culture

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

culture

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.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON MEDIUM.

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.

     

    SEVEN MENTAL SHIFTS TO HELP YOU BUILD WEALTH

    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

    arts + entertainment, good news, entrepreneur tips

    #WomenatWork: 'LADYLIKE' director Tiffany Johnson schools us on art as freedom

    Welcome back to our "Women at Work" series, where you're introduced to a curated selection of working women discussing their professional lives as well as the impact they're making - through an audacious blend of professional and personal passions - on the world around them.

    Closing out Women's History Month, meet Tiffany Johnson.

    via @tiffanyjenellej

    via @tiffanyjenellej

    Admittedly, I wait until the morning each WaW story is due to write it. As an entrepreneur whose entire life is now guided by one giant Passion Planner, I get joy out of being able to wake and feel my way to useful words - hopefully, accurate words - describing these women who move me so much.

    When I started thinking about Tiffany this morning, I started thinking about freedom. I started thinking about "the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint," the "absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government," "the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved."

    via @tiffanyjenellej

    via @tiffanyjenellej

    As a graduate of the Los Angeles Film School - one who majored in Directing and minored in Screen Writing - I can imagine that Tiffany knows a lot about engaging the right to speak, think and act without hindrance. I'm probably projecting my 8-year black girl experience as an English Ph.D. student, but I'm willing to bet Tiffany would bring brilliance to a discussion of art, particularly Hollywood filmmaking, and the feeling of foreign domination.

    We just haven't discussed that yet.

    I think about freedom when I think about Tiffany because (well, look at her, so in and of herself)  since graduating, she's worked for CBS, Overbrook Entertainment, and Academy Award-winning Producer Peggy Rajski.  She's also worked as an Associate Producer on numerous live television award shows, including MTV Movie Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, People’s Choice Awards and the 2011 Primetime Emmy’s. She also serves as assistant to another fave, Lena Waithe.

    Tiffany is a woman not just standing in, but operating from her multiple freedoms: to desire, to choose, to create, to redefine. If you're not quite sure how I got there yet, you will be after further reading.

     

    Check out the best from my correspondence with Tiffany below.

     

    On owning her professionalism ...

    I didn't always, but I definitely do now. I had to learn to change the way I speak. When asked what I did, I would say, "Oh I am an aspiring director." That's bullshit--I am a director. Filmmaking is what I do. 


    On the logistics of life ...

    There's definitely a lot of music ... Music gets me through my days. As an assistant to a Showrunner/Writer, my day usually consists of lots of emails and reading scripts. In the evenings, I'll sometimes grab drinks with friends, maybe catch a movie I've been wanting to see or go home and binge a new show. It varies.

     

    On the last year ...

    I actually have 2 important projects I completed last year. One was my short film LADYLIKE.
    We screened it at a few festivals and even went to Cannes--such a wild, life changing experience! It's currently streaming on Issa Rae's YouTube channel.
    I also completed a short documentary last year, entitled The Ride Home. It's the most emotional and personal film I've ever worked on. It was the first time I turned the cameras on myself--it follows me and my dad on the day he was released from prison and the ride home we shared. 

     

    On what's up next ...

    I'm currently in post on a short film I recently shot called Dead. Gay. Fictional. It's a fun rom-com send up, written by my good friend Caty Zick.
    via wesjanisen.com

    via wesjanisen.com

    Also, my writing partner, Nick Williams and I are developing LADYLIKE into a feature which I'm really excited about!
    via ladylike.com

    via ladylike.com

    On sustaining your craft ...

    I think it's super important for creatives to fuel their craft. What I mean by that is: surround yourself with other creatives that inspire ... and encourage you. Learn from each other. Study those you admire and dedicate time to your [calling]. I'm constantly watching films or reading books or articles on filmmakers I'm obsessed with.  

     

    Do you see why I'm thinking about freedom?

    Before I began writing this, I kept scribbling a phrase in my journal: "Do not complicate your freedoms."

    Over and over.

    DO NOT COMPLICATE YOUR FREEDOMS.

    It wasn't until I reread Tiffany's correspondence that I realized what that phrase was really getting at. We, like Tiffany, will often have to enter into spaces that others might dictate as never having been meant for us. However, what's important is our presence there, that we have shown up, not the narrative surrounding our entrance.

    Tiffany Johnson reminds us all that we have a right to exercise our freedoms, uncomplicated in whatever form they appear to us. We can show up as ourselves, for ourselves, and tell the stories we want to have heard. Or in Tiffany's case, seen.

    via @tiffanyjenellej

    via @tiffanyjenellej

     She is a vision, with sublime vision. 

    The only appropriate way to end this is by butchering Bambara, is to say all of our freedoms are real, all of our dreams, attainable. "The failure to realize is the only unreality." 

    arts + entertainment, good news

    #WomenatWork - Maame Adjei inspires us to literally be all that we can

    Welcome back to our "Women at Work" series, where you're introduced to a curated selection of working women discussing their professional lives as well as the impact they're making - through an audacious blend of professional and personal passions - on the world around them.

    This week, I'd like to introduce you to Maame Adjei.

    via msadjei.tumblr.com (used with permission)

    via msadjei.tumblr.com (used with permission)

    Every time I sit to write about anyone, I'm tasked with minimizing an overwhelming desire to type something like "I don't know what to tell you guys. It's ridiculous that you don't know Maame. She's important. Her face. Her eyes. Her body. Her being."

    I don't write, "Most important is that I adore her ... that I saw her and she immediately felt like everything to me ... that I see her and can more clearly see myself - in ways that are incredibly important as an immigrant living in the United States ... as a future expat ... as a brown body full of curve and lyric and Liberian ..."

    I don't write, "Can't you see she's a model of my most desired ways of being in this world." 

    via Blavity

    via Blavity

    Instead, I turn what has already become a full-fledged unrequited love affair into the concrete language of Internet introduction.

    So let's just get that out of the way.

    Internet, meet Maame Adjei, more commonly known in cyberspace as Ms. Adjei, and, perhaps, most easily recognized as the confident, couture-clad, Zainab on An African City

    via Blavity

    via Blavity

    Now that you've been formally introduced, I'll admit that most of that opening rant was true. I was less than halfway through the first episode of An African City, when I realized I loved Zainab. And because I am who I am, I decided that meant I loved the person who embodied her. A quick internet search would validate all of my feelings.

    via msadjei.tumblr.com (used with permission)

    via msadjei.tumblr.com (used with permission)

    I soon learned that Maame Adjei was not only a talented actress, but also an artist and producer with an educational background in Psychology and Healthcare Finance and Administration.

    As an actress, aside from playing Zainab and co-producing An African City, Maame has also had roles in "A Sweet Song,"a short film by Ghanaian director Asantewa Prempeh, and Coz Ov Moni, a Ghanaian musical.

    As an artist, she upcycles vintage and antique furniture for private clients, and has produced visual installations for The Chalewote Street Arts Festival in Accra.

    via msadjei.tumblr.com (used with permission)

    via msadjei.tumblr.com (used with permission)

    As if those passions weren't enough to consume one human being, Maame served as the Talent Director for the Miss Universe Ghana 2014 pageant, is currently Travel Editor for The Style HQ, and an influencer for Tastemakers Africa.

    Maame's bio admits (as if one didn't automatically infer from her list of pursuits) that she is "committed to living life passionately, and to exploring all the opportunities that her natural gifts and talents bring her way."

    Learning this, I needed to know more. And I needed it directly from the source.

     

    Check out the best from my correspondence with Maame Adjei below.

     

    On passionately multitasking ...

    Each role definitely seamlessly rolls into the next. I'm an artist. I consider everything I do art. So from production, to making furniture to even teaching (which I do sometimes). I always pull my creativity into it. They are never mutually exclusive.

    On the logistics of living ...

    Being a self employed artist anywhere in the world is not easy. On the continent it's even harder. My day starts and begins and ends with emails. ... Constantly replying to emails. I'm usually heading to one meeting or another which, in Accra, means I'm spending a lot of time in traffic. At some point during the day, I always stop by my friend Dedo's cozy restaurant, Tea Baa, for some good eats. I always end the day in bed re-watching a movie I've probably seen a hundred times.

    On her most important project ...

    Everything I work on his super important to me because I'm in a space where I only do work that moves me. So An African City, of course, a short film project I just worked on. And of course my passion project Girl Going Places, a travel show that exposes the beauty and dynamism of the continent and implores Africans, and Diasporans especially, to travel the continent. I've been working on [Girl Going Places] for almost three years and I'm so excited to slowly be sharing it with the world.

    On sustaining creativity ...

    Diversify, diversify, diversify! It's important to work for the love of the art but at the end of the day artist still need to eat, and pay bills. I can't give the what, where and how cause I'm still trying to figure it out myself but I think that's definitely a good starting plan.

    Diversify. Diversify. Diversify.

     

    Received, Maame. Received.

    I want to end this neatly, enveloped tight phrasing with a simple call to action. But, as the beginning of this article demonstrated, often words and will don't work that way.

     

    For some reason, sharing Baraka's “How You Sound” (1959) feels best.

    MY POETRY is whatever I think I am. (Can I be light and weightless like a sail??  Heavy & clunking like 8 black boots.)  I CAN BE ANYTHING I CAN. I make a poetry with what I feel is useful & can be saved out of all the garbage of our lives.  What I see, am touched by (CAN HEAR) … wives jobs, cement yards, where cats pee, all my interminable artifacts … ALL are poetry, & nothing moves (with any grace) pried apart from all  these things.  There cannot be closet poetry. Unless the closet be wide as God’s eye. And all that means is that I must be completely free to do just what I want, in the poem. 

    Yea. That feels right.

     

     

    arts + entertainment

    A Tribe Called Quest's Phife Dawg passes on at 45

    tribe called quest phife dawg
    Malik Taylor, the rapper known as Phife Dawg whose nimble, clever rhymes helped launch A Tribe Called Quest to both commercial and critical success, died Wednesday at the age of 45. Rolling Stone has confirmed the rapper's death, though an official statement has yet to be released.
    While the cause of death has yet to be announced, Taylor had had health issues for years, undergoing a kidney transplant in 2008 to deal with a longtime battle with diabetes.
    "It's really a sickness," Taylor said in Beats, Rhymes & Life, Michael Rapaport's candid 2011 documentary on the group. "Like straight-up drugs. I'm just addicted to sugar."

     

    READ MORE from ROLLING STONE.

    good news, arts + entertainment

    SiairaShawn launches new #FWYH merch

    You know we love SiairaShawn.

    So, of course we're honored to share this message from her. 

     

    The "FLWRS WHILE YOU'RE HERE" design is my first foray into merchandise. "Flowers While You're Here" is the title of my recent e.p. series, but also a life philosophy. I believe that we should share love, vulnerability, and truth with our loved ones, "while we're here."  
    I'm not on tour right now, but I wanted to still connect with folks who want to represent this message and support my music. My goal is to sell at least 30 items at the end of 21 days!

    View all of Siaira's new merch HERE.