Brownsville native Levar McDonald is tired of Black creatives not getting the access they deserve. When we spoke, he rejected being known solely for his DJ skills and instead chose to list the things he’s good at like coordinating events, photography, and videography to name a few; preserving his multifaceted identity as a creative is important to him. But he understands something arguably more important: the uncertainty a lot of young Black people have about how they can achieve their creative dreams. His events pre- COVID-19 gave them the opportunity to realize how close their dreams are to being reality. And now he wants to give the creative individuals he’s met over the years a community center with the most fitting name, No Negativity.
About six years ago, No Negativity started as a Facebook group chat. Starting the group chat with 100 people McDonald knew with talents ranging from photographers, musicians, songwriters, and poets, conversations grew from the first pinned introduction post. McDonald was intentional with the people he added, so when he added individuals who had no idea what they were interested in, he knew they would find their passion in this group. Soon group members started reaching out to each other with ideas and motivation and the number grew to 500.
At that point he knew he had to get these people in the same physical space and make this group chat bigger than Facebook, so he started hosting meetups in the park. These were moments to relax and be active with some bringing soccer balls and art supplies and in this age where a few minutes of silence signals most people in a room to pull out their phones, McDonald’s meetups were much-needed and refreshing breaks from technology. Fast forward to four years later, some of those same people were reporting back to him that their businesses were taking off and without his group chat their companies would not exist. Some ended up working as ANR’s at music labels and one young woman he used to frequent the Apple store with early in the morning to edit her footage of random subjects became Pop Smoke’s personal photographer.
Now at 27, McDonald has a GoFundMe set up to pay about a year’s worth of rent for the 7,000 sq ft. space he believes will be the perfect home for his community center. Talking to younger people who reach out to him via Instagram showed him that the afterschool programs many of us were used to and our parents relied on like the YMCA and CAMBA were not present in their lives. Independence is vital in securing this space and McDonald intends to give himself the space to make mistakes as he gets everything in order for the center. While his connections in the entertainment industry will be willing to support in securing laptops and other necessary equipment for No Negativity, McDonald is prepared to use his dedication and will power to move this project into a space for countless young people to grow and develop personally and professionally. Though critics urge him to ask celebrities for the funds to pay the full amount, this is McDonald’s project for the youth and he’s not taking the fast and easy way to make it happen. Progress is not an overnight venture and he doesn’t amuse himself with the idea that it is.
To put it simply, he manifested his intentions: “I told myself I was going to get myself into places I wasn’t supposed to be in now it’s to the point where I went from hanging out with the artists to hanging out with the people that own the artists. And then I learned what they were doing and then I just took that information,” to give advice to up and coming artists, to keep them aware of the pitfalls the industry plunges so many talented individuals into.
This is the tenacity I love interacting with. McDonald’s determination to create a physical space that’s safe for young people to get to know themselves and allow their dreams to root into a reality is a need and shouldn’t be as rare as it is. This kind of passion is respectable and the uplifting energy we need this year. I can’t wait to visit No Negativity when it finally opens.
To find out more about No Negativity’s progress, you can check out and follow McDonald on his Instagram @dickbyair and the community center’s Instagram page: @nonegativityllc.