Souleo Universe

Brian McKnight embraces age and tough love lessons 

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/Souleo

Singer-songwriter Brian McKnight couldn’t be happier to be an artist in his 40’s releasing a new album titled More Than Words. While some of his peers may wish they could reverse time to be 20-years-old again, the Grammy-nominated veteran doubts he would have found success as a young artist in today’s celebrity obsessed market. “If I were 22 this would be a tough age to live in. You’d have to lose all integrity,” he says. “It used to be that you didn’t overexpose yourself but now if you disappear you will be forgotten. But as an older artist I can get away with just playing to my fans because I already have them.”

On his latest collection, McKnight explores what he calls “personal demons” that stem from an unhealthy habit of jumping from relationship to relationship. “About a year ago I decided not to be a person that goes from relationship to relationship. I was never giving enough of myself in relationships,” he reflects. “Now I am honest and open. I am not gonna say something to you until I actually mean it. I am at a cool place.”

Author Terry McMillan has one less worry after deciding to quit working on the screenplay to Getting to Happy, the sequel to Waiting to Exhale. McMillan revealed the news while attending Ailey at the Apollo Spring Gala Benefit. “They have somebody else on the script. I gave up because they want to take Whitney Houston’s character out of it.” McMillan does plan to release a new book on September 17 titled, Who Asked You? Meanwhile inside the gala, guests were treated to a first-time ever stage performance by all tiers of the Ailey organization followed by a festive after party, where DJ Kiss kept everyone shaking, twisting and twirling.

While the Ailey Spring Gala has been in existence for years, the non-profit organization, caribBEING just launched its first-ever benefit auction and cocktail party at New York Foundation for the Art’s DUMBO headquarters. The brainchild of Caribbean-American (Trinidadian) Shelley Vidia Worrell, the movement focuses on the entire Caribbean region and its Diaspora to build community through film. “I think film is one of the mediums that can bridge the gap, first and foremost between those within the region,” she says. “There is not a lot of awareness about what goes on in the island right next to you. So hopefully this helps us have a better understanding of our own identity and heritage.” Special guest hip-hop pioneer, Ralph “Uncle Ralph” McDaniels also shared his inspiration behind supporting the cause. “My family is from Trinidad and Tobago so to be involved in something like this is an extension of making sure that the culture my grandmother instilled in me is not forgotten.”

To ensure that the history of Africa is not lost on the youth, Ali & Helen Salahuddin, founders of the African Genesis Institute, provide free trips to Africa. The opportunity allows youth to gain a richer understanding of their culture and heritage. The founders believe that the battle to dismantle negative stereotypes of Africa must also be fought using media. “We have been programmed by the European and American media to hate everything African about ourselves. We must take control of our own images through the cultural mediums used by other races to advance their messages and knowledge of themselves. We must also realize that we have to do the teaching ourselves.”

Another initiative to reach youth is the Harlem based non-profit, The Brotherhood/Sister Sol (BHSS). The organization celebrates its achievements on May 29 with the 9th annual VOICES event honoring Esperanza Spalding and Susan L. Taylor. BHSS provides mentoring, academic and support services to youth. Founder, Khary Lazarre-White believes that much of the success stems from the arts. “We need a new cadre of young and informed commentators on the world—young people who take on the big issues of our time. Through the arts the members and alumni of BHSS are elevating the conversation. That so many of our arts educators are alumni of BHSS speaks to the power of this transformative model of youth development.”

It appears that McKnight and Lazarre-White both believe in the power of “more than words.”

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.