If You’re Reading This, Thank You for Everything (and Also for Reading This)

Damon Young and Panama Jackson at The Root 100 Gala (Panama Jackson archive)
Damon Young and Panama Jackson at The Root 100 Gala (Panama Jackson archive)

On a macro level and, I think, by most objective measures, 2017 was a fairly shitty year. I don’t have the time or disposition to run down everything that went wrong, but in a nutshell: Our president sucks, Congress sucks, our white electorate sucks, white people keep white-folkin’, we lost a bevy of great people and women had to get men out of there at an alarming clip. That’s the macro level.

On a micro (and personal) level, 2017 has been quite the exciting year, especially for VSB. At the end of June, we transitioned to joining The Root, allowing us to work at VSB for an actual living and allowing me to leave my good government job of 14 years to do so. Damon Young and I both had speaking opportunities galore from the East Coast to the West Coast, I got to meet Oprah, met Black Santa, was granted a few opportunities that hopefully manage to take shape in 2018 and ended the year engaged. It’s been quite the year.

So, thank you. Thank you to everybody who comes to VSB, reads and engages with the site. Thanks to everybody who followed us to The Root from our old stomping grounds. Hell, thank you to everybody who felt like they’d reached the end of their VSB participation—we miss y’all—when we made the change. If not for you all being around in the first place, we’d never be in the position we’re in now.


And let me tell you: For Damon and me, this was as good a business decision as we could have made. Our new home is very warm and cozy and super supportive and wants us to be the best VSB we can be. Trust me, folks—for all of you wondering what VSB would be like once it changed, any changes you believe you see are largely minimal. We’ve been doing it like we’re doing it for TV the entire time, the way we always have.

But you know what? If you think we’ve changed and gone Hollywood, thank you for that, too. Criticism never hurt anybody; hell, I welcome it. Maybe I don’t look forward to being bombarded by it, but I’ve also got a ton of people who read VSB who do hit me up via email and social media to tell me the good, the bad and the ugly and how I can be a better me. And I appreciate that.

2017 for us has been a year of change. As we’ve settled into our new home here at The Root, we’ve had to figure out what it is we want out of VSB and what we’re willing to do to get it. Granted, we’ve been at The Root for six months now (!!!!!), so there are still some growing pains and work we need to do. But we’ve got a great team around us to help us get there.

We owe it all to the folks who have been reading. There are people who read and comment on VSB who have been around since our very first post on March 31, 2008. Almost 10 years ago. Think about that—there are people who read VSB who I’ve now known for almost 10 years because of an idea Damon, Liz Burr and I had while talking over Gchat one February day.


We were entirely different people back then. Neither of us was a family man, though I found out in May of 2008 that I was going to be the father of a beautiful baby girl in early 2009; my daughter is now almost 9 years old. I’ve added two more beautiful baby boys to my roster and a fiancee. Damon is now a married man with a beautiful daughter. We’re also older and wiser and, more importantly, actively smarter, thanks in no small part to the community that we’ve both built and watched build itself at VSB. No discussion of VSB is ever complete without the online community of people who have enabled it to be a safe space. We’ve never lost sight of that or forgotten that.

In our early days, Damon and I lived in the comments section, illustrating our accountability and being willing to take some things on the chin when necessary (and for both of us, some of those things were more necessary than others). We’ve had plenty of trying times filled with lots of growth. While we may not be as active as we once were, we’re still reading and taking stock of the conversations that unfold.


On a personal level, VSB has helped me explore things about myself, cope with trying times and the loss of friends and family, make lifelong friendships and basically grow. I was in my late 20s when VSB started, and now I’m a year and a half from 40. I should be a smarter and better person now than I was then. I won’t hold myself to a perfect standard—there’s still a lot more work to do that requires actively learning who I am more and more and upping the ante on who I can be—but I’m definitely a better version of myself now. So thank you, you that read, for that as well—for helping me grow.

We’ve always hoped that VSB could be a fun place to do a whole lotta gang shit with our virtual friends and even our friends in real life. And we’ve been able to do that and simultaneously address real issues and spark real conversations that were needed in our community. The Obama years were good for us—hell, we pretty much coincided with them—but they were also years filled with a lot of black struggle and strife. They were also a time where loving our blackness became not only something we said but something so many of us did actively. And I’m glad for whatever part we played in it; VSB has always been a black space for shits and giggles and for celebrating blackness.


When we started VSB, we had very few goals. In fact, I’m not sure any of us—Damon, Liz or I—really had any idea what we were doing. But we didn’t let that stop us because we ALSO had no idea where we couldn’t go. And here we are, starting 2018 in an entirely different space from where we started 2017. If any of what we have planned works out the way we want, this year might be even bigger than the last. Lettuce pray.

And that’s thanks to the folks who helped get us here and who held us accountable and who became our friends and who care about our success and enjoy it with us. So thank you all, from the heart. You are appreciated, and we hope to continue doing hood-rat things with our friends and sharing in those successes. VSB is, after all, a community. A very black community of very smart people.


Happy New Year. To 2018 and beyond.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.

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I keep reading this thinking that you were gonna tell us some bad news. That’s what 2017 did to me.

PS, congratulations on your engagement.

PPS, 112 is still better than Jagged Edge.