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The Biggest, Blackest Wedding of All Time Will Make Your Day

Nigeria meets New Orleans at the biggest, blackest wedding of all time.

Shantrelle P. Lewis is the curator behind, quite honestly, the most dapper photo project of all time. She’s also the founder of William + James, a bow tie haberdashery steeped in the philosophy and aesthetics of New Age Dandyism.


Not surprisingly, Lewis throws one hell of a dapper party.

Earlier this month, the Dandy Lion curator put her sartorial eye to use at her wedding to Shoppe Black CEO Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson, a fellow Howard University graduate whom she met a few years ago through Facebook. (Coincidentally, the two actually entered Howard the same year.)

Videos (brilliantly shot by filmmaker Alex K. Colby) and photos from the celebration are already starting to make their way around social media. It’s entirely possible you’ve come across Lewis and her well-dressed guests parading through the streets of New Orleans in their very own second line parade, or seated together at their “Jollof and Jambalaya”-themed first dinner.

Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson and Shantrelle P. Lewis. Photo by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn.

An immaculate fusion of the couple’s New Orleans and Nigerian cultures, the four-day extravaganza was inspired, in part, by Lewis’ favorite movie, Coming to America, from which she takes the moniker Imperial Majesty, the Royal Queen of Zamunda.

“I wanted the wedding to reflect my love for this pop cultural phenomenon without being so kitschy and literal,” Lewis writes in an email to Okayafrica. “The wedding was themed as the Royal Wedding of Zamunda without giving people too much Coming to America. It spoke to Afro-opulence and Black excellence while nodding to my African-Americanness and Tony's African roots. Just like Lisa and Akeem.”

For Lewis, there’s no question that New Orleans—where her family has lived for generations—is the most African city in the U.S. “Our traditions are the perfect example of African modernity—from jazz, to second lines, our culinary techniques, there's so much that speaks to the amalgamation of transnational African aesthetics over the past few hundred years,” she says.

It’s important to note that throughout her engagement, Lewis was going through initiation into Lukumi priesthood. “I didn't have the time to run around and be a blushing bride like most people, nor try on wedding dresses because it would go against so many temporary restrictions I had as a Iyawo—I couldn't look in mirrors, I couldn't touch other people,” she says. Fortunately, she was put touch with Nate White, the 23-year-old designer and CEO of Nene L.A. Shiro, who designed the gown of her dreams.

To throw what some are touting as the “biggest, blackest wedding of all time,” the couple enlisted the help of wedding planner Fresh Johnson of Elle R. Jae Events and an almost entirely black team of vendors (80 percent, to be exact).

Although Lewis wasn’t expecting the viral sort of response it’s garnering (“We wanted to just create something magical, something authentic, and something that was a damn good time,” she says), the end result, as you can see below, was nothing short of #WeddingGoals.

For more, check out the hashtags #JollofAndJambalaya, #BlackestWeddingEver and #shoppeblack and keep up with Lewis, Lawson and their Shoppe Black startup on Instagram at @apshantology, @thebusyafrican and @shoppeblack.

Photo by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn.

Photo by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn.

Photo by Hadiya Williams.

Interview
Photo: Shawn Theodore via Schure Media Group/Roc Nation

Interview: Buju Banton Is a Lyrical Purveyor of African Truth

A candid conversation with the Jamaican icon about his new album, Upside Down 2020, his influence on afrobeats, and the new generation of dancehall.

Devout fans of reggae music have been longing for new musical offerings from Mark Anthony Myrie, widely-known as the iconic reggae superstar Buju Banton. A shining son of Jamaican soil, with humble beginnings as one of 15 siblings in the close-knit community of Salt Lane, Kingston, the 46-year-old musician is now a legend in his own right.

Buju Banton has 12 albums under his belt, one Grammy Award win for Best Reggae Album, numerous classic hits and a 30-year domination of the industry. His larger-than-life persona, however, is more than just the string of accolades that follow in the shadows of his career. It is his dutiful, authentic style of Caribbean storytelling that has captured the minds and hearts of those who have joined him on this long career ride.

The current socio-economic climate of uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrusted onto the world, coupled with the intensified fight against racism throughout the diaspora, have taken centre stage within the last few months. Indubitably, this makes Buju—and by extension, his new album—a timely and familiar voice of reason in a revolution that has called for creative evolution.

With his highly-anticipated album, Upside Down 2020, the stage is set for Gargamel. The title of this latest discography feels nothing short of serendipitous, and with tracks such as "Memories" featuring John Legend and the follow-up dancehall single "Blessed," it's clear that this latest body of work is a rare gem that speaks truth to vision and celebrates our polylithic African heritage in its rich fullness and complexities.

Having had an exclusive listen to some other tracks on the album back in April, our candid one-on-one conversation with Buju Banton journeys through his inspiration, collaboration and direction for Upside Down 2020, African cultural linkages and the next generational wave of dancehall and reggae.

This interview has been shortened and edited for clarity.

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