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Chicago's Black Millennials Find New Music, Friends Through 'Soul Sessions'

 Ron Platt and Erica Terry collaborate on the monthly event
Ron Platt and Erica Terry collaborate on the monthly event "Soul Sessions." [Provided]
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CHICAGO — Two local entrepreneurs, one a transplant, another a native, have fused their talents and connections to offer Chicagoans a monthly music series.

Civilized Empire’s Ronald Platt, from North Carolina, and Erica Terry, a Roseland native who now lives on the Near South Side, have partnered for “Soul Sessions” once a month.

The event unites emerging artists, singers and poets at Bassline Music Lounge, 2239 S. Michigan Ave.

With a small stage, dim lights, a microphone and an audience of music lovers, the mood is set. Their upcoming event, sponsored by Ciroc, is Sunday. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. Advance tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite for $7; they’re $10 at the door. Early arrival is strongly encouraged.

“Erica really helped us get this off the ground,” said Platt. “This became a new spotlight for Chicago artists to share their visions and artistry on a different platform.”

Ronald Platt and Erica Terry collaborate on monthly Soul Sessions. [Provided]

Soul Sessions celebrated two years in September. When it launched, Platt, 30,  was partnered with his friends Darren Roca and Lebo Pooe.

During the first year, Terry and Pooe worked together, sometimes rotating hosting duties, but Terry’s primary role was talent acquisition. After about a year, Pooe moved back to South Africa, leaving Terry to step up and take full responsibility.

“We want to make sure that we’re giving them an intimate experience that connects them to dope artists in Chicago,” said 27-year-old Terry. “We want to make sure we’re giving them an authentic experience."

The event now is curated by Terry, who also lived in Beverly. Although the singer/songwriter/spoken word artist graduated from the University of Missouri with a journalism degree, she now works in advertising. Songwriting has always been a love, she said, so once a month, on Sunday, she surrounds herself with other local artists.

It’s the positive vibes and family feel that keeps her and others coming back. Even though she hosts the event, it’s not unusual to see her grab a mic and share some of her latest work.

Before there was Soul Sessions, there was “Refuge Sundays,” a similar event that showcased local talent, Terry said. The owner of Refuge Live, at 416 S. Clark St., was the creator. When that event ended, she said there was a void. Young underground artists, emerging artists, wanted a consistent space to perform.

Erica Terry hosts Soul Sessions. [Provided]

In 2015, inspired by the groundwork that had already been laid, Platt and Terry discussed the idea of creating something for local artists. Civilized Empire had done one show at M Lounge in the South Loop  that was well-received.

Platt and Terry already were acquainted from being in the same social circles. With Platt’s influence on the nightlight for black millennials and Terry’s musical background, it was only natural that the two collaborate and she host, Platt said.

Platt's professional background has been in the financial sector since he graduated from Winston-Salem State University. Work eventually brought him to the Midwest.

Civilized Empire was created in 2014. It started with casual conversations between Platt, who was new to the city, and Darren Roca, his friend and owner of Urbane Blades Barbershop. Platt said they bounced ideas off each other. Both acknowledged their ability to connect with new people. Roca had moved to Chicago from New York City and made a name for himself here, Platt said.

“He had a natural playground for meeting a lot of people,” Platt said. “Both of us really shared this notion of it’s Chicago, it’s a very tight-knit social environment. Everyone has their social scene they connect with, but for us, it was more so. We’re implants; we’re just going to try to find our way.”

He said they both realized there were others like them, as well as young professionals seeking social outlets outside their normal after-work spots. Civilized Empire was their attempt at offering people a space to network after work and party at night.

Platt said he felt that the city was missing a consistent welcoming party scene for black millennials.

Ron Platt (from left) Bobby Burke and Charles Martin of Civilized Lifestyle. [Provided]

Since the launch, there have been ups and downs, Platt said. The earlier events would sometimes be empty, but the brand has grown a lot. As in his collaboration with Terry, he works closely with other brands. He said that kind of unity is important.

Civilized Empire first collaborated with Kyle Santillian in 2016 and since then, Christopher Davis, known as Sigma Chris, joined them on certain events. They’ve been creating a series of events since last April to launch Santillian's collaborative movement, #TheSourceChi.

In addition to that, Civilized Empire has worked with Lifestyle Official, created by Bobby Burke, on many events over the last couple of years, Platt said. For St. Patrick’s Day in March, both independent brands collaborated with POSH Ent. And recently, Burke’s and Platt’s brands created a separate, third brand, known as Civilized Lifestyle, a combination of the two names.

Civilized Lifestyle is now a collaborative promotional brand compring Charles Martin, Bobby Burke and Ronald Platt used for events around the city.

“My vision for the Civilized Empire brand is to continue to foster strong business relationships and expand into different demographics by broadening the platform to more than just hosting social events,” Platt said. “It’s something that’s near and dear to my heart. Wherever it goes, I just want to see it keep going.”

Upcoming events:

TheSourceChi is putting on "Black Out: Shotclock Edition" at Nacional 27, 325 W. Huron St. Tickets can be purchased at BlackoutWed.Eventbrite.com

Civilized Lifestyle is hosting "Trilogy NYE 18" at the Intercontinental Hotel, 505 Michigan Ave. Tickets can be bought online at TrilogyNYE.Eventbrite.com