Comedy, Carnival and the Black Renaissance
This confessed self-taught historian, social media comedian and father is also a “black man in medicine” working in healthcare, and serving as the force behind the Black Renaissance, an umbrella company including a lifestyle brand and merch line.
Comedy is subjective and its artists create novel ideas and jokes based on their experiences. The comedian says his work comes from many scenarios that actually took place. As a child of Caribbean immigrants, he learned to balance who he was outside of his home, as opposed to the role he played within. In addition, he knew that being a comedian was not “practical” in the eyes of his Caribbean parents. He pursued a career in public health and learned to use comedy as an outlet. It was “a skill [he] honed that [he] did not even know [he] had, through general everyday interactions with family and friends”.
Mel says, “Through comedy I learned more about the history of our culture and how it all intertwined. He also observed the members of his community, the ways they assimilated to American culture and the ways to improve on his own generation’s legacy. There were certain traditions that he grew up with that are highlighted and played out in his comedic roles. For example, the character Mr. Ainsley is reminiscent of a typical older lascivious Caribbean man, who curses at Alexa and demands Dexta Daps, but the voice assistant calls his wife instead. Mel Vybz delivers his stories easily, with an accompanying background ding, that prepares his audience for a mind sculpting analysis, and subsequent hilarious punchline.
For Caribbean people, comedy is that bittersweet balm soothing daily life. Carnival is the joyful expression of the vibrant colors and rhythm in our souls. Mel Vybz manages to fuse the two elements in a showcase called Comedy and Carnival, several times a year to highlight the versatility in our combined Caribbean cultures. It is a visceral experience, involving all the senses, as there is also an array of Caribbean dishes to sample, while one wines one’s waistline, to Calypso, Dancehall and Reggae music, in between various comedic acts performing on stage.
He seeks to draw people in with jokes and have them leave with a shift in consciousness as well; for example, talking about the need for Black economics and building one’s own table when not invited to sit at someone else’s. When we spoke, Mel mentioned the pandemic at its earliest days when the only thing left standing was the government and hospitals. The Black community was severely impacted by Covid-19, not only medically, but also economically. Many immigrant households lost income earning members, as well as the sources of that income. Many locations have yet to reopen within the city and state and many people have not yet returned to work. This brought us back to Black Renaissance.
Black Renaissance is Mel Vybz’s lifestyle brand. He initially started it as a women’s clothing line geared to Black women and promoting the Black feminine ideal. Today he pushes the ideal of Black dollars being circulated within the Black community to aid in rebuilding Black economic strength, especially considering the recent medical emergency that is Covid-19. He believes a strong Black wealth base means a change in the balance of power and wealth in America. He calls for an “awakening of Black minds to understand the strength we possess” and purports that “once we take our minds back, the game will change”.
Mel Vybz has managed to reconcile the aspects of his life, incorporating “everything [he] learned culturally and through education”, and they “work together synergistically to help [him] become known on the social media comedy scene”. He can be found on Instagram @mel.vybz; on facebook at Mel Vybz; and on TikTok @mel.vybz.