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Scottie Beam On Leaving Hot 97, Colliding With Purpose & Becoming Her Own Brand

BOSS UP

Scottie Beam is living beyond her wildest dreams. One year since making her most fearless career move yet, the Hot 97 alum sits alongside Joe Budden, Remy Ma, and Brandon "Jinx" Jenkins on Revolt TV's State of the Culture.

The unfiltered show on all things hip-hop was three episodes in, and garnering over one million views, when I met up with the media personality in midtown Manhattan at the dawn of fall. Sporting a JAY-Z 4:44 T-shirt on what she deems a chill day in her schedule, Scottie breaks her stride on 7th Avenue when she runs into a former coworker, who seizes the chance encounter to celebrate her success beyond the building she called home for 10 years.

However, once she and I decided on an impromptu dinner at a Friday's nearby, she cuts no corners to discuss her latest win. She, instead, takes her time revisiting a season in her life that didn't seem to hold much promise at all.

As the daughter of WBLS veteran Shaila Scott, the Bronx native, née Deanii Scott, naturally developed a deep passion for music as a child but resisted patterning her steps after her mother's. "I fought it a bit," she reveals. "I didn't think that my talent was in radio, and I wanted to find something else I was really good at only to come right back around to the radio station."

At 17, she started out as a KISS FM street team member and later joined Hot 97 when the iconic R&B station folded in 2012. At that time, a day in the life looked like setting up tables, grabbing a mic, and giving voice to the audience fueling the station where hip-hop lives. "Now that I think about [it], it was a great time, but back then I hated it," she says, describing the job as both electrifying and exhausting.

While, in retrospect, the street team granted her an opportunity to build the foundation for her rise in the years to come, Scottie entered college unconvinced that she had a future in radio and soon began to sink under the pressure of pinpointing her purpose. "I was drowning," the onetime Clark Atlanta University student explains. "I didn't know exactly what my calling and existence on this earth was. That's how deep it went."

"I didn't know exactly what my calling and existence on this earth was. That's how deep it went."

Miles from her support system at home and unable to find one on campus, Scottie made the decision to drop out of school her junior year. "I hit this dark road where I just quit and locked myself in a room," she tells me. "I was severely depressed. I did not want to be here anymore. I didn't think anything would be missing if I did not exist. That was my darkest time."

In search for the deeper meaning of her life, Scottie returned to New York, and tried her hand at fashion as an employee at Vinnies Styles, all while holding down her spot on Hot 97's street team. "I got in, and then I realized that I was trash at making clothes, so I was like, What exactly am I supposed to do?" she recalls. "I've tried everything – anything that I thought I was good at."

Though Scottie fought to zoom in on what she wanted to do, her work ethic was never called into question. When she landed an unpaid internship at Columbia Records (after concealing her status as a college dropout), she tested her stamina to the extreme. "I'll work until I'm tired. Until I have no more hands, no more feet, or no more voice," she stresses. "Once they eventually found out [that I lied], they kept me around because they knew I worked hard."

Within two summers, Scottie made her presence felt at the label but ultimately discovered she had little interest in the business of music. "I just love music," she emphasizes. "I love the artistry and the way it makes people feel and putting people on to that."

As she inched closer to the essence of her passion, Scottie began to grow weary of staying still at Hot 97. "I think it's important to set time limits on certain things, especially things that you know you don't want to do forever," she says. "I've seen people do 10, 15, 20 years on street team, and I didn't want that to be me."

Since she couldn't muster the funds to travel between New York and her home in Piscataway, New Jersey, Scottie slept at the station many nights. With little money to her name, she also forwent food on several occasions. "I was tired of that kind of struggle," she expresses.

With no desire to abuse her mother's support, Scottie was ready to chart her own path—even if that meant giving up music. After lying on her resume once again, she secured a fashion merchandising job at Adidas. The day she planned to quit street team, however, the universe intercepted with bigger plans: Angie Martinez was interested in Scottie joining her team as a digital producer.

"That's favor. That was God," she says with conviction. "He knew I was going to hang that sh*t up. I was done, but even if you say it's over, it's really not over until God says so. A lot of people will quit on you, but God won't."

Pink Pig Productions

"Even if you say it's over, it's really not over until God says so. A lot of people will quit on you, but God won't."

Under the influence of the Voice of New York, Scottie got a dose of the impact she could one day make behind the mic. "Angie has taught me so much," she reflects. "Seeing how much of a boss she is, how serious she takes this craft, really pushed me to at least mirror some of the things that I learned."

Responsible for generating content on social media, Scottie spotted a gap she wanted to fill. "I don't see a lot of Black women talk about music, unfortunately. Not a lot of Black women have voices, period, in this industry," she explains. "I decided to give it a try."

When Angie Martinez made the decision to join Power 105.1 in 2014, marking the end of an era at Hot 97, Scottie dug deeper into her goal as a digital producer for Ebro In The Morning. "That's when I really started to realize what it is that I wanted to do," she reveals.

Dedicated to amplifying unsigned artists, Scottie curated playlists on her own time and took hold of the chance to produce Hot 97's Who's Next showcase. "Putting people on to new artists was one of my favorite things to do, so having the opportunity to do that every month was a gift," she reminisces.

When I ask when it all became unfulfilling, Scottie notes that the walls of the station began to close in on her as the desire to be limitless blossomed. With no room for growth, the only thing left to do was stare at the ceiling. "It was the biggest honor ever to sit in that building," she assures. "I learned so much, but it was time."

Moved by Nina Simone's musings on freedom, Scottie submitted her two-weeks' notice in May 2017. "I never felt I could exist without [Hot 97]," the former digital producer admits. "I felt like it defined me because I thought that that's what careers were supposed to do: the brand is supposed to define you and when it doesn't anymore, you find another brand. Then, I realized that I was the brand."

Revolt TV

"I realized that I was the brand."

In the months to come, Scottie landed opportunities to work with Revolt TV, HBO, and Nike. She would later host Broccoli City Festival 2018 (marking hosting a first in her career) and narrate Reebok's "Flipping The Game" podcast centered on women in the sneaker industry.

In between her success, she also collided with sheer disappointment. In November 2017, the radio personality landed her own weekend show with New York City's Satori Radio and was promoted to the prime time slot a mere month later. Before the end of January, however, the online station shut down entirely, leaving Scottie in a funk. "It's really the name of the game in radio," she chimes on the harsh reality. "One day you're on air, the next could be your last."

Throughout it all, Scottie spun one verse from J. Cole's "Premeditated Murder" into an affirmation: Keep grinding girl, your life can change in one year. "His music was definitely the reason why I decided to get out of bed some days or why I decided to try again or take an opportunity I wasn't confident about," she shares.

As she navigated wins and losses, Scottie poured into a mounting fan base of Black women tuned into her personal journey as one of five voices behind the Black Girl Podcast. "Ebro had always taught me that when it's your show, you have to be transparent. Nothing is to be left off the mic," she says when discussing the nature of the show.

The ladies of 'Black Girl Podcast'

Pink Pig Productions

The audio series – also hosted by Hot 97 alumni Gia Peppers, Sapphira Martin, Rebecca "Bex" Francois, and Alysha Pamphile – has drawn more than one million downloads since its premiere in December 2016, unlocking a deeper dimension to Scottie's ever-crystallizing destiny. "It helps Black women feel seen, and I didn't know I was that passionate about it until it was happening," she muses.

It's a zeal she carries with her as a panelist on State of the Culture, which she tested for numerous times before gracing YouTube and television screens this past September. "Easily, I'm the most hated," she insists. "I've gotten some crazy, crazy letters."

And yet, whether discussing sexual abuse or double standards attached to women, Scottie has no plans on muting her voice to make others comfortable. "The color of my skin and my gender have already pissed people off, so why stop there?" she says. "My heart is in this work. There is no way that something can be ugly or stomped on when it's made with nothing but love and true intent."

As Scottie and I wrapped up our meal, she reveals she still has no map to guide her on her road to success—but this time, she's perfectly fine with that. "None of this was my vision. I just wanted to create. I just wanted to do stuff that meant something. I wanted to do something that people would remember," she says. "I want one person to feel like if she went through this sh*t and went through a bunch of failures, there'll be a win somewhere. I'm sure I'm not done failing, but I also know I'm not done winning either."

To keep up with Scottie, follow her on Instagram.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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