Happy New Year from Da Hood Journal! Welcome to our first piece of the year! We hope you enjoy it.
December 26th, 2019. The first day of my new job. I was a cashier at this small business on Canal Street.
I reached the store and underestimated the amount of downtime I had. A handful of patrons came to shop each hour. The clock quickly reached 4 pm, but the last customer I remember helping was at 2 pm.
The idea of starting a blog was on my mind for some time, but I was waiting for the New Year to execute my plan. I felt more than prepared for my introduction to the journalism industry.
Just had to wait for a few days.
But, I had so much free time. My shift spanned till 7 pm. So, I decided to use that time to my advantage.
I launched my blog right then and there, from my phone, nearly a week before I intended to.
At that moment, my life changed forever.
A sports blog, “Andy’s Buckets” as it was called then, covered all topics related to the NBA, my favorite sports league.
The very first article I published discussed news relevant in early 2020. The death of former NBA commissioner David Stern, and the upcoming retirement of future Hall-of-Famer Vince Carter, to name a few.
I enjoyed the content I was releasing.
The peak of that first stretch had to be my piece following the death of Kobe Bryant & his daughter. Up in the wee hours of the morning writing that tribute, the reception to what I wrote felt so rewarding.
It felt good to be a comforting spirit in the wake of tragedy.
A similar scene played out less than a month later when Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke passed away in February.
One of my favorite artists, I spent two days writing a piece about the role he played in my life, and within the hip-hop industry.
To this day, that’s still my most-viewed article. Surpassing almost eight-thousand reads, I was reaping the benefits of my hard work while doing something I loved, writing.
If I continued on this uphill trajectory, then 2020 would be MY year for sure, I told myself.
But March came around, and then the COVID-19 shutdown began. And for some time, things appeared bleak.
The beginning of quarantine had its highs & lows. Highs being, a couple of dope pieces on experiences I enjoyed the year prior, and an article about the docu-series “the Last Dance” that’s still being read months later.
My lows, however, were a frequent lack of motivation to write.
And the times I did write, it’d be about boring topics, like how I was coping in quarantine. I did write a few tribute pieces, most notably on the untimely murders of George Floyd & Brandon “B-Diddy” Hendricks. Those pieces helped me want to continue writing even when I didn’t want to.
I’d say my lowest point of 2020 in regards to my writing came in July when I wrote an article reviewing Pop Smoke’s posthumous album “Shoot for the Stars, Aims for the Moon.”
That piece, although a great idea, in actuality, was completed poorly on my behalf.
I rushed it to completion and noticed several crucial errors after its release. I also didn’t like the feeling of bashing Pop’s work.
And to add insult to injury, around that time I was running out of topics to write about. For the first time, I felt stagnant, worrying about the outlook of the blog in the back of my head, because I felt as if it had run its course.
That’s when Roki came into the picture.
Whenever I released an article I’d expect a message from Roki, expressing support for what I wrote.
It was after I published “Let’s Put the Guns Down”, that I received that routine text from her.
Only this time, she took things a step further.
We spoke a bit about the piece, and then she asked if I had an editor, another set of eyes to skim my work before a release.
I responded to her with a resounding no. Till that point, Andy’s Buckets was a one-man show.
Roki asked if she could play that role as my editor. As I read her text, I immediately had doubts.
I wasn’t keen on the idea of having someone critique my work, and “editing” the points I would try to make with my writing.
But then I thought about it. It’s always nice to have someone else scan what I write, and catch any mistakes I myself may have missed. Plus, Roki was someone whose judgment I could trust.
For those who may not know, we attended high school together, and she’s someone I’ve grown to respect.
I’d be dumb if I didn’t allow her to help me improve the blog.
That’s how she became my editor.
As soon as she came aboard, her impact was felt. Right away, she proved that the title of editor sold her abilities short.
In December 2020, she became the creative director of Andy’s Buckets. She’s been crucial to the development of the blog, helping me with promotion, new article ideas, and more.
I wouldn’t have reached a year with my journal without her. Thank you Roki.
Back in mid-July, when the NBA season was restarting, Sta & I would have weekly arguments on who’d win the NBA title.
This was the original agreement.
If the Clippers managed to win the NBA title, Sta had to give me a piece of Fearless Boyz merchandise, at a discounted price.
If the Lakers managed to win the NBA title, I’d have to write an article, dedicated to Sta, supporting his theory that the NBA was rigged.
We ended our conversation shortly after agreeing to these terms.
About fifteen minutes later, he texted me again, asking to change the conditions of our bet.
I was willing to hear him out.
I thought about it for a second. I was immediately intrigued by the idea, whether it came in the form of a bet or not.
Our conversation felt like a perfect storm of events. As the concept began forming in my head, my excitement grew when I thought about the heights I’d potentially reach.
By interviewing rising black influencers & sharing their stories on my blog, I could give back to the African-American community by supporting amazing individuals, while building relationships with entertainers or brands I have an affinity for.
I let Sta know of my interest in interviewing him & Mike and gave them a date for us to meet.
I presented the idea to Roki & she was on board. She helped me work out the kinks in regards to how we went about performing these pieces.
After we got situated with the format of this project, all we needed was a title for this new “series” of articles we’d now be crafting.
We went to the drawing board. I asked Roki to brainstorm some potential names, and I did the same.
A day later she gave me a list of titles she came up with. There were some good candidates but one stood out to me amongst the rest.
I loved how it sounded. The name effectively summed up the goal we aimed to accomplish: utilizing our blog as a platform for inner-city minorities to strut their stuff and promote their talents.
Everything was slowly coming together. This marked a new, clean state for “Andy’s Buckets.”
In August we conducted our first official interview, with the Fearless Boyz, and it was a major success.
It was cool interacting with Mike & Sta on a personal level while learning fascinating details about their brand’s origins.
And the reception to the article, once it was released: unbelievable. Readers were entertained with how I shared their story, and others were wondering how they could be featured next on our blog.
September 1, 2020, the day that piece was published, is one I’ll remember forever.
For the first time since Andy’s Buckets creation, or “Da Hood Journal” I should say, the blog carried an identity that was fresh, and sustainable. I was confident that this new beginning would help the journal grow into something beautiful.
Since that first interview with the Fearless Boyz, we’ve interviewed Kameron, CEO of Good Kid Bad Intentions, Anyelina, CEO of Kaizen By A & Sweat with Angeles, Bronx artist Diablo Wakefield, Bronx artist James Esco, and Awa, hairstylist & CEO of Awa Stylez & Supplied by Awa.
And despite the various types of guests featured on Da Hood Journal, they all share that hunger & determination to be at the top of their respective fields.
Most importantly, we believe in their dreams and are confident they’ll do just that and more.
And for Roki & I, that’s all that matters.
After publishing our Diablo Wakefield piece, I noticed the blog slowly growing in popularity. Readers, supporters, strangers, they were really noticing us now.
On December 1st, 2020 we formally changed the name of the blog to Da Hood Journal (also Roki’s idea).
And to legitimize our branding & the changing nature of the journal, we decided to update our logo as well.
At the time of this article’s release, we remain in the process of developing the logo. However, we assure you that it will be new, improved, and well worth the wait.
With all that being said, when I first created this blog I never imagined it being as successful as it is today.
I remember the early mental battles. I thought I was lame for writing in my free time, and I would get upset when people didn’t read or share my pieces.
But over time I realized none of that was important. With what I have going on, I’ve put myself in a position to make a significant impact in my life, and in the life of others.
I’m proud to say I have a blog, THIS blog, and proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish thus far.
Thank you to those who read and support our pieces. Thank you to my close friends & family for always encouraging me. And thank you to the man above for giving me the strength to do what I do.
It’s only up from here. Stay tuned.
If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!
Da Hood Journal.
A special shoutout goes to Kadija, Hajj, Carlos, Abdoul, Afiya, KJ, Ziera, Jaden M, the Breesh Boys, Marcel, Jourdain, Will, Cripford, Rickey, Mercy, Brandon, Autumn, Taylor, anyone else who read or supported our blog, and the guest we’ve featured on Da Hood Journal. You all played a major role in our success.