Cirilo Manego is a cultural visionary. As our culture experienced its trials and triumphs, Cirilo spotted a need for positive images, positive stories and unapologetic people leading him to create the media platform Black With No Chaser. Cirilo shared his experiences with us.
Who is Cirilo Manego?
Simply put, a human . . . a conscious Black human, who cares deeply about the advancement of Black people and communities. I’m someone who fully appreciates the fact that Black people cannot be free until we are all free. I foster a community wherever I go. In part, I think it’s because I have a certain fervor for life. (Shhhhhhh, don’t tell anybody, but deep down, I’m a lover.) I’m someone that does not believe in taking “no” for an answer. My mother instilled in me that so long as there is breath in my body, it is a chance to get better.
On a professional note, I’m a partner and Chief Innovation Officer of Black With No Chaser. In the role, I’m responsible for strategic partnerships and ensuring that Black With No Chaser is connecting dots among the various verticals it has set forth for itself. I’m also the brainchild of BWNC’s hit show titled The Black Lunch Break, which airs every Tuesday and Thursday at 1 pm EST on Black With No Chaser’s Facebook Live. Born and raised in New Orleans, LA, I’m thankful for growing up in a city so rich in culture. The kitchen was central in my parents’ household. Just like back home, I’ve kept that tradition going. Food is culture. I guess that’s why I love it so much.
One thing I’m most proud of is being an uncle to more nieces and nephews than I can count on both hands. I would be remiss if I did not mention Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. My alma mater and the #1 HBCU on the planet. That being said, I’m just a brother on a quest to continue to be my ancestors’ wildest dreams.
What inspired you to create this media platform?
Liberation inspired Black With No Chaser in addition to a chance to tell our stories that were unencumbered by outside forces. But to keep it real, we see ourselves as more than just a media platform. We see it as a safe haven for all forms of Blackness. Media was the insertion point but not the endpoint. But before I give too much tea on our next moves, I would say subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated.
When did you know the time was near for you to start BWNC?
Not sure the exact moment, but it had to be right around the time our CEO CJ Lawrence, ESQ came up with one of Time’s 2014 hashtags of the year: #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. The hashtag went viral throughout the world. It was a chance for Black people, in particular Black men, to confront the negative imagery being used when one of us was gunned down by police. To this day, it’s amazing to see that the content that stemmed from it is still being taught in classes around the world.
What Inspired the name?
Let me first start off by saying, we all feel it. The “it” I’m referring to is the feeling you get deep down in the pit of your stomach as a Black person that you are, in fact, Black With No Chaser. So even before we could name it, we felt it. In short, it began in our hearts, or I should say, it was inspired by our hearts and love for our people. Black With No Chaser started on the campus of Tougaloo College, an HBCU located on the outskirts of Jackson, MS, by three of our partners CJ
Lawrence, Tyson Jackson and George “Chuck” Patterson. They were students there. Full disclosure, the name evolved into Black With No Chaser after years of ideation. After much deliberation realizing it was time to move forward on the idea, in November 2017 Black With No Chaser was born. In our hearts, however, we have always been Black With No Chaser even if we did not name it that because people, especially Black folk, who Think Black and Live Black are inherently Black With No Chaser.
Why is it important for us to own OUR culture?
Well, if we do not own it, who will? It is our birthright. Whiteness looks at Black culture like a convenience store: something that can only be bought and sold. The problem, well at least one of them, is that whiteness can leave what it has no desire for. By owning our culture, we hold the keys, deeds, and means to expand on our wildest dreams in the hopes of becoming a bit freer in the process. Owning our culture also gives us a chance to tell our stories in the most authentic and unflinching manner, because having safe spaces for Black Thought, Black Voices, Black Art, and Black Stories, and Black Culture are paramount in controlling our narratives.
Culturally, how important is it for us to have platforms where our stories can be heard and told?
As a multimedia company that does exactly what you’ve asked, it is arguably one of the single most important things we can do as a culture. Without having outlets and platforms in place, we allow others to do it for us, and that ain’t it.
What has 2020 done for the BWNC brand and what can we expect in the near future?
2020 has taught us that Black With No Chaser is pandemic proof, literally. At the same time, we recognize that so many people, inside and outside our communities, are hurting -- physically, mentally and emotionally due to these novel times of COVID-19. On top of that, 2020 has crystallized the fact that we have a duty to continue to be a trusted outlet for Black people to use as a resource for news, laughter, politics, culture, entertainment and more.
Don’t forget to follow @Blackwithnochaser on Facebook and Instagram, Twitter is @Blacknochaser You can find me on Instagram @BeforeCirilo, Twitter is @cmanego and don't forget to visit our website.