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Publicist Sakita Holley Wants You To Stop Playing Small

BOSS UP

As boss and career women, we often don't realize how we can sometimes be our worst enemies when it comes to putting ourselves in the running for life-changing experiences. A few weeks ago, the Hashtags & Stilettos podcast episode "Stop Playing Small" by longtime podcaster crush and House of Success PR founder Sakita HolIey had me seriously evaluating how I really wasn't playing as big I thought in my career. Sakita's firm handles everything from product launches, media outreach, social media management, as well as influencer and consumer marketing engagement for top beauty and lifestyle brands. As an eleven-year industry vet and full-time entrepreneur for eight years, Sakita is no stranger to playing small and the debilitating effects it has on us Black women as individuals and as a collective.

According to Sakita, playing small can manifest itself in a variety of ways. She notes, "It's anytime that you deny the full scope of your ability or when you try to shrink yourself. It could even be in a physical sense such as when you try to sit in the back of a room. You always downplay. You self-deprecate, make jokes, and belittle yourself for any reason."

Sound familiar? Sakita spoke to xoNecole to share more about tips for combatting playing small, how it affects our finances, and why we as Black women need to come together and demand what we're worth. No matter what stage of the career journey you're on, Sakita's advice will help you get started towards showing up and showing out when it comes to your accomplishments and capabilities.

Photo Credit: Bola Okoya @Primo_Supremo

Why did you feel the need to talk about the issue of “playing small”? 

The reason I did the Hashtags & Stilettos episode is because I needed to call it out. I had to shine a light on it in the ways I [play small.] I also know that there are so many people who suffer from it and downplay their abilities, the work that they do, and what they've earned in life. There are so many ways that you can dim your own light. Playing small is impacting our businesses, careers and how truly full of a life we can live.

We live in a society right now that due to social media, if you don't post, it didn't really happen. If we want to get an idea of who people are, the first place we go to look is their social media. If you're playing small or not sharing all of your greatness, what we do share becomes what we see. It also becomes the story that we tell ourselves about that person. While we can't control other people's perception of us or what they see, we are in control of how we present ourselves. That's something we need to play attention to.

How has playing small cost you money or opportunities? 

I'm a lowkey and private person. I don't crave the spotlight at all. But, in public relations and having your own business, you constantly need to or should be on the scene. People should see you and know what you're doing. You should talk about your work. For a long time, I have not done that. [However,] I know that every time that I do, it brings some business leads. When I think about the years that I didn't, I'm thinking about all of that missed opportunity.

For other people as well, when you don't put your name in the running for things, you're playing small. When you know you'd be perfect for a role or for a project, and you don't raise your hand, [you're playing small.]

What are some practical ways that we can stop playing small and start  putting ourselves out there for more opportunities?

1. To play big, disconnect from the fear of self-doubt in your mind. If you see something that you want to go for that sparks something within you, go for it before you start thinking about it.

2. Have people around that can hold you accountable and push you in that direction so that you're not second-guessing yourself or being too afraid to pursue things or apply for things.

3. [We get caught up in] rejection committee thinking. A lot of times we assess a situation and think we're so smart. We think we're being logical and [list] all the reasons why someone might tell us no. "If someone wants to tell you NO, they don't need your help to do it." They don't need you to list reasons to not hire or give you a promotion.

4. Focus on the reasons why you are a great fit. That's what you need to be trying to leverage when you put yourself out there.

5. Leave it to chance. When you put yourself out there, there's a 50/50 chance that it can work out or a chance that it won't. As long as you're not going to die, those odds are fine.

6. Play big at every single stage of your career journey or business journey. Even if you're starting out, you're still good at something. Even if it's just one thing. Put yourself out there to do more of that thing or for more opportunities that will get you more experience or visibility with the right people that can change the game for your career.

Photo Credit: Bola Okoya @Primo_Supremo

"Play big at every single stage of your career journey or business journey. Even if you're starting out, you're still good at something."

As Black women, how does demanding what we’re worth affect the larger community? 

We're working harder than anyone else. We work more than anyone else. Oftentimes, we are struggling more than anyone else -- even with the amount of excellence that we put forth. We're always getting the short end of the stick. By evening the playing field and earning what we're worth, that will help the people coming up behind us. The people next to us will also be able to get what they are worth.

The more we're doing this as a collective in our own little lanes and lives, we help everyone else. If I'm getting what I'm worth, then I'm now in a position to provide opportunities for someone else. I'm now in a position to share resources that I may not have had before. Imagine all of us being in a position to help one other person. It grows from there. When we're barely getting by ourselves and still doing excellent work, we can barely help ourselves. How can we help someone else?

Is there ever a time when playing small is beneficial?

No. The only thing playing small does is it keeps you safe and keeps you comfortable. It may feel warm and cozy, but it doesn't allow you to grow.

What resources have helped you along this journey of playing big?

A great book is The Dip by Seth Godin. It teaches you when to stick and when to quit. If you want to be the best and be great, you will have to go through a "dip." There will be times when it gets really hard. In order to get to that winning place, you have to get through it.

The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Green is all about doing things in the face of fear. It uses 50 Cent's story of how he almost died. He's literally fearless. We see that in how he moves and does business. He doesn't always make the right choices or say the right things but he is fearless and that has helped him tremendously in business.

Like any muscle, we'll need to increase the reps in order to start seeing results.

As Sakita mentions during the end of our chat, "If we practice playing big or putting ourselves out there, it will become second nature." I feel the fervor and determination in her voice as she says, "Every day, you get another chance to be mindful of your actions and how your choices and decision impact your career...there's so many things that I have to go through to get to that winning place, but I know if I continue to move in this direction, I cannot lose in the grand scheme of things."

So, the next time you start talking yourself out of driving towards that big dream, what will you choose to do?

To get inspiration on how you can stop playing small, follow Sakita Holley on Instagram.

Featured Image Credit: Bola Okoya @Primo_Supremo

Originally published on March 22, 2019

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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