Gabrielle and Steph.
In a city full of transplants, looking for a place that feels like “home” can be a struggle. In an effort to change that, Gabrielle Davenport and Steph Quaye created When We Gather. An event for young adults that celebrates art, entrepreneurship and having a good time without breaking the bank.
As we sit at the Trade Union Cafe with the sounds of Jay-Z’s 4:44 playing in the background, we discuss their many (many) endeavors, the ins and outs of event planning and the power of a strong support system.
Saturday School: When did you all get the idea for When We Gather?
Gabrielle Davenport: A friend of ours/former colleague is a part of an organization called the Creative Collective, and they were doing a three week residency at 100 Bogart and she mentioned that they were looking for programming. So immediately I was like “who is going to do this with me?!” and since Steph and I sit across from each other at work, I popped my head over and said “do you want to do an event with me?” and she said “yes!” We sat down a couple of times to figure out what we wanted to do and that’s how we formed When We Gather.
Steph Quaye: When Gabrielle brought the idea to me, I immediately wanted it to be different kinds of art. We’re both creative people and we knew we wanted to incorporate music but I also wanted to have visual art. When we started brainstorming what we wanted it to look like, we discussed the idea of “home” and how a lot of people who live in New York aren’t actually from New York. We’re always running around all the time but there isn’t really a space where people can just enjoy and connect with people.
GD: And then it happened!
SQ: Yeah it happened in such a beautiful way.
SS: Are you planning on turning this into a series of events?
SQ: Yes, in my mind, When We Gather would be something people would anticipate happening, making them want to invite other people.
SS: That makes sense! So Gabrielle, I know you have Goodrun, Steph do you have any other side projects outside of When We Gather?
SQ: I manage a band called “The People’s Champs”, they’re a soul, pop, funk, afrobeat collective that I’ve been managing for awhile now. I’m also a musician myself so I sing, write and perform some background vocals for different artists. Lastly, I volunteer with an organization called SoFar Sounds.
SS: Oh yeah I’ve been to one of the SoFar Sounds performances! The concept is dope!
SQ: Yeah the aspect I really love about that organization is that people don’t know who’s playing before they come. I’m also a part of an organization called Women In Music, it’s a national non-profit and the goal is to emphasize the cultural achievements of women in the industry. We put on a lot of different programming in New York, so that’s another cool thing that I’m a part of!
SS: You literally do everything [laughs] I see you! Gabrielle, I know I touched on Goodrun earlier, but I don’t really know what it is. Break it down for me.
GD: Goodrun is a way for me to gather all of the independent things I do outside of my day job. I started co-producing a bunch of random events and I thought “let me put a label on this.” My end goal is to eventually curate events for the hip-hop/soul/punk bands that we know and love and eventually open my own venue. Currently, I’m the booking manager for a band called Shereef Keys and The Groove and I’m about to start another project with this other artist named Mizan. I’m producing a series of installation performances that she’s doing. We’ll see what it [Goodrun] grows into but right now it’s a way to be identified.
SS: That’s awesome! So you both work at BRIC and have a million and one side projects, do you think working there, plus everything else you do help you plan When We Gather?
SQ: Yes actually, what I love so much about BRIC is that theme is “arts for all” and amplifying the voice of people in Brooklyn. So when planning When We Gather, we kept that in mind because we also want to do the same.
SS: How did you all “gather” all of the performers and vendors for the event? No pun intended [laughs].
SQ: Everyone we got was related to us in some way. For example Jhal NYC was the food vendor, and the owner and founder is a friend of mine. Jessica Moore, one of the singers, I met her here in NY last year. And then Big Salt is Gabrielle’s sister’s company. and then there was Jules... Gabrielle you met her?
GD: Yeah I know her from events and I interned with her twin sister way back when.
SS: Since that was your first event, what would you change about it, if anything? I know there’s always something!
SQ: Real real real talk...it went really well [laughs]
SS: It did!
GD: With that kind of event, the physical space makes a big impact. I loved having it there, but I would like to see what it looks like in a different space. Which would pose a whole new set of questions, so specifically I don’t know what I would do differently but I know I’m excited to see what it looks like in a new space.
SQ: Yeah there were little things, like some of our concrete confirmations happened later but we weren’t scrambling.
SS: Yeah it seemed really seamless, I enjoyed myself a lot. I touched on this earlier, but how did your village of supporters help this event come to life?
GD: Well they definitely helped make this possible [laughs].
SQ: Outside of the people who vended or performed, my roommates posted it on Facebook and told people about it. Also being able to bounce different ideas off them helped a lot.
GD: I would definitely say the same. In the age of social media promotions, friends (you included) posted about the event which really made a difference. I think there were very few people that either one of us didn’t know personally. Which I think is definitely a testament to the community. People just came out which really counts for a lot in those situations because it doesn’t work if nobody is there.
SQ: And they trusted that it would be good! I know of a lot of stuff going on but I’m not necessarily say “yo come to this thing!” if I don’t know it’s going to be good. So I appreciated that people brought someone else that we didn’t know.
SS: For other aspiring creators of “things”, what are some words of wisdom you would bestow on them?
GD: The first thing that came to mind was trust yourself and don’t be afraid to do things by yourself. I dragged my feet for a long time before starting Goodrun. Which is fine, I don’t necessarily regret it, but it’s okay if you don’t do everything with a big ass group of people. Just don’t be afraid to put a stake into the ground by yourself.
SQ: This is something I’m constantly working on, but to not be afraid to fuck up. Sometimes I’m afraid to try, but you’re only going to be great if you allow yourself to fuck up. It’s really about starting and doing it. Everything you do isn’t going to be something that everyone loves but if you love it, just do it.
SS: That’s great, okay so last question. I ask everyone this but what advice would you give high school you? It can be advice about anything.
SQ: I actually had Saturday classes in high school so this is taking me back [laughs]. But I would tell high school me to not be afraid to ask questions of people. When I was in high school I had general ideas of what I wanted to do but it’s hard to know what a job looks like by reading a job description. Also thinking about what it is that you want your life to look like vs. what you want your job title to be. That is something that has been a driving force for me and I’ve made a number of changes based off of me knowing that the life I have right now is not what I want my life to look like. Make sure you’re thinking about the life you want to have, the person you want to be, the conversations you want to have and put work into being able to do that well.
GD: I would tell high school me and current high schoolers to cultivate all of your interests. I know there’s a certain appeal to specializing in one thing that you’re good at but give yourself space. Maybe you’re an athlete and you like to paint! You don’t necessarily have to tell anyone about it but feed all those parts of yourself because you never know when it’ll be useful.