Event Recap

Back Alley Jazz: “It’s More Than A Block Party!”

Attending Back Alley Jazz in the South Shore neighborhood this Saturday was truly a pleasure. Being able to interact with the attendees and be welcomed into their community was absolutely worth withstanding the 80 degree weather. The premise behind this block party was to highlight the historic DJ jam sessions that were the original Jazz in the Alley events of the 1960s and 1970s. Instead of holding the day’s events in neighbor’s garages, allies, and backyards, like last year and during the original series, the creators of this year’s rendition of Jazz in the Alley decided to hold the celebration in the street, block party style. Those historic jam sessions and gatherings from the 60’s allowed musicians to engage with the community while doing what they loved, performing. And that tradition is certainly one worth remembering.

Back Alley Jazz is the community organized event that seamlessly combines history, jazz, and community. The second annual back alley jazz was revived to shed light on the original jazz in the alley events that took place nearly 60 years ago. The original events took place in Hyde Park and other areas throughout the city and gave individuals the opportunity to gather and enjoy music. They gathered with the community and other musicians and artists alike to perform, DJ, battle, and simply connect with their peers. Thus the event this weekend allowed guests and participants to do just that. The schedule for the day allowed attendees to start the day off with a parade possession featuring Grand Marshall Jimmy Ellis who is the co-founder of Jazz in the Alley. The parade featured multiple musicians and also encouraged everyone to bring an instrument and join! Throughout the rest of the day various talents performed like Ladies and Gentlemen of Jazz, The Godfather, Ice-Tank and more. Along with an abundance of timeless music, the event also featured tables for art activities and multiple vendors to shop with like The Slab BBQ.

When speaking with the project manager, Olivia Junell, she mentioned several aspects that differed this year compared to last year, and simply put the biggest difference was the scale of which it was held. Last year’s event was organized by directly by the jazz festival, advertised on a larger scale and showcased talent from outside of the area. This year the event was brought back to the city. Not only was Chicago talent showcased, the entire day was envisioned and executed by community members and neighbors! The South Shore community successfully organized music, art, food, and history into a day of fun for all ages. It’s no question that this year’s celebration embodied the tradition and goals of Jazz in the Ally. The energy and emotions that flowed through the streets resembled those of passion, positivity, and love.

While the event did a wonderful job gathering an engaging crowd, there was a lack of youth present. Despite the performance by Urban Aspirations, there wasn’t a vast connection to the city’s youth prevalent in Saturday’s celebration. While speaking with Olivia, she mentioned that the organization noticed this decline and plans to find ways to incorporate the youth more in next year’s celebration! Although Jazz in the Alley is a concept that’s familiar to the Chicago community, this revival of the tradition is one to watch for and participate in every year. As long as the events continue to remain community and history oriented, the tradition of Jazz in the Alley will remain alive, and the continuation of Back Alley Jazz will only get better!

Chicago Celebrates Honorees at Independent Music Seminar

On Monday July 1st, The Rainbow Push Coalition hosted the Independent Music Seminar in collaboration with SuperGrindR. The night was full of special guests such as Waka Flaka, his mother Debra Antney, Chicago’s own Bo Deal, and many others.

Queen of Chicago Hip Hop Radio,  Barbara “Bam’’ McDowell moderated the first half of the seminar, the power of women in entertainment panel. The panelists included Mizay Entertainment CEO, Debra Antney; Philanthropist, Angela Stanton-King; and Entertainment Attorney, Brenda Robinson. 

This panel was highly informational and interesting. The main takeaway points were how to protect yourself in the entertainment industry, validating yourself, and speaking things into existence. 

National best-selling author, Angela Stanton-King, spoke about her life in prison. Giving words of encouragement to everyone in the audience, I learned of the prison reform work she has done. 

Brenda Robinson, who is a Chicago native from Roseland gave advice of giving back to the community you’re from. She also talked about how Chicagoans don’t have to leave the city to become successful.

Debra Antney spoke on how unity in the Black community is needed now more than ever. “There is strength in numbers” she shouts to the audience. She also spoke about her work in artist management and her Hip Hop roots.

The Masters Class seminar was moderated by Rolling Out author, Christal Jordan. The panelists for this included recording artists, Waka Flaka and RTS Management founder Bo Deal; his artist El Hitta made an appearance. The highlights from their talk included using your gift to get away from the hood life, saving money, and putting your city first.

The cucumber challenge was also brought up. Waka and Bo were asked to give their thoughts, they spoke on the importance of daughters having fathers in their lives.  

Waka gave Chicago major love when he talked about the city being one of the first to rock with him during his mixtape days.

The night was jammed pack with knowledgeable people who used their experience to drop gems. Jesse Jackson even made an appearance and gave words of wisdom.

Check out more photos from the night below!

Looks Of The 2019 Agora Sneaker Ball

The event of the year happened and it was off the chain! The Agora Sneaker Ball invite only gala was filled with food, people and music. And the attendees did not come to play about networking and having a great time.


The Agora Sneaker Ball is the urban Met Gala, mixed with sneakers, networking and promotion of community service. In preparation for the event I looked forward to the looks, the concept of millennials giving back and the diversity of attendees. However, the fashion stole the show. Chicago natives and others who traveled to the city all looked beautiful. Women were dressed in bright, bold colors and the men were Dapper Dan fresh.


I think it’s safe to say the trend for the night was fluff and tule and the men went for the clean look. I myself followed the craze and I think I pulled it off very well.


Okay enough about me, lets take a look into two very important looks. The looks of the founder of sneaker ball, Justin Johnson and the host LaRoyce Hawkins.


Both men were looking like millionaires but let’s take a deeper look into their attires. Starting with the host of the night, LaRoyce Hawkins, who wore a purple suit with many accessories. The rosary and the bracelet were great additions to his look. Plus the splash of purple his of his Off-White x Serena Williams “QUEEN” shoes matched perfectly to his suit.

Justin Johnson, a fan of Nipsey Hussle wore a blue quite close to the hue Nipsey Blue. He ties his outfit with only a couple accessories and black Off-White shoes.

During my interview with the men I didn’t get to ask about their outfits however, I do wonder if the outfits say anything about who they are?

Here’s a few more looks at the 2019 Agora Sneaker Ball


F Is for funny, fourth and Fantastic, Comedy Night A Success

Whats The Word had the pleasure of attending the fourth annual comedy night presented by MiHiChi and Troy Pryor. F is for funny was an event worth attending and one created solely for the community. All of the comedians were Chicago natives who brought their life and relatable experiences center stage.

The evening started with a bang! Singer Gifted Keys serenaded the crowd with a soulful song about following your dreams, entitled “next to blow”. The song’s message laid the tone for the evening and served as the perfect soundtrack for the comics and creators. Following your dreams is something that everyone on the stage had the courage to do.


The event was hosted by Michael Issac and starred Joey Villagomez, Em Brown, and Calvin Evans. Although the female comedian Just Nesh, wasn’t there as advertised her presence was certainly felt. The event featured both a recorded video message from her as well as one of her video skits featuring Michael Issac. The clip was very creative and served as an interactive segment for the event.

The featured comedians were all unique. Although they were diverse their similarities like growing up in the city allowed them to seemlessly connect to each other as well as the audience. Joey Villagomez, the south Chicago native told relatable jokes like grocery shopping at Whole Foods and being Mexican in the city. Calvin Evans on the other hand vented about missing Chicago, past relationships, and his family. Finally, to close the evening, Em Brown spoke of his kids, dating women, and his job at the pawn shop.

Overall, the show was a success. The purpose of it, as stated by the creators, was to create a platform for black and brown comedians. The event also served as footsteps towards a bigger dream. The creators spoke on their aspirations to build the comedy night into a televised show.


To Write Your Self A Love Letter, hosted by Kia Smith

A few weeks ago rising Chicago journalist Kia Smith hosted her “Write Your Self A Love Letter” event.
#WriteYourselfALoveLetterChallenge Started 3 years ago, it was inspired by a class assignment that transitioned into a blog post, then social media challenge, and now an event. It is now a tri-monthly seminar where Kia Smith will facilitate a workshop with different groups of people across all ages. The March 17th event was extra special because It was Kia Smith’s 25th birthday. 

The amazing event had both men and women In attendance from all demographics. Each person expressed their feelings in regards to self love and the obstacles it presents. Insecurities, self doubt, depression has no gender nor color. It was interesting to hear how people from various walks of life dealt with these things.

“What you think of me is none of my business” - Kizzie Bennett

We put too much emphasis on what others think. To love yourself is to have confidence in who you are, becoming comfortable in your own skin. When you are worried about others opinions, you forget about the only opinion that matters. Your own.

“Even God is a gentleman he doesn’t force himself on you” - Fekissa L. Ducker

Peer pressure is one of the major causes for self doubt and insecurities. Often we let the influences of our community force us to neglect our true identity. To love yourself Is too understand who you are, figure out that part and everything else will flow. Never force anything, love and relationships should be natural.

“Self love may be selfish sometimes and it may be lonely sometimes, and that is perfectly fine. But use those same feelings to empower you to teach yourself and others how to love you at the end of the day.” -Shionda Carlisle

Before you can assist others, you have to make sure things are in order internally. Can’t help anyone unless you're ok. At the event guests talked about lending their energy to others, and not leaving any for themselves. Which can become draining. Make time for yourself, read, exercise, live, laugh and love yourself. Protect your time and energy. Give yourself what others expect you to give them.

In conclusion, the event was amazing. The energy that was presented was something that was must needed personally. Kia’s mother deserves acknowledgement as well, it was something about her presence that enriched the environment. The way she spoke, the “game” she provided was stellar. Shoutout to kia’s mom, you’re awesome. The event concluded with audience writing a personal love letter. Didn’t have a chance to participate in writing a love letter at the event, therefore I would like to share it with you below.

Dear Cody,

I understand you work hard and want to succeed in life. Leaving a legacy is very important to you. But Cody you must take time for yourself, your family. Enjoy the love that people have for you, enjoy the love you have for yourself. You are an amazing person, well at least I think so lol. Keep spreading positivity, keep spreading information, keep empowering and don’t forget to love. You are dope.