WATERLOO — They’re the dynamic duo of east Waterloo.
And they think the east side — and specifically its historic “north end,” the historic cradle of a large portion of Waterloo’s African-American population — is pretty dynamic too.
They’re singing its praises from a social-media mountaintop and it’s sweet music to a growing gathering of Facebook viewers.
Lifelong friends and sometime publishing collaborators Joshalyn “Rocki” Hickey Johnson and Cheryl “Chaveevah” Banks Ferguson have started a regular Facebook video program, “North End Update,” that is pulling views from current and former residents from multiple states.
They’ve had numerous guests since the half-hour program’s April debut, ranging from Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart to a pest control expert.
The show typically airs live at 4 p.m. every Friday on the North End Update Facebook page from Johnson’s landscaped backyard. But they’ve also taken the show on the road and done live shows from the North End Arts & Music Festival as well as the Waterloo Homecoming celebration in early August. Previous shows also may be viewed on the Facebook page.
“We’re getting a lot of good feedback, I know that,” Johnson said. “I just thought it was a good idea to highlight some good things, because you get so tired of hearing the negative.”
“This is my best friend,” Ferguson said of Johnson. “And sometimes, your best friend can get on the phone and say, ‘Hey’ what do you think about this idea? Why don’t we do this? I’ve got this idea: We can do this broadcast...’ And that’s how it started. I felt like I was going along for the ride. I said, ‘OK!’ “
“I’ve found that out about Chaveevah through the years. She’s very animated,” Johnson said. “She gets the same excitement I do out of the things I come up with.”
“As long as it doesn’t look like death or injury, I say, ‘OK,’ “ Ferguson said.
Ferguson said the first broadcast was about 10 to 15 minutes.
“We didn’t think it would catch because it was getting to the point like it was a 25-minute show,” Johnson said. “But people kept watching, and ‘liking.’” on Facebook. “So we kept it at 30 minutes. Now we have two guests per show. And people are inboxing us wanting to be on.”
They did their first live remote from the Jesse Cosby Neighborhood Center, where Ferguson, an accomplished local artist, has painted a mural.
At the Waterloo Homecoming celebration, “there were people that weren’t able to attend,” Ferguson, and many expressed their appreciation online. The outdoor portion of that program attracted 2,000 views.
Since then, the two picked up the mechanics of sharing the program with numerous individuals “tagged” on Facebook, placing it on all their timelines.
“It’s just community stuff and community people that other people may or may not know. It gives them a chance to talk about what they do,” said Ferguson, a former Courier staff writer.
“The greatest reward we’ve gotten is from people from all over,” Johnson said. “The North End art fest, we had people from Wyoming, New York, you name it, saying ‘Thank you for doing this. I wanted to be there but now I can be there. And live at that.
“That’s the biggest reward, making people feel like they can be there,” Johnson said. “And our slogan is ‘Be There or Be Virtually Square.’ Everybody wants to be there.
“Our motto also is, ‘There’s always something good going on in the North End, and everywhere else in the Cedar Valley,” Ferguson said.
“But we try to give it with a North End perspective,” Johnson said.
Johnson noted she’s the funny, quirky half of the pair, asking off-the-wall questions, while Ferguson is the willing “straight man,” so to speak but zings in a few of her own once in a while. She was the one who suggested they begin each program — typically on a Friday afternoon, at the start of a weekend — with a hearty, “Boomshakala,” a word coined by the band Sly & the Family Stone in its late ‘60s hit “I Wanna Take You Higher.”
“Instead of, every time, ‘Good afternoon,’ you know it’s Friday! We want people to wait for it and be the right when we say it. That’s a goal for a lot of viewers, is to make sure they catch the ‘Boomshakalaka’ “
Most shows also are held in Johnson’s picturesque garden-style back yard, complete with a running waterfall.
North End Update also can be seen on the “Rocki ‘n’ Chaveevah” Facebook page.
The North End Update site has about 300 followers, “but the viewers are so much more,” she said. And they’re drawing a following. Ferguson said she attracts stares while shopping.
“We’re famous,” Johnson said.
Some folks also will greet them in social settings with “Boomshakalaka.”
There’s also usually wine involved.
“It’s just a prop,” Johnson said.
At least until the broadcast is over.