BE Modern Man is an integrative program that honors the essence, image, and accomplishments of today’s man of color. With features of today’s leaders, executives, creatives, students, politicians, entrepreneurs, professionals, and agents of change—these men share the common thread of creating a new normal while setting the bar in tech, art, philanthropy, business, and beyond. The BE Modern Man is making a positive impact, his way, and has a story to tell.
BE MODERN MAN KARIZ MARCEL
Profession: Teaching Artist/ Social Entrepreneur
One Word That Describes You: Innovative
What does being one of the BE Modern Man 100 Honorees mean to you?
My immediate thought is appreciative. This platform is beyond important for the young black men growing up in this country and looking for direction or inspiration. With the odds stacked up against us, it’s great to know someone is watching us. The creators. The innovators. The men of DISTINCTION…your almost “impossible” accomplishments and work are not in vain.
What is your “Extraordinary Impact?”
I live in Baltimore City. We suffer from the same systemic evils that have been affecting us since the unwanted trafficking across the Atlantic Ocean. I was blessed at a young age to be educated about who I am as a person of African descent and how I can use my talents to better our communities at large. I’m a music producer who cares how music is sold, utilized, and taught. It was a matter of time before I found a way to use my gift to inspire others and create opportunities for the less fortunate. In 2007, I founded a company called Kariz Kids Youth Enrichment Services (now Innovation Echo Alliance). Within the 10 years of business, I created over 30 teaching artist jobs from within the communities of Baltimore; Washington, D.C., and Upstate New
York. While in operation, we served 2,000+ youth and produced over 300 songs used as revenue-generating deliverables for all the youth in participation of our programs. To date, we have students working with major record companies, attending music institutes, and becoming thought leaders for the next generation of creators. For the last two years, I have been focused on exploring ways my music career can automatically benefit the youth, developing a new app for K-12 students, all while sleep training my 2-year-old son; he gets all the benefits of my extraordinary work.
What are you doing as a BEMM to help support black male achievement now or in the future?
Being a mentor. Growing up, we didn’t have the proper guidance and leadership it requires to move intelligently toward our goals in the music business. After working with middle school and elementary students for seven years, I decided that I needed to start focusing on creating these opportunities for high school youth as well. This newfound direction led me to working with teenage men in detention facilities and several high schools on the East Coast. In 2015, I was called to help Baltimore rapper Damond Blue to launch his Beats Not Bullets program, where we train young scholars on the music business and production. I have become a resource of knowledge and guidance, pushing them to become positive and persistent. Working with young men who have faced similar challenges as I have is inspiring in every way you can imagine. Little do they know that they are helping me as well.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
While attending the Institute of Audio Research in New York City, I came upon some hard times. I was 18 years old at the time, homeless, and living in a barbershop in East New York, Brooklyn. The owner of this barbershop gave me a chance to prove myself as a beatmaker and he purchased some equipment for me to start building a catalog. The goal was for him to sign me and take me away to famous producer land…well, that didn’t actually happen. Every day I would wake up, make beats, and play them out loud to the customers. For the first few months, they would tell me how wack the tracks were and how the owner of the shop wasted his money on me. I kept making tracks until it got the attention of the customers. Three months and 250 beats later, I sold my first beat for $300. This is where I learned the science of having a formula. In this case, this formula would have never been discovered if it wasn’t for struggle.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
Authenticity. Period. Everything else comes after.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
I just finished up my first completed musical endeavor as an artist, titled The Blackwater Project. I took 20 teaching artists from my city and built a sound that reflects the diaspora from a Black American perspective. It’s available for streaming via www.theblackwaterprojectlp.com. In 2017, I won the grand prize in the Baltimore Hackathon (a technology competition). At this two-day event, I created a prototype of an app that can help young people make beats, record vocals, and distribute music all while learning core study subjects. I am very excited about this application hitting beta next year.
At the beginning of 2018, a few friends from the entertainment and nonprofit industry helped me launch Innovation Echo Alliance (IEA). The mission of IEA is to eradicate the lack of access to quality youth enrichment programs by facilitating the alliance between entertainment communities and nonprofit organizations. We have been working with organizations and entertainers to find creative ways to build funding portals via the industry to grassroots organizations and young creators in need of financial and material support to assist with their passions and career goals.
What is the best advice you ever received?
The most recent great advice I got was from a music vet who told me, “Learn how to deejay again and focus on producing and performing one genre that no one else is doing. It will get you where you need to be.” This is great advice because I was having trouble getting my new sound to be heard. After several failed attempts of producing other artists, I decided to give it a shot for myself and see what happens. So far, performing as a producer/DJ has helped raise thousands of dollars for music programs and brought attention to the causes that reflect IEA’s missions.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
Be very conscious of the energy you keep around. Once you identify the unproductive people in your circle, you may feel lonely at first but it’s the one thing that will help you attract your deepest desires and dreams.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
Get a haircut! I also research whoever I am meeting with. A lot of times I even go as far as creating documents about those people or companies to help me become familiar with who they are and what they stand for. It leverages whatever outcome you desire from the meeting.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?
No vacation yet. I honestly haven’t thought about what I would want to do for a vacation. I’ve been waking up and loving what I do for a living every day for the last 10 years. A vacation has not been at the top of my list of priorities. Maybe next year. I feel a burnout coming.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Panama. My family on my grandfather’s side is Panamanian and they’re always telling me I need to go. I’m slippin’.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I am very appreciative to have an opportunity to be seen and heard. The bigger the voice, the bigger chances we have of positively affecting someone’s life.
It’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @BEModernMan and join the conversation using #BEModernMan.
Come celebrate the BE Modern Man 100 Men of Distinction at the 2nd Annual Black Men XCEL, Aug. 29–Sept. 2, 2018, at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.