The mood in the room was a mixture of joy, excitement, and intense anticipation. Tucked away in the Bed-Vyne Cocktail Bar in Brooklyn’s Bed Stuy neighborhood, the space was filled with dozens of vibrant black faces. Though Bed-Vyne specializes in some tasty cocktails, all of tonight’s patrons were here for another reason. This was no ordinary happy hour, and these were no ordinary people. There are here for Black Genius, a monthly series highlighting the positivity and power moves of the black community’s brightest young artists and entrepreneurs.
Founder Anitra Michelle expected interest in the inaugural event, but she was surprised at the initial level of engagement. “The first event was a wonderful surprise. I knew the name of the event would attract people, but I wanted our patrons to know that we were doing something different and special.”
During the events, several inspiring members of the black community are selected as Black Geniuses by Michelle herself, her co-curator John “JT” Thomas, and through recommendations from friends and Black Genius alumni. Throughout the night, each Genius has an opportunity to share information about their art or products and their origin story.
About Black Genius, Michelle said, “It’s an opportunity to connect and speak about the positivity that is emanating from our community even in the midst of the unsavory pieces.” She added, “Black Genius is providing a platform for those who deserve recognition and are working hard not for the recognition, but to fulfill their inner passion. I believe it’s a platform to connect and an opportunity to share in good vibes.”
Michelle first felt inspired to start Black Genius while living abroad in France. She saw the wealth disparity in the Pan African communities. But she also noticed how people banded together to overcome the obstacles in front of them. She began to document the phenomenon through film. Though that project is still in progress, she felt that Black Genius couldn’t wait.
“Consistently we are bombarded with imagery of the race issues, police brutality, etc. through Facebook and news outlets. [There was a] need to spotlight those creatives, individuals, taste-makers and thought leaders, who are using talent and ingenuity to push the culture forward.”
Some of the most notable Geniuses from the first three events represent an eclectic mix of talent from across several industries. Shane Ballard, part of the Emmy-winning costume design team from The Wiz Live!, was on hand for the first installment. Telisa Daughtry, founder of Flytechnista, was also featured; she was recently invited to the White House as part of a Women in Tech series. And Jocelynn Jacobs, a wardrobe stylist for MTV’s comedy series Guy Code and Girl Code, has also been spotlighted.
Similar to the major moves of her Black Geniuses, Michelle has a major project of her own in the works. She’s hard at work on the Fall 2017 collection for her clothing line, Plutocracy. Additionally, she’ll be a featured speaker at Daughtry’s November summit Steeamnista. And Black Genius has plans to expand beyond its monthly events to Artist Talks and additional event formats.
As far as Michelle is concerned, the event’s growth isn’t as important as the continued flow of positivity.
“I am happy with the project as it stands. However, I’ve always been a future thinker, so I’m always thinking about pushing forward and what the future looks like,” she said.
Whatever the next chapter holds, it will surely be full of positive energy, progress, and Genius. For a deeper look at Black Genius, follow @noirgenius on Instagram and head to geniusnoir.tumblr.com