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The Business Of Being Karen Civil

BOSS UP

In a day and time where it seems everyone wants the title of being #goals, Karen Civil is actually living it. The digital media maven breathed fresh, innovative air onto the blogging and marketing scene back when the competition looked like there wasn't enough room for a Black Woman-led urban site that dished the latest in all things music, entertainment, and culture. And from then on, she's been an unstoppable force.


Evolving now into multiple entities, namely her branding and marketing agency Always Civil and her empowerment and motivational career-based franchise Live Civil, the New Jersey native has become and continues to be a household name and standard of excellence for those across various industries. She's also been one of my top two favorite girl bosses for YEARS. After admitting to having a long night hours before she dialed into our interview assisting on a video shoot with hip-hop artist YG, I found myself temporarily lost and intrigued at the thought of what a day in the life of my literal #career, #fitness, and all around #lifegoals would be.

From running companies to running plays with some of the biggest brands and entertainers in the nation, we wanted to know just how she manages to do and be so effortlessly on a continuous basis. This is the business of being Karen Civil.

Upon first waking up, I...

...start my day off with a conversation with myself and a conversation with the Universe, I talk to God. I light my candles, I set my affirmations for the day. I have a conversation with my dog. For me, it's all about the think, do, and be positive moments. I know I have to set the tone of my energy level and how I feel spiritually before I can go out and conquer the world and be Karen. It's me putting on all the armor before I go out and become an X-Men or Superwoman.

Courtesy of Karen Civil

"I know I have to set the tone of my energy level and how I feel spiritually before I can go out and conquer the world and be Karen."

The most hectic part at times...

...is not having enough time; even though you schedule things out a lot of things overlap. And because of the great work that I do, a lot of people and brands always want you at the forefront. It's not being able to be at everything and that goes from a business standpoint to a personal one. It's just those moments of knowing that when I am present in one situation, I am lacking in another.

My self-care looks like...

...therapy. I get Reiki healings done and I love surfing and going to the beach. I love surfing because it teaches you how to control chaos, how to control things around you and to keep calm. I'm also a big reader and, oh, my tribe! I love my good tribe of people. Sometimes in a world where you're just so busy working, you feel like 'I'm going through this alone.' It's good to have conversations with them.

What I learned in love is that...

...there are people who love me or who love the idea of me, but unfortunately they can't handle me. And for a very long time, I would dim my light to make them comfortable. But when it comes to love, they should love you for who you are and not for a part of you. I had to learn that so I let a lot of people go and realized, the person who is going to love me will love me unconditionally. They'll love me for the life that I'm in and won't feel insecure or feel like my success hinders them in anyway.

It's an ongoing process but I'm in a place where I'm not just rushing a relationship, but creating deep-rooted friendships first so we really know each other. We really know what we like, where we stand with goals; we're not just talking about what's happening in the moment. I don't want superficial love anymore so I'm taking my time with it. I'm making sure the person who enters my life understands my light, how bright it shines and that they are in love with that.

Courtesy of Karen Civil

"I'm making sure the person who enters my life understands my light, how bright it shines and that they are in love with that."

My tribe are...

...some of the most incredible people in my life; I don't even call them friends I call them family. They don't ever allow darkness to make me feel defeated in any way even when it comes from work. My tribe, they're X-Men, they're unicorns! I wish I could go down the list of them all. I have these people who are in my corner and I just love them so much. We pour back into each other, you know? We start our conversations with, "Hey how are you feeling today? Are you happy?" And it's like damn, it feels good to have friendships and to have girlfriends.

In order to take charge of my health, I...

... just decided to remove a lot of things from out of my life, which helps. I see Dr. Sebi's son, I take his medicine. I don't do any sugars, red meat, or carbs. Which is hard for us! But once you start removing those things from your body and you reset your palette, they no longer taste good to you. They're not things that you crave anymore. That's really what's been working for me.

So I'm not vegan anymore because I have to have certain fish and chicken and things like that. Even in my fridge, when my friends come over, I have like eight different waters. And I'm taking a lot of dairy out. I do a small, minimal amount of dairy. I don't do cheese or milk. And I'm not a drinker, you know some people come home and have a glass of wine--I'm cool. It just never was me.

To get unstuck, I...

...get through it by remembering who I am! I remember the greatness of my path and everything God has bestowed upon me. With every position, there's going to be naysayers so I know it comes with the territory. It's unfortunate but I move past it.

I posted something the other day that goes: 'There are two wolves and they're always fighting. One wolf is darkness and despair and the other one is light and hope. Which one wins?' You have to learn how to answer that for yourself because when I answer it, the one that wins is the one I choose to feed. And for me it's always going to be light and hope. I don't have control over anybody else's being, or how they do things but I have control over my emotions and what I give attention and life to.

Success to me...

...has many different meanings and it's changed over the course. It went from at first moving out of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to getting my first home, getting my dream car. But success now to me is being able to operate and navigate in a space that wasn't accustomed or created for a black woman to succeed. Especially on her own terms. It's being able to open up doors for other women to walk through, build tables for other women to sit at, and just being that light for other people, giving back to a world that's given me so much.

So when I talk about this women empowerment thing, I really mean it. I live it. Because I know what Angie Martinez meant for me, I know how she made me feel and she helped me strive for my career. I want to be able to do that for the next generation of women. I want to be able to help create a positive change in someone's life.

For more of Karen Civil, follow her on Instagram.

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:
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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