Chad Easterling

CO-FOUNDER, OBSIDIANWORKS

Chad Easterling founded Obsidianworks, a culture-powered marketing agency, with actor Michael B. Jordan. The full-service outfit, which is Black owned and led, is paving the way for a more inclusive era of brand authentic storytelling. One of the objectives is to provide multicultural audiences with true-to-life representation to bridge the gap between companies and consumers of color through storytelling and campaigns. Obsidianworks is embarking on a partnership with 160over90, a global marketing agency owned by entertainment and sports conglomerate Endeavor, which is making a strategic investment in Easterling and Jordan’s company. 

Brandon Pankey

VP OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT & OPERATIONS,
LIVE NATION URBAN

In his role at Live Nation Urban, Pankey channels a lifelong love for music into a multifaceted career. Not only is he a respected music industry executive, but he is also an adjunct professor at Drexel University, a co-founder of the TOURSTAR app (a game that allows you to simulate a journey from being an up-and-coming artist to a worldwide superstar), and a manager for artist Brianna Cash. Pankey also finds the time to serve as the executive director of the DASH program, a nonprofit that teaches students about the entertainment industry, provides them with real-life experiences, and helps them develop leadership skills Pankey started his own advertising driven video on demand network called Artist Presented Experiences (APEX). The network, set to launch this fall, will feature content exclusively by and for music artists.

Patrick “Fresh” Henry

DESIGNER AND CEO, RICHFRESH AND HENRY MASK

Patrick Henry is the bespoke tailor behind Richfresh. His designs were featured at former President Barack Obama’s 60th birthday party and have been worn by countless celebrities, including Lena Waithe, John Legend, the Weeknd, Gabrielle Union, and Blake Griffin. Fresh has launched his first-ever ready-to-wear collection after years of working as a tailor and creating fine custom designs for VIPs. The Binghampton collection is full of comfortable cotton T-shirts and joggers made from a four-way stretch polyester that are perfect for movement. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he and his brother Chase Morgan co-founded Henry Mask, a subscription-based designer mask service that features new patterns and exclusive artist collaborations. After Henry Mask pledged to donate one mask to health care workers and one mask to families in need for every mask sold, the designer masks flew off the shelves.

Brandice Daniel

FOUNDER AND CEO, HARLEM’S FASHION ROW
AND ICON360

Since founding Harlem’s Fashion Row (HFR) in 2007, Brandice Daniel has continued to spotlight multicultural fashion designers in an industry not known for its diversity. To level the playing field, HFR connects brand partners with emerging designers of color. It also puts together national events, develops customized multiplatform programs, and provides mentorship opportunities. Tom Ford delivered the keynote address at the organization’s 2021 Fashion Summit, “Moving Beyond the Black Box.” Multiple media outlets have praised HFR for its ability to spark thoughtful dialogue about diversity in the fashion industry. The ICON360 fund is the nonprofit arm of Harlem’s Fashion Row. Since June 2020, ICON360 has funded designers of color. This year, it partnered with Gap Inc. for Closing the Gap, an initiative supporting HBCU fashion departments. The program provides financial awards to deserving HBCUs that encourage Black students to innovate and push the needle forward in the world of fashion.

Coodie & Chike

DIRECTORS and PRODUCERS

Chicago-born Clarence “Coodie” Simmons always knew that Kanye was special. It was just a feeling. Simmons also felt that he wanted to be the one to film West over the course of two decades. Now that feeling has garnered him and his creative partner, New Orleans native Chike Ozah (far left), a reported $30 million deal with Netflix for the film footage chronicling Kanye West’s life. Slated to debut in 2022, the multipart documentary will consist of rare footage. The duo’s production company, Creative Control, has directed three of West’s first music videos: “Through the Wire,” “Two Words,” and “Jesus Walks.” Shortly after coming to New York City, Simmons (left) connected with Ozah at MTV when Simmons took some footage to the studio for a show about emerging artists, including Kanye. Ozah had the know-how to implement motion graphics and use mixed media in videos to make his stand out from the pack. The team has also directed and produced ESPN’s film Benji (2012) and Netflix’s A Kid From Coney Island (2019).

Law Roach

IMAGE ARCHITECT

Roach has created showstopping looks for some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Zendaya, Lewis Hamilton, Tiffany Haddish, and Ariana Grande. By setting trends and putting emerging designers in the spotlight, especially those from the African diaspora, he is constantly redefining the role of a celebrity stylist. The outspoken and authentic personality also continues to break cultural boundaries and make strides for people of color in fashion and entertainment by calling out the injustices and challenges that BIPOC face within those industries. While he is best known for his work on the red carpet, Roach dabbled in costume design for the film Malcolm & Marie. He also served as the creative director for the Tommy x Zendaya collection by the actress and Tommy Hilfiger, which premiered at Paris Fashion Week in March 2019. The image architect is currently front and center as a judge on HBO Max’s Legendary, a voguing competition series that explores the world of ball culture. 

Demetria L. Lucas

JOURNALIST AND author

Demetria L. Lucas is an award-winning author, blogger, life coach, and public speaker. Her love of the Black relationship genre started when she picked up her mother’s copy of Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale. That book changed her life and  her perspective on love and relationships. It made her want to write about relatable characters who talked about the same things she and her friends did. After that, her life in the love lane began to take flight. The foundation of her success began with her award-winning blog, A Belle in Brooklyn, then a column at Honey magazine, followed by a relationships editor position at Essence until 2011. Her Ratchet & Respectable podcast launched in 2019. She is also the author of books A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-To Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life and Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-To Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love. Don’t Waste Your Pretty was adapted into a TV One movie. She has been a guest speaker at numerous Ivy League universities.

Misha Green

SCREENWRITER, DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER

The American television writer, director, and producer is best known as the showrunner for the supernatural series Lovecraft Country on HBO and as the creator and executive producer of the historical drama Underground. Her masterful work offers visually compelling, soul-stirring narratives that reimagine the Black experience.  Green is reuniting with her Lovecraft Country collaborator Jurnee Smollett for a DC movie project featuring heroine Black Canary. The project, which is in early development at HBO Max, is a spin-off from the Warner Bros. 2020 DC movie Birds of Prey. Smollett assumes the role of Canary, and Green is set to write the script.

Imani Ellis

CEO AND FOUNDER, CULTURECON AND
THE CREATIVE COLLECTIVE NYC

Ellis is the founder of the Creative Collective NYC, a community and creative agency for creatives of color. The CCNYC’s major event is CultureCon, which brings together amazing members of the industry—including creatives, entrepreneurs, and entertainers—to inspire the next generation of world-changing innovators. CultureCon is a multicultural thought leader and caters to all aspects of creative life. Past event speakers include Tracee Ellis Ross, Will Smith, Regina King, Lena Waithe, Spike Lee, John Legend, and Nick Cannon, among others. The 2021 CultureCon was virtual and free of charge, giving nearly 20,000 attendees hours of access to insight, tools, and resources to advance in their professional and personal lives.

Nae Nae Twins

TIKTOK CREATORS

Twin sisters Zhané and Shayné Stanley are TikTok creators who have gained more than 2.5 million followers with their viral dance moves. Their dance challenge for Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage Remix” quickly became ubiquitous on the app. However, platform-wide frustration arose among creators of color, as white users were appropriating their work. A boycott began as part of the #BlackTikTokStrike, which saw many Black creators stop posting content to raise awareness of the work they contribute to the app and gain proper recognition for it. The dynamic sisters were among the first to receive copyrights for their work. Logitech and choreographer JaQuel Knight partnered to help 10 BIPOC creators obtain their copyrights through the use of Labanotation, a notation system that writes down dance steps. Copyrighting movements, such as #Creators4BIPOC, put the power back in the creators’ hands, positioning their work as intellectual property and ensuring that they receive due recognition and pay.

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