Akia Walker Is Giving Black-Owned Events Excellence And Expanding The Legacy Of Tulsa's Black Wall Street
Whenever Tulsa, Okla. is mentioned among circles of Black folk, there's often a raised eyebrow, a puzzled look, or a memory of the depiction of the murder and devastation of the horrific 1921 massacre on Black Wall Street a la Lovecraft Country. For Akia Walker, born and raised in Tulsa, the history and impact of the Black community, culture, entrepreneurship, and excellence is engrained in her heart and work.
The old common saying made famous by several Black queens before us, including the great Auntie Maya (Angelou, that is), rings true here: You can't really know where you're going until you know where you've come from. In the early 1900s, Tulsa's Greenwood neighborhood was a thriving center of Black commerce, community, ownership, and pride, with beautiful homes accenting the streets lined with Black-owned hotels, barbershops, grocery stores, billiards, theaters, churches, and doctor’s offices.
Within 24 hours, on May 31, 1921, Tulsa's Black Wall Street businesses and its neighboring community all went up in flames and destruction. Hundreds of residents were brutally attacked and killed by a mob of white terrorists. The financial toll was an estimated $1.8 million in property loss claims of the time, according to reports, (accounting for $27 million as of 2021).
In the same vein, Angelou also famously said, "But I'm a person of the moment. I'm here, and I do my best to be completely centered at the place I'm at, then I go forward to the next place." As the founder of Kia Cole Events—a premier event planning company that boasts working with organizations including the multimillion-dollar nonprofit, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and leading events for heavyweights like For(bes) the Culture, the Black Owned Media Equity and Sustainability Institute (BOMESI)—Walker is more than aware of Tulsa's tragic history of a town disseminated, and she wants to thrive in a way that shifts the narrative and adds to the legacy today.
She's seen her fair share of career transitions in the process, led by what she calls a "pursuit of purpose and passion." As a teen, she took the traditional route, trying her hand at higher education, but found that, even after thriving her first semester as a freshman, she wanted to take a different direction. She then ventured into banking, where she'd seen an aunt find success, and moved from working as a teller to handling mortgages, before having an epiphany. "I started volunteering at my church, and that triggered something in me—that maybe there's a little more to life than just 'making it,' because for me, when I left school, I thought there’s only two ways this can go: I can be a stereotypical failure or I can exceed and excel and be more than what I think or what the world tells you you can be without degrees."
She'd eventually move on to take a job as an executive assistant for a substantial and successful ministry, where one of her duties was to lead in organizing large-scale events.
"I initially said I’d do events when I’m retired, for fun. I didn’t want to put the pressure on events to provide for my life—like a job—because I wanted to have fun with it. Then, my friend was like, 'Why do it then when you can do it now?'"
"So, I said let me set aside the things that can sustain me and make me money and do things I’m passionate about. I’m good at administration and organization but it was like this drag, like, 'Gosh I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to send this email.' It wasn’t a passion. And that’s what encouraged me to go ahead and launch this events company."
Check out three key lessons that have helped forge early success for Walker that you can also be inspired by as a businesswoman (or aspiring one):
1. Determine what really motivates you and stick to that as a foundation for why and how you do business.
Walker says she's hugely influenced by the bond she has with her large family. "I have a really big, close family here in Tulsa, and the motivation to do it for them, and the motivation that they give me. My mom had me when she was 18 years old, and we’ve always done so many things together. [I've always] wanted to give something to do them to be proud of. We have a ton of kids in our family, and I wanted to give me and exemplify for them, [something] different, more, better. So that keeps me pushing."
She also enjoys the simple act of helping people and being of service. "I knew from a very early age that I cared about people deeply. [I enjoy] being able to create environments for people to be seen to be heard. My most favorite thing is when people say, ‘I feel so special,' or ‘I feel so important,’ and that lets me know that you’ve done your job well when you’ve created this atmosphere and environment for a single person to feel like it was just for them. That’s exactly why I do what I do."
2. Seek out the richness of your culture and history, and allow those, along with your unique experiences and talent, to be a driver and inspiration.
Though she's a native of Tulsa, Walker says that the history of the massacre, as well as that of those affected by it at the time, were not known to her until she became an adult. "It’s not something that was taught in schools. It’s not something that was talked about. Specifically, the Black community has done an amazing job with highlighting it [in recent years]."
She acknowledges the trauma and tragedy of the time but wants to highlight the greatness, vitality, and drive of a grand people who existed well before the massacre and tap into that aspect of the story in order to remain inspired today. "I think a lot of times, we get stuck on the grief of it, and it’s about everything that we lost. I like to use a story to motivate me and to say, like, 'Okay, but where did I come from?' Black Wall Street—Greenwood Ave.—was an affluent community. It wasn’t just Black people owning things. They were successful. And they did things well. They did things excellent. And I want to emulate that in my business."
"For Kia Cole Events, we have values: excellence, elegance, and opulence. I feel like that speaks to who we, as Black people, were [in Tulsa] and who we are. So, when I’m curating events and I get to get a whole bunch of Black people in one space, my favorite thing to say is, ‘I love seeing Black people like this.’"
"It feels like this is where we were always supposed to be. This is where we were always meant to be. And somewhere along the line, that got ripped from us, not just in Tulsa but in other cities across the U.S.—our affluence, our opulence, our elegance, and how regal we are as a people. That got taken from us. And I want to use Kia Cole Events as a way to restore that to us."
3. Nurture a bold confidence that informs how you approach opportunity, and go for yours no matter what.
Oftentimes, there's a popularly profound narrative that centers on themes of struggle and disadvantage for Black entrepreneurs, especially for those who are women and millennials. While challenges do exist, there's another side of the coin where confidence in the abundance, vitality, and amazing factors of simply being young, Black and enterprising woman with a purpose and plan wins. "As a Black woman and as a millennial business owner, I was fighting to be like ‘I’m educated,’ and ‘I’m competent’ and ‘I can do this,’ and I was being extremely adamant about it," Walker says.
"But then I took a step back and said, ‘Hey actually this isn’t necessary. I’m going to execute my work in a way that lets people know exactly who I am and exactly what I’m capable of.’ And that’s what I’m doing with Kia Cole Events, just speaking to what we were prior to the massacre. And it was so unfortunate and so heartbreaking, but I’m grateful to be part of restoring who we are here in Tulsa and hopefully across the world."
Featured image by Rhon Starling
How Content Creators Hey Fran Hey And Shameless Maya Embraced The Pivot
This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevate — an online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community — xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate— a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.
While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
Please Stop Picking People Who Don't 'Fit' Your Purpose
While doing an interview not too long ago, someone asked me what I thought was the biggest mistake people tend to make in life. Without hesitation, I said, “It’s two-fold. One thing is not being laser-focused when it comes to fulfilling their purpose. The second is to not be even more intentional about aligning yourself with people who will complement their purpose along the way.”
You know, it is Mark Twain who once said something that I’m pretty sure you’ve heard before — “The two most important days in life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” He’s right because there is something that is super empowering and self-validating about tapping into “the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.” (one definition of purpose and in this case the “something” would be yourself) and then coming up with “an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal” (another definition of purpose) as it relates to it all.
You can do this so much easier once you’ve got people who fit your purpose inside of your world. So, let’s take a few moments to dig into what all of that involves so that you can waste less time trying to “make people fit” who probably were never really supposed to begin with (at least not intimately). You ready?
What Exactly IS Your Purpose?
A hill that I am forever willing to die on is the fact that the reason why a lot of people find themselves getting involved in fruitless relationships and/or wasting their time (check out “These Bad Habits Are Totally Wasting Your Time” and “Love Is Patient. But Is Your Relationship Just Wasting Your Time?”) on various people, places, things, and ideas is because they aren’t clear on what their purpose is. Because listen, I can tell you from very up close and personal experience that once you’re aware of what your purpose is in this life, there is a fire that develops within you that makes you very intentional — violent even — about pursuing who and what will help you to fulfill your purpose as you release who and what is standing in the way of making that happen.
So, why do so many people seem to do the very opposite of what I just said — why do they hold onto who and what is hindering their purpose development which causes them to not focus on who and what will help them to thrive? For many, it’s because they have no clue what their purpose actually is in the first place.
So yeah, let’s start there. Something that I tell people often is, a great sign that you know what your purpose is, is if you can explain it or define it in no more than three words or phrases. Take me, for example. Whenever folks ask me what my purpose is, I say, right off the rip — marriage, sex, and the Sabbath (the actual biblical one). What they all have in common is they are biblical covenant principles and most of my life centers around shedding light on those areas in ways that many people never stop to consider.
It's a long story, how I got to this place. What I will tell you is some of the confirmations include the fact that opportunities abound for me in those areas, I have a lot of peace whenever I’m functioning from those spaces and my needs have always been met when I focus on those three topics. And yes, those are some telling signs that you are indeed operating in your purpose.
And what if you’re still out here struggling to figure out just what you were created to do? Although that’s kind of an article all on its own, I will offer up a few tips.
Do some meditating every morning. The reason why a lot of people have a hard time figuring out their purpose is, is because their mind is constantly distracted. Getting quiet enough to present the question, “What is my purpose?” while being still enough to hear what comes to your spirit/soul is a viable practice. Ten minutes a day should start to shed some light after a couple of weeks or so (if you consistently do it, that is).
Ponder your passions, gifts and talents. Even before I was making money from my purpose, I could talk about marriage, sex, and the Sabbath all day long and never get tired. When I paired that with the fact that I have a gift of writing and then I tapped into my spiritual gifts (if you’ve never taken a spiritual gifts test before, you can here) which include things like wisdom, discernment, knowledge, and giving — it all made sense. Far too often, our gifts and talents aren’t our purposes; they are tools to help us manifest our purpose. Keeping that in mind, think about where your passion lies and if you are using your own gifts and talents to catapult it.
Far too often, our gifts and talents aren’t our purposes; they are tools to help us manifest our purpose.
Jot down how your purpose would serve others. Even a lot of celebrities are not in their purpose. How do I know? Well, one definition of entertainment is “to distract” (no joke) and if folks are out here only doing what benefits them and/or they’re doing what makes the world worse instead of better, they are not operating in their purpose. So yeah, think about what too. As you’re trying to figure out what your purpose is, what about your passion can help others in a very needed, profound, and even somewhat unique kind of way?
Ask yourself what you would put before all else. I’ll get into this point, as it relates to my personal journey, in a sec. For now, I’ll say that when I was writing my first book, I had family members who refused to speak to me for months (how selfish). I was younger at the time and had not mastered how to release toxic people from my space (even if they are in my bloodline), so it was a bit uncomfortable at first to tune out the toxicity and narcissism and finish the task at hand. Oh, but I did.
That said, one definition of sacrifice is “a surrender of something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable or of preventing some evil.” When you’re willing to make great sacrifices, come what may, for the sake of something, that’s a good sign that it’s either your purpose or directly tied to it.
Figure out what brings you joy. Did you see how I said JOY, not happiness? Let me tell it, folks are out here making all kinds of self-centered and/or reckless and/or impulsive decisions because they worship the god of happiness — a fleeting emotion that tends to go as quickly as it comes. Joy is a bit different, though. Although it does bring pleasure, it also creates satisfaction. People with joy feel a sense of contentment not momentary elation. Whatever in your life does that for you, your purpose is probably not too far away from it.
Like I said, finding one’s purpose has articles, blogs, and books for days available (the late and great Dr. Myles Munroe was an awesome voice on the topic). Hopefully, these five points can help to at least initiate the quest, though.
What You Owe Your Purpose
What do you owe your purpose? In short, EVERYTHING. How could you not when, again, one definition of the word is “the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.” If you are not doing what you were made to do, not only is that the greatest slap in the face to your Creator, it’s the greatest form of disrespect to oneself as well.
That is why I am very…“aggressive” is probably the most accurate word when it comes to making sure that folks get with the kind of life partner who they not only “love” but will serve as an awesome purpose complement (check out “If He's Right For You, He Will COMPLEMENT Your Life”) for them. Because what sense does it make to join your life to someone who will make the entire reason for why you were put on this planet complicated at best, totally stress-filled at worst?
Case in point. There’s a man I know who was once a sound engineer. While he was dating his wife, she was fine with it. Once they got married, though, because she had kids from another relationship, she felt that he should make more money to take care of her “package deal.” He went into computers, made more money — and totally started hating his life. Because of that, it made him miserable which made him not as fun to be around which put another kind of pressure on the marriage and ultimately the family as a whole. They’re divorced now and he has told me that one thing he will never do again is put a relationship before his purpose. Good. He shouldn’t. No one should.
And here’s the thing — the right people will never expect you to. It won’t even cross their mind. How do I know? I’m actually thrilled to say that about 90 percent of my world is full of purpose-driven individuals. They are focused. They are intentional. They are extremely careful with their time and resources. And that requires that I make adjustments so that they can remain that way. This means that they must also do the same things for me.
We all know that if we don’t honor our purpose, we’re selling ourselves short and so, it’s one thing that is a non-negotiable. That’s how purpose-minded people roll. Period.
How the Right People Will Fit into Your Purpose. How the Wrong Ones…Won’t.
I’ve got a girlfriend right now who is going through a divorce. One of the main things that caused so much brokenness in her marital dynamic is her husband doesn’t respect her purpose. He complains about it. He competes with it. He finds ways to make the sacrifices that are required for her to fulfill her purpose a guilt trip that is hard for her to shrug off because he presents them as little “love tests” (ugh).
So, why did she marry him? Well, initially, she was on a bit of a hiatus from her purpose which caused him to see it as more like a hobby than anything else. Now that she’s in a resurgence of it, he puts up more roadblocks (like trying to make her feel bad when she has to travel when they have kids) than anything else. He’s not an advocate or ally when it comes to her purpose — whether he realizes it or not, he’s actually a direct enemy of it. Yes, some people are indeed “sleeping with the enemy” (whether it's figuratively or literally) and it’s all because they didn’t choose someone who would “fit their purpose” — and that is why topics like this one need to be discussed more often. Far more often.
In the hopes that you can avoid some of the pain and disappointment that she’s going through, whether it’s with a life partner, a friend, or a relative, let’s hit on 7 signs that someone does indeed fit your purpose:
- They will be cheerleaders of your goals and accomplishments
- They will seek ways to make purpose manifestation easier for/on you
- They will understand that sometimes they will have to make sacrifices within the relationship so that you can fulfill your purpose
- They will get that they don’t always have to “get it” when it comes to certain things that you need to do when it comes to your purpose
- They will have connections, talents, and resources that oftentimes can help you to go further within your purpose (and they won’t withhold them and weaponize them)
- They will be encouragers in the moments when even you are struggling in manifesting your purpose
- They will be flexible in adjusting to your growth and setbacks when it comes to you fulfilling your purpose
With all of this in tow, now let’s look at 10 clear indications that someone DOES NOT fit your purpose:
- They are vessels of drama and stress which ultimately distract you from your purpose
- They are only supportive when they can find a way to benefit from your purpose
- They might send off vibes of jealousy and/or envy about you and/or your purpose (check out “5 Signs Your Closest Friends Are The Most Envious Of You”)
- They may act like you have to justify or defend YOUR PURPOSE to them (check out “What If It's Your Parents Who Happen To Be The Narcissists?”)
- They might find ways to “punish you” for either fulfilling your purpose or not approaching it in the way that they would and/or they agree with (whew, chile)
- Since another definition of purpose is “a desired aim or goal,” they always seem to make it more difficult for you to accomplish what needs to be done as it directly relates to your purpose
- Whether directly or indirectly, they will have no problem draining you of the resources that you need in order to fulfill your purpose (keep this in mind when it comes to selecting a spouse; a true partner will not break you just for their comfort and convenience…wife or husband)
- They don’t respect the boundaries — including the ones that are connected to your time — as it relates to achieving your purpose
- They will constantly make you feel like you have to prove something when it comes to your purpose
- THEY DON’T RESPECT OR FULLY ACCEPT YOUR PURPOSE (and yes, I am yelling it!)
When you’re not purpose-driven, things like this may be annoying but not necessarily unbearable. Oh, but when you are committed to fulfilling your purpose in life — folks who fit into Category B, they’ve gotta go. The time that you’re spending (or is it wasting?) trying to get them to respect you and your purpose is the time that you could be spending cultivating your purpose…and I’m here to tell you that the second option is always going to be the wiser choice. ALWAYS.
Why It’s Okay to Release Those Who Don’t Complement Your Purpose
I honestly can’t believe that it’s been almost five years since I penned the piece, “Why I Don't 'Cut People Off' Anymore, I Release Them Instead” for the site — and boy, when I tell you that it’s a life motto that has brought me some joy unspeakable? Listen. Here.
If you want the CliffsNotes from the article, it’s basically talking about the fact that for many years now, I no longer choose to not send myself through the violent ritual of cutting people off. The reason why I say “violent” is because cutting anything sounds that way and when you cut folks off, that’s often rooted in some kind of pain that makes people feel empowered to think that they are hurting others by literally cutting them out of your life. Instead, I now release — I move out of the way and allow the universe to do whatever needs to be done…with them and with the relationship, in part so that I can put my focus on myself and why I was put on this earth.
Because here’s the thing, y’all — whenever I hear the Chinese Proverb, “It’s later than you think,” it sends chills down my spine because it’s the absolute truth. And how sad would it be for me to be out here pining over, worrying about, trying to convince someone either about what my purpose is or why I need them to support it when I could, instead, be out here actually LIVING it? Not only living it but clearing the path for the right individuals, folks who will be more than willing, to help me fulfill my purpose in a peaceful, constant, and nurturing kind of way.
This here was a lot. Trust me, I know. Yet this is an important life lesson — please don’t waste, not one more day, avoiding it. Relationships are important yet NO RELATIONSHIP is worth putting before manifesting your purpose.
Whoever does, salute them.
Whoever doesn’t, release them, even if that means shifting your boundaries.
It will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
Purpose-driven ones ALWAYS are, sis. #standingfirm
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Featured image by Klaus Vedlfelt/Getty Images