I’ve been absent from the blogsphere for a while since I’ve decided to go back to school and pick up a new profession (teaching) and during that time I saw it as an opportunity to really give back to an audience I’m truly passionate about: adolescent girls of color. I wanted to create a brand and organization that would allow them to fully understand that they are in complete control of the direction of their lives. As women, we are often told what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and where to do it so much that there are times when we stop and wonder if anything we are doing is because we genuinely want to do it. So on January 28, 2017 I launched Curate Your Life, a girl’s empowerment and enrichment organization that focuses on sisterhood, leadership, social justice, wellness, and media literacy for teen girls of color, but the idea was birthed in June 2016 and there were a number of lessons learned along the way.
Community is SO Important
I knew that this wasn’t something that I could do on my own and be effective at the same time, so I built a community of professional women and organizations who would see and understand my vision. The day of the launch, I didn’t realize I would be doing so much running around and improvising when things were absent, but the community that I built was there every single step of the way. I just asked them to show up and facilitate workshops, but they’ve become family with every “You got this Deja.” or “I’m proud of you Deja” or “Tell me where I can help Deja.” Even my mother came and catered the event with my grandmother. I say all of that to say, you are as strong as the tribe you build and God blessed me with an amazing one.
Haters Gonna Hate
Early on in my brainstorming process, I decided to use a lot my resources, meaning people who work in youth development or who had connects in terms of space and venues and rather than receiving straight answers, I would at times get the run around and the sense they didn’t want to help or support in the first place. They’d ask for reminders to attend the event, but didn’t show up, or feigned ignorance about important event details. I asked a few of my “networks” for support and go no response or support. Rather than responding with that say energy, I’d just say “okay” and keep it moving because those weren’t places, people or things that deserved my energy and I knew that whether I got 1000 no’s or empty responses…this event was going to happen anyway.
Quality over Quantity
So I had 100 slots opened for registration and by the time the event came around, all 100 slots were filled, so I expected 100 girls to show up…only about 60 showed up and I kept trying to delay the start of the event to see if more girls would show up and my community was very supportive in going with the flow. The workshops were a lot more intimate, the learning experience for the girls was invaluable, the love and vibes were felt deeper. I had girls coming up to me like when is the next one?! Even the next week at school students were asking me to do another one and discussing with me how they really enjoyed the summit and they need more things like that at their school. I’m definitely on board for more, but first REST!
Get Exactly What You Want
In the early stages when I was seeking a place to host the summit I reached out to a couple of community centers in which one had taken me to a rinky dink room in the basement that had about five refrigerators lined up against the wall and small kid sized tables and chairs. Certainly not the place I would host a empowerment summit and before saying no, I thought building a partnership with this community organization would be wonderful, but then I thought about the quality of what I was trying to produce. A few other places tried to charge me tons of money for event space and I thought why not just host it at the school I work at…I mean this is my first year working there, but I decided why not give it a try? So I learned to not be afraid of saying no or yes when it meant bringing my vision to life exactly how I saw it.
Be quick on your toes
Did everything go as it was planned? Nope. Did anyone know that, but me? Nope. For starters, my shirts weren’t ready when they should have been so I couldn’t send ladies home with shirts like I had originally planned, but they didn’t know that. So I set up a nice cupcake table, with buttons and Mary Kay cosmetics as giveaways. I say all that to say, always have a plan or be adaptable and learn how to improvise in any situation to keep things running smoothly.
The 2017 Curate Your Life Girl’s Empowerment Summit was ONLY the beginning of what I have in store for these awesome young ladies. I can’t wait to host a lot more events. Oh and next year’s summit will definitely be a lot bigger.