05/01/2017

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Before the Gathering, I had only heard things from senior leaders at my job and google, of course. I had no idea what to expect. I knew two things: I knew New Profit was an amazing organization that I followed intensely in my work, and I knew this Millennial Impact Fellowship was new. I remember taking a huge deep breath the moment my plane landed at the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and telling myself to just be myself. I was given the opportunity to come to a city and learn from people I’ve admired for years and I was hoping that I would most importantly be myself. My experience far surpassed my thoughts. I had the opportunity to have many meetings with people who work on issues that I dream of dedicating my life to and this is something that I would not have had the time to do anywhere else. By the last day, I was beyond comfortable with the entire group. I’ll forever remember telling the entire group my natural hair journey. My natural hair journey is a very emotional topic for me, as it likely is for many black women. By the last night, I knew I was surrounded by such supportive people that I was able to tell stories about subliminal racism without feeling any pushback and I will forever remember this experience at my first Gathering.

Micheala Angela Davis was an eye-opening speaker. I remember sitting in my chair with my notepad and pen and freezing for about 10 minutes straight. I’d be lying if I said I expected us to talk about race and gender so straightforward at The Gathering. These topics are both trivialized and minimized daily. There are rarely raw, unapologetic conversations about the impact of white supremacy and how black women carry the entire political left. There are barely raw, unapologetic conversations about the impact of elitist spaces on poor communities of color but this session happening on the first day at The Gathering was refreshing and set the tone for the remainder of the Gathering: insensitivity will not be tolerated. This session also taught me to be more unapologetic about how I address injustice. This session taught me that sitting quietly in my bubble of privilege will not be tolerated.

One very cool thing about being a Millennial Impact Fellow was learning from the rest of the fellows- professionally but most importantly, personally. Seeing other young people’s work ethic and thought processes is something I think about daily. We all met and about 24 hours later, we formed a bond and a friendship that will forever be cherished. This is something that young people do with little effort and we carry each other when we know it is important to have other voices. In the panel about Atlanta, one of the panelists said “Once you’re granted a seat at the table, bring 5 folding chairs for other people.” While this comment rolled off for others, this quote stuck with me and I think this is one of the most important lesson I will transfer to my time with New Profit. We are as strong as our brother and sister sitting next to us. Less than a month later, the Millennial Impact Fellows are hosting conference calls and figuring out our impact together. We’ve been exchanging ideas and figuring out how we can help each other and this is something I will forever remember about the 2017 Gathering. Our generation will not leave people behind and I’m forever grateful about meeting such amazing people.

One thing I found interesting was that on the last day, someone stood up and said they were disappointed that the MIFs were sitting together and not mingling. The room laughed and there was a bit of awkward tension among us because to us- meeting the “important” people in the room didn’t exactly cross our minds and I admired that. We were sitting around millionaires, presidents and CEOs of successful organizations, however we prioritized sitting in the very front of the room to hear sessions and learning about the other young people trying to make a different. I had met the other fellows about 24 hours before that comment and felt as though they were some of the most important people I’d need to build a relationship with. After speaking with another fellow, we realized that if we had only formed a relationship with 13 other people at this Gathering and those were the 13 other fellows, that was enough. We are enough. A favorite part about the Gathering was how new it was to have young people. Though there are sentiments that this should have happened before 2017, we set the stage for the fact that we belong and this was such an amazing group to do this. Over a month later, we are still following up with each other and figuring out how to help each other. We now spend so much time talking and figuring out solutions to problems. In the end, we have concluded that we are the future. And this is something that I admire so much about this incredible group that New Profit brought together.

Read more from our other Millennial Impact Fellows here!