HipHopWired had the opportunity to sit down with the minds behind the impactful Power Network series at Carnegie Hall, which will hold its second annual event next week in New York City (Feb. 13).
Black History Month has commenced, and it’s not only a time when there’s a spotlight shone on the past achievements of Black people in the United States, but also a time when more attention is paid to the forging of new movements and conversations within the community. In that spirit, the second installment of A Black History Month Conversation and Celebration by the Power Network, individuals and good friends who have committed to “shifting the culture,” will take place at Carnegie Hall Feb. 12.
The Power Network: Black History Month Conversation and Celebration will feature a panel of notable figures, beginning with Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings of the Earn Your Leisure podcast, wealth coach Cedric Nash, investor Sherese Clark Shares, philanthropist and entrepreneur Robert F. Smith, and Maryland Governor Wes Moore. The musical entertainment for the evening comes courtesy of Rick Ross, DJ Suss One and Igmar Thomas’ Revive Big Band, with the veteran media personality Ed Lover hosting the proceedings.
The Power Network consists of Terry “TR” Ross, a respected entrepreneur and founder of Noontime Sound–a powerhouse in the music industry–and William Cyrus Garrett, an esteemed policy and social impact manager who’s worked with various politicians, and Lewis Tucker, a music industry veteran who’s served as the former president of Bad Boy Records and former vice president of Universal Music Group.
HipHopWired had the chance to sit down with the three men for an exclusive interview, detailing just how the inspiration for the event came about after the success of a sold-out all-white concert by D-Nice and Club Quarantine last August.
According to Garrett, the seeds for the series began during his time working with then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “During that period of time, he was making a bunch of social impact investments in the city, and Carnegie Hall was one of those recipients with a program called Neon Arts that dealt with probation youth,” Garrett said. “And so I got really close to them during that process. When I left to go with the Obama Foundation, they kind of always would call or email me and stay in touch and just had questions.”
Carnegie Hall’s status as an esteemed venue imbued Garrett with inspiration, which would grow with him becoming a board member. “I thought about the rich history of the place, how much people didn’t really understand about it, but also thought about, what if I could bring in culture to this space?” he said. Garrett would then connect with Ross while working on President Joe Biden’s campaign.
“Terry was on a call, where we were talking to different artists and producers and people in the music space about how we can bring more musicians into this campaign,” Garrett began. “Terry hit me up afterward, saying ‘Man let’s stay in touch, let’s talk.’ And when we sat down and talked, we had so much in common in terms of what we saw as a vision of connection around culture; how culture and influence go together and how Black people need to use that culture and influence to open up the spaces that were off limits to us and take them over.”
As Ross explained, “I’ve had a key affinity for relationships. Relationships, to me, are the most important thing. It means more than money to me. Over the years, I’ve built up a hell of a Rolodex. Cyrus [Garrett] asked me, ‘You think we can get some top-tier artists at Carnegie?’ And I was like, ‘Absolutely.’ The significance of holding events at Carnegie Hall immediately struck Ross as something that could be groundbreaking.
“The people understand what Carnegie Hall is,” Ross said. “I never knew that Martin Luther King gave a speech at Carnegie Hall. They were one of the first venues in the United States that allowed Black people to perform back in the day.” For him, having an event series would highlight the importance of Carnegie Hall as a destination and a place doing good work. “Lewis has been the driving force behind these two events. Because he has a relationship with the Earn Your Leisure guys and others,” Ross said.
The Black History Month Conversation and Celebration is a black-tie affair, keeping true to the trio’s vision for events they wanted to have at Carnegie Hall. During his initial visit, Ross noted the various pictures of past performers, which honed the vision. “If we do anything here, it has to be black-tie. It has to be formal and has to have a band. The orchestra has to accompany any artists that perform,” Ross said. “I’m a native of New York, lived in New York all my life. So I’ve been raised up on Carnegie Hall,” Tucker agreed.
This year’s iteration of the Conversation and Celebration is all about sharing knowledge and encouragement. “The goal is to figure out how to close the economic gap,” Tucker said. “The purpose of this initiative is, how do we close the economic gap going through technology vs. AI [and] expanding broadband.”
The first Black History Month Conversation and Celebration last February drew a sold-out crowd despite a storm. “I was sitting in the chairman’s booth with the chairman of Carnegie,” Ross said. “I think he’s been there for like 10 or 12 years. He was like, ‘I’ve never seen this much energy in the hall.’ And then I looked at him and said, ‘98% of the people that’s in here now have never been to Carnegie Hall.’ And he said, ‘You’re absolutely right,'” Ross said.
He even spoke about Busta Rhymes, who performed at last year’s Conversation event, and the effect that had on him. “He actually broke down and started crying and said, ‘Well, this has been a dream of mine. And my mom pushed me to come play at Carnegie Hall.’ That’s what we wanted, to make a cultural shift. We’re trying to shift the culture.”
The future is bright for the event series as sponsors such as Greenwood have gotten on board. “We have sponsors like AT&T on deck that’s trying to get the message out,” Tucker said of the support. “Robert Smith wants to get the message out. Aflac, insurance-wise, they want to get the message out. We’re just going to continue to build those cool conversations and celebrations continue to build from there.”
Ross concluded: “There’s a lot of outside companies interested like Amazon and YouTube. All these companies want to stream these events out of there because they know this is something special. You can go to Madison Square Garden, you can go to the Apollo Theatre. But it’s not like going to an event like at Carnegie Hall. There’s no other venue that you can go to like that.”
Tickets for A Black History Month Conversation and Celebration can be obtained through Carnegie Hall’s website.
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