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Archive for : Interviews and Inspiration

Passion Shines Bright

By Shanté Haymore-Kearney

I was honored to be invited to serve on the Repair The World (Repair) Delegation.  As the manager of Community Partnerships for the Miami chapter of Common Threads, a national non-profit, I interacted with  Repair – Miami as the organization explored partnership opportunities for their incoming fellows. I attended the Service Unites Conference as a member of the Repair Delegation because of  the opportunity to convene in the historic city of Atlanta with people from all over the country who are actively engaged and committed to service and volunteerism to create positive change in their community and the world.  As a chosen member of the 40+ person team, I was joined by people from different parts of the country and was one of the few non-Jewish, and only African-American delegate, I brought that perspective with me to all the activities and conversations and I fully embraced the opportunity to learn about the rich Jewish culture and religion.

Although I have worked in the non-profit sector for the past eight years, I had never participated in a conference with the scope or size as Service Unites.  Being with over 2,200 people who were passionate about various causes was a powerful reminder that I am not alone, and I felt a sense of community and connection amongst strangers.  The lessons that were reinforced to me over the three-day conference were:

  1. The importance of diversity.
  2. Passion as a catalyst for change.  

The Opening Plenary was held in the historic Fox Theater was my top highlight of the week and did an excellent job of setting energy and tone for the days to come.  The themes discussed were water, youth, and women. The presenters represented a diverse range of colors, religions, ages, ethnic backgrounds, economic status, and impact capacity. Although the content was varied, the passion that each of the speakers and panelists brought was palpable, giving me goosebumps and at times moving me to tears. Through all these differences, the commonality was that each person was driven and inspired to create change through the means, resources, and talents they had available to them – they all lived passion and purpose driven lives. They were each a powerful example of living and serving others and inspiring people to join them in being part of that change. My favorite presentation was the spoken word poem that was performed by Storytelling Activist Amal Kassir. She used her Muslim-American culture and religion as a backdrop to express her experience of inequities as of late in this country through recent policies and procedures that have been put into place and create separation and disconnection among her people in this country.  

The display of passion and emotion was beautifully demonstrated many times in the heartfelt and emotional addresses that Chairman of the Points of Light Board, Neil Bush, shared during the Opening Plenary and the Closing Ceremony. He shared openly and vulnerably about his parents, Former First Lady Barbara Bush and Former President George W. H. Bush, and the lessons that he learned from them about being in service to support others in the best and worst of times.  He gave a teary-eyed reflection about the importance of being accountable to each other and ourselves for the progress and state of the world and communities that we live in. I was fortunate to meet Neil in the hallway in between sessions and I thanked him for being open, vulnerable, and authentic with his words and emotions. I told him that it is my personal belief that when we each show up authentically and allow ourselves to be seen, we become a mirror for others to see themselves too.  It humanizes us. It allows compassion to flow freely. It creates connection, and as my mentor, Founder of the Connection Coalition, Terri Cooper Space says, “Connection is the cure.” I believe that what we need more of is to give each other permission to shine our lights and illuminate the world in a significant and much needed way.

Throughout the weekend, Neil presented two people, actor Jesse Williams and NBA player Dwight Howard, with the Point of Light honor.  Over 6,000 of these awards have been presented over the years. While it was special to see this honor given to them for their important work and dedication, what really stood out to me was that everyone in the room is truly a point of light, and in those three days we all came together to grow, share, learn, and inspire each other to continue to shine through service and volunteerism.  We did this by celebrating and embracing our diversity, living with passion for the causes and issues that we care about and affect us, and believing that a small difference is actually a big difference.

I felt that the Service Unites Conference gave me permission and access to resources to shine my light and be bright!  

Shanté Haymore-Kearney is a champion for community empowerment, health, and wellness. Shante’ has a diverse professional work portfolio which includes over seven years as a marketing and community relations strategist within various business sectors including, national non-profits, international sports organizations, and corporate retailers.

Her dedication to creating positive change and personal empowerment is evident through her personal endeavors as well. She has been a certified yoga teacher since 2011. She founded a wellness company, Inner Inspiration, that teaches “Tools for Mindful Living.”  She has guided hundreds of people to connect with their inner peace and personal power through yoga, meditation, vision boards, prayer, and mindfulness in classes, workshops, retreats, and online content. Shanté has been a member of the service teams of Miami­-based non­profits Unity on the Bay, Connection Coalition (fka Yoga Gangsters), and Gratitude Training Leadership Program.

Haymore-Kearney received her degree in Business Administration from Florida A&M University and her Masters of Sports Administration from Northwestern University.  One of her proudest accomplishments was as an NCAA Division I Volleyball student-athlete when she was named Conference Player of the Year in 2000 and 2001. Shante’ balances her work life, yoga, and meditation teaching, along with being a mom to a 2-year-old and a wife.  She currently resides in her hometown of Miami, FL but is planning to relocate to Atlanta, GA to start a new chapter for her and her family.

Facebook & Instagram: @inspirationbyshante


Repair the World Highlight: Nisha Blackwell of Knotzland

By Rachel Bukowitz

Nisha Blackwell is a self-taught seamstress and founder of Knotzland, a company dedicated to sourcing and rescuing high quality materials and repurposing them into unique, handcrafted bow ties. Born and raised in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Nisha now works with local women in the community by teaching them to sew and make bow ties for Knotzland. Nisha has created a business that supports people and the environment, all the while creating fabulous bowties!

What was your inspiration in starting Knotzland?

I love reuse and reclaiming. Essentially, I’m really passionate about using things that exist already to make things that we want to exist. I initially made a hair bow for friends daughter, and then one thing lead to another and now I’ve ended up in bowtie space.

Can you share a story or example of the impact that Knotzland has had?

There are so many stories, one of my favorite impact areas is working with local women in the seamstress industry. I train women [to make bow ties]. They come in and pick up their supplies and then do their pieces at their home and then they bring them back. The community of women is really special and has impact on the outside community.

What has been the biggest challenge you faced in founding and running Knotzland?

It’s challenging to always be thinking about what growth looks like. People want to scale fast, but I want to scale intentionally and ethically. The bowtie world doesn’t mean scaling fast.

How has investing in sustainability been good for your business?

It’s refreshing for people to see and hear how impactful it is to reuse things that already exist. There has been a huge education component involved. This is slow fashion; it’s not at your doorstep like Amazon Prime. I usually have to have that conversation with customers, explaining why slow fashion is good for the environment.

What is something you are working on now that you are proud of or excited about?

My most recent project was commissioned by City of Pittsburgh through Innovation and Performance (IMP) Inclusive Innovation Week. On the project I was proud to continue working with Darrell Kinsel, a local artist from BOOM Concepts, to make bow ties that were very direct and powerful. We got together and made bow ties with words on them like “Collaborate”, “Peace”, “Equity”, “Innovation”, and “Inclusion” The bowties were then purchased by the City for the ambassadors to wear during Inclusive Innovation Week.

I am proud to make a statement with a brand. Knotzland focuses not just on environmental aspects of the world, but also on social good.

What was it like to be chosen for Facebook’s Small Business council?

[Nisha was chosen to be in the 5th class of Facebook’s Small Business Council which is a private group that consists of 60 members from all types of different companies]

It was a crazy experience! I flew to the Facebook headquarters in San Francisco and had two days of intensive training on topics ranging from creating great content, to advertising, to actually using products. They provided us with a lot of Instagram insight on how to capture audiences and create effective content. Overall, they advised us on tools that help small businesses. Since small business owners usually do a little bit of everything, there is not as much time to learn some of these things like there is in a large business where they can hire a person to do one thing full-time. They answered a lot of our questions and offered us amazing networking opportunities.

Is there anything else you (Nisha) would like me to know, or have included in Repair the World’s blog?

I would like to say that I really appreciate Repair the World. Repair the World provides a platform and space for social justice. Also, Fellows have been customers of Knotzland! Zack [Block, Repair the World Pittsburgh’s Executive Director] and the Fellows have been really supportive of Knotzland.

Repair Inspiration: Two Girls, One Jewish and One Muslim, Share a Stage

It’s Throwback Thursday, and we’ve got a very worthy throwback for you! Last year, two young women got up on stage at the Brave New Voices poetry slam in Washington DC. One, Hannah Halpern, is Jewish. The other, Amina Iro, is Muslim. They were there to co-recite a spoken word poem – one with a powerful message of tolerance, unity, and finding strength within our differences.

BNV is a project of Youth Speaks, a San Francisco-based organization that works to advance the intellectual and artistic development of young people, while amplifying their voices. As you’ll see in the video below, Halpern and Iro’s voices were definitely amplified – and the result is nothing short of amazing.

Interfaith understanding, awesome poetry, and two smart and fabulously talented women sharing their stories – what more could you want? Watch and cheer!

Find out more about the Brave New Voice sslam and Youth Speaks at their website.