Now is the Time. Memphis is the Place.

Jamal Whitlow and The Meaning of Privilege

Photo: Privileged

When Privileged Weekend kicks off this Thursday, it will be in celebration of some significant milestones:

  1. It’s the 3rd anniversary of the lifestyle brand’s launch.
  2. After a successful inaugural year, Privileged Music Fest returns to Handy Park to showcase local artists and guide young artists into the entertainment industry.
  3. Privileged is embarking on its first young professionals conference to form a collective vision for the future of economics, politics, and education in Memphis.
  4. It’s also the 32nd birthday of Jamal Whitlow, the creator of the Privileged brand.

Photo: Privileged

Whitlow is a Memphis born and bred connector of people who cut his teeth as an event entrepreneur by promoting parties with his friends during undergrad. As he matured and grew tired of the club scene, he felt a sense that he could elevate his party prowess and turn it into something more meaningful. He became more socially and politically engaged through organizations like Memphis Urban League Young Professionals, New Memphis, and the NAACP, but his turning point came as he was reading “The Alchemist.”

“There’s a point in the book where it’s like, ‘You don’t want to be on your deathbed and all your dreams and ideas come to you and ask you why didn’t you give them life,’ and it meant something to me. I felt like J, you gotta live in your purpose, man. That book said, mane get your ass up and live in your purpose because it really could be too late and I don’t want it to be too late. I want to try. My 29th birthday I said ‘I’m going for it.’

A couple of months later, he hosted the first event under the Privileged brand and it was a success.

Privileged Memphis

Photo: Privileged

If you haven’t been to a Privileged event, you’re probably wondering, “What is Privileged, exactly?

If you spend any amount of time on social media, you know that the word “privilege” has figured prominently in news cycles the past few years. It’s not a positive connotation, referring to a group of people having advantages and access that are systematically denied to other groups of people. Even deeper in the muck, people with privilege failing to acknowledge those advantages and, in turn, participating in the oppression of others. Privilege isn’t always about race.

“We all experience privilege in some shape, form, or fashion that is not in our favor.  It’s just something about the fight in me… I’m just not going. If it’s mine or meant for me to have, then we gone get it. You’ve got to claim that type of attitude in life.”  

Whitlow set out to reclaim the word and redistribute advantages and access.

We work. We give. We party. It’s about putting money back into the communities you came from instead of just passing it off to people who get richer and richer and stay in their own circles of supporting their same things.

A portion of every dollar made at a Privileged event goes into a fund to help people and organizations that struggle for visibility in our city’s vast nonprofit landscape.

We want to become a financial pipeline and a pipeline of volunteerism to these organizations that can’t get a hand, because there are some people out here doing some real work and they can’t get a break. They’re not political so they’re not playing those games. They’re not in those circles. They’re just genuine people that need a chance. I want them to walk through those Privileged doors and for Privileged to have the opportunity to say, ‘Yes, we can give you $500 to get your business started. We support it. We like it.’ If the money is made by us, it can be spent by us. I’m proud that Privileged owes no one a favor. We don’t owe anyone a dime. We control everything that we do. That’s the part of this Privileged lifestyle.

So, who is Privileged?

If you haven’t caught on, Jamal’s communication style is passionate and straightforward, and he’s very clear about creating special experiences with Black Memphians in mind, for example, last fall’s costume party themed Black Hollywood. “In a chocolate city, I have no problem making sure that the majority have a nice experience. Truly, it’s access. If access was for everybody, then things like this wouldn’t be of need.” Blackness isn’t a prerequisite for participation. The Privileged intended audience may just mean that if you’re accustomed to spaces where your tastes are catered to, you may have to step out of your comfort zone and accept being in the minority at an event. Let the tables turn and the magic happen. Privileged is striving for balance between something that feels special and intentional in its audience while also being open. Bottom line: “It’s a breeding ground of eclectic young people in the city. It’s open for everybody.” You’re invited.

What’s happening this weekend…

Privileged Weekend begins with a Happy Hour and birthday celebration for Jamal on Thursday, June 22nd.

On Friday night, it’s the 2nd Annual Privileged Music Fest at Handy Park featuring performances by OneLoveTheo, Brennan Villines, Tyke T., Lizzy Moore, Carmen Hicks, Dylan Amoré, Wesley Johnson, Deneeka Lottalox Lewis, and Anthony Rhyme. Mike Mosby & The Hard Hitters will serve as the house band and the night is hosted by Ena Esco of iHeartRadio.

The newest addition to Privileged programming is the day conference on Saturday at Streets Ministries where attendees will collaborate on a digital vision board. Whitlow was eager to break the conference pattern and create something interactive.  

“We can’t do the whole everybody sit down to listen to a bunch of people talk and answer questions because I feel like we’ve done that. Memphis has done that. We’re doing a digital vision board on education, politics, and economics. It’s time. Part of the issue in the political process is,  I think we have a hard time demanding what we want as a whole. I can’t come to the table fighting this problem that only has to do with Jamal. We’ve got to fight these fights that have something to do with the masses. Those are the things that we need to be overcoming.” 

The finale to Privileged Weekend is III Glow: The Privileged Anniversary Experience, a glow in the dark themed party that will be held at 1524 Madison Ave.

Learn more about Privileged Weekend and get tickets now.

Follow Privileged on Instagram for updates.