falling in love with photography and video productions. By the time my last show aired, there were new podcasts by big named celebrities and public figures popping up weekly and the concept of playing music from artists not heard on traditional radio was something that had made its way into the mainstream. In short, everyone was doing it. I decided to cease production of the show (better to end on top) and rebrand the idea of the show to focus on my photography and visual arts. Thus thebsideshow.com became shavonmeyers.com and my popular podcast episodes remained idle on various external drives.
(Me at CSB as a student working on The B Side Show)
I recently started thinking about The B Side Show and how FIYAH it was (fire emoji). I will pat myself all the way on the back because I was a one woman band. I filled the role of creator, host, producer, engineer, editor, talent relations etc. I was the show! I contacted and interviewed every artist on the show, created every playlist, recorded every interview with the artists, held down the website and posted every edition of the show myself. I did all of that and promoted the show without any type of machine behind me. I managed to gain listeners across the country AND globe. People as far as Africa, Alaska and Asia have heard my voice via The B Side Show and for that I am forever grateful. Again, I have to stress, this was 10 years ago when it wasn’t as easy as it is now. There was a lot to learn but I managed to do it and put together some amazing radio content. Content so dope that the shows have a fantastic shelf life, which brings me to now: I’m posting old episodes of my show for those who have never heard it AND for the overnight “radio hosts” that pop up daily…because, levels. I also had a full time radio job at Sirius XM which kept me on my toes and my skills sharp because I worked on live radio broadcasts everyday. I don’t know who in the terrestrial FM radio world besides talk radio shows actually do FULL LIVE radio broadcasts everyday but being in that environment made me the radio beast that I became. So here we are. Me with tons of content a decade later and a platform to share it. I’m unlocking the vault and rereleasing some of my old shows for the next few months or until I get tired of hearing myself again. The first oldie but goodie comes at a perfect time. The year is 2007 and I decided to tackle the gay marriage conversation on my 8th show. MY 8TH SHOW EVER, lol. I went straight for the jugular clearly and despite the freedom of shows today, back then no one was really talking about these topics while playing “B Side” songs and songs from newer artists. The topic of gay marriage was quite controversial then, even our beloved President Obama at the time did not fully support it so my views were probably considered a little on the radical side since most people were not willing to say out loud on a public platform that they supported gay marriages. Other than the somewhat dated material, the show still sounds amazing technically, playlist is still fresh and I think I did a damn good job for it being my 8th completed show. Listen below and you be the judge!
Just in time for Pride month I present: The B Side Show #8 “Gay Marriages” Air Date: Winter 2007.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…PRIDE! If you don’t know, I support the LGBTQ community to the fullest and since 2011 (WOW that feels like yesterday) I have walked in the NYC Pride Parade with my cousin and her wife. I captured some pretty epic footage the first year that we walked in the parade and decided to bring it back just in time for this year’s celebration. This is all raw footage of the day but it does a pretty good job of showing just how much fun the Pride Parade is. Enjoy!
It’s here! My new photo book is live and can be viewed here. Enjoy!
A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to visit the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. and I must say, I’ve never been so overwhelmed in the most beautiful way possible. The sheer amount of information, history, culture and energy in the museum is astonishing. I managed to get a few iPhone photos (apologies if they are sideways, still can’t figure that out) and video to share but they do it no justice. If you can, stalk the museum’s website for timed passes and experience this gem in person.
‘Tis the season to be jolly
and shit and I’d be the jolliest photographer in all the land if someone were to put this book in my Xmas stocking this year! Ok cut the cheesy holiday talk, I really want this book. I’ve had my eyes on it for awhile now but have never gotten around to hunting down a new copy. It’s out there for sure and I’m sure it is waiting to start its new life on my bookshelf 😉
Well isn’t this timely? Peep the teaser for the upcoming film I Am Not Your Negro by director Raoul Peck. It features readings from an unfinished novel by the great James Baldwin and is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson.
About the film:
In his new film, director Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished – a radical narration about race in America, using the writer’s original words. He draws upon James Baldwin’s notes on the lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. to explore and bring a fresh and radical perspective to the current racial narrative in America.
In theatres February 3rd
My President is black!
Next year, I won’t be able to say that SO, I’ll say it now for what will likely be the last time that I can say it for awhile.
About 7 years ago when I first decided to take my photography to the next level, I started as many photographers do. I took classes, learned as much as I could and shot as much as I could. This meant shooting a TON of events. You name it, I was there. Didn’t matter the event or if there was a budget attached to it (which most if not all of the time, there wasn’t) I just wanted to get out there and shoot, share my images and be seen on the scene as a photographer (most definitely not my style now). My first big gig was to photograph various events for a member of the NAACP at it’s 100th year celebration at the Hilton Hotel in Midtown. This was a huge event with the main speaker being non other than President Barack Obama.
The universe aligned perfectly to even allow me in the building, let alone capture images for one of the representatives and possibly of the then newly elected President Barack Obama, but it didn’t start out that way. After hearing about the event a few months earlier, I applied for a press pass for “The B Side Show” which was a podcast that I hosted and produced back then. I picked up my official pass and details about the events. The President was the highlight speaker, but only pre approved national news organizations and members of the press would be allowed into the auditorium to cover the speech for national new outlets. Blogs and podcasts be damned. Note: this was 7 years ago, before people even truly understood what blogs and podcasts were. Today, SOME of them are highly respected outlets of information, 7 years ago when I started mine, people scratched their heads and wondered why anyone would listen to a radio show online. Meh. My goal was to cover the event for my show and blog at the time. Sure I would have LOVED to be in the same room as the President during his speech but with no real connection to any national news outlets, it didn’t seem possible…to most.
The hotel was a few block away from my then current job at Sirius XM Radio. I was able to work my 9-5, leave and walk up the block to the event. It couldn’t get any better, right? I bolted out of the doors at Sirius XM (back then just Sirius) with the first DSLR that I’d ever purchased and my standard lens kit, press pass in hand, for ready for whatever. I made it to the hotel with no problem. Got to the entrance, showed my press pass to the attendant and made my way inside.
So now I’m here! I’m inside
The Carter ugh, The Hilton (but I did have that same excitement as Ice T and crew when Pookie finally made his way into the core of the operation). Now what? I didn’t have anyone on the inside to guide me through anything. I had my list of events and speeches that I was allowed to photograph but there was no point person to check in with. The President was scheduled to speak the following day, so this was the warm up to the burn down so to speak. One of the main days of musical performances, lectures and other NAACP events that led up to the President’s address. So, I made my my around. Pulled out my camera, put my press pass around my neck and waited. I was ready, but there was nothing happening. I’d gotten there early and none of the events were scheduled to take place at that time so I roamed around looking for anything to capture. I made my way into an event space for one of the speakers and performances of the evening. I stood close to the stage, camera in hand and again, I waited. Then something happened, the universe came through in a major way. A handsome young black man who worked for the organization approached me. “Are you photographing the event?” he asked. “Yes.” I replied eager to do something other than wait. “Would you mind helping me out, my name is…and I’m the Director of…for the NAACP and I need someone to follow me around and get images of me and the celebrities of the evening” he said. “OF COURSE!” is what I hope I said. Like his name, title and the exact conversation, I can’t remember every detail but it ended up with me following this young man around for hours meeting, photographing and mingling with celebrities and activists that I grew up seeing. HE was the plug as folk would say today. He knew everyone and everyone knew him and I was his photographer for the evening. PUSH THROUGH UNIVERSE.
We ended the evening with me having a ton of photos to sift through and him mentioning the main event the next day, The President’s speech. “Will you be here for that?” he asked. “Well, yes but I don’t have a pass to get into the actual auditorium.” I told him. “Ok…we’ll see what we can do about that. Be here tomorrow and I’ll try and get you in.” “OF COURSE!” is again what I hope I said, either way, I was excited and knew I would be there.
If you live in NYC or any town in which any President has ever visited, you know the madness that I am about to speak on. When the President comes to town everything shuts DOWN. I’ve never seen a city stand still and have so much movement at the same time quite like it does when the president arrives. I figured the word would get out about the President being at the event but I didn’t think it would be Times Square New Years Eve crazy. After working my shift at Sirius, I left a bit earlier to try and avoid the crowd. Unfortunately, I could see the crowd from a few blocks away as I approached the hotel. Excellent. I somehow managed to get myself to the front of the crowd with the NYPD and their barricades. Here comes the bullshit I thought. I showed them my pass and without a word, they opened the barricades and let me through. It was like the parting of the Red damn Sea! If there was ANYTHING that would stop my ass from getting into the building SURELY it would be NY’s finest, but no, the universe kept on providing…
I made my way in and called my contact. “You made it!” he seemed thrilled but not as thrilled as I was to make it in the building. Again, I don’t remember how exactly the conversation went but it ended with me getting access to the auditorium in which the President would speak. He told me that I would be seated next to the official White House TV crew. Some national media outlets were allowed inside the room, but most were only allowed in the separate media room to watch the event on tv screens. He pointed out the secret service people and other people that I should be aware of. He showed me to my section and off he went. He had to return to his duties and would actually get to meet and greet the President as an NAACP member. “Get whatever shots that you can get, but most of all have fun and enjoy his speech…” he said warmly. My heart smiles to this day when I think about the kindness and willingness of this stranger to give a newbie like myself an opportunity to shine. Hey universe, hey…
And then, there was The President.
The room exploded with applause as he walked on stage. Newly elected, youthful and full of energy. His speech provide inspiration, hope and promise. He gratefully acknowledged the past and looked onto the future. As a black woman, seeing my first black President address members of the NAACP at its 100 year celebration was one of those defining moments in my life. A monumental and historic experience that I will cherish for all of my days. But I also had to work! After the initial shock, excitement and moment of clarity, I picked up my camera and went to work. I couldn’t move around the auditorium and I had several huge tv cameras in my line of sight. Not mention the fact that I was situated on the balcony and was only working with a consumer level camera and standard lens as a novice to the art…so my photos weren’t great LOL. In fact they sucked. They suck to me now, 7 years later after learning more about the craft, myself and my equipment. After sharpening my skills with years of practice and investing in better equipment. But back then, they were ok. In fact, everyone including the person that I eventually delivered the final images to thought they were great. Keep in mind, the NAACP most certainly had other photographers present that were able to capture up close and personal images of The President backstage with other prominent NAACP members. The White House also always has its staff photographers on hand to share images for the press that they have total control over. I was more of a Camera B/behind the scenes photographer for the President’s address. But nonetheless, a behind the scenes photographer for a historic event featuring President Barack Obama. Not bad for my first official gig.
“And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” – Paul Coelho The Alchemist
Overall, all of the images, including the photos that I took at the various other events for the celebration, came out pretty good. Today, I strive for greatness and know that if the opportunity presented itself now, I’d excel at it with no problem. With the knowledge and skills that I’ve accumulated for my craft both in the field and in the classroom, there is no doubt in my mind that I would be able to provide exceptional images, even from a dimly lit balcony with tv cameras in my direct line of sight. Experience does that. Time and practice as well. Here’s the one thing that I had back then, even without the added skills and experience, I had confidence. I had it all! Did I know that my equipment wasn’t the best of the best? Yes. Did I let that stop me? No. Did I let the fact that I wasn’t as experienced as most scare me into backing out of this amazing opportunity? Hell no. I showed up, was ready to work, learn, listen and be open to the possibilities. That event, that moment in time solidified a lot of things for me, including my push to become a full time photographer. It proved to me that you don’t have to have a big name, huge following or sometimes, even the most knowledge in the room. You have to be willing to show up, step out on faith and be open to the possibilities. And let’s not forget, if you make mistakes, learn from them and move on! I am grateful that I had the universe working on my side that week and always. I’m grateful to the young brother that took a chance on me and offered an amazing opportunity to get my foot in the door. I’m grateful for being able to witness a black man with ties to the south side of Chicago be elected President in my lifetime and for the opportunity to watch him address those who helped create a path for himself, myself and the black youth that follow. Those images and that day are apart of my history.
No matter what happens with this election, UPDATE: Fuck Trump… I’m grateful that I was able to witness someone who looked like myself accomplish something that was so much bigger than myself. President Barak Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama inspire me to BE.
As part of their Black Power 50 programming, a retrospective of the past 50 years of black power around America, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is featuring a film documenting the Young Lords movement, ¡Palante, Siempre Palante!. The screening takes place on 11/10/16 and tickets are free but an RSVP is required and can be done so via their website here.
Via the Schomburg website:
In the midst of the Black Power Movement, liberation was sought by communities across the globe. In the U.S., Puerto Rican and Latino/a communities fought for economic, racial and social justice. The Young Lords emerged as a powerful voice for the independence of Puerto Rico, empowerment and improved living conditions in America. ¡Palante, Siempre Palante!, directed by Iris Morales, a grassroots activist who was the first woman to join the East Harlem branch of the Young Lords, features interviews with activists. After the screening, Morales will join three former Young Lords–Martha Arguello, Carlos Aponte, and Carlos Rovira –for a talkback with Johanna Fernandez, PhD, professor of History, Department of Black and Latino Studies at Baruch College (CUNY).