Here and There : BET Honors Weekend : Washington, DC : 01 14 2012 :
My day got started in the mid-afternoon at the Black Opulence Gifting Suite, hosted by Rocsi of BET’s 106 and Park and Minnesota Vikings player Visanthe Shiancoe. It was a dope event with lots of free liquor – Ciroc, Remy, and Qream. Great food. Plenty of women.
Next, I photographed the Chrisette Michele concert featuring local band Black Alley, and new artist Elle Varner. Chrisette, one of my favortie ladies in music, was wonderful as usual. Black Alley brought the house down. This time, literally. In the “newly renovated” Cramton Auditorium, some small bits of drywall fell from the ceiling. Luckily, nobody got hurt – just dusty.
My next stop was supposed to be Lotus Lounge for the Black Opulence after set. However, upon arrival, one of the bouncers at the door was too proud to announce to me, “Sorry sir, that’s not the look we’re going for tonight.”. ***in my nightclub bouncer who loves his job too much voice. Someone who had a little say that particular night denied entry to “some” people wearing sneakers. My friend Ian arrived thinking he would have a better shot. Denied too. So, we both walked around the corner to The Park at 14th where we were invited in by Management.
Hip-hop icon Common was hosting this particular party, and some of his celebrity friends decided to join him. In passing, I saw my absolute favorite [female] soul music artist – Jill Scott, Raekwon “The Chef” of Wu-Tang Clan, and India Irie. Anthony Hamilton who’s a big fan of my photography, was there as well. Like a few artists in the industry, over the years, Anthony and I have connected creatively. It’s greater than just being a fan.
Once the club let out, I was hungry, so I invited Anthony, and a couple of others to dine at a new spot coincidentally named “The Hamilton”, but he declined. He then said, “Just head over to the hotel, we’re all just gonna chill in the lobby.”. I arrived at the hotel and entered the bar area with him, and who do I see? Jilly from Philly – Miss Jill Scott, Common, and the legendary Stevie Wonder. We were then shifted to a smaller more intimate space, and the night progressed with some wine, good conversation, and some laughter. Shortly after, Stevie Wonder departed the room saying, “It was nice to see everyone, and I’ll see yall the next time I hear yall.”. Honestly, just being in the same room with a legend such as Stevie Wonder is a moment I’ll always remember. I was overjoyed. Later, Raekwon joined us at “The Roundtable” as someone labeled the atmosphere.
I had never met Jill Scott, so Anthony Hamilton introduced us, and he described me as “one of the best photographers around, and an all around good dude”. Of course I’m confident in my work and my character, but to know that it’s recognized means a lot. He’s my favorite [male] soul music artist, so for him to give that stamp of approval is major.
There was so much talent and creativity in that one small room.
I showed both Common and Jill Scott some photos that I had taken of them in concert. Before showing Jill, I said “Jill, I’m the shit, but I don’t really say that out loud.”, and she replied, “But you just did though. Lol.”. I should have said, “I am gifted. I am all of this. And INDEED the shit. Clearly, I am not JUST a photographer.”. You have to know Jill’s music to understand. I had a Jill Scott photo on standby to show her, on my iPhone. I whipped out the phone, displayed the photo, and she said, “Oh, that girl right there is bad!”. You gotta love Jill Scott! For the record, I say “I’m the shit.” for two reasons. One, I believe it. Two, it takes having that kind of attitude and expressing it in order to persuade a person to investigate it. It makes them want to know why you think you’re the shit. Once they see the proof, they believe it too. I’m nothing without God though. He gets all the credit.
Wait, can I use “shit” in the same paragraph as “God”? If not, forgive me.
If by chance, you’re not familiar with what it means to be “the shit”, in the street’s vernacular it’s equivalent to me saying “I’m the man.”.
I didn’t want to be intrusive, but I was able to get a photo with Common, and Raekwon for my memories. For me, it’s not about showcasing the fact that I’m “in the presence of” or “associated with” or even friends with “celebrities”. For me, it’s just a part of my story. I’m not just a photographer – I’m a person, first. As someone that’s not in the music industry, I do appreciate being welcomed into these different circles. Photographers often have a bad reputation for wanting to seize moments for their own personal [financial] benefit – through exploitation. I’m nothing like that. I barely see one brown penny from this. I do it for the love of good [live] music, and building relationships. I feel like I’m more of a storyteller. I capture the history of music, and document my personal experiences. I think it’s similar to the way Gordon Parks used images to tell stories of pressing social issues like poverty, segregation, crime, and race.
After a while, everyone started heading to their hotel rooms. Anthony and his long time friend, and I hopped in my Sable at about 4:45am and headed over to The Hamilton for food. I thank the Food Gods for bringing The Hamilton to DC because it’s open 24 hours. I’m not talking about an IHOP kind of restaurant. It’s a really nice restaurant, like the one Martin used to take Gina to – “Che’ Maurice”. Lol.
Anyway, as usual, I ordered the wings and mumbo sauce, a DC staple, and they sampled the wings and loved them enough to place in 2 more orders. We sat and ate, talked a little, dozed off a little, and I dropped them back at the hotel. That was the end of an awesome day in the life of Everyday LaVan.
Follow my journey. Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @EverydayLaVan, but please don’t judge me.
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