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Photographer puts fresh eye on surroundings

TAMPA He's about to launch a Webcast that will focus on tearing down negative stereotypes in the black community.

By JESSICA BRADY
Published May 4, 2007


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Motown Maurice has an interesting theory:

Everyone, he says, has an "inner high-top fade."

He actually let his high top grow and wears the outdated hip hop hairstyle that went out more than 10 years ago with artists Boyz II Men and Kid 'N Play.

But the giggles behind his back don't bother him. The high top, he says, symbolizes inner strength.

"It represents any idea or desire that somebody may have, but doesn't have the courage to bring out, " he said.

Maurice Jeoffroy, a 26-year-old self-employed photographer and videographer, has other theories too. They revolve around tearing down negative stereotypes within the black community - concepts he plans to present in his new Webcast talk show.

The show is just one of his countless ideas. And when he gets an idea, he usually doesn't let it go.

- - -

Motown Maurice Productions was created in 2004.

On any given weekend, its founder scans the aisles of weddings, parties or charity events with his camera. That's how he makes his living.

But that's also how he wants to make his mark on Tampa's black community.

In 2005, Motown produced a two-hour documentary, Echoes of a Dream: The Historical & Spiritual Perspectives of the Civil Rights Movement. William Sanders, president of Unlimited Gospel Expressions, inspired the project.

In the documentary, Motown interviewed local civil rights activists and talked about the struggles that African-Americans experienced in Tampa.

That landed him a guest spot on Tampa Bay's Media Talk, a live weekly global Webcast produced by Tampa Digital Studios on S Howard Avenue. It has since been one of the top 10 most watched segments.

Because of its success, Tampa Digital Studios agreed to produce his latest project, The Combination, a Webcast talk show that he hopes will educate the black community on issues "they may think about, but never discuss."

The show will consist of four segments: music, politics, history and culture. Each will introduce a prominent figure in the African-American community who will talk about various issues and stereotypes. Motown is planning a launch party for the show Wednesday at the Good Luck Cafe in Ybor City. The first show will air May 16 at 8 p.m. and can be viewed online at www.the combinationtv.com.

Motown wants to bring different cultures together to dispel stereotypes. The most important element of the show is the diverse images that he and three co-hosts will represent. Purposefully, he said, they will have different hairstyles and wear different styles of clothes.

"It is important for me, for us, on the show to look different, whether it's with dreads, an Afro, a high-top fade or a hat, because many people are used to relating a particular image with a negative concept, " Motown said. "So, you'll get to see intelligent men with a certain image speak."

- - -

Motown was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., and moved to Tampa with his parents in 1993. He currently lives in North Tampa, in an apartment off Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

The name Motown spawned after he printed the word across the windshield of his 1993 Dodge Colt. The moniker stuck, and he became known as "Motown."

He got his bachelor's degree in 2002 from Florida A&M University. After he graduated, Motown worked as an administrative assistant for FAMU's Learning Development and Evaluation Center for a year, before returning to Tampa.

Aside from his business, Motown, whose father is from Haiti, helped spearhead the annual Haitian Flag Day Festival in 2006. He also teaches social action photography and videography to at-risk students at Sylvia Rodriguez Kimbell Full Service School.

"A lot of the children he teaches don't have a positive role model at home, " said Keto Hodges, Motown's production partner. "He uses the fact that he is a successful, young entrepreneur and tries to educate them on what it takes to grow up and be a successful, positive person in the community."

Someday, Motown says, he'll create his own nonprofit organization to raise funds to send underprivileged kids to college. It's a work in progress, just like the book that he intends to write titled Building a Vision Without a Girlfriend.

The theory behind that?

The time and energy it takes to invest in a girlfriend, young men could use instead to invest in a business.

"I just think in one's early years, you need to focus on bringing your vision to life, " he said.

- - -

Yet another theory: If an idea sticks in his head for more than 48 hours, it's best to "roll with it."

The idea for The Combination came nearly five years ago. The program failed numerous times for various reasons, he said. But once the idea was locked in, failure became motivation rather than a deterrent.

"I've told myself to be prepared for failure, " he said.

He approached The Combination like he did his fade, he said. He nurtured it, picked it out and let it grow.

Jessica Brady can be reached at jbrady@sptimes.com or 813 226-3302.

Fast Facts:

 

Motown Maurice

Age: 26

Parents: Father, Ernst, from Haiti, and mother, Joan, from Grenada.

Role models: Father, William Sanders and Keto Hodges.

Favorite musicians: Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, 2Pac.

Quote: "I believe when someone gets an idea, they become pregnant, and you have to do whatever it takes to bring that idea to life."

 

[Last modified May 3, 2007, 06:31:35]


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