BrownTown shares space with Courtney Phillips and Matthew Manning of Gumbo Media, a versatile entity that curates content, community, and services that expand the narrative of Black life. The fam investigates the importance, struggles, successes, and nuances of making culturally-specific and -relevant media while centering their experiences as Black and Brown creators and full human beings.
Courtney and Matthew begin by explaining how they came to create Gumbo: An idea they had thought about and discussed for some time hit a crescendo in July 2016, summer of police killings of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile as well as the Republican National Convention honoring then-nominee Donald Trump. The group discusses making space for and within their communities and what it means for your identity to inform the work and explore within it. Matthew affirms that "Blackness is infinite" before the group dissects depictions of what Blackness is presented and interpreted as by all peoples. How do Black people and intentionally Black entities unequivocally make space to be unapologetically Black while navigating traditionally white spaces and/or inequitable structures? Here the gang speaks on valuing ourselves by our own standards, the white gaze, the importance of the global diaspora, and, as Courtney states, "prioritizing Black authenticity above everything else." With that, they call on allies (of all identities and issues) to do the work versus strictly relying on the oppressed for education. Other topics include the gentrification of silk scares, macro-analysis of a scene from Moonlight, and comrade Hoda Katebi's brilliant response to deeply problematic questioning on WGN-TV.
At the end of the day, all media is cultural media no matter how much it's coded otherwise. As we constantly move within an ever-expanding digital ecosystem while simultaneously coming into new consciousness, we must curate media as the medium of which our audiences, our communities, and most of all, ourselves, learn, grow, and reflect.
Matthew Manning is the Co-Founder of Gumbo Media. He is a storyteller, brand consultant, and social entrepreneur with a creative propensity and passion for inclusion and equity. He earned his BA in Art and Architectural History and his MA in Writing and Publishing from DePaul University. He is energized by collaboration with the world’s most audacious ideators, innovators, and entrepreneurs to tackle pressing global issues with creativity, intention, and impact.
Courtney and Matthew currently live together in Hyde Park, Chicago. Gumbo Media curates content, community, and services that expand the narrative of Black life.