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The Art of Activism: Jaquial Durham Tackles the South's Prison Culture and More

Through music, fashion, and film, creative producer and CEO of Public Culture Entertainment Group Jaquial Durham hopes to educate the next generation and redefine what culture means. Durham uses artistic activism to address social issues close to his heart and build awareness about underpublicized events in current history. In an informative interview with The Quintessential Gentleman, Durham gives his perspective on Black history, having an entrepreneurial spirit and more.

What led to you becoming an entrepreneur?

We started within the music realm. My aspirations and goals were to be the next Jay Z or P. Diddy; all those music executives that created multimillion-dollar record labels. And so I came up under the mentorship of Jason Geter, and I saw what he was doing in the music industry. But as I grew older, I started having more admiration for what Jay Z was doing with Roc Nation. So I pretty much formulated my company to be similar to what Roc Nation is. And the way I tend to describe it is it's the Roc Nation of our generation.

Can you share a bit about how the Public Culture Entertainment Group came to be?

It pretty much came to me as an idea. I would say that I was a little afraid at first to step out to be a full-time entrepreneur, as probably most people would be but I think I've always had the hustle in me. When I was a kid, I was living with my mother, my brother and my cousins, I would take my brother and my cousins, and we would walk around in our apartment complex and knock on doors and take out the trash for 25 cents. I tell that story to say that I always had the hustle mentality in me, to gather those around me and say, 'Look, this is what we're going to do, this is how we're going to make money. And we're going to put it together and create something out of it.’

I think that the entrepreneurial spirit has always been in me. It just kind of took faith for me to do it. I think that this idea was spear-headed from just my influences of listening and admiring those who I call wealthy rappers. I listened to Nas, Jay Z, [and] Nipsey Hussle. I took notes, and I had a mentorship. Those are the people that I looked up to and listened to, and admired. I was like, that's where I want to be, that's what I want to do.

Why are education and entertainment important to you?

I went to college and I got my bachelor's in African American studies with a minor in Women and Gender studies. And then, I went later on and got my master's in education, and I got another master's in project management. And before I got to full-time entrepreneur, I was in an academic space. I always had a love and passion for education. I'm an activist and organizer at heart. And so I've always had one foot in with entertainment and one foot out.

So with me, it was really how can I create cool projects that educate our people but are also entertaining at the same time. So for me, it was creating the documentary about the prison systems in the south.

We're finding ways to educate the public about what's going on in our culture. So that's one of the ways that we educate and entertain at the same time. We are also aware of the fact that being able to create an archival clothing collection about the Black history of the predominately white institution is new and unique.

Can you share a bit about your documentary entitled The Lee Riot & South Carolina Prison Culture and what inspired its creation?

I was watching YouTube and I just came across the riot videos. But more so personally, my dad spent close to about 14 or 15 years incarcerated in the South Carolina Department of Corrections. From when I was eight years old to graduating from college, he was incarcerated.

But more interestingly, he spent the majority of his time at the correctional facility and came home a year before their riot happened. And I remember seeing Facebook videos, sparring all around, literally. It was a two-day riot, and seven inmates died, 18 were injured, and they ended up finding more bodies days later. They [were] never announced.

So for me, it was a particular passion project. I remember being with my father at that moment when I found out about that. I said, 'Dad, what are your thoughts? What do you think caused this to happen?' And he said, 'Son, you never really know'. I also have more cousins and another uncle that is in South Carolina Department of Corrections. I wanted to create a documentary that exposes this particular riot because this is the biggest thing in the past 28 years, and no one has said anything about it.

We're going to Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and pretty much expose the southern prison system, and try to call for some solution and hopefully get people to think about the idea of prison not existing as it‘s currently constituted.

Was this your first time directing?

Yeah, this is my first time directing a project. It was insightful. I will say that I've participated in some projects. My first time being on a television or movie project. I learned that particular day I was more of a director. I was grateful to be able to direct my first project. I would say I'm more of a quiet director. I'm very much behind the scenes and make moves quietly.

Why do you feel that the Black narrative is so important?

I've spent four years of college learning about Black people. I would say that also brought about my idea that therapy for Black people is so important. Four years of your collegiate experience, you're going to see things, the horror of Black people and enslaved people within the continent and in this country, but then you see the beauty of it, and what we created out of those horrors, and those terrifying situations.

I want to create more stories that will allow you to see the beauty of it. You see our religion was stripped from us but we took Christianity and made something beautiful out of it. I think that's why it's important for me because I'm just at a place where I'm tired of seeing the same type of stories told about us and sometimes created by us. I can't see any more police brutality stories. I just can't. I've spent four years watching them.

I want to inform people about things other than what they already know. We know police brutality exists, and we get something else. So it's a documentary about the Black History of the white institution, and it is something that we don't know.

What advice would you have for someone interested in getting into the entertainment industry?

My advice would be to trust the process and never give up. If one door closed, you continue to keep pushing, even when you feel like giving up, keep going. My other advice would be to listen to Nipsey Hussle. I loved the idea of a person sharing and showing how you've got to trust the process. Keep the faith and keep going and believe in God. And know that where you're going is going to happen, and maintain that mentality. Believe you are, what you consume, and you are what you think.

What other projects do you think you might have on the horizon?

One of the other projects that I'm working on is another public culture films project. It is pretty much taking the concept of what we're doing with public culture collections, which are going through these universities and identifying and bringing awareness to the Black history of predominately white institutions and their establishment, and putting it into a documentary form.

I want to create a documentary about the Black history of predominately white institutions, particularly within the sub-southeast region. So we're talking about Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, [and] Mississippi, which are very much like highly Black populated communities that have a lot of Black history. I've been researching with my team and getting more information about how this project can be created and developed.

My first actual clothing collection launches on October 16 with the University of Arkansas, which is a very beautiful project.

Check out the trailer for The Lee Riot & South Carolina Prison Culture below.


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