On Thursday, February 18, Grammy Award-winning singer Monica Brown and veteran actress Jurnee Smollett-Bell made a Los Angeles tour stop at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Macy’s store in celebration of Black History Month.
An intimate crowd of fans and admirers gathered at Macy’s to hear the entertainers reflect on African American artistry, culture and community. The dynamic panel discussion was moderated by Wynter Mitchell, digital content pioneer and Head of Talent and Partnerships at reddit Inc.
Mitchell kicked off the discussion by asking both Brown and Bell where they drew their cultural inspiration from. Monica spoke of her grandmother, who she says exemplified extraordinary strength raising her children and grandchildren, often times picking peas in the field or ensuring that her family got where they needed to go even while she didn’t drive.
“When I think about our heritage, and my history, and the women that raised me and the men that raised me, I just think of strength,” Monica stated.
Bell, on the other hand, says that she’s “come from a wonderful legacy of activists,” speaking of her parents who she says were both members of the Black Panther movement.
“Having inherited that spirit of activism is definitely something I’m so proud of but that’s what we come from, we come from kings and queens who were always forcing America to be better,” Bell proclaimed. “We’re always on the frontlines of change and for me, that spirit of revolution and that spirit of change is what makes America great,” she continued.
During the discussion Mitchell posed a question concerning the plight of black boys and men in America, and how Monica handles being a mother of African-American boys.
“With three boys that are constantly watching, and looking, listening and learning, I just teach them a lot about their worth so that they understand that they can have, and be and create,” she said. Monica says that she also teaches her sons about being leaders and the dangers of being a follower in a society that glorifies sex and drugs “when most of the people we may be following have no clue where they’re going”.
Monica and Bell, who both began their careers from a very young age, gave advice to those looking to start their own careers in the entertainment industry.
“Whatever you do, make sure that you have a passion for it. Now, a lot of people want to be artists, actors and entertainers because they want to be famous, they want to be rich, but there’s a level of preparation on the inside you have to have,” Monica said. “I’m in the industry but I’m not of it. You have to have some sort of morale to sustain,” she continued.
In Bell’s perspective, “When one wins, we all win. When you shine, I shine” speaking of how African-Americans should strive to support one another.
Mitchell also asked to Monica and Bell to name entertainers of today who’ve made significant contributions and impact to Black History. Among the names they mentioned were Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, Common, CeCe Winans, Jussie Smollett, John Legend, Yolanda Adams, and Queen Latifah, citing not only their creative abilities, but ability to genuinely be there for one another.
As a gift to guests in attendance, Bell provided audience members with tickets to the premiere of her new television series Underground, set to air on WGN American on March 9, 2016.
Monica, who has already debuted at the top of the Billboard R&B Albums Chart for her new album CODE RED, allowed fans the opportunity to acquire a signed copy of her CD. Both Monica and Brown continue to make their mark on Black History.