good news

Here's why we can't wait to get in the Hella Black Brunch kitchen with Chef Shonda

When we decided to have a Hella Black Brunch pop-up in New Orleans, we knew we wanted to expand our focus from simply building community with Black and queer folks of the African diaspora, to also embracing and supporting the burgeoning entrepreneurial community in their historically Black spaces.

In order to do that, it became important that we partner with folks native to the beautiful New Orleans community - folks working to build for themselves and those around them.

When we came into contact with Chef LaShonda Cross - most well and lovingly known as just: Chef Shonda - we knew it was a perfect match.

chef shonda new orleans chef lashonda cross

The partnership between Chef Shonda and Khafra grew organically, and - as most things do these days - over the Internet. Since our first fateful interaction, Chef Shonda has joined Hella Black Brunch Bonne Fete as our Executive Chef - and we’re so excited to share what we have in store with this collaboration!

But first, we wanted to give you a chance to learn about the person behind the chef’s coat.

We spoke to Chef Shonda earlier this month and discussed her origins, her love for New Orleans, her thoughts on the growing Black business community, and much more.
Below are some of our fave moments from the conversation!


Who is Lashonda/Chef Shonda?
I am a kind, fun loving soul who is honestly trying to spread a little peace, love, and happiness in this world. Because, honestly, the world needs more of it.

What drew you to the kitchen?
It started when I was 12 or 13 at home, of course - with family and cooking with my sister. Every Thanksgiving, we’d gather at her house. I was the one with her - in the kitchen, going to the grocery store, and learning. I was previously a carpenter building houses, and I found this peace in the kitchen. This quiet, this calm. It was unlike any other space.

chef lashonda cross chef shonda new orleans

Can you talk a little about being a Black woman working in the food industry?
So, I quit my job and I found a job in the kitchen at The American Sector Restaurant + Bar in The National World War II Museum. And then I found out that Chef Nina Compton, who was on Top Chef Nola, was opening a restaurant. I reached out to her and told her I wanted to work for her. She’s a Black female executive chef and I said “I promise you won’t regret it.” To this day, I don’t think she does. And we have such a beautiful working relationship.

In the culinary world it’s difficult for women, period. It’s a very male dominated game. To see Nina (who has not yet reached her pinnacle, because she has so much more in her) … but to see her and to know that I can too can reach such heights in this culinary world and be a force is such an amazing feeling.

chef shonda nola new orleans

A major facet of HBB centers on building community with Black folks over food. What is your relationship to food and community?
When you think of Nola, you think of food. And as far as community is concerned, food is one of the things that over time has always brought everyone together. Everyone is welcome at the family table. So I think that’s honestly how it all ties in. We’re all connected by not only the fact that we are all human, ut that [we have a universal] need to survive. And it is food.

Nola post katrina new orleans

Have you noticed anything different pre- and post-Katrina about Black entrepreneurship and the energy of New Orleans as a city?
I have never seen so many Black businesses ever, growing up in Nola and throughout my childhood. And not only are there so many, but they’re also flourishing. That’s because of the support that we have in the community. It’s happening all over and there’s no way we can fail if we are supporting one another.

Why did you decide to partner with HBB? What are you hoping comes from this?
When khoLi. reached out to me I did a little research on who she is and what she does with Khafra and what they stand for. Honestly, I couldn’t pass it up. The community support was a big thing for me. The LGBT community, that support was a big thing for me. And I said “Hey, why not?!” Why not support someone who is supporting us and what we do and not only chefs but just as people?

I hope that everyone who comes to sit down at the table and eat with us takes something away from the experience. That there’s some positivity and light in it all.

We hope so too. In fact, if you're ready to get into this menu with Chef Shonda ...



(all photos and video courtesy of Chef Shonda)


entrepreneur tips

KC Cohort 3.0 is on its way! - Applications open now.

When we began the second iteration of the Khafra Community (KC) Cohort last October, our goal was simple: We wanted to provide a 3-month strategy and development incubator for Bay Area small businesses and nonprofits, completely free of charge.

And we did just that. Plus, a little more.

khafra community cohort fall 2017

Our traditional work with small business entrepreneurs usually focuses on one-on-one brand strategy and implementation. However our second iteration of Khafra Cohort allowed us to create brave communal space, fostering connection and thought partnership for entrepreneurs who too often find themselves making some of their most important decisions alone.

SOL Development founding member Felicia Gangloff-Bailey with SOL Development manager BJ McBride

SOL Development founding member Felicia Gangloff-Bailey with SOL Development manager BJ McBride

Our Fall 2017 cohort included: Qulture Collective, Roots Community Health Center, Roots Healing, and SoL DeVeloPMeNT - all POC and (most) women-led organizations located in Oakland. We met with folks in five group sessions to outline their larger strategies, discuss the importance of message development, and identify ways to build internal capacity and hold themselves accountable. We even connected our cohort members with a team of mentors skilled in legal analysis, finance, strategic planning, movement-building, and more.  

Show & Tell, Qulture Collective, and Black & Brown Ballet owner Alyah Baker with SOL Development founding member, Karega Bailey

Show & Tell, Qulture Collective, and Black & Brown Ballet owner Alyah Baker with SOL Development founding member, Karega Bailey

To our surprise, each of these organizations were committed to healing of some sort, and used this core value to connect deeply with one another throughout the process.

Below, we share some cherished insights from last fall’s group.

The next KC Cohort begins this May!

On deciding to join the Khafra Community Cohort:

I am in a transitional phase for all of the different projects. So, I was looking for a space to think about my overall goal. And how to align them in a way that makes sense.
— Alyah
Two things. One is I’m at this juncture where I’m ready to take Roots Healing to a bigger, larger audience. Knowing that I needed help in making that visualization come to life. Two, because I really admire khoLi. and I knew she would bring together some phenomenal and intelligent people of color.
— Minerva
Our Executive Director, Dr. Noha, signed us up. She thought it would be good for us because our communications strategy and messaging has not been solidified in the past. We didn’t have a strong voice. She felt that we could use the assistance.
— Y'lonn
Roots Healing founder Minerva Arias with Alyah Baker

Roots Healing founder Minerva Arias with Alyah Baker

On how KC Cohort has transformed their visions and goals:

The biggest thing is taking the time to actually look at the grand vision and write down all of the different moving parts. Figuring out what I already have, pieces missing to get me closer to this bigger vision - a balanced life with all of these projects without feeling stressed. Where there are overlaps for areas of efficiency and where I need help. That was helpful.
— Alyah
It got us back into a pretty solid groove. From us doing the meetings on a regular basis, it helped me identify that the band needed to be checking in on a weekly basis. So we started doing that, we got on slack to check in with each other on the progress of things we wanted to accomplish. It helped the whole crew get on a routine. So that really has helped this month to solidify some things before our next release.
— BJ
It’s had a really huge affect on the way I view the content I put out and the questions I ask myself before. The purpose, why is it important, who is it important to? KC Cohort has helped me to take a step back and really think about my messaging and branding. And even for myself personally, it brought about a lot of personal growth.
— Y'lonn
Roots Community Health Clinic Policy & Public Affairs Manager Y'lonn Burris

Roots Community Health Clinic Policy & Public Affairs Manager Y'lonn Burris

On the unique experience of going through the program with a cohort of healers.

It was an affirmation, it let us know that we were on the same route. When you bring together a group where they’re all pushing towards the same things, it shows there is healing to be done in our community.
— BJ
When we had our cohort meetings, it’s made it more fruitful because we already have the same baseline. We all want to have our communities find freedom in the different avenues we all offer. We know there are different roads on the journey toward freedom and healing. So we’re like “You’re doing this, have you thought about this?: And offering each other ideas from an outside perspective, but also as someone who gets it.
— Minerva
It broadened my perspective of how we need to collaborate more as community. We say we’re whole health. We do focus on that but there are other aspects of whole health: music, yoga. So many ways to heal a community.
— Y'lonn
SOL Development

SOL Development

On the biggest takeaways from the KC Cohort?

So many! A major one for me personally was my first convo with the lawyer mentor in which she really pushed me out of my bubble of naivety. She was like ‘Think of the worst case scenario, and how do you protect yourself.’ Having disclaimers and having an eye opening experience in how to protect myself in the long run …
— Minerva
I really enjoy the mentor sessions. I think that those are really helpful. To get a chance to build with someone with a very high level of expertise. We haven’t touched everyone, but the ones we talked to were very helpful.
— BJ
It’s really important to take the time to make strategic plans for your business. We’re so used to planning and going after something but sometimes we get so fixated on one thing that we think that’s where we should put all the energy and not thinking if there are other priorities to focus on. To get clear on what story you’d like to tell and think of the pieces you need to put in place to move that forward.
— Alyah
Khafra Community Cohort, Fall 2017

Khafra Community Cohort, Fall 2017

Learn more about Khafra Community Cohort + 

apply today!

arts + entertainment

FEATURE: Dr. Aymar Jean Christian + love, participation, and the people

Loving on, and investing in, our community is central to our core values at Khafra.

In fact, in October, we launched the second iteration of our Khafra Community Cohort, a three-month communal incubator where we offer strategy and dream development support to local nonprofits, small businesses, and startup entrepreneurs eager to take their work to the next level.

The fall 2017 cohort included:  Qulture Collective, Roots Community Health Center, Roots Healing, SoL DeVeloPMeNT, BE Imaginative Collective.

khafra community cohort qulture collective

While it’s important that we share with and support our community as they develop their visions and work towards shaping the world for better. It’s equally important that we highlight others doing the same - especially when it begins with love for, and representation of, the people.

Aymar Jean Christian mini pano_0.jpg

Dr. Aymar Jean Christian is an example of someone whose love for community and eye for innovation has resulted in the creation of an online space expanding the narrative of queer and trans Chicagoans.

Open TV (beta) is a Chicago-based platform for queer and intersectional television, currently a research project by Dr. Christian, assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University.

The online platform, which launched in 2015, develops and hosts web series created by women, and queer and trans folks of color - folks desirous of offering a nuanced perspective of life in Chicago. Open TV contributed to the development of the Emmy-nominated web series, Brown Girls, whose Cinderella success story has been a beacon of inspiration for millennial creators of color all across the interwebs.

brown girls still

We spoke to Dr. Christian this past summer about the origins of Open TV. He discussed his beginnings, where he hopes to see Open TV go, as well as its role in the Chicago community.

We’ve shared some of the most important pieces of that conversation below.   

On the origins of his interest in web series

“I stumbled upon YouTube in 2007 and I noticed people vlogging (video blogging). I started comparing that to blogging but then I realized they were serializing the expression of their identity. I wanted to track people and see how [they were using the platform]. For a long time I didn’t think [vlogging] would be a thing. Academia pushed me to figure out how this mattered. I thought, most ppl who make web series don’t get them picked up on TV. But I realized it was going to be a big deal. I knew I wasn’t just talking about some people online, I was talking about the transformation of TV.”

On the meaning behind the Open TV’s name

“The name is extended from the book which is also called Open TV. It argues that the web opened television by opening the development process to producers. Circumventing gatekeepers on the web can foment innovation.”

#weareopentv #emmys

A post shared by Open TV (beta) (@weareopentv) on

On the evolution of Aymar’s relationship with Chicago

“I came to Chicago as a newbie for the job at Northwestern. And when I got here I didn’t know anybody. It took me a couple years to find people. I didn’t want to be here for the job and not participate in the city. At a certain point I realized I knew enough people to make something happen. With Open TV, I had a couple of artistic collaborators. It was really about working through those networks. I really had been building a base of support in Chicago. The city has grown to support the project as it was its own. I’m happy about that and that it’s a project for Chicago artists. Open TV shows the world there is so much intention and beauty here. That’s especially important when the rest of the world only talks about violence.”

brown girls behind the scenes

On Open TV's diverse roster

“I asked myself, why isn’t this on my TV screen? Last year there were 455 shows on TV. I wasn’t seeing anything that I was seeing in Chicago. We have new genre hybrids [like Brujos] mixing telenovela with the supernatural thriller. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t see this except for the fact that the people who have the skills don’t have the access.”


On his television inspirations

“Black sketch comedy in the ‘90s was super influential. There are lots of problems with the In Living Color skit with Men on Film. But for me, that was Black, queer people. I didn’t understand that they were making fun of queer people. I thought these were two fabulous people.”

On Open TV’s future

“I think we will expand outside of Chicago once we’ve tapped all of Chicago. But that will take many years. The challenge for me is to match creators with production teams. The thing about Chicago is we have strong communities in theater, performance, music and dance but it’s not as competitive as New York or LA. In Chicago, we have everyone here and lots of talent. We have enough space to collaborate and support each other. That’s what you need when you’re doing independent television.”

Khafra's excited to see how far Open TV soars as it continues to focus on amplifying the voices of Chicago’s queer creative community. Developing the work of creatives eager to enhance the beauty in their community is why we do the work we do. Make sure to visit Open TV and dig into their amazing roster of web content.

SIDEBAR: Khafra Community Cohort is coming to Atlanta in 2018. Learn more here.


Armed for Change: Love as Political Practice

On Wednesday, February 15, 2017, at 6 pm, our Co-Founder, khoLi., chatted live with Kate EllenKingston Farady, Monique Hankerson, Maggie Owsley ... and a few members of our extended community.

Khafra & Company understands that in these times, we must use all of our tools to create, effect, encompass, engender, negotiate, and perform the futures we envision. We must create a practice that serves us.

Using June Jordan as a grounding voice, the group joined together to crowdsource ways of using love as a political tool for a brighter, more equitable future.

Below, you'll find a list of of decontextualized links as resources that emerged from the group's hour-long discussion.

entrepreneur tips

Being first is not about an end result,

heather hiles equity entrepreneur

As of 2016 (when Cengage bought Pathbrite), I hold the dubious distinction of having raised the most venture capital of any African American woman founder, and of being the first and only African American woman to have successfully exited a venture-backed company in the United States.

But, being first has not about an end result, it’s always been about my process and practice.


I have again and again:

  • Developed an uninterrupted commitment to an idea.
  • Worked on that idea diligently.
  • Remained as equally committed to rest and reflection as I have been to the idea itself.
  • Surrounded myself with creative, empathetic, high-functioning individuals.
  • Developed and maintained a discerning eye, personally and professionally.

But most important, I have never believed I would fail.

Focusing on the act of being first won’t serve you. Very few celebrate the first to fail, or develop a terrible concept, or even a mediocre product.

We celebrate ingenuity, progress, a penchant for the bold and clever. We celebrate greatness.

Greatness is only ever achieved by developing a lifelong practice of making every moment a personal first.

Every moment is the first time in a specific part of your journey, one in which you can choose to excel.

And it is that choosing - that sustained practice of aligning yourself with a purpose, showing up for yourself, working diligently, and editing (your plan, your process, even your circle) fastidiously - that gets you to the finish line, not just quickly, but exceptionally.

To read Heather's full post as a part of LinkedIn's #IWasTheFirst series, CLICK HERE.


EXPLORE: Women at Work: Heather Hiles


Doesn’t your freedom deserve more?

Our CEO, @kholi, just shared her thoughts on the election ...


2016 election results trump clinton

How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything … OR … “Doesn’t your freedom deserve more?”

Honestly, every time some “post-racial” “tragedy” has occurred during the last three years, I’ve believed it my duty to respond with some type of khoLi.-created language or tool.

In reverse order, there’s been:

  1. The Oscar/Grammy Response
  2. The Reaction to Beyonce’s “Formation” Release
  3. The Murder of Eric Garner
  4. The Death of the Miracle Disguised as Flesh: Amiri Baraka

And my all-time favorite piece … wait for it …

if God can cook

To many, a few of those links might not seem tragic. I understand this.

It’s difficult to immediately parse out the ways in which one of the leading entertainment award shows negating (entirely) the work of black people, is inextricably linked to (or perhaps, simply telling of) American race relations.

The thing is, everyone didn’t/doesn’t feel this way.

Many of us (read: all your black friends) have continually made requests of all of us to critically discuss and challenge institutionalized racism and its affects on … well … all of us. And honestly, so many of us (read: mostly white people, but other ethnicities too) have refused to do so. Many of us have made racism — and all of its lasting attributes — a black thing.

INSERT 2016 election results, also known as, a swift kick in the face of white liberal smug and sarcasm, also known as forcible disillusionment.


entrepreneur tips

4 things we learned from the 5th Annual @StartOut Awards

If you follow our founder, @kholi, then you already know that the StartOut Awards Show happened at the St. Regis this past Friday (in SF).

Honestly, it was amazing. Even Leslie Jordan's too long stories about Chattanooga. 

But, of course, every moment is one from which we can learn, so - admittedly, without some much needed context - here's what being in the room taught us.

Wolfe Video Founder & CEO, Kathy Wolfe and Khafra & Company Founder, Carrie Y. T. Kholi

Wolfe Video Founder & CEO, Kathy Wolfe and Khafra & Company Founder, Carrie Y. T. Kholi

  1. #BlackLivesMatter (still) - Oh, of course, there were black people in the room. But honestly, a number that could have been counted on 2-4 hands. 
  2. #LesbianLivesMatter - We wouldn't even comment on this if StartOut were one of those other organizations feigning inclusion, while really only working to ensure the wellbeing of wealthy white usually male constituents.  We'd certainly take it for granted that the entire evening was basically the best of the best of the gayest of the gay.
  3. #WomanLivesMatter - Even if we had counted the number of women in the room (and don't get us wrong, there were definitely more than 4 hands worth), we would have eventually been reminded that the number of non-white women was certainly lacking.
  4. "We got a long way to go." - Like a young pop scholar once revealed, sometimes we're not nearly as close to the goal as we think.  StartOut is self-defined as being "driven to inspire all LGBTQ entrepreneurs to achieve new heights." And still, Friday - with its discussions of visibility and progress and full and equal rights - made clear that the full breadth of "all" is a space most catering to the LGBTQ community have yet to reach.

But these lessons are no shade to StartOut.

With a two-tiered membership offering education, research and funding options, mentorship, and a directory of some of the brightest LGBTQ entrepreneurs, StartOut is "a new community of leaders with economic resources and personal support." And like any new community, they need the integration of the rich diversity of their neighbors; they need the illumination of some of their lesser visible immediate community, and they need all of us to hold them accountable - through constructive criticism as well as participation.

Image via StartOut

Image via StartOut

StartOut currently has six chapters across the US, offering a variety of informational meetups and events throughout the calendar year.

Find one. Register for two tickets. Give the extra one to a self-identified POC.

Extra credit if she's a woman.

    entrepreneur tips, self care

    6 signs you might be the worst at doing the most

    We've all seen or been (some version) of this person at least once in once in our lives:

    They "show up" for everyone, all the time. Kind of. If "at least I can say I did it" is a kind of showing up. They always say "yes." They never have downtime. Busy might actually be their middle name. They seem, not so much "happy," as "eternally wired and quite possibly high, but not on life."

    They believe their life looks like this:

    via Google

    via Google

    But (if honest) it kind of looks like this:

    via Tumblr

    via Tumblr


    If this is you or anyone you know, check out Tina Williamson's tips from Lifehack below.


    Is this you?

    1.  You spend time worrying about time.

    This is the first clue. If you stress about even a five-minute change in schedule, jump right down to the solutions.  You are overextended.

    2.  You eat on the go.

    The last time you sat down for a proper meal was the family Thanksgiving dinner.  Really?

    3.  You’re not getting enough sleep. 

    You’re so tired that all you can think about is sleep, but ironically, you’re so busy that you don’t get enough sleep.  When you do blindly fall into bed at night, you wake up at the witching hour, compiling to-do lists while wrestling with your pillow.

    That’s right, you’re starting to resemble a zombie.

    4.  You don’t have time for friends, favors or hobbies. 

    You haven’t seen your friends in months, haven’t had time to phone your siblings in weeks and can’t even remember the last time you did something spontaneous.

    If you’re starting to resent people asking for favors, it might be time to consider cutting back.

    5.  Your Health.

    Are you experiencing muscle tension, back aches or insomnia?  While these symptoms could be from a number of issues, overextending yourself will cause stress, which we all know is the big “silent killer.”

    6.  Can’t handle changes.

    You want, no, let me rephrase, you need everything to go exactly as planned, and it’s not going to go as planned.  One little shift and like a Jenga puzzle, it’s all going to come toppling down around you.

    (Reuters/Toru Hanai)

    (Reuters/Toru Hanai)


    If you’ve crossed over into this muddy territory, you’ll need to consider making some changes.


    You will need to write a list to assess what changes you can make.  I know you don’t have time for lists–that’s the problem, right?  Well consider taking a day off work, or wake up extra early tomorrow.

    Start with outer changes. Maybe hire a housekeeper or a babysitter or maybe take a break from social engagements.  But along with outer changes, there are also some inner changes that will need to happen.

    Let’s get back to a balanced life, shall we?
    1.  Put you first.

    Put your own needs above all others.  Much like in a plane, always put your mask on first; you are no good to anyone if you break down.

    You are a mother/father, wife/husband, sister/brother and friend, but these roles don’t define who you are.  Do you something you love once a week.  Even if its just curling up with a good book.

    2.  Laugh.

    Stop taking life so seriously.  No matter what’s happening, life will go on; stop causing yourself unneeded stress.

    3.  Learn how to be assertive–say NO.

    Helpful hints to saying “no” without causing a rift:

    Tell them “maybe,” then take the proper time to think it over.
    Be honest and explain that you can’t commit because you have previous priorities.
    Soften the blow by saying, “I’d love to but…”
    Give them a suggestion: “I’m not the best person to help you with that because…”

    4.  Ignore Expectations.  

    Accept that what others think you should do might not be what you want or need.  And that’s okay.  You need to learn that what other people love, like golf or skiing, you really don’t enjoy.  Don’t be afraid to be honest.  Lose your “shoulds” and realize that you don’t have to do anything.

    5.  You’re not Perfect.

    If you miss a spot on the bathroom floor, it’s okay.  Being perfect can replace any sense of fun with a nagging, soul-sucking, endless effort that never gets anything quite right. Stop obsessing; perfectionism will only leave you frustrated.

    6.  Make yourself a realistic schedule.

    via  Gabrielle Lutze for Stocksy United

    via Gabrielle Lutze for Stocksy United

    Take a deep breath and focus on one task at a time. 

    Fully complete each task before moving onto the next.

    Are you ready to be better to yourself? Let us know how you're getting started in the comments.

    entrepreneur tips

    We could all learn something from this 22-year-old millionaire

    growing wealth

    There are so many things you can do in your 20s to grow wealth by the time you're 30. Like putting 25% of your paycheck into an untouchable savings account, saving specifically to invest, focusing on earning money and securing a financially stable future ... the list goes on.

    rudolph maag

    At 25, knowing that I still have about 5 years left to "get it together," my biggest obstacle is finding a well-paying job that will provide me with the biggest opportunity to invest in my future (read: I need a real paycheck and a real salary).

    Being in your 20s and in debt because of college is challenging, especially when you're living paycheck to paycheck and essentially chipping away at your student loan interest. It's discouraging. You can't get a job in your field of study because you don't have enough experience, and you can't get any experience unless you're willing to intern for free, and interning for free doesn't pay the bills.

    rudolph maag seattle

    It's a double-edged sword - you work to survive and you survive to work. And that's not the life that I envisioned for myself 10 years ago.

    So I'm trying to change it, and I'm starting to think differently, with a little help.

    Tucker Hughes is an entrepreneur and a real human being who generated a million dollars in commissions - in the real-estate industry - by the time he was 22.  Of course, he's something of an overachiever: He received his master's at the age of 20 after fast-tracking four years of school, he's traveled to more than 50 countries, he's completed 13 triathlons; this list, too, continues. 

    When Hughes finished school, however, he was broke, but, luckily, not broken. In fact, Hughes attributes his success in the business world to a shift in his mental thinking.

    Check out the seven shifts Hughes made in his thinking + the  core values in the video below.



    1. Age is just a number.
    2. Reinvest in yourself.
    3. Avoid decision fatigue.
    4. Build a resilient mind.
    5. Think big. Be big.
    6. Be methodical.
    7. Believe in yourself.

    Your life is your investment, and it is critical, and so, so necessary, to invest in your personal growth in ways that you probably didn't think about before. Because if you don't invest in yourself, no one will.

    Not sure how to get started?

    Consume knowledge voraciously and know that you will always have an appetite for more. 

    1. Pick up a book about an unknown subject and read it for an hour a day 
    2. Listen to podcasts while you're driving and engage yourself mentally. 

    Avoid distractions, and avoid wasting your energy on things that you don't have any control of - focus on what you do have control of.

    1. Focus on yourself.
    2. Set your goals, write them down, and fall asleep asking yourself what you can do to achieve them, then wake up, read them, and pursue them.

    Here's to making your first million!


    By RUDY

    EXPLORE: Internet personas are really only 20% true