Last Friday, two undergraduate students launched their production company, Peng Produktions, with a celebratory party. Solely Liati, a junior majoring in business administration, and Anja Tempel, a junior majoring in dance, have started a company to produce events specifically curated for Black women.
Inspired in December of 2022 while listening to “Peng Black Girls” by UK rapper and singer ENNY, Liati and Tempel decided to curate a space for Black women to feel wanted and seen. Released in October 2020, the song “Peng Black Girls” was revered for its celebration and cultural critique of how society treats Black women. Peng is UK slang for “cool,” and the uplifting lyrics, like, “Raise my voice, you gonna say that I’m angry / Kiss my teeth and now you say that I’m hood / Drive a Range, you think I’m up to no good / Give us a break and let us breathe, man / Give us a change, let us achieve, fam” made Black women feel appreciated when they are often overlooked and underappreciated.
With performances from Autumn Stallia, Love Keyyz, Vietta, Honey Blu and a DJ set by Rhi, the event was filled with warm energy and accompanied by purple lights projecting a fairy-like hue on all of their guests. Some attended the event in casual athleisure and no makeup, while others chose bold eye makeup and platform heels. As the room filled, it was clear that Liati and Tempel had succeeded in their goal for people to come as their most authentic selves.
Black women created a rainbow of pink, blue and red box braids swinging as they danced to DJ Rhi’s set before the performances began. Others wore their hair in a curly pineapple or loose and free. Some had their hair pressed, and some had a ponytail.
As guests entered the room, they paid the $5 entrance fee, went to the kitchen for their complimentary beverage and began dancing to a set list curated by DJ Rhi and reminiscent of the poster marketing the event.
“When I created that poster I was inspired by Black female musicians — artists like Lil’ Kim and Brandy. I just thought these women are so inspiring and inspirations to Black women,” Liati said.
During the night of their event, they welcomed the roaring crowd with a speech full of gratitude for the audience’s attendance because “‘by showing up for Peng Produktions, they were showing up for Black women.”
“We realized there needs to be more space for us. There needs to be more space for us to party, socialize our intellectual thoughts, and be creative,” Tempel said. “That’s what we’re trying to do here. We’re in production. This great live event is to celebrate, in honor of Black women.”
The next day, I held an in-person interview with the team, where we discussed the success of the night and the purpose of their company,
“It was an idea for a while and to be able to manifest it was really rewarding and also was just great to hear people say, ‘Wow, I really love this. The vibes are so good.’ That’s all we wanted out of it,” Tempel said, “and to accomplish that means success for us.”
Within their commitment to creating a space for Black women, Liati and Tempel are determined for their production company to maintain its focus on providing a safe and celebratory space for Black women. However, as “Peng Black Girls” became increasingly popular, it faced a controversy that, for some, put a sour note on its celebration of Black women.
In December 2020, ENNY released a remix of “Peng Black Girls” and replaced her darker-skinned collaborator with the light-skinned, biracial artist Jorja Smith leading to intense backlash and conversations about colorism.
“That’s something we do not want to promote. We want to be inclusive. Inclusive of everyone. We don’t want to have a hierarchy within a Black female space,” Liati said.
So why name their production company after a song with such a layered, viral issue?
“That’s something we’re going to be aware of and try our best to be considerate of,” Tempel said. ”That’s especially important to consider since we are lighter-skinned and biracial, which comes with its privileges. We’re utilizing Peng Black Girl as a source of inspiration.”
As I spoke to Liati and Tempel, it became clear that both women understand the criticism of the song and hope that guests of their events can refocus on the connection they felt with the lyrics
“We’re just trying to focus on the lyrics, the embodiment of what ENNY is talking about, and herself,” Tempel said. “The beautiful thing about the song is that she’s talking about the layers of being a Black woman and what that means. That’s just something we’re trying to focus on.”
Liati agrees, noting how creating a space like Peng Produktions will come with a lot of trial and error.
“We have a lot of unanswered questions for us as creators of what works and what doesn’t because we haven’t tried it out yet. The priority is Black women and Black females, first and foremost. What makes the most sense when promoting Peng Black Girls? What does it mean for other people of different ethnicities to celebrate us? Make us feel safe?” Tempel said. “For so long, we have been invisible, so what does it mean to turn around and reorient people’s way of thinking so, no, we’re not using Black women, actually, we’re going to enrich them. We’re going to give them love. We’re going to give them respect because people are taught to erase us.”
Already in the planning stages of its next event, Peng Produktions is ready to make its mark as its founders prepare to reach out to more Black women at USC and eventually the greater Los Angeles area.
“They need to know that when they come here, it’s not about them,” Tempel said. “If you’re not a black woman, it’s not about you. You’re not going to be in the spotlight. You’re not going to be the center stage of this, and you have to be okay with not being the focus of this but being there to celebrate someone else. Anyone can come, but they have to have the right mindset. They have to have the mindset of ‘I’m coming here to celebrate Black women.’”
For more information, follow @pengproduktions on Instagram.