While most people are scribbling down their New Year’s resolutions, singer-songwriter, Kem is already feeling quite victorious. Not only has he released his well-received debut holiday album, What Christmas Means, but he has also attained the goal of being an early-riser. While on the surface it may sound like a modest achievement, it is affording him with more focus than ever before.
“A recent change I made is getting up earlier before the crack of dawn and planning my day. I’m spending time nurturing myself physically and spiritually,” he says. “I’ve been trying to do it for years and now I am disciplined. I want to stretch and sharpen my saw in every area of life so I am happy about that.”
One of those saws is his foundation, Mack & Third. The formerly homeless Detroit native founded the organization to assist the homeless by gathering food and raising funds for shelters and food banks. “Detroit always gets a bad rap in the media but we are on the upside of things. I’m grateful and hopeful I can play a part in that.”
While his hometown has received a barrage of press lamenting its current socioeconomic woes, Kem sees a bright spot in recent developments such as a Whole Foods Market slated to open in 2013 in downtown Detroit. Gentrification is a controversial topic but, Kem believes the good will outweigh the bad. “There is a pro and con to every issue but I think the revitalization of our city is a good thing. It will attract more business to downtown Detroit. I would rather there be something than have it be desolate.”
Singer-songwriter, Ne-Yo is doing his part to give back as he recently completed his 6th annual Compound Foundation Giving Tour. He teamed up with the Boys and Girls Club to create awareness and action towards their goal of helping under privileged youth and foster care children. The tour hit Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Newark and Atlanta as children received toys, sneakers, clothing, electronics and bicycles. Some of those who supported Ne-Yo at various stops along the tour included Newark Mayor Corey Booker and celebrities Angela & Vanessa Simmons, St. Louis Rams player Steven Jackson and NFL Superbowl champion Deon Grant.
During Ne-Yo’s stop in Newark, it might have been a good idea for him to pick up a few life lessons from Double XXposure Media Relations founder, Angelo Ellerbee. The company is now celebrating its 40th anniversary, a commendable achievement for an independent company. Newark native, Ellerbee’s career has gone through several phases from fashion designer to model to finally publicist when he got his first major break by mentor, musician James Mtume. From that point forward, Ellerbee has worked with a wide array of clientele, ranging from Michael Jackson to DMX (whom he also managed) and all in between. One of his lasting legacies is his commitment to artist education as demonstrated through his highly-lauded artist development program.
Although Ellerbee expressed hopes to find someone in the next 10-15 years to eventually run his company, for now he is committed to ensuring that it empowers talent and enriches communities. One of his new goals is to prove that age is nothing but a number when it comes to advocating for talent. “There is a stigma when you grow old that you’re not diverse or young enough to deal with the Ne-Yo's of the world. My goal is to break that lie. I can teach them longevity to stay in this business as long as I have stayed.”
With that amount of motivation and focus, it sounds like Kem isn’t the only early bird on the scene.
The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.