Brooklyn raised in the hip hop age when brand was everything, Shaundell Newsome mastered the art of wrangling image into powerful message. Nearly a decade at Nellis Air Force Base, and a season of semi-pro football, led to a successful career as Director of Marketing for Stations Casinos. Launching his own business in 2006, Newsome weathered the economic downturn of ‘08 by taking the advice he lends his clients and reinventing his brand. Specializing in small business solutions, public relations and advertising, Sumnu Marketing has been named SBA’s Family-Owned Business of the Year for Nevada and manages a portfolio of high-profile clients from both the public and private sectors. The Vice Chair of the Urban Chamber has been married to a Las Vegas native for over twenty-five years and takes pride in having merged a family grounded in the legacy of success.
The High School of Communications and Graphic Arts was down the street from the school that got all the publicity—Julliard. When some of the students were in Broadway plays, we did all the playbills, the billboards, the advertising. So, in high school we were like a business. We had a media studio on one floor; one floor was the news, commercials and production. We had a full-on print shop. We used to do graphics with a T-square and real clip art. People like Spike Lee and those guys used to come our school for their graphics. When he did “She’s Gotta Have It,” he came to our school for folks to do some of the writing. Later on, people like Diddy came to the school for help with photography and graphic images. It was kind of like our own little community. What’s funny is that the other day KCEP had Curtis Blow on the radio. Curtis is a little bit older, and he talked about how he would take milk crates, ride the bus and just play music. The Fat Boyz, Whodini—nobody had any money, so we would all be on the busses and subways. Most of those guys were in the arts, in music, poetry, all of those different things. I was into the actual behind the scenes, the production, the graphic design. When they would sell tapes out of the trunks of their cars, I’d design the tape covers. Hip hop was really the igniter of what we did and the misperception of hip hop, was that it was one culture. Hip hop was actually multicultural from so many dimensions. The Asian community was actively involved, Puerto Ricans, Haitians, Dominicans, Jamaicans, Jewish, Irish—you name it—everybody was engaged. Hip hop was actually a brand and a cultural shift for a lot of things that happen today. We all tried to tell a story about what was going on in the streets. Now social media tells a story. In the military, obviously, you’re around different cultures. Then coming out to the West Coast, particularly Las Vegas, segregation seems to be implanted. It’s a lot of residue still within Las Vegas and Southern Nevada. In the last thirty years that I’ve been here, the valley has grown and expanded, but people’s minds have not fully expanded into what is possible. The real answer is what we tried to do with hip hop—bring all of those cultures together. Bobby Newsome, my father, served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. There’s a double exposure picture of him in a dashiki, wearing dark glasses and his afro. In the same photo, he’s in his uniform. The conflict—here he is as a black man viewing himself as a black man serving in a war for freedom for the Vietnamese, for a country where those same freedoms are not afforded to him. My father was able to buy his brownstone, get an education and get a great job by way of the military when he got back in the 70s. We still own that brownstone today. They made good by him, so that’s what he was saying—Understand that those opportunities are there. If I were going to rebrand Black Las Vegas, I would say do the same thing as we did with hip hop. Appreciate every person for who they are and what they do and what they bring to the table.