The Biggest Takeaways From xoNecole's First-Ever ElevateHER Crawl

It's Saturday morning, I'm at ElevateHER and I'm already in love.


A mirage of pink and purple balloons come into focus as I step into the building. I can faintly make out the beats of "Before I Let Go" and muffled laughter as I walk up to the counter. Suddenly I hear an empowering, Kiki-filled "Courtney!" behind me. An overwhelming sense of comfort comes over me and, at this point, I have to check myself. I'm in Atlanta at a business networking conference with my cards in hand and my elevator pitch memorized. So, why does it feel like I just walked into my favorite hair salon on an early Saturday morning?

It's Saturday morning but I'm not at the salon, I'm at xoNecole's first annual ElevateHER presented by Toyota Corolla and I'm already in love.

Artist Melissa Mitchell giving us life.Photo by Carol Lee Rose for xoNecole

The first 300 attendees received custom tote bags

Black women are the fastest growing economic force in the United States and that's a fact Necole Kane understands like the back of her hand. It could be argued that Necole is one of the biggest pioneers of that entrepreneurial spirit in the digital space, both personally and through xoNecole.

xoNecole's SHEeo vibing out at the ElevateHER entrance.Photo by Carol Lee Rose for xoNecole

Boss Babes Link Up was a perfect networking wall where attendees wrote out what they needed and what they offered.

This one-of-a-kind marketplace was a community of digital and traditional business women who are, above all else, enthusiastic to see other women win. An expertly curated space with Instagram-worthy backdrops and an extraordinary DJ who understands how to get a party started were merely exciting add-ons to the empowering experience of ElevateHER. Over 700 women filled Mason Fine Art Gallery to shop a varied array of 25+ black women-owned vendors like Melissa Butler's The Lip Bar, LaKeasha Brown's 1987 Juices, Candice Cox's CanDid Art, Charline Shelby's Fabulina Designs, and Tay Watts' Posh Candle Co. to name a few.

Swank Blue

Bask & Bloom

Play Pits

The Lip Bar

As attendees we got even more bang for our buck as we were able to listen to panelists give testimonies and real-life advice for propelling women forward. The speakers included host Dana Blair, Ezinne Kwubiri (the Head of Inclusion and Diversity for H&M), Pauleanna Reid (a Forbes.com Senior Contributor), Tamisha Harris (a CNN/HLN producer), Janell Stephens (the founder of Camille Rose Naturals), Alicia Scott (the founder of RANGE Beauty), Christina Rice (the founder of OMNoire), and Shavonne Riggins (the founder of Curlkalon) as well as a surprise appearance by Hollywood producer Will Packer.

Dana Blair moderating the Elevator Pitch panel featuring Christina Rice, Tamisha Harris, Pauleanna Reid, and Ezinne Kwubiri.Photo by Carol Lee Rose for xoNecole

To top all of that off, we were even treated to free palm and tarot readings, henna, drinks with the "you can sip with us" slogan served by Crown Royal and Baileys, and musical stylings by the ever-talented lady spinners DJ OHSO and DJ Traci Steele.

DJ Traci Steele had the crowd bumpin' on the 1s and 2s. Photo by Carol Lee Rose for xoNecole

VIP attendees enjoying complimentary drinks from the Crown Royal bar.Photo by Carol Lee Rose for xoNecole

Attendees were able to kickback in the Crown Royal lounge complete with cocktails, Vegan bites, henna, palm readings and astrologists.

The Real Queens fix each other's crowns walls was an attendee favorite and reminded us of the Queens that we are.

An underlying theme throughout the event was the idea of timing.

It wasn't your usual "trust timing" mantra we see on Instagram but instead, a diligent lesson on how timing works with the power of intention to progress towards your goals. It takes more than perfect timing for an idea to come to fruition. Timing is nothing without intentional execution and dedicated hard work.

From Necole's keynote about her career pivot and being acquired by Will Packer Media to each panelist on the Elevator Pitch panel co-signing to this theme in one way or another, this message wasn't the only one received all day. In fact, below are a few more key takeaways.

1. Your trajectory is yours to own.

Photo by Carol Lee Rose for xoNecole

Necole delivered a beautiful keynote on the power of understanding and leaning into your journey, especially when you're just starting out. One of the key points touched on was the pressures from the outside world on where you're supposed to be or who you're supposed to be. Oftentimes we internalize the pressures and opinions of others and allow it to direct the trajectory of our careers. A big moment in the room happened after Necole described the feeling of people telling her how moving to Phoenix wouldn't advance her career. Her response? "Will Packer found me in Phoenix." Sis, yes. Hello. The moment was received by so many in the room who feel limited by circumstances like location, and shed a light on the facts that location isn't what's important.

Throughout her chat, she stressed the importance of listening to your inner voice and moving towards your personal happiness; a sentiment that was echoed other times at the conference. The aha-moment was when Necole shared why she was so determined to execute this event perfectly. "This event is the epitome of my new direction," she says.

"Young girls are watching and this has to be a success. This is the only way I can push forward with this acquisition."
Support is excellent but without execution, it's just an idea.

2. Us supporting Us.

Photo by Carol Lee Rose for xoNecole

By now, we've all seen the stats on how long the black dollar lives in the black community. It's more important than ever to cultivate real spaces for the black community to invest in one another. We aren't readily found in the aisles of Target, the racks at Saks 5th Avenue, or the counters of top retailers (yet). Awareness and information are needed to build this financial community and ElevateHER Crawl was a giant step in that direction.

When Will Packer took the pink stage, the energy was amplified by a thousand. Will understood the importance of investing in the community that helped me to his billion-dollar successes, and he made it clear at every turn.

"I have made over a billion dollars at the box office. You know who drove me to that billion-dollar success? Black women. You did that. So when the time came for me to put my money and my resources where my mouth was, guess who I wanted to invest in? A black girl, you damn right."

The message: We are enough. A message that wasn't only present in Will's speech, but seen in every aspect of the event. From the 25 shop owners on Vendor Row, to the team Necole invested in for the day, it was all manifestation of this sentiment. ElevateHER showed what can happen when passion, community, and resources come together. We are enough and we have enough to build this community.

3. Substance over Flash.

Photo by Carol Lee Rose for xoNecole

The key to any great event is substance.

The pretty colors and photo-ready corners are nice, but the heart of any conference lies in the information. Each panel was expertly chosen and perfectly crafted to fulfill the needs of real, working women. Panelists focused on tangible and actionable pieces of advice needed to propel women forward in business. The industries were far-ranging and each speaker brought a unique perspective to the subject at hand.

For those hoping to produce an event similar to ElevateHER, I encourage you to take this advice to heart. A conference is more than a place for a cute photo. It's about crafting a unique and extraordinary experience for whatever community you support. This also applies to the work you're doing; it's more than the aesthetic of your Instagram. The real work happens in boardrooms, on conference calls, and in the hours of labor that aren't captured on video. It was a common trope from almost every panelist (including Necole herself) that your primary focus should be crafting and creating a quality product/service, not how many followers or likes you get.

I have never been in a space so uplifting, encouraging, and dynamic as ElevateHER Crawl. I've never left an event feeling so motivated and confident in my abilities as a woman. Above all else, the community presence was real. A slew of women loving other women is always my jam, and the foundation of ElevateHER. For those looking for a conference to call home, I also encourage you to attend ElevateHER next year.

We can only get bigger and better from here.

Photo by Carol Lee Rose for xoNecole

Want a peek at more of ElevateHER? Check out some of the event's highlights in the slideshow below:

Photo by Carol Lee Rose for xoNecole

Featured image by Carol Lee Rose

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.


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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