Well, it's pretty understood that this year has altered the idea of everything we thought we knew about being prepared. Between a global shutdown, to the White House's occupants believing that them not bumping into walls is a means for celebration, 2020 has straight up laughed in our faces, and continually proved that each month will progressively get even more ridiculous than the one before.
Add a layer of melanin on the year, and the essence of wanting more for ourselves as women who are minding our business and living in our blackness in peace, whilst expecting the same in return from society, leaves us exhausted and plain ole sick and tired.
I recently read a story via USA Today, featuring the amazing Lakeisha Ford, who'd chosen to relocate to Ghana to run her communication firm in Accra. She spoke so assuredly about her decision to move, so fearlessly.
What drew me to her, was that her decision to move wasn't solely based on the berating racism in America, it was just a mere contribution. She was mostly intrigued by Ghananian culture.
"Here I don't have to think of myself as a Black woman and everything that comes with that. Here, I am just a woman."
This made me wonder, how many of us have considered leaving America behind? Is moving to another country the answer?
Well, for some, the answer is absolutely.
We found a group fabulous ladies to tell us their stories about their why; why they chose to leave America in their rear view. Here's what they told us:
Phelicia Deorrah | Relocated to Montego Bay, Jamaica:
Photo Courtesy of Phelicia Deorrah
Originally From: Atlanta, GA
In June of 2017, I affirmed in my journal that in 12 months, I would finalize my move to Jamaica. At that point, I figured I would stay at least one year and then return to the United States if things didn't go as planned. During my preparation phase (2017-2018), I held a couple of full-time jobs to save money for my relocation. There was actually one job that I'd landed in early 2018, that actually made me consider postponing my plans to move to Jamaica, because I'd found a "good job". The benefits were good, the salary was adequate – but after working there for a few months, typical corporate America "issues" happened and I decided to quit abruptly and move forward with my plan.
Less than a month later, I was on a plane to Jamaica.
My younger sister, Crystal, was actually the first person I told about my plan to move to the island. I was sitting in Atlanta traffic after a long workday – tired, hot, and uninspired. My plans to barter art in Jamaica had failed and I had been trying to figure out a way to travel back to the island consistently. I called her up and said, "Crystal, why don't I just move to Jamaica?!"
And her response was, "Do it!"
From here, my affirmations were solidified. I knew that building my business in Jamaica is what I would be set on doing.
In the beginning, the unspoken cultural differences (the things a book or the internet can't teach you) and constant patois were overwhelming. It was a culture shock not being able to speak the language (yes, Jamaicans speak the Queen's English – but patois can be very hard to understand when Jamaicans speak to each other), so when people all around me were communicating, it was very overwhelming. I was on high alert all the time, because I never knew when people were talking to me; everything always sounded like shouting. Now that I understand most of what people are saying around me, AND I even know how to respond – it makes it way less intimidating.
It was also extremely overwhelming adapting to the fact that in Jamaica, as an American, I am automatically considered to be privileged– which is truly an out-of-body feeling, because I have never felt that way in America. So, I've learned to live more moderately and be extra careful of what I do, with what I have.
Other than that, I just try to take in all aspects of my new reality. I remember the first time I went to the local beach (no tourists) and I realized that it was my first time ever seeing all Black people at a beach. It's one of those things you never knew that you've never seen until you see it.
As far as the current events in the U.S., although I had moved prior to chaos, it all still affects me. I seem to be watching America from another world. I am happy to be in Jamaica, BUT I am still affected and traumatized by what's going on in the States.
People may think that I am lucky and I can "turn it off" or avoid reality because I am in Jamaica – but the truth is, when you are Black, you do not have the privilege to avoid your Black reality. Period.
Through it all, I've learned that I had to stop expecting American service and behavior and understand that I am the foreigner/outsider now. I've learned to adapt and embrace the differences. I am an empath, so seeing a lot of poverty and people working for next to nothing (the minimum wage of $7,000 JMD per week is equivalent to about $56 USD per week) affects me more than I anticipated. But, I started a charity called The Traveler's Contribution that helps me feel like I'm contributing more than just coming here and taking. I've learned to continue helping where I can, with what I can.
And lastly, I've been reaffirmed that what you put into the universe, you will get back. I followed my heart to relocate, and God has provided for me. I believe if you're stagnant, sometimes God will push you into a circumstance that requires action. Sometimes we have the faith, but we don't want to act – we have to follow through with our dreams and act.
Demetria Brown | Relocated to Puerta Vallerta, Mexico
Photo Courtesy of Demetria Brown
From: Long Beach, CA
At the time, I was somewhere between being fully aware that no country was exempt from racism or prejudice, and standing in my personal determination of finding true racial and gender freedom. I wanted to show my people that we can thrive abroad and that we don't have to follow the social standards that others think we should stick to in order to do so.
Honestly, it had always been a desire to live outside the U.S., not because I hate America, but because I wanted peace from constant chaos of the society and the rat race that we are accustomed to.
But most of all, I wanted my daughter to see real life courage; to have the ability to excel in a way others believe we were never supposed to.
The path to arrive in Mexico has taken me 42 years. And believe me, it was muddy, rocky and grim the whole way. But now my route is laid before me. God and the universe has the stars aligned like a seasoned GPS system, creating the best navigation possible without any permanent road blocks--just for me.
Now, I feel as if I'm in a perfect place. For once I am not looked at as weird for hugging and showing affection towards others. I'm not looked at as strange for saying, "Hola" or smiling at people who may not know me. My kindness for humans is reciprocated. I am not judged by my occupation, complexion, shade, or gender. I am loved and accepted just because I am Meechie--and that is absolutely incredible to me.
The best thing I have discovered, honestly, is owning my time and creating new experiences that are beyond explainable with my new Mexican family and friends is what makes me happy. And not everything has been great, believe me.
Have I been overwhelmed? Oh my goodness, yes! For the longest, I wasn't sure of myself while here. I was second-guessing if this decision was a smart one. I didn't have proper resources available to assist me due to the pandemic and obviously relocating during it had its own challenges. Also, leaving my home, my family, my friends, my career...everything I built for so many years behind (I have an adult son who doesn't agree with the move and a teenage daughter who loves it and will soon join me), man, it was rough!
But I now know a bigger love. Home isn't your address. Home is a state of mind where you're comfortable and your skin shade is unapologetically safe. Home is where you are loved. Home is the epicenter of the heart.
And mine resides here in Mexico!
Before you make the decision, understand that moving away, whether across the street or to another country, doesn't solve internal problems--it just exposes what's broken in you. So, before you think you're escaping the pain of your current situation, be sure you're healed and ready to tackle the battle that lies before you.
Shar Wynter | Relocated to Lisbon, Portugal
Photo Courtesy of Shar Wynter
From: Detroit, MI
At age 29, I made my first move overseas to live in London through a temporary job relocation assignment. And my time in London was AMAZING. It enlightened me in so many ways, including broadening my perspective on race relations whilst comparing being Black in London, to being Black in America.
When I compared the two experiences, on average, I was treated better and with more respect in London on a social and professional level. As a result, once I returned back to the U.S., the constant microaggressions and ill-treatment that I had previously normalized--and been desensitized to--became unbearable. This sentiment coupled with a series of traumatizing events (some which were racially rooted) motivated me to quit my job of ten years and leave the U.S for good (in 2019).
My goal was to travel, do some soul-searching, and find a new country to live in.
A few months into my search, the pandemic hit so I decided to stay in London for a few months, and then eventually landed in Portugal. Throughout this time, whenever a new Black Lives Matter hashtag emerged in response to the unjust killing of yet another Black person, my decision to leave the U.S. was further cemented. And guys, my life and health became significantly better. Also, there really isn't a price that you can put on the peace of mind that I get from being able to exist in peace without the heavy cloak of racism on my back.
And yes, I'm fully aware that every country has race issues (both the UK and Portugal have their fair share) but the difference is that the probability of me, or a loved one, losing their life because of it, is lessened. When I think about all the times when my life has been in danger, they all occurred in the States.
In London, the cops seemed less militarized. Most do not even have guns. I remember seeing the police dancing with the crowd at Notting Hill Carnival. I can also vividly recall the cops peacefully guiding protesters during a Black Lives Matter march. It was shocking to me to see the cordial relationship that cops had with citizens.
With respect to Lisbon, one major cultural difference is that the people in Lisbon seem to have a stronger level of respect for others by adhering to the rules and safety measures put in place as a result of the pandemic. For example, most people in Lisbon are wearing their masks without issue, they use sanitation stations, and do whatever's necessary to help protect the well-being of others. It's not a major point of contention.
Sometimes, my relocation does get the best of me, though. Yes, I'm a huge advocate for living abroad, but being away from family and friends, and learning how to navigate your way through foreign spaces, is not for the faint of heart. For example, it took me an entire week to learn how to use a microwave/oven because the manual was in Portuguese. Also in Lisbon, I have to go to multiple stores sometimes to get everything I need when grocery shopping so it's an entire three hour ordeal. The grocery stores don't carry everything all in one place like they do in America.
Ultimately, you really have to be open-minded and flexible because it's easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated, especially in the beginning, but the experience overall is totally worth it.
I say all of this to say that choosing a better life for yourself is possible. I was very surprised to find that there was a relatively large community of Black people living abroad and our footprint was worldwide. Connecting with this community transformed my overseas experience and made my life abroad so much more enjoyable. This inspired me to create an effort called XpatChats to spread awareness about the Black expat community. Highlighting experiences and stories of Black people living abroad, given the current social climate, and sharing the stories of us living freely all over the world, has empowered me because living freely, is a form of resistance against oppression.
You can do this, ladies. Just map it out and go for it.
Nicole Files-Thompson, Ph.D | Relocated to Hanover, Jamaica
From: Baltimore, MD
I have always loved Jamaica, and Jamaican tourism. I remember the first time I visited, it felt like home. It was so refreshing to be in a Black country, seeing people who looked like me--on Billboards, on TV, as news anchors, in advertisements.Over the years, I fell in love with the culture and have brought many of my students, friends, and family around the country to fall in love with it like I have.
Currently, I am a professor at Lincoln University, PA and I moved here on a Fulbright grant through the U.S. Department of State. Though my stay here is not yet permanent, it is indefinite, dependent upon grants, my ability to teach online etc. I am working on making it permanent within the next 5-7 years.
My spirit is settled here. My favorite thing to do is take a drive and stop at small beaches. There are so many beautiful beaches in Jamaica that you can have all to yourself.
Everything moves at a much slower pace; patience was a huge learning curve. There is a lot of "paper" and face-to-face required to handle business affairs. The attitude of just letting things go fills the air. Culturally, there is an understanding that many things are out of your control, why worry about what you can't control.
Jamaica, no problem.
There's also an incredible sense of community, everyone knows everyone where you live. There are no strangers. I have six mango trees in my yard, and people coming and collecting them in the mornings. Something that might make people call the police in the U.S., but it's normal here. The trees bear more mangoes than I could eat in a year. So they are for everyone to enjoy.
Basically, adaptation requires patience and going with the flow. I've had to change my consumption habits: electricity is expensive, so even though it is hot, I can't run the AC all day. My diet has been altered; I instead eat fresh or farmed foods instead of packaged.
Given the recent events, I feel much safer in Jamaica, in comparison to the political, public health, and racial climate in the U.S. The decisiveness of the government to protect the health of its citizens alone, stands apart from what I've heard about the issues in America.
Moreover, though Jamaican citizens are not all in agreement about the measures that the government takes, they adhere to those measures.
I've gained a new perspective I have gained about "Americanness" by being on the outside looking in. I'm even embarrassed by the way our government and many citizens have behaved during this pandemic. In terms of BLM movement, it has been difficult to watch from afar, as race is shaped much differently in Jamaica. However, the movement has sparked support from even the Jamaican Prime Minister who addressed police brutality in the U.S., and George Floyd specifically.
And although, I haven't necessarily felt overwhelmed, I've admittedly felt unprepared or lonely. This was such a strange time to be living in another country. But I have learned that I am strong and I can adapt to any situation. I've learned that I can be flexible, I can figure things out, and family isn't only blood.
My Jamaican family looked out and cared for me too.
Feature image by Shutterstock
Originally published on July 21, 2020
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Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Entrepreneur and community curator Chanise Robinson moved from her hometown of Seattle, Washington, to Los Angeles in 2015 for the life she’d always envisioned for herself.
From a young age, she knew her dreams were too big for the Emerald City so after a quick trip to southern California it was only a matter of time before she called it home. “I’ve always wanted to leave Seattle. There wasn’t enough culture for me, and having grown up there, I knew every Black person, whether it was from school or church,” says Robinson. Immediately after obtaining her Bachelor's degree from the University of Washington, it was then she decided it was time to make her move. “I exhausted all the options, opportunities, and resources I thought I could get from living there and knew I had to leave eventually.”
After graduating from her Alma Mater as a first-generation college student, she chose to continue her education, completing her master's degree at USC. After entering the corporate world, she noticed a lack of information sharing within the Black community, which led to a strong desire to gather community peers, leaders, and experts through sit-down panel discussions. “In corporate spaces, white people are talking and sharing ideas with each other behind closed doors, and I felt Black people didn't have that same network, so I created that space where I saw the gap.”
“In corporate spaces, white people are talking and sharing ideas with each other behind closed doors, and I felt Black people didn't have that same network, so I created that space where I saw the gap.”
Receiving a little motivation from a friend, Conversations with Chanise was created in 2018 with the goal of hosting professional events people could resonate with. “A lot of the time, industry panels can feel dry and disconnected from our culture and community, so I wanted to build that network myself, using it as a platform for others to find knowledge, information, and resources needed to navigate corporate spaces, tools that I didn’t have.”
Continuing to climb in her career, in 2020, Chanise landed a role as a recruiter for one of the fastest-growing tech companies in the world, Snapchat Inc. During her time at the company, she held multiple roles from Recruiter, Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion manager, to eventually landing on the Venture Capital Team, a position that was given because of her impressive community efforts outside of work.
During this time, Conversations with Chanise evolved into Out Of Office due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “In 2020, I changed the name because we were working remotely. Working from home for two years, if you weren't fortunate enough to work for your company prior to the pandemic, then you didn't know your co-workers, especially other Black co-workers.” With the pandemic creating an even bigger challenge to the lack of networking amongst diverse employees, what began as events became a community for Black and Latinx employees from across a number of tech companies to come together and meet fellow peers from across the industry.
It wasn't until 2022 that OOO hosted its first brunch for Black History Month. The invite-only event hosted sixty-five people tech employees, complete with a five-course meal. “Eight people from Amazon attended the event, and that was the first time they had ever met each other, they were all Black.”
Earlier this year, there was an inclination of a soon-to-come recession, which hit the tech world head-on, causing many Americans to be affected. In May of 2022, Chanise was laid off from Snapchat after three and a half years. “I didn’t take the layoff personally. You would think that after being at a company for three years, you would be sad, but since my entire team got laid off, including the people that brought me on, it was just business.”
With a few inside connections, her unemployment was short-lived after receiving two job offers within the following weeks of her being let go. “A former manager on the recruiting team is now the Director of Talent and Acquisition at DoorDash. She reached out about the Senior Program Manager role and encouraged me to apply. All you need is a referral.” She describes this carefree moment of her life as funemployment. “I had another offer from a VC firm, I was on funemployment. I blew my severance check going to Miami buying tables at popular nightclubs, I was having a great time.”
"I didn’t take the layoff personally. You would think that after being at a company for three years, you would be sad, but since my entire team got laid off, including the people that brought me on, it was just business."
With two offers on the table, she went with DoorDash in late September of 2023 as a Senior Program Manager. She was indeed feeling like that girl. Less than 30 days into her new role, she woke up to an unexpected text that sent waves of uncertainty and doubt. Three weeks and two days after starting her new role, Chanise was included in a company-wide layoff.
“A former co-worker from Snapchat was also working at DoorDash at the time and called me at 6:00 a.m. informing me she was included in a company-wide layoff. At that moment, I just knew I couldn’t have been laid off, I just got here,” Chanise recounts. Quickly opening her emails, she saw the dreaded subject line 'Your Employment at DoorDash.' “This time, I was pissed. I was upset and in shock.”
“The first day I was still in positive spirits, it wasn't until the next day I woke up and realized this was real, and I was scared.” With the economic uncertainty looming, there was a mix of emotions. “A lot of times we talk about recessions, and we know what happened in 2008, but I was a kid in high school. Now I’m an adult, and I’ve been laid off twice. I know it’s not the skillset, and I know it's not my work ethic, so now I’m scared.” The most obvious question she had on her mind was, “What am I going to do?”
Being in such a vulnerable space of fear and uncertainty can bring back traumas buried within our deepest childhood memories. “Not only am I only a first-generation college graduate, but I grew up in a single-parent household,” Chanise details. “My mom's ex-husband had a drug problem, and by the time I was nine years old, my mom filed for bankruptcy, leading to my family and I living in a homeless shelter for a year.”
After being laid off, the possibility of being homeless was a looming fear, but it was only because of past trauma. “My work ethic and drive comes from never wanting to put myself in a position that I was in as a child. When you’re a kid, you don't have control over what happens to you, but I made a pact with God that I would always do whatever it took moving forward, and I would never be disqualified on paper.”
"My work ethic and drive comes from never wanting to put myself in a position that I was in as a child... I made a pact with God that I would always do whatever it took moving forward, and I would never be disqualified on paper."
With what seemed to be back-to-back failures, there were many conversations with God that led her to realize life happens fast and it’s up to us how we deal with it. “I’m in a situation where I can't blame anyone for what I’m going through, I can't say it's anyone else's fault, it just happens to be life.” As scary as it was to be without a job once again, this was a wake-up call for the steadfast entrepreneur. “It’s taught me a lot about the recession. It's understanding that it has nothing to do with me personally. It gave me fuel to never work for just one company at a time. You should always have multiple streams of income, and most of those streams should be things you can control at all times.”
Chanise began to realize that maybe this was the time to take her dreams for Out Of Office to the next level. “OOO was always something that I wanted to do full time, but I don’t think I would have pushed myself to be as full-time as quickly. The summit would have never been something I envisioned for myself to happen this year if I wasn’t laid off.”
Not one to back down from an opportunity, Chanise began to use what she had curated so well within her time in Los Angeles, her community. “I was listening to Kirk Franklin on The Breakfast Club podcast, and his message was to win wounded. When you're trying to cross the finish line in a race, sometimes people get hurt and want to give up, but even if you’re limping, you still need to cross the finish line.”
Wounded, she was still on a mission to fulfill the desires of her heart regardless of her situation. “Before I was laid off from DoorDash, there was a woman on the Diversity and Inclusion team who reached out, informing me they would like me to run their Black employee resource group because of my experience and what I was doing with my Out Of Office events.” She continues, “We had a meeting set for Friday and I was laid off Wednesday, two days before the meeting. Reaching out via LinkedIn, [I] informed her that my role had been eliminated; however, I would like to schedule a call to talk about OOO and what we can do.”
“During the meeting, I spoke with her about my vision to do a cross-company employee resource group summit, and it just so happened the company had plans for one the following year for internal employees. They loved that my vision was much bigger, so they decided to give me the money and let me run it instead.” And just like that, a full circle moment. The company that laid her off after three weeks of employment was giving her $45,000 to become the first official sponsor of her biggest corporate summit to date.
This was the momentum she needed to propel her into her destiny. “Even though I was sad, faith without work is dead,” says Chanise. “A lot of times, people let life stop them from pursuing their dreams, and they just give up, and you never know what it could have been.”
"Faith without work is dead. A lot of times, people let life stop them from pursuing their dreams, and they just give up, and you never know what it could have been."
Once the idea of the Employee Research Summit was to become a reality, there was a lot more work to be done. While planning for the ERG Summit, OOO was to host an upcoming event, and while excited about what was in the works, Chanise states, “I remember telling God I really don’t want to do this. This was the first time I charged people to come to a happy hour, and that’s not normally something I would do. I didn’t know if it was worth it and wanted to cancel, but I didn't.”
After the event, she was approached by someone from Amazon’s Cross-Functional Strategic Marketing Team, who had consistently attended a number of OOO events. After a brief conversation, Chanise was informed of a sponsorship for professional development opportunities leading Amazon to become the second official sponsor, providing funds and a space to host her upcoming ERG summit. “At that moment, I knew God was telling me to 'keep going and I will provide all the resources.'”
"At that moment, I knew God was telling me to 'keep going and I will provide all the resources.'"
Fortunate to have really great friends, “I was in search of a keynote speaker, I reached out to Trell Thomas, founder of Black Excellence Brunch, who has a great relationship with Ms. Tina Knowles, among many other celebrity influencers. After discussing ideas and budget, he asked me who I’d like to speak at the event, and thinking it was a reach, I requested Ms. Tina.”
To Chanise’s surprise, Ms. Tina confirmed within a week. “She poured so much life into the audience with her message of not giving up or quitting no matter your age. Speaking to her felt like Sunday dinner, my spirit was full.” After a day full of corporate connections and panel discussions, as an added bonus, the summit wrapped up with an after-party performance by Eric Bellinger.
The Out Of Office ERG Summit was not just a moment to bridge the gap between culture and corporations but it was a culmination of hard work, faith, and determination. No matter what door closes, never be afraid of chasing your dreams. “Throughout this journey, I continued to pray. Lord, please send the resources and opportunities. Give me favor with people and help me do the work in which you have given me,” says Chanise. In the end, official sponsors for the summit included Amazon, Doordash, Snapchat, Google, YouTube, Jack Daniels, FIJI Water, and Bumble for Friends.
As far as going back to work full-time, Chanise shares, “I’ll pray and apply for jobs, but I'll keep working as an entrepreneur. My level of faith has been elevated. What started out as doubt turned into crazy faith.”
On words of encouragement, Chanise advises, “Just keep going, even when you're sad or don’t believe in yourself. Find one person to talk to that you know is going to push and elevate you, an accountability partner. Even if you don’t believe in God, find a faith partner. Find someone who believes and has the faith that you don't, to speak it over you, carrying the faith for you when you can’t.”
This year, Chanise learned that what God has for her is for her, and she’s the only person who can stand in her way. “I’m in my own way sometimes. There's also a difference between providing and sustaining. God will provide you with just enough, and He’ll give you the wisdom and the resources to stretch it long enough for it to last. That's different from asking God to provide.
"We underestimate our creativity. God never gives you a finished project but He gives you the creativity, ideas, and resources to be able to build, sustain, and provide for you. It’s being able to tap into that.”
For more of Chanise, follow her on Instagram @conversationswithchanise.
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