TOWNIE

#TOWNIE is a globally-minded, socially-conscious, arts-centered media and storytelling project (it’s the scaled-down, digital version of my flagship #INTLPLAYER project). #TOWNIE focuses on Chicago and its 29 international sister cities, through a lens of music, arts and culture (celebrating civic identity, cultural heritage and global citizenship). Episode 01 will revisit Lucerne and Switzerland (see the 2015 entry of my career timeline below); Episode 02 will feature Osaka and Japan.

{ BACKSTORY } My current work and projects were preceded by 10+-years of professional broadcast journalism experience, and an extensive urban arts background. I liken my transition to that of a sportscaster who’s a former athlete. I refer to myself as a “media hustler”, to honor the sensibilities and insights I’ve brought with me, especially the knack for creative self-branding and reinvention, and the tenacity to overcome barriers to participation and excellence. The photo gallery here illustrates the kinds of interesting people (and stories) I routinely access, through my professional and personal networks, relationships and activities.

I embrace the media personality category which I most clearly fit— the “true-school”  hip-hop elder statesman (like an Ebro Darden, Elliott Wilson or Sway Calloway). But I also know my journalistic goals and aesthetics differentiate me from my contemporaries. My work at the intersection of journalism, culture and entertainment ranges from mainstream/commercial pop-culture, to more worldly, eclectic content (think pubcasters like the BBC, PBS or PRI). Two of my primary influences are Anthony Bourdain and Studs Terkel. Both creative hyphenates were beloved for their genius media work (and for their politics, humanity and egalitarianism), but neither were considered conventional journalists. Studs is primarily regarded as a historian and Bourdain famously maintained that he was “not a journalist”.

I met Bourdain in 2013 —we discussed achieving a successful media career as a “second act”,  the idea of “What is a journalist?”  and “Who gets the investment and uninhibited creative freedom to tell cool stories?”  I mentioned Studs and we agreed that their interviewing and storytelling styles were comparable, and that key ingredients are curiosity, respect and integrity. I call myself a journalist (reporter-presenter-correspondent-producer-documentarian), but whatever the title, I’m really just trying to do similar, good work. My #TOWNIE and #INTLPLAYER projects are inspired by programs like Bourdain’s Parts Unknown (CNN), Searching For Sound  (Red Bull) and Rebel Music (MTV).

{ CAREER TIMELINE }

Present I’m currently working on THE #DOWNNOW PROJECT with support from NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (the idea results from my recent role as a Chicago Music Ambassador). I’m also collaborating on an arts project for the 20th anniversary of the CSCI CLAER program (another reason why I’ll be revisiting Switzerland).

2019 – 18 I resumed freelancing as an Arts & Culture Reporter and Content Producer for outlets like WTTW Chicago [PBS]. I also continued mentoring underprivileged urban youth, through organizations like MENTEE Chicago.

2017 – 16 I continued working, researching and networking within music, arts & culture, doc film making, media & entertainment and academia. But I slowed down, surrounding the birth of my daughter (12/16/16).

2015 I traveled to Switzerland (and France) through the CSCI CLAER program. I also received an IAP15 Cultural Grant from Chicago DCASE.

2014 I was awarded a Kartemquin Films Documentary Filmmaking Fellowship and began developing #INTLPLAYER (initially, for WTTW).

2013 I resumed freelancing for outlets and organizations like WXRT/CBS Radio, World Music Fest Chicago and others. I also joined the media/comm. and artist relations teams of the IMAN Streets Festival.

2012 I joined national pop-culture cable network, AXS TV as a full-time, Chicago-based Producer/Presenter of AXS Live, its flagship live-TV, entertainment news program.

2011 I began freelancing as a Producer/Presenter for various media outlets and lifestyle brands, creating content with like-minded artists such as Common, De La Soul and The Roots. I also released an album, Driving Songs Volume One (#DSV1).

2010 I joined JBTV as a full-time Producer/Presenter and established a strategic partnership with Red Bull Music Academy. And I continued mentoring disadvantaged Chicago youth through civic programs like After School Matters.

2009 – 08 I joined the Emmy-winning NBC Chicago Street Team (a community journalism lab), as a Blogger/Contributor and Specialist Reporter. And I began working as a Brand Ambassador / Culture Agent / Content Creator. I also performed at Steppenwolf Theatre and released a compilation, Urban Myth Revisited (#UMR), believing these activities were my last as a performing and recording artist.

2008 – prior I was primarily active as an independent, “true-school”  hip-hop, MC/poet and beatmaker. I also performed DIY administrative duties such as label runner, tour manager, event producer and social media director. During my time with Second City and WORDSfest (2005-6), I joined the voice-over roster of Grossman & Jack Talent and began applying my voice and audio production skills beyond music making. I also began mentoring and leading workshops with Street Level Youth Media.