Role at I Grow Chicago: Empower people with the resources and knowledge to obtain employment through resume creation, applying for specific jobs, understanding the application and interview process. Help people apply for school and financial aid and choose a career they want and explore all the options for that career. Assist members in the community with starting or development of their own businesses and goals. Also, I help am helping with the data initiative at I Grow. Whenever needed, I help members of the community resolve issues with companies, obtain government documents, search and apply for housing. All in all, I am a resource for my community at I Grow Chicago.
What I do outside of I Grow Chicago: Working on getting my tech company started full-time. Also, I drive Lyft full-time. Occasionally, I attended networking events and seminars that I see as relevant to my business. I haven’t in awhile, but I am a gamer, not online but maybe soon. I also, I am a continuous student of business, information systems, technology, innovation, and strategy.
Why I became involved with I Grow Chicago: I went to a art fundraiser someone on my Facebook invited me to and I was impressed with their work and goals for the community, so at that moment I decided to help wherever I could.
What I Grow Chicago means to me: I Grow Chicago is a way to solve the actual issues that face my community, which involves a lack of resources, employment, and a means to get through some of the hardships that consistently come up for specific demographics in specific forgotten and disconnected parts of town. Also, it means standardizing a system that un-disinfranchises people and allow them to thrive where it was before difficult to survive. It means a “possible” end to practices like gentrification which gray space’s the actual cause of impoverishment in cities across this country. Bridging the cultural gap between races through honest safe discussions and working together.
What I Grow Chicago means to the community: I believe the members in the community see I Grow Chicago as a place to come that is safe, nonjudgmental, fun, and empathetic towards them. Also, a place where they can get or find the things they need for whatever they want or need help with. It also means that they are not forgotten and are loved by many outside of the community.
How I Grow Chicago has shaped me: Being there has helped confirm just how important it is for people in our community to not forget where they came from and still are even if not physically located there. Meaning, don’t forget all the help you got to help you get to where you have been and where you are and why paying it forward is just as immediately impactful on your life.
Favorite activities at I Grow Chicago: If I had to choose favorite activities I would say that I really do enjoy helping people plan their next career or education move, make a strategy for their business to start, grow, and succeed, problem solving, and of course attending the occasional Yoga class which reminds me of my first career and takes me to that centered place inside of myself. Also, I really enjoy the community events that I Grow has throughout the year. It’s a fun way to meet people and share ideas and goals. Last but not least, I love seeing the beautiful smiles and bright faces that are always there to greet me when I come do my work.
How I cultivate peace within myself and in my community: I believe in practicing what I advocate for, so I work towards that everyday. When I have time I read inspirational books such as “Think and Grow Rich”, “The Way of Peace”, “The Tao of Leadership” and basically books that have an emphasis on me being the creator and instigator of my reality.
What or who inspires me: These days, President Barack Obama & Michelle Obama, Jay Z & Beyonce, Will Smith & Jada Pinkett-Smith for being living examples of successful black families building and succeeding together. Colin Kapernick, T.I. David Banner, and all the people at I Grow Chicago for being activist and using their voice and resources to raise awareness and make a positive impact in our community. Spiritual teachers and leaders present and past include, Ilchi Lee, Dalai Lama, Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr., Black Panthers, Black Lives Matters, President John F. Kennedy and Pope Francis. Also, organizations that have made significant innovations in strategy and technology such as Google, Starbucks, Apple, Walmart, and Amazon.
One person or thing that has made a profound impact on me is: My parents, Clarence and Twanda Watkins.
If I could wish for one thing to make the world a more peaceful and loving place, it would be: For everyone to know we can all win together and no one has to be on the receiving end of suffering or struggle to get what we want out of life.