For the first time, nearly 10,000 of the nation’s top millennial minds were recently welcomed by Forbes into the Motor city.
Forbes's annual 30 Under 30 Summit kicked off it's eighth year in the land of innovation and ingenuity on Sunday October 27th; a perfect backdrop to the four-day business conference established to cultivate and connect the next generation of leaders with the people, resources, and platforms necessary for success. This event is one of the most talked about amongst young professionals, as it is an honor, for some a dream and stamp of approval, to make the coveted list, especially considering it's obviously daunting deadline.
So you can imagine how thrilled I was to have the opportunity to go. However, even in the midst of my excitement, I had to ask myself, "What world am I about to throw myself into?" This a recruiters event, a place to connect and be connected. The world of business is very much about hue you know. So where do I -- the wild card, the stone that the builder refused -- fit?? Business, tech, finance, digital media --. those industries combined don't usually employ enough people to cast The Wiz, if you know what I mean.
So, as a woman of color, I fully prepared myself to be thrust back into the days of undergrad lecture halls at a PWI, searching hopelessly amongst the sea of students for a coil or curl I could compliment. I zenned and prepared to be overlooked at an event that was never created with me in mind, but instead to support those in industries where many think I don't exist; or even worse, have no interest in existing. (Not to mention, industries that still seem surprised whenever someone from my community makes their list.)
Lastly, I conjured all of the strength and courage of my ancestors who sacrificed their lives to make sure that their posterity could occupy rooms that they were never allowed to stand in. When I stepped into the Masonic Temple at 500 Temple Avenue, I was in for a full-blown treat.
Not only was the cast of The Wiz in full effect, but so was School Daze, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Boomerang, and Love and Hip Hop. Seriously, Ray J was in the building. Our higher learning extended far beyond the drumline, through the quad and into a different world that did not need to declare "dear white people" because it was obvious that our homecoming was the main attraction. I was proud.
I tapped my 14-year-old sister twice on the arm, who was only with me in Detroit in the middle of the week because the teachers back home in Chicago were fighting for better educational circumstances, and said, "Oh, this is about to be lit!" Not because I was preparing her for a turn up, but because I understood the importance of being surrounded, from peers to panelists, by faces that looked like hers, shared her experiences, and represented her culture -- no code switching. I was thrilled that her first experience of "the real world" would be hallmarked by the impact of representation and diversity. Little did we know, this was only the beginning.
One of the first things we noticed after coming off of our "Mama we made it" high, were these cute little sweatshirts, hats, and hoodies that read "For(bes) the Culture."
What's that? Paired with concords, Greek letterman jackets, blazers, loafers, hoop earrings, and baby hairs, these words were so well accessorized on the black and brown attendees I had to go find one -- better yet, find out what it meant.
Enter, Rashaad Lambert and Vinasia Miles. I quickly introduced myself to the founders and creators of For(bes) the Culture, which I've lovingly nicknamed the summit's Black Student Union. Two years ago, these two entrepreneurial geniuses called out an obvious oversight and advocated for change, rendering seats at the table for us, for the culture, and an official partnership under the Forbes umbrella with Forbes 30 Under 30 as of July 2019.
For(bes) the Culture is a community of the world’s current and future elite minority leaders who network, collaborate, share opportunities, and discuss issues related to their respective communities and the world at large. What started as a meetup for the few and far between who attended the conference in the past, has quickly blossomed into a legacy of secured inclusion and visibility.
But they didn't stop there. Lambert and Miles had an entire itinerary planned out over the course of the four days. Their playlist included panels and panelists for us by us; exclusive networking mixers featuring shrimp-n -grits and swag surfin’; game night with rounds of spades,trash talking and a good ol’ poppin’ group chat that went up the whole time. Because who are you really without a good group chat hyping you up?
For(bes) the Culture was hands down the highlight of the entire 30 Under 30 summit. There is no doubt in my mind that I would not have had the same experience without the support and presence of my people in the space. Nor would I have developed lasting relationships, both personally and professionally.
As rapper, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and businessMAN Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter once said, "We are culture. Nothing moves without us".