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Inspiring Conversations with Keenan Copening of Bar None Entertainment LLC

Today we’d like to introduce you to Keenan Copening.

Hi Keenan, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I am grateful for the invitation to be part of the Voyage Magazine platform, and I am honored to be included. I will do my best to remain as honest as possible because this journey differs from the usual one, and I won’t be pulling any punches. The best way to explain my truth is pure and uncut. Although some may not subscribe to the context of my journey, it’s mine, and I experience it. My name is Keenan Copening, and I was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware. I am an entertainment promoter, producer, writer, and president at Bar None Entertainment LLC and the owner of Condo Jamz Radio. When I was six years old, I began this exciting journey. I remember hearing my mother playing gospel vinyl albums by Vanessa Bell, John P. Kee, Bébé & CeCe Winans, the Mississippi Mass Choir, and so many others while she was cleaning up around the house. From there, I began recording secular music compilations from my stereo system onto cassette tapes, which are now obsolete, featuring some of my favorite recording artists.

My family comprised four members: myself, my brother, with whom I always had a sibling rivalry growing up; my mother, who was strict with us about education, credit, and responsibility and kept me off the streets and made sure I always had a job; and her husband, with whom I never got along with at all. It is important to note that my biological father never entered the picture and had five other children elsewhere. It’s true that “Poppa was a rolling stone.” Although we never got along, my stepfather significantly influenced my musical style. He would have these CDs lying around by the stereo, as he would listen to them when he was off from work every weekend while getting drunk. When he wasn’t around, I would go through his entire collection and say to myself, “Who the hell is Cameo, Mary Wells, the Ohio Players, or The Gap Band”? And nobody listens to any of this old stuff anymore. It’s funny how the irony of life works; now, I am broadcasting some artists above. Over the years, I have developed a greater appreciation for the pioneers who paved the way for me and many others to enter the music industry.
Let me tell you a bit about my life, which I find pretty interesting. Growing up in the nineties, I have so many vivid memories of my childhood. We played outside, ran the streets, repaired flat tires and chains on bikes, made basketball courts out of milk crates and nailed them to trees, fought each other, and became friends again several hours later, unlike some youth today who end up with gun violence after an altercation. My brother and I spent most of our childhood growing up in the Jackson Street Boys & Girls Club during the early 90s, an environment that could never be replicated because we, as kids, would wrestle with the staff and crack jokes about each other. That kind of stuff would not be acceptable in today’s society, but we had fun, which helped us build friendships and respect for one another. My long-time friend and mentor, and program director ran the recreation center, Anthony Southerland, to whom I owe a lot of gratitude for coaching us during early soccer and basketball games against other community centers along with Andre Wright, the facility’s education coordinator. They took us on many trips, including the Universal Soul Circus, WWE Wrestling, Brain Games-Education Contest, and Pre-season Tickets to watch the Philadelphia 76ers at the CoreStates Spectrum, now the Wells Fargo Center. Although Andre could be stern and I didn’t always agree with his approach, he just wanted to see us succeed as society was getting tough on young black males, especially in homes that were lacking direction. He didn’t want any of us to become another statistic for the already corrupted judicial system and wanted nothing but scholars on his team. Some of his students became college graduates; others became entrepreneurs; others served in the military, ventured into politics, etc. His high intelligence, assertiveness, quick wit, and humor marked his mentorship. He was also a veteran who fought for his country and traveled worldwide several times. He reminded me of a combination between actor Samuel L. Jackson and comedian David Alan Grier. Both guys would have been great stand-up comedians, as they could make anyone roll on the floor and jump out of their seats. The atmosphere was crazy, ‌as no one was safe from a rib or two, especially when it came from them.

You had to have an arsenal of jokes ready for them, or they would literally roast you. Although I played on a few basketball teams growing up in the club, I knew playing sports was not my calling since I would receive technical fouls for disrespecting the officials and making shots from half-court. Another honorable mention goes to Dr. Moriel McDuffy, who has a degree in mental health and was an early influence on my decision to train in fitness when I started lifting weights with him and a few other club members at 18 years old. Dr. Moriel was always a fantastic brother, and no one could ever say anything negative about him. Also, it was he who introduced me to recording artist Musiq Soulchild’s debut album “Aijuswanaseing” in 2000, which is one of my all-time favorite albums. I am genuinely grateful for the childhood they have provided for my peers and me. All of them were good examples of what a father figure should be, which is lacking in many black households even today.

When school was out, my brother and I spent the summer months in Temperanceville, VA, with my grandmother and her husband, who worked for Tyson’s chicken plant. As a child, I enjoyed spending the summer months down south, where we explored nature and learned about southern hospitality. We would catch everything from toads to rabbits to turtles, knock down a few wasps’ nests, and run afterward. A wasp stung my head when I messed with the wrong nest one day, even while running 100 miles an hour, and I was done with that game. As children, we were wild and adventurous and used to catch bees from the grass using our bare hands, put them in a jar with beetles, and watch them fight. Today’s children suffer from video games, iPads, and cell phones, and they don’t have an outlet for their lives. For many years, my grandmother worked in a nursing home and was a devoted Christian who served on the usher board for Macedonia Baptist Church in Bloxom, VA, and made us recite bible verses. She braided the girls’ hair and kept the boys in the barbershop for our haircuts. She ironed and pressed our clothes for Sunday morning service every Saturday evening, as she was strict about always making sure we looked good while out in public. Going to church was not an option for us in her house, as she wanted us to know and develop our relationship with Christ.

She was the nicest person and grandmother in the world, but was firm when necessary. Her door was always open if you needed her for anything, and she would feed anyone. She would play kickball and baseball and could dance her ass off. I’m telling you, my grandmother was so hip that she would even drive a lawnmower tractor to keep her yard trimmed and train us on how to use it, as she and her husband owned a couple of acres of land. We had to get up early every morning to clean, hang clothes on the line, and do any other chores that needed to be done, and again, we didn’t have an option. They would take us on trips to state fairs; watch the fireworks on the 4th of July; and to Assateague Island, where we would relax and watch the wild horses race on the beach. Later in life, she also became an eastern star for several years before passing in 2010. During the late nineties in my teenage years, I took part in many radio contests on 101.7 Kiss FM, which broadcast the top seven songs at 7:00 pm, where I dominated the phone lines as caller number seven and won a million times. Among the prizes awarded were two CDs. At 13, I took part in these contests, and at 37, it’s remarkable that people still remember hearing me on the radio back then. Once I got to the studio, I would always convince DJ Mellie Mel, the jock hosting the program at the time and who was also one of my influences for getting into the radio business, to give me a couple more CDs, which he was fine with. Still, I knew I was pulling his leg.

At 20, I worked in housekeeping for a casino in 2005, where the management were assholes who treated you as if you were incompetent. I’ve only worked for six different employers in my lifetime, and this was by far the worst. I had experienced nothing like the casino environment ever. Going to work was always a nightmare because I knew there would always be some bullshit. They brought a lot of their issues into the workplace.
This resulted in disaster because you cannot effectively lead from a place of hurt. They didn’t like that I didn’t play politics well. I have never been a tap-dancing, ass-kissing negro for anybody, and the same still applies today. No organization could ever groom me to be their corporate pet, so I will never conform to a certain way. I will always be true to myself no matter what and never sacrifice my principles and morals to get a certain energy of people to respect and accept me, period. Respect is a two-way street, as no one is superior to me or vice versa. As a black employee, I rarely saw my white or foreign counterparts treated the same way as blacks were, as most of them were held to a higher standard. I believe that was due to top executives who did not value us as assets and refused to place the full blame on management since they had a job to do and provided for their families. Whenever I came home from a stressful day at work, prayer and music helped me get through. Once, a manager told me I was not a “running mule,” and I was like, “running” mule? What do you mean by that? In their opinion, they did not consider me to be a workhorse like some of the other employees. I told them I was glad I wasn’t being compared to an animal like the other team members that were mentioned who would fit the description. As a leader, I do not believe you can lead effectively if you are a tyrant and try to intimidate your staff members. One manager served 30 years in prison for raping a young girl, and I am thinking, how the f*ck can he manage me if he cannot manage his own life? Then, he started doing coke and lost his job, so there you have it. I’m not saying I didn’t make mistakes because nobody is perfect, but no human deserves to be treated the way some of us were. I have no animosity toward any of them and wish them the best in life. Overall, it was a very unpleasant experience throughout my tenure with the organization and the lowest point in my life, and that’s all I have to say about that.

It’s interesting how I started on the airwaves. After broadcasting online radio for about four months on a platform in the United Kingdom, I began researching the rules and regulations governing broadcasting. It provided me with a great deal of insight into the radio industry. In one month, I had an audience of over 4000 listeners, which was very impressive. It was like the allure or the ultimate high since I desired another hit of it. After that, I met a country music radio jockey on social media, Les Durrant, a quirky white guy from Arkansas, who taught me how to create better content. Initially, I was unpolished, and Les instructed me on how to categorize music for better rotation.

It was my uncle, who was a DJ on the side for special occasions, that suggested I start a radio station. Still, I wasn’t interested until a couple of years later, when the idea resurfaced, and I realized, “Man, I can do this,” Now we are approaching five years on our platform. We’ve listed on over 30 radio directories online, which is record-breaking for a local online station. The radio industry has provided me with a great deal of knowledge, from licensing to music charts. As music jocks, most people think we sit back and play music all day, but that’s not true since we work hard behind the scenes to keep everything running smoothly, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. When people ask me where the name Condo Jamz Radio came from, I say, well, whenever you create a brand, step outside the box, and be creative and unique, which is why I started producing radio from my very own condominium. We syndicated the Sheryl Underwood Radio morning podcast for two years. Her team of producers discovered us online and asked us if we were interested in broadcasting their show. I mean, who the hell would say no to that? This proves that when you create a brand, promote it on social media as much as possible with hashtags and constantly post because you never know who will notice.

As the producers of her show could not quantify the listenership for Neilson’s rating system, the show ended for us. Although it was heartbreaking and beyond my control, I had to move on. It was an honor, and I hope it will serve as a valuable addition to our professional resume in the future. I will always be grateful for the opportunity. Since Kiss FM disbanded in 2007, Delaware hasn’t had a station that caters to the urban market. Our goal was to fill the void in our state and provide you with quality music. Although the streaming market is over-saturated with competition, we are not concerned about this, since we wish to be considered an alternative, especially within the tri-state region.

From 2009 to 2017, I ran a YouTube comedy channel with 58 thousand subscribers and over 27 million views worldwide. I lost track during the “YouTube Apocalypse” debacle when advertisers who would normally spend top dollars on ads boycotted the platform after discovering their ads were appearing next to antisemitic and terroristic threatening videos. The platform lost millions of dollars, which affected my revenue, and I pulled the plug on my channel. Content creators invested a lot of time and energy into their platforms, and having something like that happen was devastating. Because of the situation, one woman threatened to bomb YouTube’s headquarters because it was some people’s livelihood. As a result, I decided I wanted to produce my very own stand-up comedy films and events.

It wasn’t long after that I became involved with promoting stand-up comedy events under Bar None Entertainment LLC and produced a high-quality show at the Queen Theater in August 2019. Which is now owned and operated by the conglomerate Live Nation and is one of the oldest venues in all of Delaware. In 1978, they built it as the Indian Queen Hotel, which later became a movie house in 1916, before African Americans could even step inside the movie theater. While it was an incredible accomplishment, I would never step foot in that venue again unless it was under new ownership, and that’s all I will say. Even though I’ve always had a knack for entertaining and making people laugh, my early influence for getting into the comedy business came from sneaking and watching BET’s Comic View television series in 1994. Comedians “Cedric The Entertainer” and “Miss Laura Hayes” hosted the late-at-night showcase. I would record episodes on VHS as my mother would walk in and turn off the television, reminding me I had school the following day. Over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to network with some great minds in the industry. I have to give a special thanks to Dante Carter, who has appeared on HBO’s Bad Boys of Comedy, Def Comedy Jam, and BET’s Comic View. He is one of the most humble people I’ve ever met, and he helped me produce my first film by showing me all the things that go into running a production, like what outfits to wear on camera, lighting, and how to address the audience, etc. Before I put on my first comedy event, I talked with him for over three hours, and I thought, here’s someone who’s been in the business for nearly 30 years at least and has been involved with some big productions on major networks, and he took the time out to share some knowledge and wisdom with me. There are many assholes and cutthroats in the entertainment business, but I can honestly say that Dante is not one of them, and his integrity is unquestionable.

Thea Vidale, a 30-plus-year stand-up veteran I grew up watching, had a sitcom on ABC which is one of the major three networks on television in the early 90s that co-starred Brandy Norwood, who you may remember from the television series Moshea. Thea and I have had millions of conversations over the years. She told me once that if you want to be successful, you should never segregate the dollar and make content that appeals to all. I believed she was the first black female in history to have a sitcom in her own name. Rodney Dangerfield discovered her, and she appeared on his HBO special “Where’s Rodney?”, Def Comedy Jam, Comic View, Law & Order, Jerry Springer’s Ring Master film, WWE as Momma Benjamin, and “Comedy’s Dirtiest Dozen” featuring Tim Allen, Chris Rock, Bill Hicks, and Jeff Foxworthy, to name a few. As a pioneer in this industry. She has also kicked down many doors for many of us and groomed me for this business. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity and will never forget her.

Belynda Cleare is a Nova Scotia native and a Pennsylvania comedienne who can sometimes be harsh in her criticism. Still, she is a great mentor in comedy who only wants to see people succeed. She lays it on thick, and, like coke, it’s pure and uncut, which sometimes is needed when lending advice to someone growing in business. I am more inclined to respect someone straight-up and honest than one who is a yes-man. When she speaks, I listen simply because she has 30 years of experience in the industry and was just featured on the Fox network for her years in comedy.

The late D’Militant, who was a comedian and a historian of the business from LA and who wrote for Katt Williams, Deon Cole, Don D.C. Curry, Sommore, and others, helped me out a great deal by sending me scripts from Comic View, where he produced several seasons of the television series. Having met some assholes in the industry, I am grateful that he was willing to give back to someone that wanted to learn. This past summer, I had the pleasure of working with comedian Damon Williams, who stated that my service as a promoter was top-notch, which was the ultimate compliment I could have ever received. He was an actual class act, and I learned so much from him. I would work with him again in a heartbeat. I grew up watching many of these guys, so working with them was an honor.

I produced my first stand-up comedy film in June 2022, commemorating the national Juneteenth holiday (Bar None Entertainment LLC Presents Joke-is-tory). The event took place at the “Delaware Art Museum.” It featured nearly 10 comedic performers between two events on the same night, which featured a lighting engineer crew and film producers with a 4-camera setup. Hosted by comedian Mike Bonner, a Detroit native who appeared on BET’s Comic View for seven seasons and won a comedy contest, leading to his very own 30-minute stand-up special on the network in 1997. I was so on point with doing business throughout the entire production that Bonner pleaded with me several times to be his road manager. It was one of the greatest compliments I could have received from someone who has been in the industry for nearly 30 years, saying he would have gotten further in his career if he had taken the proper steps like me. The movie was Delaware’s first-ever stand-up comedy film produced in the state. I am the first black entertainment promoter in the history of Delaware to do so, which is an honor and an unprecedented accomplishment. Although it was cool to produce something like that, some people overlooked it because it wasn’t a Russell Simmons production or a major studio project. Even though I generated some buzz, which is better than nothing at all, some people did not view it in the same light, and it only motivates me to work even harder to get my brand out there. The thing that I am most proud of is that I did it on my own financially with no benefactor, which is tough, but I was able to pull it off. Hopefully, one day, someone will take notice of what I have done and invest in future projects that I would like to bring to Delaware.
It was the first of its kind in Wilmington, Delaware. That alone should speak volumes. It’s in the can now and can’t be erased, and we have written history, and I’m proud of that. To succeed, we must build infrastructure within our communities and support our black-owned businesses, which can create endless opportunities for our own. For those who don’t know, we have at least two black podcast platforms on YouTube that are growing here in Delaware that people should know about, with the first being the “Deep Conversations Podcast.” Hosted by Ryan Stewart, a friend of mine, and has featured some notable names in the entertainment industry along with local entrepreneurs. From social and political commentary to religion, he addresses various issues within our community and so on. His platform is growing, and our state needs to support this hardworking brother as he is moving forward at an alarming rate. We also have Carter Reid, a football podcaster who chronicles up-to-date and retro games with the “MacDaGiantsFan” channel. We have the “House of Laffs” comedy lounge, owned and operated by U’Gundi Jacobs. Who I believe is the first black promoter to own a comedy club in Delaware, which has attracted some big acts such as Tommy Davidson, Sommore, Michael Blackson, and many others. With the new Chase Field House performance arts center, which seats 2,500 people, we have our very own venue, long overdue for us, and the Pine Box, a sound stage with 38,000 square feet that can accommodate touring bands and film productions. The Wilmington Library has attracted various popular guest speakers over the past few years, including recording artists like KRS-One, country music sensation Dolly Parton, former NBA player Dennis Rodman, and the cast of the sitcom “A Different World,” to name a few. Together, we’re building our market and making history throughout the process. We’re saying that although we may be considered the underdogs, we’re coming to compete. I believe within the next 5 years, our hometown will get the recognition it truly deserves and become a major contender for entertainment, which remains to be seen.

I want to acknowledge that my family just buried my grandmother, my father’s mother, in September. I knew her for being a strong, sassy, and jazzy lady. She worked at the Hercules Research Center in Delaware for 29 years before retiring in 1999. May she rest in peace. In January 2023, I will produce my second stand-up comedy film, as I would like to bring more production to our state and work on community outreach programs, which are important to us. Our organization currently donates to the homeless community and believes in giving back to those in need. I hope that I have made my mark and become a trailblazer in my state and an influence for others who wish to follow in my footsteps.

Last, I am grateful for the support I have received from family and friends over the years. My cousins Debroy Fung and Natasha Fung, uncle Tony, and aunt Mildred Fung have all supported my brand throughout this journey, and I am grateful for their support alone. Thanks to my mother, Cheryl Sydnor, brothers Lari Copening and Deidrick Dyton, Aunt Lovin Spirit, Aunt Bonnie Cammille, Scott Copening, my cousins Desiree Jackson, Patrice Foote Lloyd, Sam Lloyd, Brittany Foote Cephas, Jasmine, and Devin Dean, Marlene Ellington, Pamela Spencer, Helen Spencer, Yvette Spencer, Avery Spencer and Ciara Spencer, Kevin Copening, Kendra McGhee, Uncle Julian and Aunt Karen White, Friends Louis, and KaNeasha Guy. It is also my pleasure to acknowledge Friends Akia and Travis Clark, Koshema Smith, Brenda Meads, Eunice, and Lewis Woodard, Lavelle Steveson, Lavon Foster, Charmayne, Billy Lane, and Ms. Victoria Moore. Several times after my hernia surgery nearly two years ago, Ms. Victoria checked up on me and offered to pick up my groceries from the store. Which is something that I will never forget. Her husband, Mr. Kasai Moore, and daughter, Nyeesha Joy, also deserve my gratitude. I am deeply indebted to Bobby Mikeal, who I have a great deal of respect for. It is impossible for me to forget him during my humble beginnings. A special shout-out goes out to my friend James Austin who took an interest in my brand recently and wanted to invest and help both grow. Some people I’ve known for over 20 years have never offered to lend a hand or contribute, and for him to step in and take an interest is a blessing. I have appreciated all of your contributions, and no contribution is greater than the other with all of your support. It would be my sincere apologies if I left anyone out. I would like to thank Voyage Magazine once again for the opportunity!!!
Thank you to anyone I may have forgotten.
We all face challenges, but would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
In this business, I have helped many people, lost friends, and lied to and talked about with whom I have provided opportunities, and it’s just the nature of the beast. It festers in betrayal, and I learned that early on because everyone’s goal is to reach the top without you. There are no friends in it, and I stand firm in my decision because I do not trust anyone.
Bar None Entertainment LLC was supposed to film our first stand-up comedy project with comedian Tyler Craig in 2020, who has appeared in all the aforementioned productions. A few months later, COVID-19 struck our nation, and he died suddenly. We were eager to work with him because of his stature and popularity in the business. Unforeseen circumstances prevented us from producing anything for two years after this, which was a major setback for our brand.
After a venue ended our agreement for a show because of the increase in COVID-19 cases, an agent for a performer with a Netflix show swindled us out of some money. It was personal because it came when my mom was battling major health issues, and I won’t ever forget that. We had several conversations about the situation with them. People getting ripped off in this business is nothing new, as it has victimized many of the greats in our industry. Look at Anita Baker, who had to fight for her masters recently, and what Prince went through, or Dave Chappelle, with Netflix, as an example, and we are just another example of how ruthless it can be.
The experience was a learning curve, and Bar None Entertainment LLC would never do business with them again, regardless of whether it was for a charity event or a Christian comedy show. We wish them the best of luck in all their future endeavors.
Our first film had some technical difficulties with the sound, so I halted all plans to release it on streaming platforms, which was devastating, but we have to move forward. Despite what we’ve experienced in this industry, we won’t give up, because we’re destined for greatness.

What should we know about Bar None Entertainment LLC? Appreciate you sharing that. Please tell us more about your business or organization.
Bar None Entertainment LLC is an entertainment company in Wilmington, Delaware that promotes public events and Condo Jamz Radio on the Live365 Network.

What should we know? What do you do, what do you specialize in / what are you known for?
As an entertainment company, we promote, market, and sell products to consumers, organize events, get insurance coverage for the venues, write event guidelines for ticketing websites, create graphic designs (flyers, posters, and business cards), draft and negotiate contracts, and manage talent. Our duties at Condo Jamz are uploading, broadcasting, editing commercial music, researching music charts, categorizing tracks, creating schedules for radio clock wheels, and writing promotional DJ drops, sweepers, and jingles. We only book stand-up comedy shows, but we expect to expand into other areas, such as podcasts and other projects, in the future.

What are you most proud of brand wise?
Promoting products and putting smiles on people’s faces is what we enjoy most. From viruses to natural disasters, killings, political madness, and so on, the world has seen so much devastation, and we would like to entertain you for 90 minutes or whatever.

What do you want our readers to know about your brand, offerings, services, etc.?
Condo Jamz Radio is an internet-based radio station that broadcasts the best in Urban Adult Contemporary, Classic Soul, and Old School Hip Hop music from the Billboard Hot 100, and Adult R&B charts on the Live 365 Network in which some have compared its style to Philly’s own WDAS FM. On February 15, 2023, we will celebrate our station’s fifth anniversary. Bar None Entertainment LLC will put on a fantastic show regardless of the event, with stellar performances from all involved, so grab your tickets when you hear the name.

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Image Credits
Event Promoter Keenan Copening Blue Pin Stripe Suit Keenan Copening Damon Williams on the left Derek Lee Red Vest Dante Carter has the afro Belynda Cleare is the female sporting all black Charles Walden has a yellow shirt on Mike Bonner has the all back suit on with the bald head.

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