This right here is my ___________. You can probably guess the next word in this sentence. If not, you probably haven’t listened to the radio much lately (I don’t blame you if you haven’t). If you haven’t guessed the word let me give you a hint. It isn’t the oversized, gaudy chain dangling from your neck. It isn’t your custom Louis Vuitton suede shoes either. It definitely isn’t your smooth stroll you put on when you walk into the club. Your time is up….the word is swag. “Manners + Style+ Confidence= Swagger”-Fonzworth Bentley. This past weekend I had the unique opportunity to learn about swagger. No, not the “hop up out the bed kind”. I learned how swagger could empower young people and change lives. Unless, you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you would know that we are living in the age of swag. Everyone claims to have it, however most people really have no idea what it means. Let me explain swag through my weekend.
This past Friday through Sunday I had the amazing opportunity of emceeing The Greatness Beyond Measure (GBM) Summit. The GBM Summit is a three-day conference held in Sarasota, Florida designed to foster growth, creativity, and self-empowerment in young people. This year’s conference featured a gang of talented youth from all over Florida. Young musicians, thespians, dancers, and debaters surrounded me. As the Chair Emeritus and emcee of the conference I was charged with the task of making sure each program ran smoothly from start to finish. I thought it meant just keeping the crowd engaged and not deviating from the program. I was quite wrong.
On Friday I listened to saxophone prodigy B.K. Jackson wow an audience with his phenomenal ability. Later I saw an 8 year old eerily emulate Michael Jackson to a tee. He definitely gave Chris Brown a run for his money. This was only the kick- off event. Later that night I hosted GBM’s Teen Idol with special celebrity guest judge Fonzworth Bentley. This Cool Outrageous Lover Of Uniquely Raw Style educated and entertained the crowd. He talked about his passion for fashion, career, and outlook on entrepreneurship. He challenged all the young people to look at themselves as C.E.O.’s. As I stood by Bentley I felt underdressed yet empowered. Bentley, a Morehouse grad, had clawed his way up in the entertainment industry through stick-to-itiveness, charisma, and sound values. As he talked to the crowd about, “Advancing Their Swagger”, he sounded less like a hungry car salesman trying to promote his book, and more like a concerned community member looking to expose youth to lessons about etiquette and fashion. He took the obscure term swagger and gave it real meaning when he broke it down into three component parts: manners, confidence, and style.
The next day I got a chance to ask Cey Adams, one of the most influential graphic design artists in hip-hop about his career. Adams originally started in New York as a graffiti artists but turned his passion for painting other people’s property into desgining logos and album covers for Public Enemy, Jay-Z, and Mary J. Blige just to say a few. He gave youth positive reinforcement about not just chasing dreams, but actively pursuing them with a clear goal in sight.
I was honored and humbled to be around so many amazingly talented young people. The GBM teen summit enriched the lives of hundreds of youth and gave them a real definition of swagger.