VSB in Atlanta Recap: Meetups, Panels, #ObamaDay, and Thangs

Panama Jackson

What started out as a trip to Morehouse College (and a chance to actually speak at my alma mater) to speak to a journalism class about finding their voice turned into a whirlwind busy as the dickens Sunday and Monday in the A. Lots of stuff happened. Let’s talk about it.

Let’s start with the VSB ATL meetup. First and foremost, thanks to everybody who came out. I met a ton of new and cool folks, even those folks who had allllll the hateration to share. I can’t remember everybody’s name, but like Tupac said to his mother, you are appreciated. Hopefully those who did come out made some new friends. I think I managed to speak to almost everybody (except that super shy person who dipped clean out without speaking to anybody but who showed up at the talk the next day), or my family did since I brought all of my sisters and even a long lost cousin to the fracas. Shouts to Hostile Negress (writing here as Dhiraj Naseen) who also came through to represent, represent. I enjoyed myself and I hope y’all did too.


Like I said, this trip started out as an opportunity for me to go speak to a class at Morehouse College and eventually morphed into a full day’s worth of speaking engagements.

Monday morning, and through the homie and Morehouse College professor and journalist, David Dennis, Jr., I had the opportunity to speak to his Advanced News Writing class about finding their voice and branding. Because Monday morning quarterbacking is a thing, I can think of how much better I could have done in that class room though I do think (and hope that) I at least gave them some things to think about. Oprah came up in the midst of the discussion and one of the students asked if I could play them the voicemail, so I did. I haven’t listened to it since November, so it was pretty cool to listen to it anew after several months with folks hearing it for the first time. Shouts to David Dennis (who would also join me for the VSB talk later in the day), for opening his classroom up to me and having the distinction as being the person who allowed me to come back and speak at Morehouse College, something I actually have wanted to do.

Little did I know that God was like…oh, you want this? You gon' learn today.

The week before last, and after I’d already confirmed I was heading down and put in motion the pieces for the talk later Monday evening, I received a text from the homie Jamilah Lemieux (we all know who she is) asking if I would be interested in speaking at Morehouse for an endeavor she was helming using President’s Day as a means to take a look at the legacy of Barack Obama, basically turning President’s Day into Barack Obama Day with a day full of panels to be held on the 2nd floor of Morehouse’s King Chapel. There were several panels, breakfast, lunch, free books, and a keynote address by Michael Eric Dyson. I was apart of a panel called “For The Culture: Obama and Pop Culture” moderated by Jamilah where we discussed the effect of Obama’s “cool” on accountability and how social media helped bolster him as a candidate for the kids, bro. My panel included awesome writer Rembert Browne and Hot 97’s Deanii Scott, aka Scottiebeam. Shouts to my fellow panelists for an entertaining and engaging discussion. #yalldabess


(There are lots of shouts in this piece recap. Also, clap for ‘em all.)

But, I’m really here to talk about the panel before mine. It was called “Black Men and the ‘Obama Effect’” featuring some fairly prominent individuals in academia Morehouse College’s Dr. David Wall Rice, Howard University’s Dr. Greg Carr, writer and cultural commentator Mychal Denzel Smith, and entrepreneur and former Obama “pastor in chief” Joshua DuBois, who is a friend of mine.


Hear this and hear this good: That was the best panel I’ve ever attended in my entire life. I’ve had the pleasure of being on and attending panels for years now. I’ve seen some terrible ones (mix of speakers and subject) and good ones (again, mix of speakers and subject), but this is the first time I’ve ever attended a panel and didn’t want it to end, never mind that I was on deck or that it was an hour and a half strong.

Between the questions that were asked, and the careful, thoughtful, and sometimes extremely dissenting opinions of the panelists, I can easily say that it was all things informative, insightful, entertaining, and worthwhile. The conversation that they were having – and it was nowhere near a table full of Obama advocates, shoot, it was possibly more “anti” Obama than pro (I say anti, because nobody hates the man but the professors and Mychal were very reasonably critical of Obama’s governance and the myth behind the man) – was useful and for all who attended, I’m sure a delight. Everybody on the panel was in the know and able to articulate well their opinions, which isn’t something you always get with these things.


Point is, it was Facebook Lived (it starts at the 1 hour mark on this video, my panel is also on this video at the end) and I’d highly recommend that you check out the panel because it takes a whole lot for a panel discussion to impress me, but after this one, I made it a point to thank each and every one of them for the talk and even shouted them out during my own panel. Shouts to Jamilah and the entire crew from NewsOne for putting on such an edifying day full of talks. I’m sure it was no easy task, but I think all who had the pleasure of attending, benefited.

Lastly, at 6pm at the Atlanta University Center’s Robert W. Woodruff Library, affectionately referred to as Club Woody to all in the AUC (I’m assuming they still call it that), I had the pleasure of doing a sit-down conversation about Black voices in a new America, alongside David Dennis. We had an engaged crowd who asked a bunch of questions, and we talked a lot, towards the end, about VSB’s direction and goals, which I found interesting to actively talk about out loud. Typically, those are convos only Damon and I have. I heard I was a bit long-winded; that was probably true. But hopefully the discussion was interesting, and I try to throw in as many jokes as possible. Also, David has a great perspective as somebody who has been an active journalist for a long time and who has been recently dragged because of comments he made about Tom Brady, ending up on Breitbart and effectively had to talk about how to survive when this New America learns your name. It wasn't FB Lived because I'm Black and I forgot a TriPod, but ya know, we'll get 'em next time tiger.


All in all in it was a great trip, and on the speaking end I’m always learning and thinking of ways I could have improved what I said and how I said it, and I need a timer. Thanks for all who attended, who invited me out, and who came to the meetup.

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About the author

Panama Jackson

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.