Storytelling Inspire Speaker Series presenter Celeste Smith. Photo by Leah Johns.
Celeste Smith. Photo by Leah Johns.
Celeste Smith. Photo by Leah Johns.

It’s a huge week for 1Hood Media CEO Celeste C. Smith, who is preparing for the collective’s annual two-day Hip Hop Festival. In addition to running 1Hood—which utilizes Hip Hop to raise awareness about issues impacting oppressed people around the world—Celeste is also a mother of 3, founder of the Nefertiti Alliance, and business partner and manager of the award-winning artist/activist Jasiri X, who was named a USA Fellow in 2015.

Monday, August 8

I usually start my day at 6 a.m. Not, because I want to, but because our four-year-old has deemed it so. It doesn’t matter if I went to bed at 4 a.m., or for that matter, if he did, every morning starts at 6 a.m. with just him and me.

Every morning, I make his tea and take my blood pressure medication with a cup of coffee (made from Nicholas Brothers Coffee) . . . not exactly sure if this is wise or not. Hmmmm. He and I do, so he can be a super prodigy upon his arrival to kindergarten next year, crushing other children under his massive intellect . . . or at least spelling his name right. This is our morning ritual and one of my favorite parts of each day.

1Hood Media. Photo by Leah Johns.
1Hood Media. Photo by Leah Johns.

In the evening, I’m connecting with a cohort of amazing women for dinner on the North Side at the home of Renee Piechocki. We connected at Sync Up, a retreat for women in leadership convened by The Heinz Endowments earlier this year, and we try to stay connected. Karla Boos of Quantum Theatre, Rosamaria Cristello of the Latino Family Center, Tami Dixon of Bricolage Production Company, Renee Piechocki of the Office of Public Art and I try to meet once a month to create a safe space for each other in these management skreets.

Tuesday, August 9

Tuesday is grocery shopping day for me: you can find me at Salem’s in the Strip District to pick up our meat and Giant Eagle Market District on Centre and Trader Joe’s for everything else.

In the afternoon, I’m attending a meet and greet with young artists from all over the City of Pittsburgh at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh—East Liberty, the last remaining vestige of free meeting space in Pittsburgh. I’m meeting with young artists regarding their role in 1Hood Day Part 1 this year.

Wednesday, August 10

I’m starting the morning walking at the Highland Park Reservoir and into Frick Park with Roopa Kaushik-Brown and Bekezela Mguni to connect and support each other’s art.

I’m also attending the Ralph Munn Creative Writing Contest and Labsy Awards at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Oakland. Low key . . . I’m really excited because I know a few young artists who submitted their art for consideration. I am here for this because I believe artists, young and old, should be recognized, affirmed and compensated for their gifts and talents in the now.

The other thing about the awards is that Jasiri X is giving the keynote address. I am so his number one fan! I mean I have pictures of his fine self all over my wall. Wait, what was I saying . . . focus . . . oh yeah, he is such a wise choice for this presentation in that he has crafted a career by immersing himself in his art and being true to his values. I believe Jasiri’s example is so important for youth performers of color because he represents a tangible example of what is possible.

Jasiri X. Photo: HauteMuslim.
Jasiri X. Photo: HauteMuslim.

Thursday, August 11

I will head to yoga class at the Kingsley Center with my daughter on this morning, hosted by Felicia Lane Savage, the super dope spiritualistic YogaRoots practitioner. Her class has helped me to create quiet spaces in the midst of much chaos. During the summer, our busy season, being able to zone out is ridiculously important.

It is also our youngest child’s birthday and we will be celebrating with the family at hell, I mean Chuck E. Cheese. He is on this Power Ranger kick so don’t be surprised if you see a Power Ranger running around Monroeville rescuing the innocent.

Later, I’m taking a young artist, Patience Roy’al, to meet with Jared at the Docherty Agency. Patience, recently interviewed by the Pittsburgh City Paper and featured on WAMO, is a singer, songwriter and model.  Talent personified and GAWJUS, yes LAWD! Jared and I serendipitously met last week, and just like a stage mom, I pulled out her Instagram account. He said bring her in. We’ll see what happens!

I’m wrapping up the day with part one of 1Hood Day. This celebration of local young talent from all over the city happens annually and this year were at Repair the World in East Liberty. We have independent artists and students who attend the YMCA Lighthouse Program located in Homewood and the Center of Life in Hazelwood.

Friday, August 12

This is the day of the outdoor family reunion-y part of 1Hood Day. It’s in AR3 Park, formerly known as Pennley Court in East Liberty. I will lament whether or not to wear jeans and gym shoes or be super fly HauteMuslim. I will end up wearing a 1Hood t-shirt, leggings, and gym shoes.

I will run to the airport to pick up jessica Care moore, our headliner, or David Banner, our host. I will go to Giant Eagle at least six times. I will introduce guests. Threaten our three children. Cry. Cuss out Jasiri. Apologize to our three children. Take pictures. Wonder, why exactly do we do this every year. Eat stuff I’m not supposed to.  Dance. Hug old friends. Cry and finally breathe when the day is an utter success.

Felicia Lane Savage. Photo:
Felicia Lane Savage. Photo:

Saturday, August 13

After the two-day festival I am spent and I ain’t doing nothing! Well . . . I might have sex . . . but other than that, NOTHING else!

Sunday, August 14

At least once a month, but normally more, my sisters and I make time to build over a meal. Staycee Pearl of PearlArts Studios and Erin Perry of The Legacy Arts Project and I formed a super group of Black women arts administrators called Nefertiti Alliance. We are primarily concerned with assisting Black women in Pittsburgh arts towards self-care and with protecting their cultural capital. We were recently awarded a grant through Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh to impact the field with our dope approach. We normally meet in Lawrenceville at B52 Cafe and kick it. They have a really great vegan menu! Huge shout-out to them! Our sisterhood is grounded in love, spiritually, and knowledge of self and each other . . . what better way to start the week?

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.