“Be true to yourself!” That was every recipients’ advice on Saturday afternoon (June 26) at the 5th Annual Culture Creators Innovators and Leaders Brunch.
Culture Creators celebrates the innovators and leaders in Black culture every year during one of Black music’s biggest moments — BET Awards weekend in Los Angeles. Black excellence filled the Beverly Hilton Hotel as honorees, entertainers and attendees reveled in joy at the thought of celebrating one another in real life again.
True cultural pioneers fellowshipped as hip hop legend Swizz Beatz earned one of the biggest honors of the afternoon as this year’s Icon of the Year. We were fortunate to speak with some of the honorees like Innovator of the Year DJ D-Nice, Emmy Award-winning film producer Rikki Hughes who was acknowledged for her work in film and television, and entrepreneur and former all-star athlete Baron Davis who’s business acumen speaks for itself.
Hosts DeMarco Morgan and Tanika Ray addressed the huge elephant in the room while introducing the ceremony. After spending a year at home battling COVID-19, people quickly adjusted to being back “outside.” Attendees found comfort in the event’s strict safety measures, requiring attendees to show their vaccination cards or provide negative COVID tests upon arrival.
The YouTube sponsored show welcomed the best in entertainment, fashion, tech, finance, film, health and social justice. Introduced by his son, Prince Nasir Dean, and a special video from his daughter Nicole Dean, both of his children praised their father’s contributions to music. Prince Nasir acknowledged his many accolades from his Grammy win, becoming a Harvard graduate and creating the Verzuz battle and platform which carried fans and entertainers through quarantine.
“You can be a boss and a student at the same time,” Swizz proclaimed during his acceptance speech at the ceremony.
The Icon of the Year detailed what makes someone a culture creator. Swizz discussed the significance of remaining a student.
While others like celebrity stylist to Beyoncé and costume designer, Zerina Akers, accepted her award with tears of joy. Akers described the special moment with remarks, “I feel so seen today.”
The most beautiful part about Culture Creators is honoring the many achievements of Black people from many walks of life. Founder and creator of the event Joy Young spoke about how they continue to share, create and inspire.
“We nurture the culture,” Young continued. “Sharing the information and connections that other groups share on the golf course.”
Young shares why it is important to be intentional about shining a light on the work that the Black community has been doing.
“Your light shining does not dim mine. We share the light over here,” Joy expressed.
Another shining light took a moment to chat with us on the carpet before the ceremony began. One of hip hop’s most influential visionaries DJ D-Nice talked about receiving the coveted Innovator of the Year award.
“Wow. I’m still trying to take that all in,” D-Nice says. “I don’t feel like it was innovative at all. It was just me trying to find ways to stay connected to people, and keep people inspired during a dark time.”
Multi-Grammy and Emmy award-winning film producer Rikki Hughes has produced some of Dave Chappelle’s best comedy specials. Hughes talked about how grateful and honored she was to be an honoree at this year’s Culture Creators awards.
“I am elated,” Hughes added. “The fact that Joy puts this on is incredible, and it just keeps us [Black people] at the forefront. I am honored.”
Hughes left attendees with one question after accepting her award: “What’s next?”
Amongst the honorees mentioned were former music executive and philanthropist Shanti Das, athlete JaVale McGhee, financial expert George Wells, tech industry leader and Director of Creator Community at TikTok Kudzi Chikumbu, music leaders and MBK Entertainment’s Jeff Robinson and Jeanine Mclean, and social justice leader Stephanie Brown-James.
There were countless entertainers and notable celebrities in attendance to support the honorees achievements from singer and songwriter Mya, CEO of Ruff Ryders Waah Dean, super producer Jimmy Jam, actress and artist Ryan Destiny and rapper G Herbo. Artist Yung Baby Tate also shared a special performance as one of YouTube’s Biack Voices class of 2021.
Singer and songwriter Mya shed light on the pride she feels as a Black woman in a space amongst so many creatives behind the scenes and in front of the camera. She shared her thoughts on the responsibility of being a culture creator, “We have a lot of independent minds and independent companies. That’s what we need because we’ve always owned our own stuff until history has done otherwise. It’s very important for us to come together to change that.”
There were many changemakers in the community present at the carpet. G Herbo talks about being a fearless leader of his community in Chicago and changing the narrative of what a rapper looks like. “It just takes a couple tools, a couple fixings and being an influence,” the rapper shared.
“As long as I can pour resources back into my community, I can help change it,” he added.
All the recipients contribute to shaping the culture and providing a space for Black creators to be recognized. It was a pleasure to share a room with the inspirational figures present on Saturday afternoon. They are all doing the work and uplifting the next generation of creators to carry the legacy of Black art and innovation for years to come.
Swizz Beatz left creatives with one of the most important messages of the afternoon: “Don’t be scared. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
Every honoree has been fearless in their pursuits toward success. The common theme that connects each daring individual in that room Saturday afternoon is being authentically themselves and sharing that light with the world.