J. Ivy is the inaugural winner of the Grammy for Best Spoken Word Poetry Album, and that’s not the only way he’s making moves right now.

For Grammys week, Bulleit Frontier Whiskey hosted a launch event on Thursday night with J. Ivy for the public screening of his short film for their Pioneer Project mentorship campaign.

The whiskey brand partnered with United Masters (UM) spoken word poet J. Ivy to be the face of their latest push to encourage the next leaders on the frontier of culture.

In partnership with UM, the multiyear commitment will dedicate 100 hours to provide up-and-coming talent with mentorship from top-tier people in the focus areas of art, sustainability, food, cocktails and mixology and technology.

Col3trane performing at A Toast to the Times | Photo: Bulleit Frontier Whiskey

“There were a couple of reasons why we wanted to take this route. We did a Remix Challenge to really just get people excited about the campaign with J. Ivy. He put out the call to action to his followers and others to describe what the frontier meant to them over a beat, and we got so much engagement we weren’t expecting,” said Johannah Rogers, Brand Director at Bulleit. “It really unlocked insight for us that people may love money and all these things, but at the end of the day they’re looking for mentorship, they’re looking for time with established people to learn from them. So, I think it’s great that we’ve made this commitment with United Masters to provide mentorship just knowing that the community wants it and needs it.”

Photo: Bulleit Frontier Whiskey

The night was full of lite bites, curated Bulleit cocktails, a graffiti wall with a live artist, tons of photo ops, a live performance from UM artist Siobhan Bell and the debut of J. Ivy and Academy Award-nominated director Carlos Lopez Estrada‘s 90-second short film, A Toast To The Times.

The overall goal of the short film was to inspire anyone with a vision to not give up and push forward with a positive outlook on the endless possibilities.

“It absolutely is very special to connect with Carlos, even if you wanted to look at it from an industry standpoint and the rise of people of color, the rise that we had to fight for and the struggles we had to make to get to certain places in the industry and the world of the arts makes it significant for the two of us to have this moment,” he said. “I do what I love with my God-given talent. Everyday life is centered around what I was born with. I don’t have a nine-to-five, I have a 24/7. To connect with Carlos, another brother who is living life through his art is incredible. We had those conversations and both felt that it was special that the two of us coming from the backgrounds we came from did this. It was us telling our story and a story that was representative of everyone.”

The Pioneer Project has been in the works for almost two years, but the mentorship aspect was created in the last few months following the organic feedback from the Remix Challenge that J. Ivy assisted with. Although the starting point is 100 hours, it’s possible that can change over time as the program evolves. He was happy to be the first person selected and the lead for the campaign as a dream chaser himself.

“I’m just humbled and motivated by the moment,” he said. “I put a lot of work into my craft over the years as I’ve been doing this for a long time now, and it feels like the beginning, which is beautiful. This project is something that’s always resonated with me, and when we connected about the idea it was right in line with what I’ve been aiming at for years which is being a pioneer, a history maker and wanting to make an impact with my gift, my art, my poetry.”

He continued, “I have a quote that says ‘dreams don’t come true, they are true.’ That quote is really centered in manifesting what’s in your heart and making those dreams become a reality and this project is all about that. It’s like a bat signal, an alert, an alarm to the dreamers to encourage and inspire them to make sure they push forward with their dreams.”

The Chicago native believes anyone can manifest their dreams as he’s an example of someone who turned his wildest dreams into a reality. He credits the mentors along his journey for seeing his gifts and motivating him to pursue his heart’s desires. One of his biggest cheerleaders who initially highlighted his writing skills was a high school teacher named Ms. Argue, who suggested he participate in a talent show.

“I read this poem and after class, she pulled me to the side and said, ‘you have a really nice speaking voice. I have a talent show coming up.’ I’m like ‘no Ms. Argue, but what I learned is that I’m not going to argue with someone named Ms. Argue.’ A few weeks go by and she said, ‘last time I asked you to do this show, you faked me out. I have another one coming up and you have to do it,'” The Poet Who Sat by the Door artist shared. “My first time ever on stage as terrified as I was, I received a standing ovation. Immediately, my life changed or shifted.”

This life-changing moment is what he wants others to have, especially the Remix Challenge winner, Dailyn Santana, as she will have a one-hour mentorship session with J. Ivy.

“The goal is to share stories and experiences and let her know that she’s incredible with her gift,” he continued. “I always remind people that people feel your spirit before they feel anything, so it’s important that you let that energy guide you and have confidence in what you want to do and why you’re here on this earth. We all have a purpose, and some people don’t have the courage to live their purpose or they let doubt and fear get in the way. A lot of our conversation will be centered around that.”

Bulleit’s ultimate goal for the mentorship program is to help change the lives of people in communities across the nation.

“My hope for any brand is that they leave the world a better place, and Bulleit is specifically intentional about that. That’s why we’re pushing the frontier because we want to champion the people who are progressing.”