Be The Change You Wish To See (Moving Beyond Entitlement)…

There are so many organizations outside of Donda’s House that I’ve supported financially and by other means. I don’t do it because I’m interested in having a transactional relationship with the organizations or the causes – I do it because I believe that it is the right thing to do and because I would not be able to accomplish even a quarter of what I am able to accomplish without the help of other people (many of whom do so quietly behind the scenes).

I hear so many entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders complaining about what people aren’t doing:

(1) People aren’t buying tickets to my event(s).

(2) People aren’t inviting me to their invite-only parties.

(3) People aren’t supporting my brand on social media.

(4) People aren’t supporting my business.

When I get frustrated sometimes I start walking down that path, but then I remember:

PEOPLE DON’T OWE ME ANYTHING! PEOPLE DON’T OWE US ANYTHING!

In order to earn the true support of people we have to work! We have to deliver quality experiences and quality products that make people want to continue working with us, that make people brag about what they’ve purchased from us, and that make people want to be committed & addicted to whatever it is that we’re selling.

When opportunities aren’t moving. When the shelves are full. When our phones are “dry” and our inboxes are empty… instead of ragging about our customers, our clients, our partners, and our cities, we have to look inward and ask some really hard questions:

(1) What can I do to create more support?

(2) When was the last time that I did the action I’m wanting from others – without any expectations? I’m a firm believer in the law of attraction. We get what we put out.

(3) Is this idea one that needs to be refreshed or aborted? Every mission that we start, is not a mission that we should finish. Especially when all of the signs and data show that it’s not worth pursuing.

When things get hard, it’s easy to point the finger outward. What I’m saying is that we have to start holding ourselves accountable for reflecting the change that we want to see in our industry, in our communities and in our world.

 

 

Currently…

Watching – Reality TV! I’m watching the Real Housewives franchise (whichever one is on Bravo). Our bike safety video Donda’s House made with Experimental Station’s Blackstone Bicycle Works. On Sundays I tune in to Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.

93oV8T0o

Listening to… SZA’s new album CTRL. My favorite track on the album is “Doves in the Wind” featuring Kendrick Lamar. I’m also feeling “Drew Barrymore.” I’m also listening to Kendrick’s Album. “DNA” is my favorite song to work out to, especially when I need to run. The album for the most part is super aggressive!

Shopping… I haven’t been shopping much lately! I was on this sunglasses kick for a while. I purchased frames from @melitacollection after receiving a gifted pair as a thank you for being a panelist. My brow lady also sales frames & I picked up a couple from her. Here are my favorite shades:

IMG_7431

IMG_7004

IMG_6764

Wearing… lots of Victoria Secret PINK when I’m not working & cute dresses & two piece sets when I am working. I’ve been working with my stylist Chiquita Carey for about 2 years now, and she keeps me looking as good as I feel on the inside. For the first time in my life I love everything in my closet & I know what works for me!

Loving... summer! I’m usually not a fan of extreme weather but I’ve been very intentional about having & enjoying some downtime! Whether going out to eat & out for drinks with my friends, taking long drives & getting lost with my husband & taking advantage of being a tourist in Chicago, this summer has been amazing. I’ve also had a chance to check out two new festivals for the first time. My husband headlined the Chicago Blues Festival, and I had a chance to check out Gary Clark Jr. for the first time. I also had a chance to check out the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware. We were able to check out DJ Jazzy Jeff, The Weeknd and Chance The Rapper while there.

Looking Forward To spending my hubby’s birthday in Colombia, South America! I love to travel & I’m excited about heading to South America for the first time. Travel is one of my favorite things to do, traveling WITH my husband is icing on the cake!

Planning – I’m playing around with a MAMBI Happy Planner. It’s “scrapbooking light” for me since I haven’t made time to Scrapbook lately. Che & I are also working on a massive new idea that I will be able to talk about soon. I’m very excited about it, because it is unlike anything we’ve ever done before. I’ll share more details as soon as I can.

Thinking About – the next 10 years a lot. Che & I have some major goals & milestones we’re aiming for collectively & individually. I’m also reading John C. Maxwell’s The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. John C. Maxwell is one of my favorite business writers and this book just like the others does not disappoint!

Eating – super healthy! One of my girls & I are attempting to lose major weight. The nutrition part of our diet includes smaller mini meals, very little sugar, no fried foods & lots of water. We’re a week into it & I have my second weigh in & measurement this week! I’ve also fallen in love with cucumber & lemon water! Happy to report that I’ve lost major inches in all of my target areas, so much so that a pair of pants I just bought a few weeks ago are now too big and they are baggy! Go me!

 

Stop Undervaluing Being An Employee!!!

I love Tony Gaskins but I hate this quote:

buildyourdream

In 2017, there is this perception that everyone should be an entrepreneur and I strongly disagree. Especially because people glamorize and have a misperception of what it means to be an entrepreneur.

People think becoming an entrepreneur means:

(1) I can get up when I want to.

(2) I can work when I want to.

(3) I don’t have to answer to anyone.

LIES!!! ALL LIES! or at least half-truths. When you start a company, it is one of the riskiest things you will do. There may be times when you don’t know where your next paycheck is coming from. There will be times when you have to cough up $5,000 or $10,000 that you didn’t have, and you will ALWAYS have to answer to someone (people with options who can take their time and their resources elsewhere).

In 2017, I believe that our culture undervalues being an employee. As an entrepreneur, there is nothing to me that is more valuable than people who share a similar outlook on the world, and that embrace the mission of Donda’s House. Donda’s House then, isn’t just my dream, it’s a collective dream. While I happen to be one of the co-founders of the organization, you can see the handprints and footprints of lots of individuals. You can see someone else’s ideas reflected in our programs. You can see someone else’s ideas reflected in our marketing and social media. You can see someone else’s ideas in how we train and orient our volunteers. You will hear people tell me when something is a bad idea or its the wrong timing.

As Donda’s House grows, I will be looking for people who can commit to Donda’s House for an extended period of time to help us reach our mission. Don’t get me wrong, I support entrepreneurship and I’m a huge advocate of entrepreneurs (especially women entrepreneurs) but I don’t think that everyone should be an entrepreneur. Just like I don’t think that everyone should be a teacher, a therapist or a writer. Many of the worlds largest organizations have thousands of employees. Facebook has 15,724 employees. Google has 57,000 employees. Microsoft has 94,000! Imagine if all of those people decided “I don’t want to build someone else’s dream…”

I also come across so many aspiring entrepreneurs who haven’t done the due diligence to really research their industry and fully develop products and services. If you are starting a business because you want to prove to some random person that you can, you’re going to have a hard time sustaining your business when you have challenges. If you’re starting a business because it’s something that you want to do, but there is no market (or you haven’t developed the market for it yet) you’re going to struggle, and someone that is more customer- or client- focused is not only going to catch up with you, but excel beyond you. Starting a business is about solving a problem and while it’s cool to be able to like (or even love) what you do, if you are not solving a problem that other people have, your business is going to have a hard time raising profit (or addressing a societal or public challenge if you’re in the nonprofit sector).

As Myleik Teele, one of my favorite podcasters & business women says you can be “entrepreneurial” in most settings. You don’t have to necessarily have your own business to have your professional goals and dreams realized. Now if you’re employed by a company that has a culture that you’re not a fan of, that’s one thing. If your ideas are never acted on or you don’t feel valued that’s another thing. Perhaps you don’t have the right employer. My hope is that we can stop acting like being anything other than the CEO, the Director, or the Chief, or the entrepreneur is any more valuable than being in HR, being an assistant or being the front desk manager. Very few companies can exist as single-person entities. As someone who has been on both sides of the fence and in many ways I still operate within other organizations as an advisor, as an assistant (for my husband’s Rhymefest brand) and as a workshop facilitator  – ALL of the roles, from the C-Suite to the maintenance staff are essential in creating a business’s success. Plus if you’re the CEO and you’re ranting and raving about how much better you are (because you’re in this leadership position) than others, it could lead to resentment and frustration with the other members of your organization who have to see & hear you dissing and undervaluing their contribution to the organization or company’s success.

One of the organizational leaders that I have great respect for, has had the same assistant for over 20 years. When it comes to the people that I hire, while I will gladly support those who need to make transitions for whatever reasons, I am hoping to hire people that want to make a long term – 10, 15 + year commitment to the mission so that we can push OUR collective vision forward.

Vision Board 2017

On this New Year’s Eve, I’d like to share my 2017 Vision Board with you guys. It is my ritual to complete my board on the last day of each year in preparation for the New Year. My Vision Board lives above my desk in my home office. Remember that the things you place on your Vision Board may not manifest within that calendar year. I actually keep all of the pieces from my former Vision Board in a scrapbook, as well as photos of the full constructed board so that I can continue to track the ways that my vision manifests.

img_a9d7b7265eb2-1

 

I have witnessed the power of my Vision Board in so many ways. For example:

  • Serena Williams was on my 2014 Vision Board and this year she and I both received the Ebony Power 100 Award in the “Women Up” Category.
  • Black Girls Rock was on my 2014 Vision Board and I’ve had several calls with their team and still hope to collaborate at some point in the future.
  • Magic Johnson was on my 2013 Vision Board and I’ve built a great relationship with one of the former EDs of his Foundation who has become a great mentor and friend to me.
  • Professional Headshots were on my 2013 Vision Board, I’ve been blessed to be photographed by some of the best photographers in the country and I now have a full collection of professional photographs.
  • Fundraising was a big goal for me in my professional career (it always is lol) especially in 2015, and 2015 was our biggest fundraising year ever. We received a $133K grant from the Louis Vuitton Foundation which was the largest single grant/gift we ever received. Each year we’ve been increasing our funds raised in the double digits.
  • I used to want a BMW X6 and really wanted a new car so I put that on my vision board in 2015. My husband surprised me with a new car (an Acura MDX) for Mother’s Day in 2015.
  • Travel is always on my Vision Board. I have been blessed since 2014 to take multiple trips around the country including to Johannesburg, South Africa, Mumbai, India, London, England and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. All of those trips except for one, were paid for by someone else. I have also had the opportunity to travel domestically quite often.
  • I hired a personal stylist, who helped me to step my style game up. That was on my Vision Board for 2016. She is the bomb and helps me to get dressed for all of my events.
  • Issa Rae and I both received the Ebony Power 100 Award in the “Women Up” Category and she was on my Vision Board for 2016.
  • I put my dream closet on my 2015 Vision Board, and Che & I ended up redoing our closet by converting one of our bedrooms into our closet. Our house was built in 1910, and closet space wasn’t important at that time, but our bedroom closet fulfills our needs.

Here are the some of the highlights of my board:

img_2765

I want to travel to more countries and I want to travel more for fun. Each and every item on my Vision Board has some significance including the number 50.

img_2766

From a work perspective, Litehouses are my number one priority for 2017 and of course fundraising so I’ve got a check written to me for $500K (the minimum I’d like to raise in 2017).

I also love to write and continue to be inspired by Zora Neale Hurston, who in the photo was on an excursion in the Everglades. I love her work as a Cultural Anthropologist and as a Creative.

I also want to spend more time with my girl friends in 2017 so for the first time friendship is represented on my Vision Board.

Finally, I want to eat healthier so I’ve got fresh produce on my board. I used to put weight loss goals on my Vision Board, but now I understand that the path to weight loss is in my diet, and in my exercise.

img_2767

I always want to remind myself to be mindful and to be intentional and I want to live from a perspective of abundance – financial, philanthropic, space, productivity, etc. When we live from a scarcity perspective – fear, paranoia, mistrust, squandering… things are indeed scarce. On the continuum, I’d like to move closer to abundance in every area of my life.

Beyonce is the standard for me in terms of excellence. I’d like for Donda’s House to be featured in Fast Company at some point and I love the words “Create. Defy. Slay.” At this point her name is an adjective for greatness, and I aspire to her level of greatness and excellence in my field. I am also inspired by the fact that Beyonce is married to one of the greatest businessmen in our lifetime. As a married woman, I am always inspired by other couples who are successful.

img_2768

Gabby Douglas inspires me so. This image is a reminder to literally and figuratively stretch. It is a reminder to be more conscious of my health and to be more flexible.

From a marriage perspective, I’d like to continue my tradition of a weekly date night with my husband so that’s on my board.

Check out this blog from my colleague Emile Cambry who is the founder of Blue 1647. He keeps me inspired and does amazing work.

Thank you for reading my blogs this year and for all of your positive energy and love! I hope 2017 brings you everything you desire as well as good health, love, prosperity and a sense of fulfillment.

Down In The DMs: 20 Ways To Be A Better Social Media Supporter

giphy

People stay in my inboxes (all 10 of them) with requests. My voicemails. My text messages and my DMs.

Requests to post flyers.

Requests for free tickets to concerts.

Requests to make a donation.

Requests to “pick my brain.”

Requests for free consultations.

And there was that one time that somebody requested some Size 10 Yeezys.

I utilize my personal social media platforms to promote causes outside of Donda’s House that I am passionate about and I even employ my hubby to use his massive personal platform to do the same.

Most of the time I oblige, because that’s just the kind of person that I am. Except in the case of the Yeezys, because it was a complete stranger, and hell, even I don’t have any. Plus the message totally creeped me out, but I digress.

I wrote a whole blog rant about reciprocity and transactional relationships here. This message isn’t targeted at any one specifically, it’s more of a PSA because this happens to me and other organizational leaders that I know all of the time.

Before you ask someone to post something, ask yourself if you’ve been “social media supportive (sms).” Have you shared the posts that they’ve asked to be shared? Have you liked posts they’ve posted? 

It doesn’t have to come down to a post-for-post or like-for-like with that individual person, but are you a social media team player, or do you “hog” your engagement?

As a nonprofit administrator/social entrepreneur, I am here to tell you that social media engagement is gold!

Although it only takes a second to “like” or to “share” someone’s post, it translates into so much value for us.

Engagement is converted into influence, and influence equals sponsorship support, it equals access to key influencers and brands and it equals a larger “megaphone” to amplify our events and ultimately our impact.

I’m theoretically petty, but I’m not petty in practice so here are some ways that you can be sms, so I don’t have to smdh:

(1) Like an organization or business page on Facebook.

(2) Follow an organization on Instagram and/or Twitter.

(3) On Facebook, “like” a post.

(4) On Facebook, “share” a post (especially if someone says “please share.”)

(5) On Facebook, click “interested” in an event, and if you’re planning to go click “going.”

(6) On Twitter, click “retweet.”

(7) If you see something that you like or have a positive experience with an organization or a business, leave a comment on their wall, or leave a positive review.

(8) Click “Follow” on LinkedIn.

(9) On Instagram click “like” and if you have a repost app, repost images or videos that you like.

(10) Subscribe to an organization’s or brand’s YOUTube page.

(11) Comments are like social media donations. Leave them! Even if it’s one word like “dope.”

(12) Tag or mention an organization in your post. This attracts other people to said organization.

(13) Help recruit! If you see something that applies to someone that you know TAG that person, so that you can connect them to the organization.

(14) Subscribe to the organization’s e-mail list.

(15) Share the donation link (If I see ONE MORE GoFundMe link…) When you share an organization’s link, it’s like a GoFundUs. It helps lots of people. Please share!

(16) When they ask a question, or ask for help even if you can’t personally help, please share the post or tweet. Someone in your network may be able to help or answer the question/call.

(17) If you do make a request, ask them if there is anything that you can share OR leave the door open for them to reach out in the future to ask you to share something.

(18) Orgs are always looking for funding. If you come across a grant or other funding opportunity, share it with the appropriate organization. When I come across funding opportunities I share it with other organizations.

(19) Sign-up to volunteer if you have the time. Even if it’s for one day or one project, orgs can always use an extra pair of hands.

(20) Donate. Every single dollar counts.

It is generally inappropriate to ask another nonprofit to use their platforms to post fundraisers unless requested, and it is definitely not in good taste when the organization currently has an active campaign (which for most nonprofits is all of the time).

Exhale. That felt good! Please reach out if you have any questions. You are officially qualified to be a Social Media Advocate/Supporter of the organizations, businesses and brands you like. 😉

 

Don’t Hurt (or Blame) Yourself…

I’m a serial monogamist. I can count on one hand (or maybe a hand and a half 😉 the number of serious relationships I’ve had. In between those relationships, when I was courting, I used to write letters to the guys I was interested in.

1930258_543701920051_7345_n

Caption: Me at 17 years old.  I was very Afrocentric. I rocked cowrie shells and an Ankh necklace (similar to the one Bey is wearing in the gif below). 

These letters would basically describe what I liked about the guy, and how I hoped that we could spend more time together.

I remember sending the letters to:

  • At least one popular guy (like, he played on the basketball team, starting lineup)
  • At least two awkward guys (that no one else seemed to really notice)
  • A grown man (who I had no business flirting with)
  • A ladies man (who I just knew I could convince to settle down lol)

I planned whole weddings back then too. I knew what colors our wedding would be (often peach was my primary color of choice), I remember writing my first name with their last names. I was a bridezilla before the word even existed, and in my heart I just hoped that the unsuspecting groom would fall in line.

1930258_543701930031_7963_n

Caption: The day I cut all of my hair off and started locking. It was a week after my 16th birthday. 

I never received a response back to any of the letters lol. Now back in those days, it was a huge hit to my self-esteem (and ego). I blamed myself, for these guys lack of interest in me.

Now that I’m older I can look back and realize that what was supposed to happen, actually happened. It’s hard to understand when you’re going through something, that what you’re going through is in divine order.

I thought about this because my husband & I were having a conversation, and he jokingly said “You stay with a man…” “Even when you were on the market, you never stayed on the market long. Guys snatch you up!” I laughed, but then reminded him about those letters and those times when I was interested in someone but couldn’t get a response back or couldn’t get their attention.

Plus I was a little different from my peers. I didn’t necessarily hang with the popular crowd, but I wasn’t a total social outcast either. I was kind of nerdy, and I had also moved to Minnesota from Missouri, and a lot of my peers knew each other and had pre-existing relationships and connections. I think I still had my Missouri accent (which is very distinct from the Minnesota accent). Sometimes, a “no” may not have anything to do with you and I later learned that some of the guys were intimidated by me…

As Beyonce would say, “I’m just too much for you…”

tumblr_o6sogwo78y1t1ikz9o2_250

I just want to encourage you that the no’s you are experiencing, romantically, professionally or otherwise are either getting you closer to your yes, or they are like bullet proof vests, protecting you from a path that’s not meant for you.

 

Are We The Greatest? – Lessons from Muhammad Ali

While scrolling Facebook yesterday, I saw the headline “Muhammad Ali On Life Support”. I immediately felt a knot in my stomach. For as long as I can remember, Ali has been my personal example of a superhero in the flesh. The knot came into my stomach because in many ways like one of our greatest heroes, our community is on life support. Due to concentrated poverty, apathy, the funding infrastructure for schools & the breakdown of our families – black people in America are in the fight for our lives.

3-t411007-888

Seeing Ali tower over his opponents with such fierceness and power was a visual reminder that any challenge – no matter how great could be overcome. Ali reminded us through his presence and his poetry that whatever we set out in our minds to do -we could accomplish. Long before the mindfulness movement became mainstream, and far in advance of the affirmation movement, Ali was showing us how to recognize, declare and walk in our greatness.

muhammad-ali-i-am-the-greatest-i-said-that-even-before-i-knew-i-was.-t-shirt-in-white-or-grey-10942-p

I couldn’t sleep last night because I couldn’t stop thinking about The Champ’s condition. The headline, “Muhammad Ali Dies at the age of 74” and a waterfall of tears came. The tears came because our hero had made his transition and all I could think about was the fact that we have more African American millionaires than we’ve had in history. We have more ways to use our platform via social media than we’ve ever had before but we have more black men in prison than we’ve ever had before. 47% of our African American 18 – 24 year olds in Chicago are either unemployed or not in school. Our community is the epicenter in many ways of health disparities. We are still trying to convince people that we are human, that we matter and that we are deserving of our basic human rights, but we’ve gotten so caught up in our individual pursuit of happiness and success that we’ve lost sight of our collective pursuit of happiness and success.

Our Brother, Muhammad Ali, used every opportunity to speak about and highlight institutional racism & he did so unapologetically, coherently & swiftly. He used his platform to uplift his people, even when that meant he would suffer personally. He lived on the Southside of Chicago at one point, and he was accessible to his people. He shared his love and his presence with our brothers and sisters in Africa – at a time when it wasn’t trendy or popular to do so. He affirmed their humanity!

We need a million men like Ali to rise up in his place. Men of character. Men of integrity. We have many men walking around with the intellectual and athletic skill of Ali, but we have few with the integrity and the heart of Ali – and that’s why I cry. The year is 2016. In numerology, 9 is the number of completion, so I am not totally surprised that Ali (and so many other great human beings) made his exit this year because he left just as poetically as he arrived.

Young-Ali

In 1954, a 12 year old Cassius Clay had his bike stolen, which lead him to a gym as he sought revenge from the thief. Interestingly enough Joe Martin, a white police officer told him he’d “better learn to box.” 6b9c32388667f3c44b7ca1bd136e7edd

This past year, I had the opportunity to attend Rumble Young Man, Rumble an event that took place at the Muhammad Ali Center, sponsored by the Campaign for Black Male Achievement. The Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville Kentucky is the epicenter for black male achievement work and multiple leaders gathered to share ideas, build coalitions and center ourselves to return home to continue to work on improving the world for African American men and boys.

Here are my photos from the Rumble:

Ali is the stuff that legends are made of and I am certain that because of his example, we will all continue to pursue the greatest versions of ourselves and once we do that our people will be the greatest version of ourselves…