When it’s too surfacey and you ain’t feeling peopley…

@messinabottle was at the conference and she had on this very cool jacket. yes, i got permission to take the pic.

(Loosely edited) The week after the Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference, read the 3 part series I wrote about that, I went to a gathering for sistas: influencers, entrepreneurs, designers, content creators and makers. I went to get out of my comfort zone and to get fresh ideas and be inspired. It was dubbed as a conference, but not a traditional one.


Clearly, I didn’t realize I’d put these conferences back-to-back on my calendar. This whole get out and be around people more thing. Ha! The gag is on me. Possibly, this was too much being peopley.




The conference was at a swanky event space in the west loop, and it was “on,” but I wasn’t feeling grand and ah ha the first evening of the gathering. I felt more like I was attending a festival or expo. It felt surfacey and full of beautiful people whose goal was to appear perfect and well put together.


Wait, I know what it felt like, it felt like being at the club in my 20s.


Everywhere I turned there was someone with a picture or video camera capturing the moment. Lights. Cameras. Actions. It was sensory overload and I kept saying to myself, “this is too much.”


I so felt like a gen x’er in a millennial space. Lol lol lol.


I even had to catch myself from being adultist.


*sits up straight in seat*


Real talk, it wasn’t cos it was millennials and up-and-coming who’s who there, it was that my “spidey senses” aka the empath in me was dinging all over the place. The sistas in attendance were beautiful, hip and stylish, but I was sensing so much pain and hurt in the room. I kept having to ground myself and stay present.


When the speakers started things settled.


I was so very inspired by the sista who started Travel Noire. Her premise of “traveling with depth” speaks volume.


As key takeaways from how she runs her business and who she hires:

  • Work from anywhere—work from where you’re most inspired and happy
  • Find a “tribe” that helps you grow and build your business
  • Be intentional with treating people well ie. staff has unlimited vacation time
  • Be transparent
  • Be okay with not being the smartest person in the room
  • Build a company that’s important and impactful for you, to you ie. Don’t try to be the next google. Be the next you


When asked about her morning routine she highlighted her spiritual practice and daily devotion. She also shared that she’s started going to therapy, and the crowd affirmingly clapped!


In listening to this sista I kept saying, “your gifts made room for you.” Do you and do you well, and the people will come.


Her business culture values:

  • Everything is figure-outable
  • Be a do-er
  • Be a team player…be apart of the work “family”


The second Friday night session was a panel. So yeah, um. Not really any take aways other than a reminder to be mindful of when folk are taking too much and you’re giving too much.




I was up early so I made it to the conference before sessions started. McDonald’s was the breakfast sponsor and though I didn’t eat what they were serving, I was impressed with how well the spread was laid out.


The dj was holding down the 1s & 2s, sponsors and product booths were set up and the day started in a timely fashion. The thought of being in one room the entire day with these damn pillars that obstructed ones view, made me a lil antsy. At first, I was feeling like I was at a Tony Robbins gathering or Lisa Nichols was gonna come out and tell me about “the secret.”


Sessions start:


1st session takeaways

  1. Fail fast and then keep it moving
  2. Stop being caught up on # of followers and focus on those who are following you, they are likely your actual customer?!?!?!?!
  3. For creative: Tame your creativity. Strategize and optimize. Instead, of coming up with a lot of ideas, actually see something through to the end
  4. Live as if you already have the medal
  5. Whenever you host anything make sure guests walk away saying what an incredible experience it was
  6. As a womon, listen to your own voice
  7. Prioritize excellence


Suggested reading: Crush It


The next segment was an interview with the former editor-in-chief of Ebony and the senior editor of HuffPost Voices. Former editor-in-chief of Ebony was witty and had a lot of experience, but the most important thing she reinterated was: “You don’t have a brand, if you don’t have a product…do the work.” She also made the distinction between manager and boss. She’s a manager, not a boss. I’ve heard others make distinctions between being a leader, not being a manager.

The following “fireside chat” was with Lena Waithe and Robin Thede. Okay, I knew of Waithe as she is a Chicago native and her involvement with Dear White People, but I didn’t know she was in a series Master of None. I got schooled on that. I was told that I had to watch the Thanksgiving episode.



  1. Greatness can’t be ignored


The session with lawyer, Bari A. Willaims was the most informative. Moral of the session = protect yo ish! Sis says she does “Trap Translations,” make legal mumble jumble plain.


The workshop with Danielle Leslie was a hands-on session. Moral = be a culture ADD, not a culture FIT. What are you adding to the culture?


Suggested reading: Growth Mindset


The fireside chat with Necole Kane was interesting to hear how she transitioned from Necole Bitchie to xonecole. The transition was a testament to choosing not to live her life as a spectator to other people’s lives, but to living her own life.


I’d never heard Luvvie Ajayi’s “story.” Her wit and humility are contagious. Her take aways were 1. Stop running from your gifts. 2. For creative/writers: always have a home for your “art/writing” no matter if someone “picks it up, or not.” Always have a home.


Lastly, Erika Bennett = don’t force things that’s not supposed to be apart of your journey. Ie. she thought she wanted to go to grad school, but for real for real, she was looking at other people’s lives and their progress, not her own.


Most importantly she suggested the following: “Have the audacity of a white man.”


I made it. I made it to the end of the day. And I was overjoyed when they announced that we could take the flower centerpieces. Oh yeah! That made my day. I heart fresh flowers.



nicole jhan’rea



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