Chula Vista High School, early 90’s, your boy was one of the top 50 football players in the state of California and top 100 basketball players in the country. Yes, the entire country. I was invited to a basketball camp that, back then, was called the Nike Superstars Camp, which was a weeklong intense basketball camp that only the top ballers in the state and country got invited to and your boy was invited. I got the invite in the mail and stuck it in my bag.
Are we so jaded that when someone is showing us who they unapologetically are we immediately judge them? I think so many of us walk that fine line of disconnecting and staying connected at all times that assumptions become reality far too frequently. I know I have.
Many of us have seen or heard of the transformation our ol’ friend Jigga (a.k.a. self professed drug dealer, cheater, that dude from Roc Nation) has gone through recently. A few months ago in Los Angeles a friend asked, “have you seen the David Letterman - Jay Z interview yet? You need to hear this if you haven't”. Between me doubting that it would either be as good as they said it was or that I had seen this Hollywood story before (someone gets caught in the act, says they are sorry and that they have changed, to only being sorry for getting caught, looking like a chump and not actually being remorseful for the damage they caused), I really wasn't interested in hearing from the man who brought us “Jigga that Ni**a”, a “Hard Knock Life” and others apologizing for his “mistakes” (and I use that word very intentionally).
So I went in…
I started watching. The setup and approach were as basic as flower dresses at Coachella. Nonetheless, I went in and started the judgment session. I remember saying to myself, “oh what, is he growing his hair out” and “why is he speaking so slow” and “why…why” was my approach. I powered through it, heard it, listened, but wasn't hearing him or his message, his confessions, and, more importantly, his growth. Let me frame this; it happened about four or five months ago when we were all getting bombarded by the Jay and Bae memes (which are amazing, btw). I tried to ignore them, but one day I decided to purchase and listen to his most recent album titled 444. I watched the videos, I listened, and this time it was a little different. I heard a line in the album that said “Because I fall short of what I say I’m all about”. That impacted me. Because I was so quick to judge and assume that his life is unreal and not human, I started unfairly judging him (like I am someone who can judge based on my experience). I was so engulfed and clouded by all of this noise that I could not see what was actually going on. I could not hear what he, Mr. Shawn Carter, the millionaire investor, the father, husband, human, king, was yelling at me in his slow and methodical tone of voice. It was mind blowing to see and hear growth in the way he was expressing it.
If any of you know me, you know that I look at music in a deep and personal way, as an art form that I could touch. This time, after I approached it differently, I started listening to Jay with an open heart as opposed to a closed one. What I was seeing was one of the most respectful and human displays of growth I had ever witnessed. Jay was actually growing right in front of our eyes and the Carters were allowing us to watch this live. I think the respectful part for me was that we never heard about him or them going through with therapy (which I think every adult needs) and we didn’t hear about him having “sex issues” (because that is a slippery road). They went through the hard part on their own, they faced those challenges as humans, adults and what we see now is them on the other side of it all. I encourage you to listen to this podcast from one of my favorite therapists, Esther Perel. She is amazing. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful. LINK.
What I was seeing was Jay working through the real challenges that he was faced with and trying to figure out where his moral compass got lost (FYI, I’ve been right at that same spot. Read this one so you can see what I mean).
He was not sorry for getting caught; he was sorry for how he hurt her. Why? Because she let him see her pain, which no breathing man ever wants to see from his woman even after he fucks up.
He was not sorry for being classified as a “cheater” because cheating was something he did and it did not define the man he is. I think that as we grow up and amass wins and losses, as we make mistakes and recuperate from them, it connects us in special ways. The fact that he cheated is horrible, but what I identified with was the journey and how we successfully went through the hard parts
As someone who struggles with guilt, I could not imagine the level of remorse and guilt he had to pass. You don’t grow as much as he has without passing those elements and for that, my impression of Jay has increased dramatically. Not as an artist, but as a man. I feel much closer to him and his music now. Maybe it is because we are both Sagittarius or maybe it is because we have both experienced true and real growth, I am not sure. We are all works in progress, but I feel like I am closer to where he is on his journey (just without the millions and Bae, obviously).
Last weekend I was able to experience one of the most memorable concerts and overall events ever. I found myself on the floor of the 1936 Olympic Arena in Berlin, Germany surrounded by 80,000 people and Jay on stage. I was dissecting his authentic smile and swag to a degree that would scare most people. I remember him saying, “wow...wow...wow”. I found myself saying “wow” as well. I can only assume that his “wows” were due to him taking in the enormity of where he is on his journey or being amazed by the amazing venue. I was saying “wow...wow...wow” but for other reasons. Reasons that allowed me to reflect, be apologetic, and be thankful all at the same time.
I often contemplate (like a lot) how many people have judged me for being too extra or judged me correctly or incorrectly. I often wonder how many people I need to apologize to for not seeing them and hurting them. I stopped wondering how many people feel a certain way about me without knowing me. Thank you, Jay for not only creating “U Don’t Know” (which happens to be my personal anthem) but also for pushing me to want to smile and seem as authentically happy as you. I am working on it.
If you don’t know the name Alberto Marzan, you will in the very near future. A visionary and innovative entrepreneur, Marzan’s latest transformative venture, AfroLife.TV, the only real hope for people of color to see and experience a full streaming service with content curated for them, launches on June 14, 2018.
The genesis for this revolutionary platform began innocuously. When Marzan’s family immigrated to the US from the Dominican Republic, they settled in Davie, FL, where it was not uncommon to see KKK members riding horses down the street. His refuge from the outside world was watching television shows, but he found it confusing when he didn’t see a lot of people who looked like him or others in his family. However, there were a few shows that gave him a feeling of connection—shows like Diff’rent Strokes, The Jeffersons, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Heck, his father had a sweater just like the one that Uncle Phil wore, but what he saw on the screen was a stark contrast to the community in which he lived. However, the theme of seeking connectivity would follow him throughout his professional career.
Marzan founded and led a few media and marketing agencies in Minneapolis-St. Paul, partnering with giants with multicultural desires such as Disney, General Mills, and Honeywell. His tenacity and knack for bringing people together landed him the opportunity to become CEO of the International Children’s Heart Foundation, which not only led him back to the Dominican Republic, but also to directing an initiative to bring life-saving pediatric cardiology centers and physician training to the country. He later founded the Grand Art Group and produced musical events globally featuring world-class performers. These experiences opened his heart and inspired his vision to seek a more global way to bring people of color together - sharing culture, values, and the multiple representations of their lives. He wanted to create a destination where these consumers could call home because people looked like them and the entertainment reflected their beliefs. That destination manifested as AfroLife.TV.
With the overwhelming success of films such as Black Panther, Hidden Figures, and Girls Trip, it’s clear that there is a huge group of consumers hungry to devour such content—and studios and other content providers realize it as well. Sony signed on early to become one of AfroLife’s launch partners and Warner Bros. came with a slate of studio content and a subsidiary, Stage13, which has licensed AfroLife exclusive content. As CEO and Founder of AfroLife.TV, Marzan emphasizes the scale of the platform, “Through the ecosystem, we’re building a destination for people to connect over content to share experiences globally.”
Marzan sees the on-demand digital space as a blank canvas, with a plethora of opportunities to showcase the diaspora. Concludes Marzan, "I get energized when I think about the impact our streaming service will have on the African American community and our viewing audience. Our goal is to empower, educate, and entertain our customers while providing another outlet to content creators and studios to sell and license content.”
AfroLife.TV’s launch will include digital streaming of original, classic, popular, emerging, and independent premium content. The premiere screening of one of its original series, The Incredible Life of Darrell, will be debuted at the American Black Film Festival on June 15th at 2pm at the Betsy Hotel.
The perfectly orchestrated ceremony is going off without a flaw, then President Bill Clinton gets up and walks into the back (green room I am sure) to prepare for his keynote. Well done. I somehow get caught the middle of the secret service as they are escorting him from the stage to the side door.
I was invited to speak at the African American Film Marketplace in Los Angeles, CA. Here is the entire hour.
I picked them up at the airport and started on our day full of introductory meetings. It was an interesting sight, me, 6’4 and Bill (with his cane), 6’6 or taller. The others were not as assuming as we were (and Brett had a short man’s complex). We went to Starkey, one of the world's largest hearing aid companies and headquartered in Minnesota, and US Bank before lunch. For lunch we had a closed meeting between the four of us. The bread and water came and the conversation started. Brett leaned over during one of his monologues and said, “You know,
Yes, I am focused on providing entertaining content on AfroLife.TV, but we have been shaken into an awakening that I credit the Donald for. I speak about that during the interview so please watch and share.
Don’t worry, this is not in place of my regularly scheduled post. That is coming shortly.
I had the fortune of meeting with someone last weekend who encouraged me to write about the real challenges of starting a business in the media/entertainment industry. Let me rephrase that, starting a game changing, impactful, and global business that will bridge and connect the African diaspora around content that is relatable. No small feat to say the least. So for this post, I would like to share some of my personal travel stories and real challenges that may shed light on what entrepreneurship is really like.
I was hired by the International Children's Heart Foundation, a global organization focused on operating on children with congenital heart disease around the world, as their President and CEO back in 2009. My immediate assignments were to fix, reorganize, and to build strategic relationships with organizations and governments around the world that would power the organization into the future. Dr. William Novick (one of the three men that I had great respect for, more to come on that in the coming weeks) and the board of directors had hired me.
The incredible importance behind this is that today content or media is an integral part of our world. If we as African Americans, Afro-Europeans, Afro-Caribbeans or Africans see ourselves on a medium that we hold at such high regards, it has tremendous effects on how we look at ourselves in the world, our brain development, and potentially our outcomes.
I was a sophomore in college in San Diego with my birthday and the Christmas holidays just around the corner in December. My family had already moved back to South Florida from San Diego to be closer to family. Since I was already launched in college they thought it was the best time to move. We'd all enjoyed California, it gave us kids great opportunities and showed us a very different life.
It was November 22, 2012, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and I was on top of the world, heading to the airport to catch a first class Delta flight back to Minneapolis after a business trip in Atlanta. I’d gone to ATL to meet with some investors interested in my new software company, Catena Inc., which was going to revolutionize the way refrigerated cargo was tracked and monitored while in transit.
“With the recent success of some properties in the OTT space, the Disney-Fox merger and Netflix spending seven billion dollars on content, the race is on to develop sustainable strategies that will incentivize users to subscribe to OTT platforms,” said Alberto Marzan, founder and chief executive officer of AfroLife.
I’m laser focused on building a global corporation not playing entrepreneur; it’s been an interesting journey which I am built for and the company has learned how to be more and more resilient throughout this journey which in hindsight I am forever grateful for. We’ve managed to not only attract strategic relationships with the likes of Google and studios of all sizes but we’re also in the conversation as innovators in the ever changing OTT space” says Marzan.