On a rainy Friday evening, dozens of people made their way to Lincoln Hospital. No one was injured, instead it was the opposite – they were coming for a celebration and a night filled with local entertainment.
A line of community talent was being showcased in the hospital’s theater as part of the Mott Haven Film Festival. One of those talents was Jeron Randolph, whose stage name is “Ignis,” performing his rap song “Calypso,” based on the Greek mythology story of Calypso.Two days later, when the film festival relocated to Bronxlandia in Hunts Point, Randolph presented his short silent film, also called “Calypso.” The film was initially created as the music video to accompany his song; both were inspired by a Greek mythological character. The film won the festival’s award for Best Cinematography.
Festival Director Priscilla Alvarez said she was blown away by Randoph’s talent while going through the selection process.
“We definitely had to give him an award because the film had all the elements we were looking for,” she said. “If the lighting can give you a feeling, that’s how you know, plus it had both the visual and storytelling elements.”
But the Mott Havenite identifies as more than just a rapper, writer or even filmmaker. Instead, he refuses to put limitations on his creative abilities because he knows that there are so many others with stories like his that don’t reach their full potential.
“In the Bronx, you grow up with a lot of prodigies who don’t get their potential fully manifested and it’s the job of people who get to a certain place to tell those stories,” he said. “Or to tell your own story to the best of your ability because they can’t, or they didn’t make it this far, or they lost their life too soon.”
The storyteller is steeped in his love for his community and is conscious about how his path affects that community in every way. Years ago, the young creative had established a group with his friends called Listen to the Kids, but finding locations to perform was difficult.
Many didn’t take them seriously and they received a lot of rejections, but the ambitious adolescents managed to find places like Bronx Native opening up for other acts and hosting open mics. This allowed them to build an audience to venture out independently.
“There weren’t a lot of venues and open mics in the Bronx for young artists to express themselves before 2017,” Randolph said. “Now, every other shop in the South Bronx has an open mic on a Tuesday night or random day.”
Bronx Native owner Amaurys Grullon remembers seeing something special in Randolph and his friends and, as a result, gave them a chance to show their work.
“They were all in high school at the time, maybe 18-19, and they were amazing,” he said. “They were all creatives who had that drive and when they asked me, I said ‘of course you guys can do an open mic here at the shop.’”
Today, Randolph is proud to know that he’s helped community arts by opening access to more community spaces for young artists.
“We have a culture here now. There’s a lot of artists here I know, people I know just from going to different venues and we just recognize each other,” he said. “There’s more of a camaraderie here between like-minded artists. Before, it was just different nerds in different basements putting music on soundcloud and seeing what happens.”
An archived photo displayed at the Bronx Museum of Arts, featuring a performance at an open mic by Randolph and his friends in 2017.
Randolph’s long-time friend and business partner, Jeziah Sanchez, says “Community is probably the reason Jeron has gotten to where he is today.” The two met in high school and bonded over the arts, and have been inseparable since.
Sanchez reminisced on their journey together, “We wanted to create platforms for artists to be heard and seen because we didn’t get those opportunities. Especially in the Bronx we had a lack of artistic spaces and venues.”
He has no intentions of slowing down. On top of frequent local performances, he and Sanchez are working to put together a start-up media production firm, L2TK, that brings together filmmakers, photographers, designers and other creatives to promote services for business owners and other artists in need of visuals.
Others in the community have taken notice. “Jeron is very focused and very driven,” offered Zanin Lindsay, another community creative who has known Randolph on the scene for some time.
The film festival’s director, Alverez, can’t stop raving about Randolph. “He is very talented. You have no idea. He checks all the boxes. It’s giving Oscars. I personally want to work with him and his team.”
What’s next for the energetic artist?
“I got God-given abilities that need to be pushed to their absolute in this present time,” he responded.