As the creator of the Black America brand, purpose, intentionality and integrity are at the heart of my actions as I build this brand. What does that mean to me? It means a few things.
First, this is not a trend. When I created Black America Summit (BAS) in June 2020, it was to bring transparent information around the impacts of COVID from leaders and experts to the Black Community. When I created BAS, transparent information was not readily available. Instead of digging into the roots of why COVID significantly impacted the Black community, the media framed Black mortality rates as if the deaths of Black Americans were unpreventable. As a Black American, the broad brush strokes across statistics and horrid personal stories seemed harmful at best. I wanted to use my background in event management, social science and hosting DEI conversations to create a unique space to address COVID. A safe space where Black Americans and allies can unite to learn more about the root of the challenges, strategize around practical solutions we can do in our local communities and to inspire each other. At the time, I had not realized that there is a need for this space to address non-COVID related issues. While our topics may grow from solely being COVID related, the purpose of our space- to create cross-cultural conversations to educate, strategize, unite and inspire around issues that impact the Black American Community– has not changed.
Second, we will unpack how specific topics affect Black Americans across the country, socio-economic groups and identities. We will intentionally reframe from “demonizing” the Black Community for areas where there are opportunities for growth. In my opinion, too often the Black Community is blamed, criminalized, punished and treated apathetically for phenomena created by Greater America. For example, when people condemn Black Americans for not owning more property. To me, the conversation should flow from the history of why to Black Americans do not own more property to the current resources, challenges and possible solutions to increase Black property ownership. This means the dialogue needs to address the history of red lining, titles not being passed down through generations, and the history of how the government used land deemed for Black communities instead of shaming Black Americans for not owning a larger share of American land. Thinking beyond the easy condemnation of the Black Community will result in more impactful and honest encounters and tangible change. This is what I mean by having intentionality in our conversation.
Third, integrity is a core personal value that I hold; naturally, I extend this value to my business. While money is not the driver of the brand, it will be needed to higher team members and cover business expenses. That being said, it is important to address how we expect to cover our business expenses and the work environment I hope to nurture. As our Black America brand grows, my goal is to keep our inaugural program (Black America Summit) free to attend while providing opportunities for you, businesses and academic institutions to support us through donations. It is important to me that the main program is free because my ultimate goal is to get clear, transparent information and to provide accessible space for Black Americans to talk to industry leaders. I do not want to place a barrier for that information and access. This feels counterintuitive. Through the support of our community, we should be able to not only host our Black America Summits but also solidarity events and our Black America Podcast. In addition, donations from our community will allow us to provide paid internships and positions so that we can both grow our platform and honor the people helping us. We are proud of our volunteer team and would like to compensate our team members for the expertise they lend to us, so that we are successful. I look forward to having the opportunity to employ a diverse team and to create a safe work environment for them, which sadly is rare for so many Black people of all identities and other minorities. Corporate sponsorships and donations will permit us to transition volunteer positions to paid roles. Last, there is an expression “all money is not good money”. With this in mind, I will remain mindful of our corporate partnerships so that our content and safe spaces are not compromised. In essence, as I approach expanding the brand and creating positive work environments, I will do so with integrity and the purpose of BAS in mind.
Finally, as “corny” as this sounds,I sincerely value you, a vital member of our community. You make the summits lively. You elevate the dialogue with your questions and conversations in the chat section. Above all, you show up both vulnerable and full of love ready to tackle difficult conversations. The conversations are tough but they are honest, genuine and rooted in facts and driven by you. I believe being vulnerable at any position of life and being willing to be challenged and to work together with strangers is a sign of love and trust. That trust is incredibly special and will be honored as we grow together.
In conclusion, I, Rielle Jones, am thrilled for you to experience the new programming that we have planned. I look forward to you fully engaging us across platforms. My team and I will honor your support by continuing to grow with purpose, intentionality, integrity and love.