I recently had the amazing opportunity to attend this year’s Summit21 in Atlanta. For those of you who don’t know, Summit21 is hosted by none other than the team over at 21Nintey and Blavity. Summit21 is a two-day conference packed with encouragement, leadership, business tips, health, beauty, fashion, success, and more #BlackGirlMagic than one can handle. I showed up on day one hopeful that I would be able to grab a few nuggets to inspire me as I continue to pursue my goals outside of my 9-5. I left at the end of day 2 feeling mentally overwhelmed in the best way possible and emotionally poured into from all the guest speakers. Morgan Debaun, Founder/CEO of Blavity, and her team left nothing to be desired. They covered every base from spiritual guidance with Sarah Jakes Roberts, to being a BossMom with a bossmom panel, to political fierceness with Angela Rye. We danced it out with Daisha Graf and found our center with Latham Thomas.
The theme for this year’s conference was Money, Beauty, and Impact. Attendees were provided a schedule and could choose to either focus on one track, or they could mix it up and pull a little from all 3. I chose the latter. We began each morning together to meditate and set the tone for the day, followed by various breakout sessions and fireside chats that each gave me so much life and guidance. The first speaker I sat in with was Myliek, CEO of Curlbox, where she discussed “Limitless Living: Overcoming Yourself to Reach your true potential”. Being a naturalista and natural hair blogger, I look up to Myliek for so many reasons. She is an innovator, business woman, and now a BossMom herself as she just welcomed her baby boy 11 weeks ago. Myliek spoke of the “how” when it comes to limitless living. Some great points that I took away from her were: • Action itself is the art of limitless living • You must be ok with where you are • Always act with intention • Limits are self-imposed, absolutely removable, and very deceiving • Act as if you chose this On day 1 I also attended sessions such as “Crowned in Confidence: Reshaping your Beauty Narrative” with Dre Brown; “Setting up your home for studio magic” with Maya Washington; “BossMoms: Structuring your life for maximum impact” with Mattie James, Christina Brown, Shennel Fuller, and Sada Jackson. I left feeling so empowered after day 1. 1200+ motivated black woman under one roof can do that to you. I didn’t know how we would top it….and then, day 2 happened. I chose to start day 2 with the Fireside chat with Richeliu Dennis (SheaMoisture), Melissa Butler (The Lip Bar), and Beatrice Feliu Espada (The Honey Pot Company).
As a Sheabassador it was important to me to listen in on this discussion to see what Rich has in store for the company. He always drops great business knowledge and I knew this talk wouldn’t be any different. When asked by CEO/Founder of The Lip Bar, Melissa Butler, “What are some of the challenges that you faced with the scaling and selling of SheaMoisture?” the response given by Rich made such an impact on me: “Building a business and selling it to create wealth for your family/community is not a bad thing. What is a bad thing is when you do that, and you walk away without reinvesting and building up your community to create generational wealth there” – Richeliu Dennis Summit21 2018 The opportunity to work and create with SheaMoisture has always been what I call “beyond the bottle” for me. This is a company that I can proudly say I believe in their mission. Rich was able to create multiple successful black owned businesses with all intentions of reinvesting into our community and creating generational wealth so that we can continue growing together. This is evident in his New Voices Fund, a 100-million-dollar fund created to provide capital, access, and expertise in black female entrepreneurs. Rich spoke in detail about the New Voices Fund to the all-female audience. Yet another reason I am proud to be a Sheabassador and a part of the Sheafam. Next up was Alex Wolf who addressed “Capitalizing on your blackness as a means to defend from cultural appropriation” where we learned everything in our culture “Starts with HER”.
I got my whole spiritual life given to me by Sarah Jakes Roberts who was interviewed by Marissa Wilson, and then I learned “Melanin Maintenance: Everything you need to know about skincare” with Dr. Michelle Henry. Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, who is the Senior Vice President, U.S. Strategic Community Alliances & Consumer Engagement for Nielsen (catch that title), discussed “The Power of SHE: Why marketers and brands need to engage African-American women” and I learned the importance of using various platforms to engage with certain age groups of black women. The latter part of day 2 is what I wasn’t ready for. When asked by Txture Mag to potentially interview Ashley Blaine (Dear White People) I had to honestly admit I wasn’t familiar with her. Let me tell you, the way the universe works blows my mind at times. I was fortunate enough to make it to the main stage room early enough prior to Ashley’s fireside chat to find a great seat. This seat just so happened to be next to a girl (find her on IG @SheWhoKnewNothing) who may undeniably be Ashley’s biggest fan. We started casually chatting prior to the fireside chat and she gave me a quick run down on who Ashely was, some of her work, and why she’s just that dope girl that everyone should know. Within moments her passion got me so excited to meet this actress that she was excitedly talking about. Little did I know what the next hour had in store for me! Ashley’s fireside chat “Passion vs Purpose” with Robyn Thede seemed like it was just for me.
The last two years has been filled with my own attempt at deciphering between what my actual purpose is versus things that I am just passionate about. The talk between Robin and Ashley was not only funny, real, and insightful but they let me know I’m not alone. This is just a part of the journey, but once you do figure out your purpose you won’t be able to simply walk away from it. I could write an entire blog post on what I took from their talk (so please comment if you would love for me to do that), and it’s honestly incredibly hard to narrow it down, but I think I’ve managed to choose what hit me the most from both incredible women. “Let go of those that when you express your dream to them and they express their fears to you. Surround yourself with people when you say, ‘This is my dream’ they say, ‘How can I help you get there’. I know that’s easier said than done. That may only be one person, and it may be your reflection in the mirror. But every time you speak that dream out loud you will attract people who support that dream. So, if you can identify people that express their fears back to you when you express your dreams and hopes, that’ll help you weed people out” – Robin These This was the response given by creator, executive producer and host of “The Run Down” on BET, Robin Thede, when asked by an audience member “Give advice to any of us who are stepping into our purpose but still have something that we need to let go of”. This was the response that that unexpectedly helped to calm my nerves and give me the permission and confirmation I’ve been looking for.
All my life I have hesitated in making certain decisions waiting for the approval of those I hold dearest to my heart. My mother, signs from my brother (now an Angel in heaven), my aunt, and a few others. I’ve second guessed myself far too many times as I let their fear-filled responses cloud my judgement and silence my intuition. Who knew this fireside chat discussing Purpose vs. Passion with Robin alongside Ashley Blaine would be the turning point for me?! No longer can I hesitate to walk away from people or situations that do not serve, encourage, and support what I know in my heart I was sent here to do. “What I want to say about engaging your community and your circle is you have to believe. If you don’t believe in the people that you’re looking at every day, if they don’t believe in you…find people who believe in you because those are the people that you need around you and they are not always going to be easy to find. So, when you find that tribe, stick with them. So, when you do get those accolades it means nothing if you don’t have those people who were there with you from the beginning” – Ashley Blaine When asked by 21Ninety audience member @SheKnewNothing “The connectivity in terms of collaborative effort for black people is necessary. It allows us to uplift people that we typically wouldn’t see and connect with.
What is your biggest tip in terms of working with interdependence and being a collaborative effort? How do we strengthen collaborative effort?” Ashely’s response hit home for me. In 2017 it was brought to my attention that someone I would cross oceans for wouldn’t jump a puddle for me. I learned the hard way that not only did this person not have my back, but they also didn’t believe in me. A reality that crushed my spirits, and almost caused me to give up on myself. I was made to think for a moment that the only way I would ‘make it’ is if they carried me along. Nothing about this sat right with me. I always knew I wanted to grow and help to build a strong successful team around me so that we could advance together. But what does it all mean if you have folks drilling holes in your ship? What does it all mean if you have people fake supporting you but secretly feeling as if you’re not shit?! This is when I began my mantra #FindYourTeamLoveThemHard. Because I do believe in collaborative effort and supporting one another’s goals and dreams because there’s room at this table for us all, I also must be mindful of surrounding myself with those who TRULY BELIEVE IN ME! Most importantly I must believe in myself so that I can easily identify what it looks like when people don’t.
Whew! So much right?! I would like to thank Txture Mag for the opportunity to attend this year’s Summit21, and the team at 21Ninety and Blavity for all their hard work they put into pulling off such an incredible weekend. I certainly must thank each guest speaker that showed up and showed out. This was just a testament to what can be done when woman, black woman specifically, come together to share, embrace, tell their truth, inspire, network, grow, love, and yell out an occasional YASSSSS in black girl solidarity. I know that I have been forever changed. I hope to keep in contact with so many of the awesome woman that I met and see where we can go and what manifests from this connection we will forever share. It truly was the epitome of curls, love, and life.