By UNL Brooklyn Leadership Academy Youth, D’Amonte Brown
D’Amante Brown is an 11th grader from City Poly Tech High School who just joined the UNL Brooklyn chapter this week!
It hasn’t even been a week yet, and I already feel like the Usher’s New Look (UNL) Family has accepted me as their own. Throughout the 4 train, laughter bellowed from the bellies of this family, my family, as we traveled to the multi-faceted cultural institution by the name of 92Y on Lexington Avenue, in Upper East Side, Manhattan. I was dripping from head to toe in anticipation and awe for what was to take place later that night –in less than hour. I couldn’t wrap my mind around possibly seeing Usher Raymond IV and Mr. Harry Belafonte live; in the flesh!
The lines stretched around the block! As we passed the closed doors, all you could have seen were the endless array of people, all seemingly sharing the same eagerness I carried with me. After what felt like forever, we finally made it to the end of the line, stood and soon enough we entered 92Y. I was slapped left and slapped right with the pleasing aesthetics, regal ambiance and 100% grand swag of 92Y’s interior. Each square of the ceiling yelled out its own story, shouting the plethora of celebrities and talent they’ve previously witnessed pass below them, but above all else –each delineation in the ceiling screamed its own majestic personality. After getting seated, the emergency bathroom trips, and once again taking our seats –Soledad O’Brien, an accomplished journalist who was equally stunningly beautiful as she was formidable in her line of work, walked on stage. Following closely behind her were none other than Mr. Harry Belafonte and the Inquisitive Usher. The audience’s audacious applause raised the royal roof, cheers and screaming and shouting and “Oh-My-God”-ing ensured at least a trickle of guests were walking away deaf. Fueling most of the standing ovation was, yes you’ve guessed it –The NYC New Look Group. With hesitancy and tenacity, one by one the spectators reclaimed their seats.
Soledad, in the capacity of the night’s questioner (somewhat directing the discussion), began the event outlining the overall topic “Breaking the Chains” of Social Injustice and Human ignorance towards today’s time. She also made mention that as a journalist, whenever she felt the need to write about some sort of civil unrest issue, editors would have told her no one is interested in those kinds of articles; until they here there is some form of violence or crime involved. Belafonte shined quite a lot of light on his experiences within the Civil Rights Movement, things of which he learned over his many years of living. As if garnish to an Italian delicacy, Belafonte sprinkled humor in some parts of the dialogue to the audience, making much of it easy to absorb. Usher however, allowed Belafonte to do most of the talking, and made mention of quite a number of times that due to his inquisitive nature in private conversion: Belafonte had a reservoir of information that matched Usher’s plethora of questioning. He also let us listen to his new song “Chains” and invited the audience to experience the interactive music video at the subdomain of the same name on Tidal.com.
Amongst the questions that were asked by the audience via index cards, the question that was bestowed with the most comical answer was that of:
“What are two things that you would recommend to young adults who are on the road to success and financial freedom?” Belafonte humorously whispered, “Rob a bank.” Usher followed up with a brilliantly crafted “He said two, he said two…And don’t get caught!”
Later on, Usher chose to revisit this adding: “[Young Adults] should adopt a point of reference that is assured with a sense of integrity. You know, I think of the role models of the young men and women from impoverished areas and from the city communities and the role models are no longer doctors, the role models are no longer educators. They are much different. Be careful of what you aspire to be.”
Throughout the entire dialogue between the Dynamic Duo of Incredibles on-stage, my favorite quotes from the event were:
“Anger coupled with violence is destruction. Anger coupled with cause is liberation” –Harry Belafonte
“Everyone will support, but not many will stand” –Usher
In addition to those two, the entire answer (aforementioned) that Usher gave after revisiting the question on advice to our young adults was breathtakingly simplistic, straight to the point, and right on the bullseye –highlighting on of the main obstacles in any youth’s life; influences within their lives. Towards the end, I was able to actually shake hands and introduce myself to Usher, Soledad and most surprisingly; Jay-Z.
The entire Usher’s New Look gathered inside an open room along with members from other organizations including Ellen and Jessica from Opportunity Agenda, whom both myself and a few of my peers had the honor of having a wonderful conversation with, covering various topics including the ‘importance of educational foundation in the light of success’. The New Look Family took pictures with Usher, chanted the UNL Swag Mantra, and thrilled and marveled over the wonderful event we all were so lucky to be a part of.