Building Better Communities

•April 24, 2010 • 1 Comment

I’ve tried to find a focus in what I want to do with my life. I know there are issues I care about — public health, women of color leadership, community development, among others. However, I never had an “angle,” that one thing that ties all of my interests together. A good friend of mine told me to check out GOOD’s issue about neighborhoods, and that is when it hit me: I want to build better communities.

Today, I met with Plainfield, New Jersey’s Council Member At Large Annie McWilliams, who has been such an inspiration to me ever since I met her at StartingBloc New York. Annie and I chatted over omelettes in East Newark discussing some of the issues urban communities (predominately of color) face. I left our conversation even more inspired to spring into action and come up with new ways for me to tackle some issues I see in the neighborhood where I grew up, East New York, Brooklyn.

I have been simultaneously working on a model for community development that encourages previous residents of underserved communities to reinvest in their neighborhoods. After speaking with a number of people in the field of community/economic development, it seems feasible and something I am adamant about implementing.

Tonight, I am pulling an all-nighter to get my plans together and figure out the best way for me to be an active participant in providing sustainable solutions to urban issues. I think I finally recognized my calling.


Me v. Idea

•April 9, 2010 • Leave a Comment

What makes people support your ideas to change the world? I’ve been thinking about what motivates my biggest cheerleaders to remain in my life, and it’s interesting to think about why they continue to be a part of my entrepreneurial ventures.

I have developed a new idea I am working on in collaboration with a woman I admire a great deal. I would love to believe she is sold on my idea, but part of me feels she is sold on the idea of me doing something good for a large group of people. Personal story + good action = compelling.

Then I think about the amazing people I met at StartingBloc NY and my other networks. I continue to meet with my fellow fellows offline to hear their advice about how to go about executing my plans to create social change. For them, I think they are more invested in me out of the camaraderie we built after being together for two weekends, reflecting on what moves us.

After doing the same assessment for all of my life and professional advisers, I’ve come to the realization that people are invested in me and not so much my ideas. What concerns me is that if I do have some sort of idea that my circle of advisers do not believe will work, would they be able to be open and honest with me? Should that even be a concern? Would love to hear what you think about this one.

Career Exploration is a Raging Beast

•March 26, 2010 • 1 Comment

I wish my parents knew what I did for a living. If they did, they would be able to understand how I measure my success and understand why I am so passionate about what I do.

I have always had a supportive family. My first trip out of the United States, my mother and father cried because it was something people in my family just did not do. My sisters have been on planes before–a trip to Vegas and a honeymoon in Aruba–but never had they spent 3 weeks in a developing country working, or in my case creating a documentary for a film course. My parents were terrified.

My parents are also the kind of people who do not get the non-profit sector. You get a vocation, and stick with it for the rest of your life. When I told my father I did not want to go to grad school right away because I wanted to “get work experience” he lost it. His response was a degree matters, and I needed to get one as soon as possible so I can buy a limo and hire a chauffeur. That, my friends, is how my dad thinks. I also told him working/interning/volunteering is what us kids do these days when we cannot figure out exactly what we want to do with our lives. Again, a foreign concept.

I used to become upset when my mother asked multiple times what high school or college I went to, but knew the areas my sister and brother patrolled. I value their opinions a great deal, and in the midst of my most stressful time (career exploration) I wish I had their insight and wisdom to give me direction. I do have their support, and I guess that means more than anything else. But, for some reason it does not feel like enough.

Grabbing the Bull by the Horns

•March 16, 2010 • 2 Comments

What has happened to me in the past couple of weeks? Aside from not keeping up with my posts (sorry folks), I have had a couple of life-changing experiences.

A few weekends ago, I participated in the first half of the StartingBloc NYC institute. It was AMAZING! I met over 130 young people who are all about bringing offbeat partnerships/collaborations and innovation to the social sector. I learned about a number of social enterprises that are on the rise including the use of technology in organizations like OpenAction and Digital Democracy. I also developed a few relationships to move Mocha Salon forward. One of which can be instrumental in developing our curriculum. Stay tuned!

Mocha Salon is moving from idea to execution. Stephanie and I chose to expand our reach to Latino women. We are also putting together a powerpoint deck, which we will then present to a leadership development guru. These are truly exciting times for us. I know we mentioned we will be sending out a survey to all of you and that will definitely happen in the near future. I am still collecting information from those who would like to participate, so sign up please.

Other exciting news, I am in a fantastic relationship! In the midst of all of this craziness–work, friends, family, traveling, StartingBloc, meetings–Shalena is now in love. Just needed to get that out. I read a wonderful post today for those like me who need to be in control of every part of their life. We can have it all: career, love, life. It simply takes grabbing the bull by the horns and taking initiative. There will be rejection, but handling rejection well is part of taking risks; and risks are necessary to increase opportunities.

Mocha Salon – Designer, Time Line, and Other Fun Stuff

•January 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Steph and I met last Saturday to talk about Mocha Salon, since we have yet to come up with an actual plan. We went a little crazy just adding things to the white board in my office, and then trying to make sense of it all. That day was productive and AMAZING!

Since then, we have a designer who is advising us on our visuals (is that a word?), our consultant is back in the loop (thanks Elizabeth!!), and Steph and I are finalizing our time line this week. Seth, who has been doing work with Net Impact, also agreed to co-host a couple of events. We are looking at a pilot for this year, and launching big the beginning of 2011.  This is super exciting, and I can’t wait to keep you all posted.



Cutting Hair and Bad Habits

•January 20, 2010 • 3 Comments

I was asked by my date this past weekend, what happens when I do not wear a headband on my hair. This never bothers me, as I have been receiving numerous questions about my hair since I went natural in October 2008.

Cutting my hair was a step towards a healthier me. After dating someone who was really into eating right, exercising, and caring a lot about what went into their body, I became a lot more conscious of my own habits.

My mother’s immediate reaction to cutting my hair was, “you won’t look THAT bad. You had good hair as a kid, and you have a round face.” I love how she justifies most of my hair decisions with having the right face to fit it.

My last relaxer was end of May 2008. I remember this because it was right before the Sex and the City release, and I was going as Carrie. No one asked about my hair when it was straight, but now I get a ton of reactions–good, bad, and shear curiosity.

Many Black women ask why I cut my hair, how was the process, etc. I cut my hair because I wanted to have healthier hair, no harmful chemicals anywhere near my body (…for the most part. I still relapse with occasional Buffalo Wild Wings), and I wanted to workout on any given day. Bikram and relaxed hair do not mix.

Since going natural, I eat better and use only natural/non-paraben products in my hair. Coconut oil is the only moisturizer I use at this point. It is cheap and good for me.

The process of deciding to cut my hair, all the way to celebrating over one year of natural hair, has been a self-discovery of sorts. It was this journey that made me love myself even more, and accept me in my body, the way I was made. There is nothing like waking up in the morning and rejoicing over sticking to my decision. It was truly the best decision I have ever made.

Update: Mochalogy/Mocha Salon

•January 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Hello everyone:

As many of you know, I have been working on this blog as the beginning of my work with Mocha Salon. My partner, Stephanie Lykes and I have been hitting the ground running. Talking to anyone who will listen.

We will be conducting a survey in the next few weeks and would love your feedback. If interested, email me at I look forward to hearing from you.

A new blog post will be posted in a few hours (three to be exact). I suffered from a nasty cold, and was not able to update as much as I wanted. Thank you for your patience.