Panther Entertainment Group musicians perform for ‘Journey of a Black Girl’

Photo courtesy of Panther Entertainment Group

A video switches between clips of four musicians. Through song, they share their journeys as Black women in the music world. Filming segments in front of an Atlanta BeltLine bridge, decorated with 18-foot-long braids made of various materials, they tell young Black girls that they have the power to create their own identity, to be confident in who they are, to not conform to the ideas of others and to pursue their dreams without fear. 

“Journey of a Black Girl” is a public art exhibition created by Courtney Brooks, the first curator-in-residence for the Art on the Atlanta BeltLine’s Public Art Residency Program. Being a Black woman in the art world herself, Brooks sought to create an experience to highlight the progression of a Black woman from childhood to adulthood from the perspective of a creative. 

The exhibition has three phases that explore the moments that Black women recognized their racial identity, progresses into how they come into their power and acceptance of that identity in adulthood and shows how Black women never go out of style.  

Phase I of “Journey of a Black Girl” explores the moments that Black women first recognize their racial identity. The exhibition includes public art on display at the entrance of Bill Kennedy Avenue and Glenwood Avenue on the Southside BeltLine Trail. The art exhibition is accompanied by live music performances. 

Phase I was originally supposed to premiere on March 14 but was switched to a digital format in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The performances from Phase I went live on the “Journey of a Black Girl” Facebook page on June 22 and were uploaded for post-live viewing. 

Creating a Celebration Project

Brooks reached out to her cousin and president of Panther Entertainment Group Taryn Anchrum in November 2019 to discuss her vision for Phase I.

“She made me the music curator in which I strategically picked four of our [Certified Entertainers] that I felt would embody what the art installation was,” Anchrum said.

She picked four artists to perform for the exhibition: singers Gabby Case and Mo-Lai and rappers Maya The Writer and Jazzy Tha Rapper. 

“As songwriters, storytellers, producers and performers, the experiences that they create on stage using their own personal stories within their music are raw, honest and powerful,” Anchrum said. “Choosing these four to represent the organization for this historic event was a no-brainer.” 

Gabby Case was the first musician to be featured on the live performance video, playing her set on an acoustic guitar. She was first approached about the project in March and quickly agreed, excited to be a part of a “celebration project” that she believed could have a massive impact. 

“Black women and girls need to know how important and wonderful they are,” Case said. 

Jazzy Foster, known professionally as Jazzy Tha Rapper, was initially skeptical when she was first approached about the project, but she agreed after a further explanation from Anchrum and Brooks. 

“When Courtney and Taryn explained it a bit more, I realized that this is actually going to be a super positive and cool way to inspire other Black girls while supporting my fellow artists,” Foster said. “It ended up being something extremely beautiful, and I’m very glad I was able to be a part of it.”

Jada Boyd, also known as Maya The Writer, was first approached about “Journey of a Black Girl” shortly after Panther Entertainment Group’s A3C show in October of 2019. 

“I was coming off of a high from that experience, so I was overjoyed and really gracious to hear about it,” she said. “I knew I could be very transparent with my art and experience in this show, and that’s not to say that I haven’t been able to do the same in other shows and performances, but it is slightly different.”

When she was first approached about “Journey of a Black Girl,” Morgan Lett, also known as Mo’Lai, was excited about the project’s opportunity to make a difference and encourage Black girls to follow their dreams and be more confident.

“I want to let them know that they were made in God’s image, which makes them royalty,” Lett said. “Walk in it, queens, you deserve it, and if no one ever says it, I love you, and I’m rooting for you.”

The Importance of Black Sisterhood

The four musicians have known each other and have been quite close for a few years through Panther Entertainment Group and Georgia State. 

“It’s been amazing watching each other grow into ourselves,” Case said. “They are extraordinary women.”

Foster explained that the three fellow musicians all became “like sisters” to her over time. 

“I’ve gotten close to each one of them in different ways, and being able to see how we all chose to express ourselves through music has been an amazing journey,” she said.

Lett also came to love the other women as a family to her and greatly admires them all.

Boyd spoke about the importance of artistic women to form bonds with other artistic women as a support system in a very male-dominated industry, adding that she would not have known Foster or Lett had it not been for Panther Entertainment Group. 

“All three of those women are extraordinary humans and artists,” Boyd said. “Having artist friends is really important because there are different levels of frustrations that you experience that are really difficult to explain to non-artist friends.”

Hometown Hostility 

The different songs that each musician performed all related back in some way to their experiences growing up as Black women. Case and Boyd both opened their sets with speaking about their hometowns. 

“I grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta in a predominately white, conservative area. I have been racially bullied growing up,” Case said. “[I was] called the n-word, a monkey [and] nappy-headed. [I was told that] my nose was too big and my body too thick. [I was told] from white boys, ‘You’re nice, but I would never date you because you’re black.’ I could really go on and on.” 

Boyd opened up her set with speaking about her hometown of Americus, Georgia, a small town that is segregated to a point where she never saw certain white neighborhoods until high school. 

“In a way, you can get caught in this bubble of blackness in its most eclectic form. You really just get encased in this world, but that bubble gets popped often to be very clear,” Boyd said. “Sometimes, it’s with brutal force. Sometimes it’s just a tap, but it will always pop. I have had my bubble burst several times.”

Boyd explained that she started to become increasingly aware of her Black womanhood in high school and found that the prejudice in her town became “more heavy and impossible to ignore.” When tensions between Black and white students at her high school resulted in police presence, she came to a startling realization.

“They weren’t there to aid us. They were there because of us,” she said. 

Hand me the megaphone

“Journey of a Black Girl” helped to highlight the experiences of the four musicians in finding identity and comfort through music. 

For Case, music gave her an avenue to explore herself and made her realize how complex she truly is, noting that Black women are often told what they can and cannot be. 

“Whoever you are is exactly what a Black woman should be. Whatever music you like to listen to and create is what music Black women listen to [and] create,” she said. “The journey has really just been about freedom to me.”

In Lett’s experience, music has been a source of great comfort. Coming from a background where she was often bullied and did not speak up for herself, music became an escape. Being a religious woman, music was also a way for Lett to connect with her spirituality, giving her more strength and confidence. 

“Being a Black girl in this world is already an extremely intense battle, but with God and music, I am invincible,” Lett said.

Boyd and Foster also noted that music gave them the opportunity to connect with other Black artists, creating a much-needed support system. 

“As Black women, there aren’t a lot of people in the world who are rooting for you and supporting you,” Foster said. “But music helped me find a community of people who genuinely support and uplift each other, and I couldn’t imagine it being any other way.”

Boyd’s experience as a musician has allowed her to be more transparent and expressive about painful areas in life, noting that it helps her to process that pain. A big part of her music is speaking about the “theme park of experiences, emotions and feelings” that Black women face.

“Being an artist, creating this music, just gives me a megaphone to really tell my story or just a story,” she said. “Hopefully, it’ll all pay off.”

Phase I of “Journey of a Black Girl” provided a platform to discuss the role of art as an avenue for Black women to express themselves, tell their stories and celebrate their identities. Though many of these stories are marked by pain, Case noted that her experiences ultimately made her more strong and secure in her identity. 

“Nobody can tell me anything about Black not being beautiful,” she said.


“Journey of a Black Girl” – @journeyofablackgirl

 Panther Entertainment Group – @peg_gsu