Turning the Church Up: An interview with Brittany Shontel

When you think about religion you usually don’t associate it with being "lit". Some people don’t think of it being fun at all. Brittany Shontel’s mission is to bring the fun to the word of God. A former club surfer, Doughboyz Cashout stan, and avid twerker have turned her energy into making her and others walk with Christ lit.

What is Pretty Lit Ministries?
A three-part ministry that includes tees, a podcast and outreach. It's for the people like myself, who love Kendrick, but can worship to Kirk. A ministry for those who know they need God, but don't know where to start, or they feel like they aren't in a place where God wants them the way they currently are. Pretty Lit Ministries is what I needed 5 years ago.

What were you doing before Pretty Lit?
I had a ministry called Pretty Girls Praise, from 2013-2016 - but I wanted to expand beyond women, so I changed it. Before that, I was living my life. I loved partying, going out, drinking, etc. I wasn't really involved in anything, I was just existing.

You are a huge fan of music, what artists inspire you?
Kendrick Lamar. He is my number on inspiration in music. I love how is unapologetic about who he is, and his relationship with God has always been mentioned in his music. I think that's why I love him so much. He's planting seeds in people's hearts without forcing the word on them. That matters - I pray I can get to that point, where I can truly be me while still shining God's light. I also love how private he is - sometimes I overshare, and it comes back to bite me, then I think like "dang I should've taken the Kdot approach on that and keep it to myself." Lastly, his growth was not overnight. I recently saw him at the palace, and all I was thinking was jeez - the last time I saw him was at Chene park & now He's in an arena like this. Perseverance.

I love PartyNextDoor - not only does he make amazing music for himself, but he's behind so many songs people love (Wild Thoughts, Work, Sex with Me) - and unless you look into it you would not know. You don't always have to be the face of something to shine. It motivates me to be okay with being behind the scenes.

I also love Lecrae, Cardi B, & Kirk Franklin.

How do you incorporate music with Pretty Lit?
Mostly on my podcast, Pretty Lit the Podcast. Every week we do a Righteous & Ratchet Song of the week. It's our way of introducing our listeners to new music. I believe in having a healthy balance -and I also believe God can speak in whatever way He best sees fit. The entire theme and vision for my last conference "Take Flight" was given to me while I was listening to Kanye's TLOP.

What inspired you to start a podcast?
My Executive Producer & Boss Friend, JG. He saw a need, and thought my ministry could fill it. I did not want to commit to a podcast and I told him no, several times. But eventually I saw what he saw so I said yes. I am so happy I did.

How do you hope to impact the world?
I've never thought about this. I pray my impact is positive - I want people to desire to shine brighter after meeting me. I hope to have my entire generation eager to pray, not only for themselves but for others. Most importantly, I hope my life impacts people to do what God has called them to do. I've done some things, seen somethings, & said some things - and NONE of my actions dimmed my light nor stop my purpose from being necessary for others. I want others to know - that is the same for them.

Do you receive criticism from other church people because of your high energy ministry?
Probably. Never to my face though...isn't that how it always is though? People hate that I say Righteous & Ratchet and use the word "Lit". I see the tweets and IG post. I don't care - I have to do what God tells me, and if I move in a way he hasn't instructed I have to deal with that from HIM. My ministry is for specific people, my mother has told me that since I decided to step into this - so I try to walk in that on a daily basis.

Where do you see yourself in a year?
Interesting... My first thought was engaged - but I am not ready for marriage just yet. I want to be in a position to give more - more love, more money, more of God, more experiences, etc. I see myself helping my Elise with her purpose, I see myself assisting my friend Sha'lyce in finding a building for her business idea. I see myself with the Dani, Breezy and the Peoples Choice interviewing Lecrae, and Sarah Jakes Roberts for Pretty Lit the Podcast. Prayerfully, I'll be less petty, a LITTLE less ratchet and a LOT more righteous.

Art in Motion: Interview with Ambreia Stephens

Art comes in many forms: sculpture, painting, ceramics, photography and more. Most artists seldom stick to one form of art to express themselves, like Ambreia Stephens. This young lady is an amazing painter and has started her journey in tattooing. Her work has been showcased at The Baltimore Gallery, Riopelle Studio, Lithouse, and more. Incorporating her love of portraits, the human body, and her unique outlook she has been able to make a mark and will continue to blaze a colorful trail.

When did you decide you wanted to be an artist?

I  decided that I wanted to be a full-time visual artist in December of 2015; it was right after a rocky breakup and losing a good job. Art is what kept me afloat that winter, been at it ever since...

What made you start tattooing?

I wanted my art to be a lasting impression. I want people to take it with them wherever they go..

How is a body different than a canvas?

Your canvas is alive and responsive so that always adds fun to your project! Your time is also limited when working on human canvas compared to leaving a canvas and returning to it at your leisure.

Who or what inspires you?

The city and my creative peers inspire me to be honest. You can find art everywhere in almost anything and that is how I get out of my creative slumps most of the time. Simply leaving the house, seeing people and the atmosphere helps. Working with Krissy The Butcher has definitely been a life changing experience as well! She is so full of life and creativity, it’s hard not to be inspired by her!

What is your role with Art with a Spark?

I'm the head instructor at Art With A Spark. My job is teaching people of all backgrounds that art can be enjoyable, whether you are a beginner or a Basquiat! Also, who doesn't like a smoke friendly paint class?

What has been your biggest achievement?

Being able to travel with my art has been one of my biggest dreams! So having the opportunity to be able to tattoo in Los Angeles for the Ladies Of Ink Tour has been an absolute blessing.

Where do you see yourself in a year?

Happy, healthy and expanding my brand in all ranges. Collaborations with more like-minded artists, more community functions, and Urban Truth Projects. Progression is always the goal. I'll still be tattooing and painting so I'll be traveling more to share my gift with people all over the world.

Charity Shares Her Soul

Charity is defined as the voluntarily giving of help primarily in the form of money to those in need.

This Charity gives those in need beautiful music that feeds our soul. Coming off the high from her project “Yellow”, she shares some of the intricate things that make her the astounding artist she is.

1.) How long have you been singing? What inspired you to start singing?

I've been singing since I was little. My dad is a preacher so my two older sisters and I sang at church a lot. I can't really say I was inspired to sing as much as it was something I grew into, and didn't really have an option on whether I was going to do it or not lol. In hindsight, gospel music really molded me as a writer, and helped me to see music as sacred and even as ministry to some degree.

2.) Not only do you sing, but you play guitar, describe your journey as a guitarist.

I started playing guitar at 13 because my piano teacher who I had studied with since I was 8 was hitting my fingers with a pencil after I kept making mistakes on some music I was completely inspired by. I was done with her after that, but my parents made me pick up something else. I was into India Arie and Lauryn Hill so I thought guitar would be a good fit. I ended up with a really great teacher and mentor, Joel Palmer, who was an old white folk guitarist. His teaching style made me fall madly in love with music. He recognized I was a singer and made me learn covers to my favorite India Arie and Stevie Wonder songs. Soon after, he realized I was a poet and made me put those poems to guitar chords. So it was a very tailored, personal and creative experience learning with him. Really soon I was writing and performing original songs. I remember him telling my mom, "Charity's not just going to play. She's going to PLAY." I get what he meant now.

3.) You also write a lot of your music, what are some of your greatest strengths as a songwriter? What difficulties do you face as a songwriter?

I think as a writer I'm able to connect to human emotion. I'd consider myself an empath and I just FEEL things very deeply. I think my music, especially my new music, makes people feel something very familiar that they can relate and connect to and thus feel understood and that they aren't alone. That's what I'm good at. What I'm bad at is pushing past the fear of, "Oh shit, I think the last song I wrote is the best song I'll ever write." - essentially the fear that I'll run out of creativity. I take myself too seriously. I put a pressure on myself for every single song to be profound and exceptional. So, I throw too many songs out and sometimes I scare myself out of being a consistent writer.

4.) What's one of the most difficult challenges you face in the music industry as an underground artist?

I think finding the people to understand who I am and what my vision is and the resources to give my art the platform that it deserves has been my greatest challenge. It's hard being a woman too. It's hard being a BLACK woman even more. But that stuff is apart of the struggle that gives me the seasoning to be a great artist and human. So I can navigate that. I just don't have huge budgets to ensure that great songs will be heard by the masses. But I do believe that God can provide me with much more than a major label could. So I all things, I'm trying to shift my mindset to the abundance that I do have

5.) You've performed at many great places and for many awesome people, what has been your favorite performance to date?

My favorite performance was at my release show for my EP "Yellow". To be honest, Yellow was really boy crazy content. I was going through a bad breakup once it finally came out and I just didn't feel connected to it anymore and I didn't want to perform it. Mike Ellison, writer, creative director, performer, activist, and more came on to help me make it personal and authentic again and just to take my show to a new level. So I was able to transform these love songs to someone else into love songs to self, to God. It was a really dynamic, intimate and personal night. People cried. I cried. I felt after that show- "Okay, I'm really doing my work now."

6.) You are currently working on a new project, what can we anticipate?

You can anticipate the songs that a girl who has finally learned to really, deeply love herself writes. It'll have more bass and booty than my last project. I'm so concerned with all the layers of me (righteous and ratchet) being present on this album. So, I talk about feeling like nothing after having my heart broken, learning that I'm actually the shit, loving that woman, being a frustrated millennial, women going for more in life than the status quo, feeling like I'm racing the clock to success. I'm actually getting excited just describing it. It's really good lol.

7.) Your project Yellow - The EP is full of different genres of music like soul, blues, and jazz. Would you describe your music as genre fluid?

Oooh I love how you described that. Genre fluid is a beautiful way to put it. I'm genuinely influenced by so many Black movements in music- from Gospel to Folk to Jazz to R&B to Neo Soul to Hip Hop to Trap. I really don't want anyone boxing me into one sound so I've struggled for years with what to call my music. You'll hear even more of those genres on my next project so it needs to be allowed to be fluid. Yes.

8.) If you could work with anyone, past or present, who would it be?

My first instinct was to say Nina Simone, because I just think she would pull an even more dynamic writer out of me, but I think I struggle with always looking to the past for inspiration and rarely looking forward (which can keep an artist stuck in a moment that's over). So in the present moment I would say Anderson .Paak. The first time I heard his music I just felt like somebody was oiling my scalp. I think we have so much in common as writers and instrumentalists and his journey wasn't instant or easy as mine hasn't been either. I think he access to, indie artist or not.

9.) What other things can we look forward to from Charity The Artist?

A great album in early 2018 and visuals even sooner that push the envelope and celebrate the layers and complexity of a Black girl who is standing at the altar of her own heart.

10.) Where do you see yourself in a year?

I see myself touring a successful album; becoming peers with artists that I look up to. Speaking that into existence.

You Are What You Eat: Raphael Wright

If you follow enough people from the city then you’ve probably heard about Raphael Wright and his attempts to open a Black-owned grocery store on Detroit’s Eastside. In case you haven’t, this entrepreneur, author, and founder of Urban Plug L3C has a passion for rejuvenating our community by tackling social issues and incorporating group investment models that you’ll definitely want to take notice of!

I decided to reach out and learn a bit more about his drive for this project and the change he hopes to bring.

Can you tell us a bit about Urban Plug L3C?

“We founded Urban Plug in July 2016. Our first project was a youth entrepreneurship program called Boss Academy, in which we went over entrepreneurial principles with a group of teenagers. We’ve also provided information on stocks, investing, and real estate to smaller groups. This is the biggest project we’ve worked on so far.”

Can you give us an outline of your current project?

“The plan is to start with one store, learn the game, learn the perfect model to run a successful market and, once that’s covered, introduce the platform for people to pool their money and buy into the enterprise. We’d sell half the store to the community and use the profits from that to start again in another place.”

Does that mean you’re seeking to expand this business model to cities other than Detroit?

“I would love to, but I can’t really say ‘yeah.’ We want to focus on Detroit because that’s where we’re from. We do want to serve as an example that this model can work and for every inner city community to take it on, but right now we’re keeping it in the city.” Continue Reading