I love the way you are merging music and hospitality, for example with playlists. How is music brought to the fore in the Homage hotel experience?
Damon: Music is such an important aspect of our community, so to give someone a playlist is one of the highest forms of hospitality. Music is another industry – like hospitality – where so much of the talent globally comes from our culture, but we don't have ownership of that creative work. In our research, some of the best conversations I've had were with DJs. The way that they have to curate different settings… I think DJs are probably the best communicators in the world.
Chimene: When we speak about what's next for a project, we always talk about how people will play their music. The creation of a vibe is extremely important, and music sets that tone – we can communicate an effective point with a specific playlist, and if you play certain artists, you're making a very clear statement. Since before slavery, our oral histories have been passed down through music. We lyricise our existence always, and that’s why it would be a miss for us to create a safe space and not give it music. That’s why our brand values are lyrics.
Your blog explains some of the reasons why the Black Lives Matter movement brought the Homage concept into focus. What effect has the past year had on your mission to give Black people a safe place to rest?
Damon: This past year has been interesting on many levels. Before the George Floyd murder, when we were out raising capital, a lot of people didn't understand why we should be paying homage to Black culture. But no other culture is held to that standard. If I wanted to open an Irish pub, or a hotel paying homage to Korean-American culture, no one would ask why these need to exist. But for some reason, our story intimidates people; it’s too strong a narrative. I think [in 2020] people started to understand why we need spaces that are safe for us. It's been a very sobering year, and I hope that the renewed attention that our brand has received is lasting. It's imperative for us to seize this opportunity and make sure we force people to pay attention.
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