The YouTube Star Changing The Way We Talk About Race
Photo via Hipsternomics/Jazmyne Drake
As Youtube star Jazmyne Drakeford noted during her visit to the Swagger studio, without online activism "black issues and injustice would otherwise go unheard. Being online helps us be there even though we can't actually be there."And so the 21-year-old has steered away from the Youtube's hackneyed beauty tutorials and parody videos in favor of Blvck Nostalgia, a channel that celebrates and brings into view the most pressing issues within her community. "I felt no need to become another hair or makeup guru because I personally believe I have more relevant things to discuss," she said. "I believe that is also part of the reason why I’ve been receiving such positive feedback."
In "Get It Together Black Men", one of her recent videos watched over 1 million times, Drakeford rails against men who openly criticize black women only to praise western European features. In the follow up "Get It Together Black Women", she preaches the importance of #BlackGirlSolidarity. "It's our obligation," Jazmyne said of young people using their online platforms to drive effective converation surrounding social issues. "These issues affect us whether we realize it or not, and the burden to fix these issues are on us...we should not be treating today’s issues like trending topics that are discussed for a short amount of time, then soon forgotten once the hype is gone. "
Ensuring that her messaging will outlive the lifespan of a trending topic, throughout her 40 or so clips, the young star intertwines pop references with themes of self-empowerment and social justice for a channel that feels fresh, smart, uplifting, and relevant. When the internet was following Drake vs Meek Mill closer than Sandra Bland's arrest and subsequent death, she reminded her viewers to#StayWoke.
via Blvck Nostalgia
A business woman to boot, Drakeford launched the channel's corresponding shop which boasts pithy tees, mugs, and hats that speak to her audience. "The Blvck Nostalgia shop is an online store I created based off my YouTube channel where people can purchase apparel that expresses their love, concern, and support for Black culture and the overall empowerment of the people." One, a simple crew-neck with just the word "NAH", a reference to Rosa Park's refusal to get off the bus in 1955 — "if Rosa Parks was a woman of this generation, this is how’d she would have responded to those who told her to move from that seat" —while a fall hat screams "Melanin on 100."
I asked Jazmyne when does making clothing, and a profit off a hot button topic like race become blaxploitation, especially given that the line isn't exclusive to just people of color. "My t-shirt brand is only a piece of what I’m building here [and] it's very clear that my goal is Black empowerment," Drakeford pointed out. "But generally, if the profits are going to a Black-owned business that is putting out a positive message seen by a large amount of people, I do not believe that it should be considered “blaxploitation”."
Now back home in Oakland, California following summer internship at Buzzfeed, Jazmyne is working on creating two more platforms: an online site dedicated to building and expanding Black businesses and an app she briefly described to me as a tool to help reduce cases of police brutality.
At 21, and with 12,000 subscribers, consider Jazmyne Drakeford's movement on, well,100
Watch Jazmyne and Sian-Pierre play another round of "Or Nah" below:
PostedSep 24, 2015