"What the hell are we doing?"
This is an accurate synopsis of each of the dozens of conversations Panama and I have had in the past three years about the future and direction of VerySmartBrothas. We've both often joked that it has managed to stay afloat in spite of ourselves. But, after a couple years of telling the same joke, it loses its humor. We loved VerySmartBrothas for what its become, what its done for our personal and professional lives, and how its managed to cultivate one of the most unique communities of friends, fans, and followers on the internet. Still, we felt like it had the potential to be something bigger. We just…I don't know. We just couldn't figure out how.
In April of 2013, though, after celebrating our 5th anniversary, we decided to put some serious thought into it. And, this serious thought happened to coincide with an opportunity my soon-to-be-wife told me about with The Pittsburgh Foundation: The Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh grant.
I applied for it last summer, an act that helped me finally craft and articulate a concrete vision and plan for VerySmartBrothas; a conglomeration of all the conversations P and I have had about it.
An excerpt from the grant:
Why exactly do I want to do this?
Well, I’m an avid reader. My occupation calls for it, but I also read for fun. And, while I haven’t stopped enjoying books—-Chuck Klosterman’s latest, I Wear the Black Hat, was my favorite read this summer—-most of this reading occurs online. Gawker, EBONY, Slate, Salon, Jezebel, Grantland, The Root, Clutch, and The Atlantic are a few of my favorite haunts. Each of these digital magazines have multiple sections, numerous daily features, large communities, and dozens of talented, intelligent, insightful, opinionated, irreverent, and passionate writers at their disposal.
Yet, only three of these places are led by people of color (EBONY, The Root, and Clutch). And, none are led by a young Black man. (Well, relatively young.)
My goal is for VSB to fill that void; to be a comprehensive, self-sustaining place with the same cultural impact as my favorite daily reads…but aimed at a handsomely expanded version of the audience VSB already draws.
In November, I learned that they awarded me the full amount.
The last few months have been spent putting the plans to action, culminating with our not-so-brand-spanking-new-but-still-new-as-hell digital magazine, VSB.
But enough about the past. Let's talk about what happening now.
Although our url still says "VerySmartBrothas," we are now VSB. That may not make much sense now, but it will eventually.
We brought some of the best digital talent available on board, including Danielle Belton (our new Contributing Editor), Sarah Huny Young (our new Art Director), and senior writers Maya Francis, Jozen Cummings, Alex Hardy, and Samantha Irby.
There are roughly a dozen more people on the team. Some names you'll definitely recognize. Some you might not. And some plucked right out of the comments section.
As mentioned before, the community here is both unique and invaluable. There is no other place on the internet like the kinetic comments section of VSB. Our new home (designed by Sarah Huny Young) recognizes that with a daily designation of (and prime placement for) the comment of the day.
What you see now is a skeleton of how VSB will eventually look. There are several features in the works, including a weekly collaboration with one of your favorite musicians. (Don't try guessing who, cause we're not telling.)
One of our personal and professional missions is for VSB to be a place that cultivates young, talented, and hungry writers of color. We have open opportunities for both interns and contributors. If interested, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the title "I want to write/work for VSB."
There are still a few kinks that need worked out. We've labored over this new layout for a couple months now, but I'm sure there are some T's we haven't crossed and some I's we haven't dotted. If you notice anything odd, please let us know.
Oh, and one last thing. Check back at around noon for the most fun you'll ever have. (Seriously!)