Hip Oak Bluffs vibe draws BET and CENTRIC

BET staff, from left: Michael Pickrum, CFO; Paxton Baker, general manager and executive vice president; and Stephen Hill, president of music and programming specials.
Photo by Ralph Stewart

BET staff, from left: Michael Pickrum, CFO; Paxton Baker, general manager and executive vice president; and Stephen Hill, president of music and programming specials.

It was part anniversary, part reunion, part celebration, and all party. The Washington D.C. based Black Entertainment Television (BET) network launched its new Centric channel in Oak Bluffs last year, and staged another glittery gathering Tuesday evening to celebrate the network’s growth to nearly 50 million American homes.

DJ D-nice kept the crowd dancing with a mix of hip-hop, soul, and reggae music that rattled the floor of Lola’s Southern Seafood. The stylishly dressed crowd generated heat, literally and figuratively, from the packed dance floor. Movers and shakers fanned out to every room, and spilled over to cooler patios and walkways.

Hip-hop legend Big Daddy Kane made an appearance late in the evening, to the delight, appreciation, and sometimes awe of the crowd.

“I grew up listening to his music,” said Patrick Senatus, a neurosurgeon from the Hartford, Conn. area visiting the Vineyard with his wife Annjanette on their annual vacation. They agreed this party was the place to be, and it certainly was when the raffle prize was drawn. “We won a trip to see the Soul Train Awards show in Washington, D.C.,” Ms. Ferris-Senatus, who is a doctor and professor at the University of Connecticut, said. While Los Angeles and New York are the entertainment power centers, Oak Bluffs in August is a microcosm of influential African-American opinion leaders, the kind of people Centric general manager Paxton Baker wants watching.

“Music is our DNA,” Mr. Baker said. “When we were thinking about coming to a location that was hip and fun, this was literally at the top of our list.”

It doesn’t hurt that many BET executives own homes or vacation on Martha’s Vineyard every summer.

“It’s the sense of acceptance,” Mr. Baker said, “that you can come and feel really comfortable and be accepted. And there’s great relaxation. And there’s also the hip, the vibe.”

BET chief executive officer Debra Lee made a promise to the crowd of 350 people on the occasion of the network’s second big bash in Oak Bluffs. “We had so many demands to come back, we came back,” Ms. Lee said. “If you keep watching Centric, we’ll keep coming back.”