Dear Culture

TheGrio crossover at Grambling State University

Episode 25

Michael Harriot joins Panama Jackson on location at Grambling State University for a special edition of Dear Culture. The pair are joined by Grambling alumni as they address a live audience of students to talk about life after college, professional opportunities, and the significance of being Black. 


Panama Jackson [00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. Hello. Hello. How y’all doing? What’s going on? My name is Panama Jackson. I am the host of Dear Culture, which is a podcast on theGrio Black Podcast Network and I’m very excited to be here today. I’ve never been to Grambling State before. I’ve never been to this part of Louisiana before. So I’m very excited to host this special live podcast recording of Dear Culture in conjunction with theGrio Daily. We will explain that to you in a second. Lemme tell you real briefly about theGrio’s Black Podcast Network it’s a podcast network full of all kinds of shows made for us by us, for everybody in here. There’s a show for all of us. My show is about pop culture, things that are going on. Just two days ago, I spoke with Van Lathan about take off passing away. But sometimes we talk about Kendrick Lamar drops an album, we talk about whatever’s going on in Blackness and Black culture. That’s what we do at Dear culture. When you get a little time, if you’re bored, you have nothing else to do. Go ahead and pull that up. Subscribe However you get your podcasts. We have video, audio all that good stuff, so make sure you check us out. We also do this. This what we’re doing here today, here at an HBCU in conjunction with HBCU GO, which is another one of our platforms, a part of the Allen Media Group, which is a conglomerate owned by Byron Allen, who just bought a $100 million house in Malibu. That was all over the news. So but he’s doing really well in life. Shout out to the big homie Byron Allen. Why are we here? So two reasons. One, we’re here because I personally have an innate love for HBCUs. I went to Morehouse College in Atlanta, graduated a long time ago. I’m some of y’all probably weren’t even born when I when I graduated. But Morehouse and Spelman have a special place in my heart. But so does Howard. My wife went to Howard, sorta Southern. My best friend is was from from Scotlandville in Baton Rouge. So I come from I come from my mother went to Albany State. So I come from a family full of HBCU grads and people who innately care about Black culture. Black people like when people say, I do this for the culture, literally, that’s why we’re doing this and that’s why we’re here. And that’s one of the reasons why when we had the opportunity to come to come to Grambling State, we made sure to take it. So we did a show at Morehouse a couple of weeks ago. Y’all might have saw Drake and 21 Savage were there for homecoming. I was not I did not see any of that. I saw it on social media like everybody else. But the next day I was on campus and we actually did a live show there where I had the opportunity to bring some of my best friends in life on stage to talk about our career journeys and how we’ve been doing since we left and how we all managed to hold each other up and keep each other hold each other accountable to make sure that nobody fails so. When we had an opportunity to come here, we talked to some of your student leaders about what they thought a good podcast episode would be. And pretty unanimously, everybody was like a discussion about graduating or career choices and options. The future, right? The journey being the destination as opposed to where you’re going. So what we’re going to do today is do exactly that. We’re going to have it’s going to be two parts. One, I’m going to do the first part with one of my one of the co-hosts, my co-host here, Michael Harriot, who is the host of theGrio Daily Podcast. And we’re going to talk about the very unique. Job titles we have and how we got here, because I’m pretty sure neither one of us thought we’d be standing here when we we kind of started on our journey. But then we’re going to bring up two student or two former students I’m sorry, two graduates who have been where you are, who have started their own career journeys or are deep into their career journeys. But talk about what that’s been like so it could be more personal for you all that are here because they’ve sat in the seats that you’re in. So for one, I want to say thank you to everybody for being here. Give yourselves a round of applause. Allow me to introduce the first panelist that I’m going to bring up. He is a noted white peopleologist. He is a person who has a book coming out at the top of next year, the top of next year called Black AF History. He is somebody that you’ve seen on your television screen if you watched any of the major networks from CNN to MSNBC. You haven’t been on FOX, have you? Not yet. All right. That’s just Kanye. But ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for the one the only one of the most famous Black people in the history of Twitter, Mr. Michael Harriot.

Michael Harriot [00:04:31] How’s everybody doing today?

Panama Jackson [00:04:34] So I referenced Michael Harriot, being a noted white peopleologist, and he’s the host of theGrio Daily Podcast. But my podcast is about culture and about what that culture looks like on all of us. But his podcast is a little bit different, so we’re going to run a quick clip right here to give you an idea of what he does. And we’re going to talk about our jobs.

Michael Harriot [00:04:53] When someone says white lives matter, they’re not seriously suggesting that white lives should be important because there’s never been a nanosecond in the history of this country that white lives weren’t important. White lives were important when they founded this country. White lives were so important that they dragged Black people over here to do white people’s work. White lives were so important that they kept lynching us when we said, Hey, man, like you don’t have to do that. They white lives were so important that they demonized our right to vote, our right to participate in democracy, our right to live where we wanted to live and go to school, where we wanted to go to school. There has never been a minute that white lives haven’t been important or mattered.

Panama Jackson [00:05:52] That was deep. Let’s start there, please. What is your. When I didn’t read a specific bio for you, I didn’t even ask you for one because I’ve known you long enough where I could feel like I could do it. But I feel like since we’re talking like careers and stuff, what is your actual job title? Like, if you had to give a quick bio, how would how do you give a bio to people about you and what you do?

Michael Harriot [00:06:10] I always just say, I’m a writer. Like at my heart, regardless of all of the things that I do. I write words? And you know, people will say, well, you mean for TV or like for newspaper or is it for film? And I say, Yeah, right. Like I do all of those things. Ultimately, that’s all. All I really do is write.

Panama Jackson [00:06:35] But you call yourself a white peopleologist, which is a much more specific scientific category of job. What exactly does that mean?

Michael Harriot [00:06:43] So I always had the perception, right? Like, so when we want to talk about racism or race in America, right? We always like talk about Black history. We always talk about, like, our culture. But you can’t understand racism by doing that, right? Like Black people didn’t invent racism. Black people don’t perpetuate it. To understand America’s unique problem and perception of race. You got to study white people, right? So that’s why I called myself a white peopleologist. I always tell the story. So I was home schooled until I was 12. And so and I was raised in a Black neighborhood in a historically Black family. But so, you know, I was just around Black people all my life. And when I was started being around white people, I had to be intentional about, you know, understanding them. So I didn’t understand. Like, if I talk to white people, like how I talked to Black people, why they got scared or what they got like they thought I was angry or something. So you have to like there are a lot of things in our lives and culture, and our behavior that is kind of a way we defer to whiteness. And it’s always been interesting to me that we talk about race in the construct of Black people when we didn’t even invent race. Like white people, did all of that. So you know white people find it offensive. But really, to understand this phenomenon that America is created, you really got to understand white people. Thus, I’m a white peopleologist.

Panama Jackson [00:08:27] That’s an interesting job description, so to speak. So for some context, I refer to myself as a professional Black person. The first line of my bio on my resume, whether I send it to Harvard or whether I send it to FAMU, wherever it’s I’m a professional Black person. And what that means is that I get paid to write about being Black for a living, like my literal job is doing that. So if I want to write it, if I want to have a write a thousand words about what you should put in your grits, I literally can do that. That’s somewhere I got to over time, like being a professional Black person. Is a job description that I think I earned by literally indulging in nothing but celebrating Blackness. Right. Like I am all I do and all are write now. I’m a writer by trade, but it’s it allowed me a certain freedom. To to be me, which is what I want for everybody. I want everybody to have the opportunity to fully live in your Blackness, and be exactly who you want to be and not worry about what the outside world thinks about that. But. I didn’t start out that way like I worked on Capitol Hill as a budget analyst for Congress for 15 years now. I was writing at the same time. But that’s. I started blogging and I turned it into a career. Then I built a website called Very Smart Brothers, and we were able to sell that. What is your career journey like? How did you start? Because you didn’t start here.

Michael Harriot [00:09:52] So I went to college and then I got a masters in macroeconomics in international business. But I was like planning kind of like what you did. But for private corporations, I was a project manager and so I like talked to like it was kind of like being a journalist because I would talk to architects and I would talk to IT people and at the end I would have this big document. And if you were going to build like a factory in Malaysia, like I’d have, I’d put all of that stuff together and you’d know the step by step process. Well, this was back when Newsweek was owned by The Washington Post, and a guy asked me to write, and I was also teaching a class called Race as an economic construct. And the guy asked me to write a story about why people were buying gold all of a sudden, like you would see this is back before you guys were born, you would see like the gold do.

Panama Jackson [00:10:56] We’re gonna have to stop with our old jokes. We keep calling ourselves old. I feel like we’re going to that’s terrible. We’re not we’re not that old. We’re actually pretty young people, you know.

Michael Harriot [00:11:03] So you would see gold commercials for like gold like you want to buy gold. And a guy asked me to write a piece on it and they loved it. And then they kept asking me to write stuff. And of course, if you Black in any kind of space, you automatically become the expert on Black stuff. So police brutality, you got to go to Ferguson and then then that’s how it eventually got here.

Panama Jackson [00:11:30] You know, it’s funny because when I worked, like I said, I worked on Capitol Hill. I had an office where I was the only Black person in there for, let’s say, ten years. But because I was the young the young urban youth, is what my boss, used to call me. People used to call my office to ask me if stuff was racist. Like people would knock on my door and be like, Hey, can I ask you if this is racist? I was like, of course it’s racist because you wouldn’t be asking if you did it right, you know, is racist. That’s why you asking? You just want me to tell you that? Blah, blah, blah. But I forgot where I was going. But I just wanted to tell the fact that I literally worked in a place where people used to call and ask me if things are racist all the time. I feel like that’s important in your journey because you know what? If you go to work at a place with a bunch of white people and there’s no shots of white people or anything like that, you might be the person that people come and ask you questions like that.

Michael Harriot [00:12:17] Yeah. Like most of you guys are probably going to be like, this is probably the last time in your life you’re going to really be surrounded by Black people.

Panama Jackson [00:12:25] Like unless you move to Atlanta or D.C..

Michael Harriot [00:12:28] Right. But you probably at ya well I don’t know at your job. You might be majority Black.

Panama Jackson [00:12:33] That’s true.

Michael Harriot [00:12:34] But it’s weird because I worked at HBCU’s, I worked at this is my second job as a at a Black publication. So, like, it’s weird for me. I live in a town that’s 80% Black. I rarely run into or kind of interact in a meaningful way with white people, which is rare in this country.

Panama Jackson [00:12:58] It’s funny you say that, because so when I started working at I, I built up a website called Very Smart Brothers and we sold to The Root in 2017. Up until that point, I worked on Capitol Hill until I could become a writer full time and I live in southeast DC. Anybody here from DC? No. It’s funny because usually when you’re you’re from DC. Oh, that counts. So I’m from Southeast DC, which is like being from the west side of Atlanta. It’s just it’s like the Blackest part of town is the notoriously the Blackest part of town. When I stopped working at a place with white people, I literally never saw white people. Like, it’s crazy because I like my grocery store, all that stuff. And it changed it, actually. This is going to sound bad, but I got it. But I’m gonna say this. It changed the way that I interacted, right? Because when I. When you work with individuals, you get to know people individually. You treat everybody as an individual. But when you don’t, when you’re literally around, like not around people anymore. So you only around certain groups of people you tend turn people into tropes. And so everything is just like, like white people this white people. It was very, it was very interesting. I had to like I had to like deprogram myself. The whole point of us doing this is to kind of talk about the future. And what does give me like two of the most important lessons you learned in life along your career journey.

Michael Harriot [00:14:18] Right. So that’s a good question. One is, if for whatever you want to do, like you’re like a lot of you want to be in media or writers or whatever. If you want people to listen to you, you have to build up a bank or resumé or a wealth of knowledge that makes them want to listen to you. Right. So, like, you can’t become an opinion writer without having written about politics and sat on a bus and followed politicians around and interviewed politicians or sat in police stations. You can’t write about police brutality unless you’ve covered up, you know, police and you’ve covered police budgets and interviewed people. Like so like everybody has an opinion. But what makes someone pay you to give your opinion is that it’s backed by experience and information. And so the opinion is invaluable. It is the thing that is that opinion is founded on that. What makes it valuable?

Panama Jackson [00:15:30] All right. So I have a piece of advice that I think has done me well over the past couple of years especially, but is something I learned early on. And I think this actually applies no matter what you get into, no matter what your job is going to be. And I’ll be actually curious when we bring up Ashley and J’aime, what they what they think about this so far on your own journeys. I have learned to stop trying to predict my future. And I say that because. If you asked me what I was going to be doing with my life when I got to Morehouse, I was going to be an engineer. Pretty quickly actually changed my major to economics. I think my sophomore year I took one class on urban economics and I fell in love with the idea of of the the common sense nature of economics, like one plus one always equals two. But how that impacts the way that people anyway. I so so at some point I was like, well, I’m going to go I’m going to go get a Ph.D. in economics. I did a summer program that was geared towards put me into a Ph.D. in economics, and I hated it. So I was like, All right, well, I don’t want to do this anymore, but you know what it’s close to a public policy. So then I went and got a master’s degree in public policy at the University of Maryland instead of doing the Ph.D. that I had planned on getting. Right. And then it was time to get a job. I applied for a job at the White House, and I interview with this lady who was very nice, and she told me, I would give you a job, but you don’t belong here. You care too much. I think you care way too much about the stuff you’re talking to me about. And being here would ruin all of that. It will make you too cynical. Which was really nice of her to see that. But I also needed a job. So I ended up getting a job at the Congressional Budget Office, CBO, which is the the the the Congress’ budget. Well, I guess it’s in the title. And I worked there for.

Michael Harriot [00:17:21] the office where Congress has the budget, right? Yes. Yeah.

Panama Jackson [00:17:25] The little offshoot office, we’re not on the main part of the Hill, but and I worked there for 14, 14 years straight. I interned there for a year. Great job. I love the people I work with. But while I was doing that, I started picking up other jobs and other things that that I liked. So for at one point I worked on a radio show, then I managed a nightclub. I taught at the University of Maryland I taught economics and statistics at the University of Maryland. I volunteered. I managed a nightclub. I did some open mics. Like I tried anything and everything because, one, I didn’t have any kids. So I didn’t have anything holding me down. I have four kids now. They hold me down all the time. That’s a joke. They see this. I really do love you. But, you know, I started realizing and then. But I started blogging. That’s how I even got to being a writer. I, a friend of mine was like, You should write. I had no I had no idea, no interest in it, really. But I decided to give it a shot and boom, it becomes a career. Right. And then because I’m because I start blogging, I meet my partner, with very smart brothers. And then we build a website that nine years later, we sell to a major company. But during that time, I get to go because of a blog I started. I got to go speak at Harvard and Howard. I got to go to places I never thought I saw, doors that I didn’t even know existed.

Michael Harriot [00:18:38] You met Oprah?

Panama Jackson [00:18:40] I did meet Oprah.

Michael Harriot [00:18:41] And.

Panama Jackson [00:18:41] Obama. And Obama. But yeah. But because of his blog, because of this thing that I started doing, just because. Why not do it? I got to have all these wonderful experience. I’m sitting here right now because of that, right? Like I have an opportunity to be in front of all of you is amazing. The fact that.

Michael Harriot [00:18:59] But it ain’t Oprah, though.

Panama Jackson [00:19:01] What do you talk about? This is this is better than Oprah. I love you, Oprah.

Michael Harriot [00:19:05] I mean, I know I am, but I’m saying.

Panama Jackson [00:19:07] But so the main point is, like I tried to I just truncated all that. It was at some point I stopped trying to map out where I was supposed to go because I had no idea where I was going because these opportunities kept popping up for me when I was just doing the things that I thought that I was good at. Right. Like I was blogging and cool. It ended up working out like next thing you know, people are hitting me up like, Hey, we want to pay you to come speak in front of all these people. And it’s like, Wow, you want to pay me to come talk? Like, stand on a stage, and come talk to people, sign me up. The craziest experience I had doing that, honestly, and what I’m going to say is going to sound crazy. But bare with me, I actually got asked to come speak to a very prominent university in California, one of them schools is always in the top lists about. I don’t know how else to say it, why white people are messed up. They actually called me and was like can you? We would like to pay you a boatload of money to come here and talk for for 30 to 45 minutes and answer questions. A woman cried while asking me a question she was like, I’m so sorry. I’m like, What are you apologizing for? Like. But, you know, I had all these amazing experiences because I was willing to indulge and try all these things because I stopped trying to figure out, like, whatever life plan I thought that I had. I had to throw out the window because it became immediately useless, like two years into me trying to to do my thing now. That’s not to say if you are if you are living in your purpose and you know what you want to do, that’s wonderful. Absolutely. Run with that. One of my best friends in life, when we got to Morehouse, he said, I want to be a biomedical engineer and Buddy is a biomedical engineer. Today he’s running a lab at Georgia Tech. He actually runs labs in Kenya, Puerto Rico, South Africa. Like he’s doing exactly what he wanted to do. He’s amazing. Nobody else that’s in my crew or friends is doing what we thought we were going to do when we got there.

Michael Harriot [00:20:56] So let me ask you this. Do you think that’s because so and I don’t know this right. Do you want to do the thing you want to do because you want like it might get you a big house? Like you can live good. You might make a lot of money. Or do you want to do the thing that you want to do because that’s the thing you want to do, right? Like because to me, it’s crazy to be 18 years old and just pick a job out of the blue. Like, we don’t even know what the job is going to be that that’ll exist.

Panama Jackson [00:21:32] Yeah, I didn’t know I wanted to be an engineer. I think I heard somebody say being an engineer. Yeah. And I was like, All right, sound cool. I didn’t know what it was today. I’m still not completely sure what an engineer do.

Michael Harriot [00:21:41] Yeah, like. Like engineers make decent money, but, like, I can’t, like, who was to be like, you might want to figure out things or build things and attach engineer to that job, to that idea. But like it’s an interesting question because I think you should try everything that like, do whatever. Like, you have a plan, right? But do what he said, right? Try things because you never know. You might find your true purpose. Because the thing you picked out right now like is it’s crazy to plan your life around what people will pay you to do.

Panama Jackson [00:22:21] You are never going to have more time in your life than you have right now. You know how much time I feel like I wasted in college doing absolutely nothing? Just sitting there and I think about it all the time. No, no, listen. Enjoy yourself. Please. Absolutely enjoy yourself. But this is the perfect time to genuinely think about what you want to do. But why? Like why? It’s what you want to do. But also understand that if you go headfirst into that thing, that there could be a point where you realize, I don’t like this. I cannot tell you how many homies I have who went to law school who decided they hated law in their first year. They’re like, I don’t want to be a lawyer no more. But now I got like $75,000 in loans for this first year so now I got to go be a lawyer so I can pay off. I can just pay off being a lawyer. I can pay off my school, whatever, like. The point is, do what you love. Please absolutely do what you love. But also understand that what you love can change. What you love might change what you like might change where you think you’re going. Might change because you never know who’s paying attention. Which gets into this other thing that he mentioned, Oprah. So I’m gonna tell you briefly about this is one of those things that that kind of helps crystallize all that. You never know who’s paying attention to you. All right. You got to live your life like you never know who’s paying attention. Ima tell you why. Randomly, y’all. Anybody watch the show? Queen Sugar. Okay, love that show. One of my favorite shows, actually. One day, first season. Something happens on the show that I was amazed by. I was like, you know where it hit me? Because I’m I have a I have kids. And something happened in it with Kofi Siriboe’s character, Ralph Angel. I wrote an article about it. I was like, Man, this joint hit me in the feels. I wrote an article about how it impacted me. Published. About an hour later, I get an unknown phone call. I’m Black. Ion answer unknown phone calls. Those could be creditors. It could be someone you just don’t know. So I let it go to voicemail. Right. But you know what happened? I checked my voicemail. You know who was on my voicemail? Oprah Winfrey. Oprah Winfrey read my article because she the feds. She found my phone number and called me and left me a minute and a half long voicemail telling me about how much she loved the article that I wrote. Right. She it made her cry. Or at least she said it did, but it made her cry. Now, the funny thing, I’m so glad I didn’t answer the phone, because if I did, none of y’all would believe I actually talked to Oprah. But I have a voicemail that I could send to my family, and we play every Thanksgiving before we pray. But the point there is you really don’t know who’s paying attention to what you’re doing, right? So you could be doing that thing that you’re just good at that you like doing. And the person that can change your life is over there watching you from a distance. And they see man you did a good job at that. I want to change your life today. I want to go ahead and give you a job doing this because that’s how so many things have happened to me in life. Right? Like I’m just doing what I do. And then I get a phone call from somebody like, hey, I have this project. I want you to be the host of this new podcast that we’re doing, and I want to pay you money to do it. Or I want you to be the host of this TV show that I’ve got going on. I want you to do it. I want you to come speak to all these people about your story. I want you to do it right so you know, or you get to the point where you can take a platform that you built from the ground up and sell it to a company that could literally change your life and your career can become the thing that you love doing that was just a hobby, like all these content creators and things like that they’re doing today. Like, that’s effectively what I did with a blog. I built up a blog and I was able to sell it and, you know, start paying cars off in cash. What’s like the biggest win that you’ve had in your career journey so far.

Michael Harriot [00:25:52] Okay. I think I can think of two well, this is not necessarily career related, but on March 11, 1998, I ran to Bostons in a row in a game of spades. True story and yeah. And I think.

Panama Jackson [00:26:06] Wait everybody here could play spades. Right. Jesus, how many of y’all just said no, none of y’all could play spades.

Michael Harriot [00:26:14] I think I feel like that should be

Panama Jackson [00:26:16] We got to start doing this.

Michael Harriot [00:26:19] Core curriculum, course yeah.

Panama Jackson [00:26:21] Just going to say that there needs to be a class. Everybody should be like a requisite your first real freshman year. Everybody should learn how to play spades.

Michael Harriot [00:26:26] Yeah.

Panama Jackson [00:26:28] Or if you not.

Michael Harriot [00:26:29] Fail.

Panama Jackson [00:26:29] Or if your family’s from the Caribbean or the West Coast, you could take the dominoes class instead.

Michael Harriot [00:26:34] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You could do. You could take the dominoes class.

Panama Jackson [00:26:37] But you got one of the you got it. And if you really ambitious you do both anyway. Continue.

Michael Harriot [00:26:41] Yeah. Or you could just take AP spades in high school and then.

Panama Jackson [00:26:47] I would have got a five on that. I would have got a five on that. Anyway continue.

Michael Harriot [00:26:50] Yeah. But I think my other win man is really just again I just not like. I probably haven’t applied for a job in 30 years. I think that’s a weird like everything. Every job I’ve had since 30 years ago was somebody saying, Do you want to work here? And so I think that’s a win. Like, not not having to like. I think working hard enough and well enough to have somebody recognize it and not have to ask somebody to hire you is is a win.

Panama Jackson [00:27:30] That is a big win. I’ve had a similar trajectory, I think, because even when I got the job working on Capitol Hill, I think I got that job because I interned there. But I happened this was right before 911 happened. And I was like the only person working on, like, unemployment insurance in the entire agency. 911 happens, the economy tanks, then boom. Everything that I’m working on just became really important. So you know what they had to do? Hire me. They’re like, Hey, you want to keep on working here and getting actually paid to do this thing that you were doing? And by the time, like I sat down for a real job interview, they were asking me, how how’s the family doing? You know, how was school was school? Good. You finished and everything. You. It was less an interview, more like, you know, if you want, this job it’s yours. We have four. Pick one. But yeah, that’s that. That is a win. That is a win. Real quickly, because you can’t always just talk about the wins. Have you had any big losses?

Michael Harriot [00:28:25] Uh, well, I mean, I get probably an average of one email with the N word in it a week. So I mean, but it doesn’t bother me. But I guess because I, you know, I look at it as if you’re making people mad. Like if you’re making people use the n word mad, then you’re probably doing something right.

Panama Jackson [00:28:45] And by people you mean white people emailing you that you’re an N-word word.

Michael Harriot [00:28:48] Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I think I don’t know. I can’t think of any that I haven’t solved racism yet. I think that’s a big loss. Yeah.

Panama Jackson [00:28:59] It’s hard for me to think about losses specifically. Like there have definitely been disappointments that I’ve had. We talked about one earlier. You know, all my for all of my homies in the book world are working on books. And I had one interaction with a with a literary agent that was very disappointing for me. And it probably set me back for I’m not the kind of person that’s not confident about the things that I’m doing. So it was weird for me to get rattled by that, but it also just made me put in perspective whether or not I want to be doing the thing that I was going there in the first place for. So I got to be vague about that one because you never know again. You never know who’s paying attention.

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Panama Jackson [00:30:05] So I want to introduce two people who graduated from here. Some of y’all know them, obviously. But that’s that’s why that’s specifically why they’re here. Because what I’ve learned in life is that I typically listen to people who know what I’ve been through, who’ve been where I’ve been, who who seen the same things that I’ve seen and can appreciate the same cultural things that that that I can. So we’re going to start first with Ashley Dabney, who is a true Georgia girl, a native of Gainesville, Georgia, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business management and business marketing, served as a sophomore class president. Residential Life Assistant Senior Resident Assistant Member of the President’s new leadership initiative SGA chief of staff member of the NAACP. She’s and AKA. Former chapter president was the 67th Miss Grambling State University. Please put your hands together for Miss Ashley Dabney. I’m glad to be back home. All right. Our next panelist is Miss J’aime Griffith, who is a dance artist who enjoys contributing to the dance community as a dance educator, performer, choreographer and costume designer. She’s a 2016 graduate of Grambling State University, where she studied dance to perform with the Orchesis dance company. Can we get a shout out to all the dancers in the building. There you go.

Michael Harriot [00:31:33] y’all can teach me a lil somethin.

Panama Jackson [00:31:34] Shout out shout outs. I can’t dance. In 2022, she earned a master of fine arts in dance from the University of Oklahoma, where she performed with contemporary dance. Oklahoma taught various courses as a graduate assistant and created multiple choreographic works. Please put your hands together for Ms. J’aime Griffith. All right. So as I said at the top of this, we wanted you all to be here to talk about basically what it’s like to be having been here and gone someplace. I’m going to ask you some questions directly. Like when you got here, what was your career goal? What were your career goals? Let’s start with you, J’aime.

J’aime Griffith [00:32:19] My career goals. So when I got to Grambling, I came here specifically to dance in the Orchesis dance company and train under Diane Roni Grigsby, who was the former director. And so my plans were to leave and be a professional dancer.

Panama Jackson [00:32:35] And that’s what you’re doing now?

J’aime Griffith [00:32:37] No.

Panama Jackson [00:32:40] No. What are you doing now?

J’aime Griffith [00:32:41] I’m the director, of the Orchesis dance company, so I’m teaching I’m choreographing.

Panama Jackson [00:32:45] So it’s full circle. It’s kind of full circle, though.

Michael Harriot [00:32:47] So? So would you say professional dancer like when you came here? Like what kind of dance like? Because, I mean, I like. I mean.

Panama Jackson [00:32:57] You sound like a professional dancer to me, that’s why. So when you said no, I was actually surprised.

Michael Harriot [00:33:02] So you got to dance at work, right? Yeah, and you get paid for it.

J’aime Griffith [00:33:06] So what i mean by that is. So I wanted to be a concert dancer, so I wanted to be a part of a company and travel and perform.

Michael Harriot [00:33:14] So because I just knew Soul Train when I was 18.

J’aime Griffith [00:33:19] Yeah, I did a little bit of it when I left Grambling, but it didn’t turn out the way that I thought it was going to be. And so I had to pivot. And yeah.

Panama Jackson [00:33:28] I’ll be honest with you all for a second. You know, one of my actual life goals was and it’s one of those things I had to change. I wanted to be a backup dancer for Usher. Have you all seen that? You don’t have to call a video that video. Yeah, I wanted to be in that video so bad and I’m not even joking. It is actually very true. I legitimately mean this Ashley what about you. When you got to Grambling, what? What did you want to do?

Ashley Dabney [00:33:51] So when I came in 2017, I had plans to be a corporate attorney. I was always a business major. So luckily that didn’t change. But I wanted to be a corporate attorney, and now I just work in finance.

Panama Jackson [00:34:05] Okay. So for both of you, what changed? Like, what if you’re on the way? If you’re on that path right now, awesome. But you’re not there. The corporate attorney, things is that something you still want to do.

Ashley Dabney [00:34:19] No.

Panama Jackson [00:34:20] Okay, so why? Why not?

Ashley Dabney [00:34:22] So, really, what changed for me if we’re honest, I’m at home, Covid. Like I had to get a job. I didn’t have time to study for the LSAT I was a campus queen. I had went through like a major tragedy during my reign, so I didn’t have time to study for the LSAT, but I was like, I got two degrees, I need to go get on somebody’s payroll. So that’s what I did.

Panama Jackson [00:34:41] Yeah. Getting paid is very important. I, I can agree completely. What changed for you? Because I’m only saying it because I was actually surprised. Like I said, I was surprised you said no, but since you had it, you said you had an opportunity to do some of that since you graduated. But why aren’t you a professional dancer at this point?

J’aime Griffith [00:35:00] A series of things. When I left here, I moved to New York and I. I trained and I did all the auditions, and I did dance professionally a little bit with small project based companies. But I kind of fell out of love with it because I feel like it wasn’t. I guess it didn’t go the way that I thought that it should have gone in. So I kind of quit for a second and I kind of quit for a second. And I was actually mad at like I was mad at God because I was like, you know, I prayed for this. This is something that I wanted to do for a very long time. And I got here and it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, and I was a little depressed.

Panama Jackson [00:35:47] Well, what what about it wasn’t what you thought it was going to be.

J’aime Griffith [00:35:50] I guess I wasn’t. I wanted it right then and there. And so it wasn’t I wasn’t getting there fast enough.

Michael Harriot [00:35:59] Well, let me ask you this. So when you you’re doing stuff like that and like you kind of living your dream, but when it when that dream becomes like work, like something you got to grind. Like if you’re a dancer, like you’re on stage and 99% of the job is just not on stage for it. Right. Was that it or was it just like you just fell out of love with the art as a whole?

J’aime Griffith [00:36:31] I think that was part of it. Living in New York and being an artist for the most part, you’re going to struggle. You know, you’re going to have to have multiple jobs. And so I think I was there to dance, but I was working a lot, so I didn’t really get the opportunity to actually dance and to do what I thought that I was going to do. But then also I think part of it was it just wasn’t happening fast enough. I thought that it was going to happen a certain way and yeah, but I learned a lot from it.

Michael Harriot [00:37:03] Yeah, it’s crazy to hear you say that because like, both of you were so young to me. Like like to me, if either of you, like, if you want to be a corporate attorney. So it’s like to me, most people who go to law school, I don’t know if y’all know this don’t go like right after they graduate from college because law school costs a lot of money.

Panama Jackson [00:37:25] Yeah. I mean, do you still plan on it’s not the same story that is fascinating the fall out of love thing. I’ve been there. Do you still plan on doing the corporate law thing at all or have you have you seen something else that you like? Oh, I want to do that now.

Ashley Dabney [00:37:39] I don’t have an answer for that. I just celebrated a year at Toyota. I love what I do. I love that I learn every day and I’m challenged so I don’t know that isn’t my full passion anymore is law of course is like you mentioned it’s not my passion it’s not what I love. My passion and my love is helping other Black people, helping students, helping first generation and doing that at Toyota. I learn a lot to be able to give back in these spaces. So I don’t know.

Panama Jackson [00:38:08] So you kind of dove right into one of the questions I was going to have about. Like when you when you when you discover the thing that you think you want to do, isn’t it? So for both of you all, like you mentioned, like your pivot seems like it was a little bit difficult. So you were mad at God like that’s that’s real deep. Like when you get to that point with something that I feel like that’s really deep. How long did it take to get back out of that? Like out of that part of it, because you’re now you’re you’re back here teaching, right? So you must. What part did you fall out of love with and what what brought you back to teaching dance?

J’aime Griffith [00:38:47] You know, I think I was looking at it in a. So I was finding my self-worth as a dancer from my success as a dancer. So if I didn’t get casted in whatever I auditioned for, then I felt like I was a failure. And so I think that I had to step away from it to realize that that’s not where I find my worth. And so unintentionally, I was still I said I quit, but I was I was still working in the dance realm, so I was teaching. That’s where I started teaching. And then that’s also where I started to, I guess, learn more about wardrobe and costume design and things like that. And so what was the question?

Panama Jackson [00:39:37] Like how long how was that recovery that that brought you back to? Even like I’m assuming you kind of fall back in love with it to some degree, so yeah.

J’aime Griffith [00:39:46] So I found I got an opportunity to go to grad school at the University of Oklahoma and also be a graduate assistant. So I was teaching again and choreographing. But it’s a performance based program and so I was a part of the company there. And so I had to dance. And so I kind of fell back in love with performing. And then I also started doing like freelance work. So I do still perform, but it’s not in the way that I thought that it was going to be. Yeah. Yeah.

Panama Jackson [00:40:17] And for you, Ashley. So you graduated in 2021. 21. All right. So you mad early in the career game right.

Panama Jackson [00:40:27] Yes. You super duper early, which you’ve already. You thought you were going to do corporate law, but that’s not what you’re doing, right? You’re not there yet. But like like Michael said, actually, you have a long way to go. Have you seen things at Toyota that are pushing you in a different direction? Like, you know what? I really like this aspect of business. Maybe not the maybe forget the company, but I like this aspect of business and it’s something that I could see myself doing or digging further in or maybe doing something like this, but at a different place because they match more my values. Not to say that Toyota doesn’t, but like they are kind of like exactly what I want to do. Or like I used to want to. I can’t actually say it’s a media company, but I used to want to work at a specific media company because I was like, Yo, this is if I’m going to go be Black, I’m going to go do it here. And then over time, I got these other opportunities to try so many things, at different places. I was like, You know what? I can be me wherever I want to go, wherever I go. I’ve just had the good fortune of being at a place at like theGrio now where I get to, you know, be as Black as I want to be at all times and continue along my path. A professional Black person.

Ashley Dabney [00:41:30] Yes, of course. They always say, if you want to see God laugh, hear God laugh, then just tell him your plan. So that’s what I did. And when I got to Toyota, it was like a land of possibilities. It still is a land of possibilities. There are so many businesses within Toyota and Toyota has so many growing businesses. It’s the possibilities are endless of what I can do and what I’m doing. And so I actually started out in a program that exposed me to almost everything and anything as far as the automotive. And I didn’t even know that Toyota advocates on the governmental aspect. And you’re like, Well, why wouldn’t you know that? I mean, a lot of people probably didn’t know that. So I think that I also have some aspects of what I wanted to do in law, but it’s on a whole different level. And I think that it really has at this point broken me down to a point where I’ve unlocked new pieces of my own mind to say, like, Wow, this is actually pretty cool. I’m actually kind of good at this. I can calculate these things. I’m a good accountant, so those little things that help me along the way.

Panama Jackson [00:42:27] So if I hear you properly, you’re saying things you didn’t even know existed have become clear to you now. Like you’ve learned things and seen things you didn’t know were there before. And it gives you a new perspective on where you could go and what you can do, right?

Ashley Dabney [00:42:40] So our motto at Toyota is Dream, Do and Grow. And that’s what I feel like I do every day is dream the new dream. I do it and then I grow to go on to the next.

Michael Harriot [00:42:48] And you got me wanting to get a job at Toyota.

Ashley Dabney [00:42:51] We are hiring.

Panama Jackson [00:42:53] The views expressed by the panelists on this stage are do not represent those of all of us. We out here talking about getting new job. At your job. So Black. So Black.

Speaker 3 [00:43:06] theGrio Black Podcast Network is here and it’s everything you’ve been waiting for. News, talk, entertainment, sports and today’s issues all from the Black perspective. Ready for real talk and Black culture amplified. Be inspired. Listen to new and established voices now on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen today on theGrio Mobile App and tune in everywhere. Great podcasts are heard.

Panama Jackson [00:43:39] So let’s talk about your time here and how it helped prepare you for where you’ve gone, got to and all this other stuff. So what are one of the what are some of the biggest lessons that you took away from being here at Grambling that have helped you in your professional journey so far?

Ashley Dabney [00:43:57] So the first thing I jokingly said it last week when I was on campus to a couple of staff members is etiquette dinners. Grambling always hosted etiquette dinners for every organization I was in, and I was kind of like drawn out at that point by Senior year of like really Junior year like, Oh my gosh, I cannot do another etiquette dinner. I’m never going to use this, or what am I even going to this for? And because of my job now, I go out with a lot of our dealer principals that represent to sell our cars. And you’ll be amazed. A lot of people don’t know how to eat properly. So I thank Grambling, because my experiences in different organizations, exposed me to something as simple as an etiquette dinner that I use in my career. And it helps me to have conversations because I’m respected at the table. We talk about having a seat there at the table, but you need to be respected in order to be heard, in order to be presented with new opportunities. So Grambling really helped me with that.

Michael Harriot [00:44:50] That’s dope. That’s dope.

Panama Jackson [00:44:55] J’aime.

J’aime Griffith [00:44:56] For me. My dance instructor, Dianne Monee Grigsby, she would always say she would tell the company, look, see and do and be nosey. And so that’s something that I took when I left Grambling into my life, just paying attention to people in, I guess, who have gone before me, but also paying attention to like people above me where I want to go and taking from them. Yeah.

Panama Jackson [00:45:29] If I may. One lesson that I learned and Ima attribute this to HBCU’s shout out to HBCU’s Y’all don’t probably when I, when I was at, when I was at Morehouse, we had to register like in line. We had to actually stand in line to go into a building and like somebody had to punch my classes in. And by the time I graduated, we’re doing an Internet but the internet would always break down. We actually used to register by phone and somebody called you while you were registering, you would lose your classes. It’s very tragic. Very tragic. Anyway, one thing I learned. Is keep every important piece of paper that you ever get from your institution. I do not know what it’s like here at Grambling, but I do know what it was like at Morehouse College, that college that we love to exalt down there and up there in Atlanta, Georgia. And them people took my scholarship every single year that I was on campus, and my grades were fine. But I got a paper every single year saying my scholarship had been revoked because of my grades. And then I would go to the to the lil administration building Gloster Hall and I will show them my paper like I’m on scholarship. I would show them my grades and like, oh cool they hit a button and everything will be fine. But you know how annoying it is to lose your scholarship for no reason because somebody ain’t paying attention for three years in a row. The main bullet point here is keep all the important pieces of paper. You never know when you’re going to need it. I still have a paper with all my graduation signatures. Just in case. Just in case these Negroes try to tell me that I did not graduate with honors in 2001. So just keep yeah 2001. Yeah, long time ago I heard that. I heard that it didn’t hurt my feelings. But I did hear it anyway. Just keep the important pieces of paper.

Michael Harriot [00:47:12] Early 2000s.

Panama Jackson [00:47:15] It sounds crazy. It doesn’t sound like that’s long. That long ago. But it really was like 21 years ago. Man that’s crazy. All right, J’aime let’s start here. Is there anything you wish you’d known when you were here at school that you had to learn in the real world?

J’aime Griffith [00:47:31] Oh, let’s see. So all my answers will be geared towards dance, so that’s fine. Okay. So I think for me something that I wish that I have, I knew before I went out into the real world as a dancer is just professional development. Um, knowing what to look for or what to bring with me to an audition. Like, um, I need a eight by ten headshot and body shot. What I should wear, um, what my resumé should have on it. Things like that. So I wish that I would have known.

Ashley Dabney [00:48:12] Ashley for me is even though you graduate, you always continue learning. So don’t ever close your mind to something or think that you know it all because you probably start over all over again. So you always continue to learning.

Michael Harriot [00:48:26] So so one thing I’d like to point out is and is is prevalent in both of your answers, is the importance of knowing that like doing the requirements is never going to be enough. Right, like, great. It might get you a B and get you to graduate. But, when you out in the world. Right. Like the only requirement is you got to you’re competing against everyone else in that universe. And so I think that’s an important lesson to learn like. Use some of that stuff. You’re going to have to learn on your own and you’re going to have to develop yourself on your own as a person, without a syllabus, without a book, without an instructor. All of it now is taking what you learned, not just the information that you learned, but the way you learned it, the way you study and applying that to everything in the world from now on.

Ashley Dabney [00:49:27] I think actually that’s kind of interesting that you say that, because when I first started at Toyota, I came into the college graduate program. It was 12 of us who started the program. So at that point, all of us were on the same level. We’re in different playing fields as far as our regions. But once the program was over, when it came to the promotion aspect, it was, Well, what difference are you from when you started to where you are now? So I had to not only pull from everything that I’ve learned from Grambling with my degrees and my time being here, but also everything that I learned in Toyota in that year from the program to say, okay, this is the employee I want to be. But also not only what I learned on the job, but at home, because I’ve had to go home and deal with myself. So this person that I’m bringing to you at this one year, Mark, has some different things and has a different perspective. So that is definitely true.

Panama Jackson [00:50:15] I want to add some knowledge that I have now many years out of the game of college. This is going to be very somber. So just just understand that I mean this with with the most genuine of hearts. What I wish I had realized is just how special it is to be at an HBCU while you’re there. Like, I feel like I took my time for granted because we mentioned earlier, Michael and I mentioned earlier talking about like once you leave here, you go on to the real world and you go on to get jobs. You go into grad school or whatever it is. And there’s a there’s a very good chance the room will never look like the rooms now that you’re in. Right. Like it’s never going to be the same place. And that’s not the case for everybody. Right. But for for a lot of us, I went to grad school at the University of Maryland, true story. The lady that brought me up there ended up getting fired because she brought in like ten HBCU grads at one time. It’s like three of us, from Morehouse, four from Clark, a couple of people from, like, Fisk. Like, we Blacked out that that that department, like, almost immediately. And then, boom, she was gone. But, like, you’re in a very special place where you get to just go to school. Like, if you broke, you just broke. You’re not Black and broke. You know what I’m saying? If you if you pissed, you just pissed. You’re not Black and pissed, right? You get to be just you you get to be your full self. But in a space where everybody’s not looking at you and the color of who you are and making judgments about it. Right? Like, if anything, you’re probably in the space that you’re going to have more people encouraging you now than you’re ever going to be in. And like when I was at Morehouse, you couldn’t tell there was not there was no professor had ever thought that I couldn’t be anything I wanted to be right. Everybody was of the belief that I could go and do anything I wanted to do. I don’t know that I experienced that when I left. When I got to grad school, I actually have professors who I don’t think they doubted me, but I don’t think they cared as much about me as I did, or that I thought that I was as special as I felt when I was a morehouse. So with years of knowledge out of this, just keep this in mind. Enjoy this time that you have here because it’s never going to look like this again. As I’ve been in the real world for a long time and it never happened. Now my world is very Black. Now it’s very Black. I’ve said that. I said that earlier. But it’s different, right? Like when you’re in college, you’re what you’re in you’re in a space with a bunch of like minded folks who all have goals, who all want to go places, who all want to be somebody or, I don’t know, change the world. Like the possibilities seem endless possibilities don’t feel as endless when you get in the real world or people start telling you what you can and can’t do, you know what I mean? And the if you’re lucky, you never get held down by that kind of stuff. You never get limited by it. But there’s always people around you making you feel like whatever, wherever you’re trying to go, maybe it’s not is is easy a place to get to as you thought when you were here. So just somber but real. Just enjoy the time that you have here because it’s never going to be like this again. Yes. That was very sad. But I don’t like being sad.

Michael Harriot [00:53:21] I’m happy. Like you’re in the best time of your life right now. Yeah. Y’all don’t know how lucky y’all are like.

Panama Jackson [00:53:29] I was very sad when I graduated. Maybe, like, a week after, like, graduation was great, but I genuinely. I remember thinking I was like, yo, it really didn’t get any better.

Michael Harriot [00:53:39] Like, it’s not going to.

Panama Jackson [00:53:40] Get any better. Not that it necessarily got worse. It just like it was. So I had so much fun in college. I did so much nonsense, so many shenanigans, so much foolishness and fooly wang. But I also graduated with honors, right? Like I was all of my boys, we made sure that nobody wasn’t going to wasn’t going to not graduate. We all graduated. Everybody got out. We all have everybody in. My crew has PhDs and law degrees and master’s degrees. Everybody’s doing well. That’s because we all had each other’s back. Because we believed in each other. Right? Like you’re in a space where presumably everybody believes in, in everybody you might not like everybody you around. But that’s just the nature of being around a bunch of people. But at least you’re in a space where everybody believes that the people who are around you possibly could do something right, could be somebody. And that’s a very powerful, powerful thing that I, I think we can take for granted at times, especially if so, I was like the first my I mentioned earlier that my mom went to Albany State. My dad graduated from Alabama A&M while I was in college, but my mom never really talked about college. I don’t know if she didn’t enjoy it, whatever. But like, I didn’t have anybody really telling me about what college was like, so I had no idea what to expect. I learned a lot of stuff on the fly, but now that I’ve been through it like my kids ain’t never gonna struggle with that. I want to impart it to them very heavily that listen, when you get to the space because my kids are going to HBCUs, whether they like it or not, like you better enjoy this time here because this is going to be the best, it’s going to be the most encouraging space you’re ever going to be in with people like yourself. And I think that’s the one thing that I wish I had known before I got there, because I probably would have taken a little bit more advantage of that. Maybe, maybe. But I like to think that I would have. Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Bring your friends for the shenanigans and stay for the edutainment. As Panama Debates Culture Wars, Janet Jackson versus Michael Blackfessions, Blackmendations, and everything Black. Well, listen, today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture conversations you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard. Last question before we get into some fun stuff. So some some very fun things. What what’s one piece of advice that you don’t think that you don’t think everybody in this room is going to get that you think they need to have for going off into the real world? See, I put that caveat in there that you don’t think they’re going to get because see it’s different. Everybody can tell you, you know, be yourself, be happy and stuff like that. But what’s something unique that you think everybody needs to know from maybe from your own personal journey, that can help them out as they go forward in their endeavors.

Ashley Dabney [00:56:38] It’s okay to be yourself, but it’s okay to be redefined by other things, not just what you see on social media, but things that you put into your minds, your taste of music, your taste of friends, your taste of family members. It’s okay to be redefined. That does not stop you. That does not limit you. You limit yourself.

Panama Jackson [00:56:59] Okay. I like it.

J’aime Griffith [00:57:04] Mine is geared towards the dancers again. I would tell my dancers that a lot of times like so in the dance world, there’s a hierarchy of dance, right? So ballets up here. And then you have modern, you have jazz, you have contemporary. And then anything that is usually created by Black and brown dancers, it’s for fun and is way down here. It’s not seen as something that you study. So I would tell my dancers that what we do at HBCU’s is very specific to HBCUs or the HBCU culture, HBCU dance culture, but be proud of it, be proud of it, and take it out into the world and know that it is also dance.

Panama Jackson [00:57:53] All right. You got anything?

Michael Harriot [00:57:56] Uh, well, I would, uh, actually, like, combine what they both said and say again, like, whether it’s dance or, like, the perception of yourself. Again, don’t like, be confident in the stuff that you learn here and the stuff that you encapsulate as a Black person, even if the world does not value, it does not mean it is not valuable because everything that they hold valuable and I excuse my language, but is just something that people made up. Right. Like ballet is just some stuff that white people in Europe made up, just like dancing and, you know, or or playing in a band or being on a drumline. It is all music and the value of that. You cannot you cannot look to other people to place value on the things that you hold valuable. Right. So all of it is just something that somebody made up and your thing could be 100 years from now or ten years from now or two years from now. A valuable thing. You cannot let someone else determine that value.

Panama Jackson [00:59:29] I like it. Briefly, I’ll just say. Take the confidence you get from being in places like this and be ready for any opportunity that presents itself. Like, don’t lose out on a great opportunity because you don’t feel like you’re ready for it. Like prepare for it. Think that there are things that are going to come your way that you you don’t even know exist yet. But when it does show up, you’re ready to take an opp. You take that opportunity and run with it because you never know where it could take you. You never know why you got it up front. But who knows? It could change the course of your life. It could change the direction you’re going in. Almost everybody I know who was super successful did not start out the way the way they ended up and. Most of that is from just taking advantage of opportunities that came their way that they didn’t know were coming.

Michael Harriot [01:00:18] Let me add this do scary, uncomfortable things. Right because the worst that can happen is you’ll be right back where you were when you didn’t do the scary, uncomfortable thing, like try stuff. And because a lot of times that’ll catapult you somewhere that you never thought you could’ve been or someplace that would have taken you years to get.

Ashley Dabney [01:00:39] I honestly think that you’ll never fully be prepared for any opportunity. So if you’re waiting for that prepared moment, you’re going to miss out on a lot of things that you could have really excelled in and learned a lot from. Because everything is, like I mentioned, a learning opportunity.

Panama Jackson [01:00:54] Fair enough. We always end my podcast with a Blackfession, which is a confession about your Blackness. We all like to say Blackness is not a monolith. Well, sometimes we like to prove it. We like to find out. I’ve had some pretty disturbing Blackfesisons on my podcast. People have admitted things that I don’t think they should have, I feel like they should have gone easier. Like, say, a movie you haven’t seen that you should have. Say you can’t play spades. We’ve had some pretty disturbing things, but I’m not gonna make Michael do this since he’s done several Blackfessions. And we got you’ve been on our show several times. We’ve done this. But I’m going to ask you both for a Blackfession, a confession of something about who you are, about your Blackness that people might be surprised to learn about you. I’ll go. You got? You ready? All right. You got it. Okay, let’s keep go.

J’aime Griffith [01:01:42]  I’ve never seen any of the Friday movies. Oh.

Speaker 6 [01:01:47] Ohhh.

Panama Jackson [01:01:50] You know, I want. I want to be surprised by that. But I. That happens so often. People be like, yo I ain’t seen The Color Purple. I ain’t seen Friday. I ain’t seen has everybody here seen the Color Purple? All right. I feel like that also. This should be a speaking of classes along with spades. There should be like required. Like when you fill out your application for college, you need to be able to fill out the movies. You got to check off certain movies. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve got to be required. That’s a prerequisite before you get here. You need to.

Michael Harriot [01:02:19] Watch Love.

Panama Jackson [01:02:21] Jones before you get here or you can’t come.

Michael Harriot [01:02:23] So. So theGrio asks you. I don’t know if they did it to you. They asked me to give a quote from The Color Purple in my interview. Did they. They didn’t do that to you.

Panama Jackson [01:02:33] Here at theGrio? No, because they know I’ve seen it. I was singing The Color Purple when I was sick before before the camera came on for the zoom, I was singing.

Speaker 6 [01:02:43] Sister.

Michael Harriot [01:02:44] Oh.

Panama Jackson [01:02:45] So I was already singing, so they knew I was good. You know what I’m saying? All right, all right. So, yeah. Well do you have one Ashley?

Ashley Dabney [01:02:50] I don’t know. It’s not that tough. But, I mean, you were talking about it earlier I can’t play spades. And now that I live on the West Coast, I surely can’t play dominoes. So I think that’s the only thing. Yeah.

Panama Jackson [01:03:01] What do you do when you go around other Black people?

Ashley Dabney [01:03:04] Well, in Arizona, it’s not a lot of us. So, like, when it’s like 4 or 5, we just tryna go get something to eat, you know?

Panama Jackson [01:03:11] Oh, goodness. Well, thank you for sharing your Blackfessions. What we’re gonna do now is open the floor to Q&A.

Speaker 6 [01:03:19] Hi. My name is Havlo Williams. I’m from Chicago. And my question is, um, you kept mentioning that going to a HBCU like you’re always surrounded by African Americans or Black people. And when you go out into the real world, that it’ll never be the same. So with me, I’m a little bit nervous about that. So did that like trigger your fight or flight or like did that like make you did that put the pressure on you? Like being surrounded or being in a room full of Caucasians that it’s like, okay, I need to impress them or I have to put my best foot forward.

Ashley Dabney [01:04:42] I would say it was very challenging. I have to keep it as honest as I can. When I first got to Grambling, I think it was like a culture shock being around this many Black people that look like me, but we’re very different. That’s the first thing. A lot of people don’t realize that Black people, we’re not all the same. We’re like our own within our own. So when I got here, it was like, Oh my God, this is like the milk of land and honey. I love it here. And when I got into the real world, not only was I adjusting to being the Black woman in the Black space and having to define myself. But on top of that, others were dealing with other things as far as coming out of COVID, and now they’re going from work virtual. To we’re in the office three days a week. So now I need to learn how to not only interact with Black people, but white people as well, Hispanics as well. So it was very hard. For the first year I probably went home crying every single day saying how much I hate it. And it wasn’t because of the job, it was because I was no longer the Black person with other Black sisters and brothers that I could go confide in a room with. It was only me and it was only me because I’m working this job that a lot of my family members don’t understand. I’m a first generation, and so now I’m having to not only build myself up, but build a career that I want. And so everybody talks about getting to the success, but they don’t talk about the actual journey, the actual process. So I’m still filtering, but now I go in the office every day looking my best with my heels on. It’s not a day I go in the office with flats on. I’m walking in there with heels because when I look good, I feel good. And I also, my personality, they may say something to me that rubs me the wrong way, but you won’t see it on my face. And I have to learn how to react to situations because you’ll always be labeled that you’re Black. But Ima let you know that I’m a proud Black graduate and a proud Black woman as well.

Speaker 6 [01:06:27] Hello, my name is Shekilah Al and I’m from Arkansas. So my question is really to Ms. Ashley okay, so.

Ashley Dabney [01:06:35] Call me Ashley.

Speaker 6 [01:06:35] Okay. So you was a student leader, you was president and I’m freshman class. I’m freshman class president. Okay. So my question well, statement would be like, would you have any advice for me like being a first gen as well, being president, just like stepping into like this college world with like, no help. Would you have any advice like how to stay strong or like how to just keep my head up at all times?

Ashley Dabney [01:07:04] Well, first, I think that they owe you another round of applause because you’re freshman class president. Hello? So I actually when I was here as well, sophomore year, I ran. Freshman year I got disqualified. But God’s plan because I feel I told somebody the other day that I feel like if I would have got it then I wouldn’t have been as far as I am now and have learned as much. But the thing that I tell you is get some get a sense of community around you. Grambling is really family. I love it here. I’m always here, of course, because I love the people here. When you get good people around you, it helps the battles that you fight because life keep going and life is always going to throw things at you, but it makes you amp up yourself to fight those things. And then also give yourself some time by yourself in your dorm to really filter everything that you’re learning about yourself, this new environment that you’re in. Being a leader because being a leader is not only leading everybody on the outside, but leading from within. So get some time to yourself, but get that sense of community. So when they when you are doing wrong, your friends can correct you and it’s like. You’re trying to be a leader. That’s not that’s not the way to dress. That’s not the way to go out. That’s what you’re doing. You shouldn’t be using those words, being out in public like that. So sense of community, for sure. And my freshman roommate is in here, so I just want to give her a whoop whoop because she did all my graphics throughout my whole time here so Thank you Monika.

Speaker 6 [01:08:20] Thank you. Greetings I’m Kisnis Daniel. I am a freshman and I am from Bernice, Louisiana. So my question is for Miss Ashley. So I know that as African-Americans, we can’t slip up, we can’t slip and fall, we can’t make a mistake because we have to be the best at what we do. So how do you handle the pressure? How do you stay on top of your feet, you know, and not, you know, be anxious and feel like you can’t handle it? Who told you that you can’t fall? I just feel like, you know, I have high expectations for myself with me being an African American young lady, you know, we have to be on top of everything, it’s like immediate. We have to be the best at what we can do. You know, where white people. They’re quicker to get opportunities than us where they may not be the best person for the job. They still end up getting it because of their privilege, you know, because of their color.

Ashley Dabney [01:09:11] So like I mentioned before, first thing is community, because you need those people that you can be honest with because you’re honest feelings is how you can interpret to fight those battles. But the second thing is that I’ve learned and I stay true to this, is I’m going to be my authentic self when I say not only did I go home crying, some days I was in that office crying, and that’s okay because you’re going to do it. I’m going to be my authentic self. I’m never going to violate anything, but I’m going to bring all of me here. Then we can filter out some things that maybe I shouldn’t bring. But all of me is coming in this office every single day. So wherever you walk into, whether it’s an office space, a dance room, a stage, you need to be your authentic self because that’s the only way people can help you and see the benefits that you actually have. Because everything that is within you may not be in the next person beside you, whether they’re white, Black, Hispanic or Asian.

Speaker 6 [01:09:59] Okay, how would you answer miss J’aime? Oh. So you’re a dance instructor. We look up to you. We expect the best, which you’re doing a very great job. Um, so how do you feel? How do you juggle all of the pressure? Oh.

J’aime Griffith [01:10:22] I think also community. I think she did a very good job answering that question. I would say community as well. And mine looks different. Mine is my family. Back home, I call them my boyfriend. My best friend Willie behind you. Oh. So I make sure that. That I vent to them so that I don’t bring it into the studio. That makes sense. Yeah.

Speaker 6 [01:10:46] Thank you.

J’aime Griffith [01:10:47] You’re welcome.

Speaker 6 [01:10:47]  All right. Hello. My name is Cameron View and I’m from Chicago as well. My question is, what’s a point in time where you knew you were Black? Like, I feel like, you know, you grow up and, you know, like, oh, I’m Black, but in a point of time where, oh, that’s me that they’re talking about. Or this is a category that I’m in, or where there’s like a racist moment or whatever. Just a point where you realize, Oh, that’s me, like I’m the Black girl or I’m the Black man. Does like, Does that make sense? Does the question make sense? And I want all of you all to answer it.

Michael Harriot [01:11:24] After I was like entered the public school system, I went to a I skipped a grade and then I went to this mostly white elementary school. But I had been taking piano lessons from a piano teacher that taught at all of the Black elementary schools in my neighborhood. And at the end of the year, they had this big concert, and I was at the white school and they were singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And all the Black people from my neighborhood were singing this song by Donny Hathaway. And like, I felt so like, like I was with the white people and all the Black people were up there and they could sing. And then the white people singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer bumping into each other when they swayed. And then a white dude in my class as they were singing, he kind of whispered, but I could hear him, and everybody in class laughed. He’d say, Look at all those lips. And that’s when I knew like, you know, everybody laughed. And I was the I was the only Black person in that class, and everybody laughed. And that’s when I knew, like, you know, I was not different. It was just like, but they were the dumb ones because they couldn’t sing. They would bumo into each other when they swayed they were inadequate. But they felt superior just because of their whiteness.

J’aime Griffith [01:13:03] When I first realized that I was Black or um. So I’m from New Orleans. I grew up in New Orleans. And during Hurricane Katrina, we evacuated to a small town in East Texas called Hallsville. You nobody’s ever heard of it is like I don’t know if y’all ever heard of Marshall, Texas while in college. And then Longview was, like, right in between. But it’s tiny, so you drive past it. And I grew up in New Orleans around all Black people like my my school, my elementary school, my neighborhood, my church, grocery store, everything was all Black. So when I went to Hallsville, Texas, it was a culture shock. It was predominantly white. And so I remember auditioning for the dance team and hearing people their reaction and how I should not. Who do you think you are? Like, Why are you auditioning for the dance team? Like, That’s not something that the Black girls do. So I think that’s kind of my first time.

Ashley Dabney [01:14:11] My first time is actually from Georgia it’s kind of fueled my fire to be here at Grambling. And why I love Grambling so much is back at home, all the Black kids go to Fort Valley or Albany and all the white kids go to UGA or our agriculture school which is called Aback Abraham Baldwin and I was going to Aback because I worked at the camp that supported them so I had a full ride to the university. Well, when I went to tour, one of the tour guides said to another person in the group, She’s only coming here because we’ll pay for her. And so at that point, I knew that I was Black and I was only going to be awarded a scholarship because I was a Black woman and I didn’t want to be comfortable there. So.

Panama Jackson [01:14:56] And I’ll answer this briefly. I don’t actually remember the first time that I had that memory. What I do have a visceral remembrance of is the first time that it actually was like it’s like, damn. Like, I feel real Black right now. And that was in Boston, Massachusetts. I was on the green line train after a Yankees and Red Sox game. And I remember I was I was on I was on this train. And I ain’t never felt that uncomfortable in my life. And I went to high school in Alabama. All right. I was in high school in Alabama. I lived in Georgia. But it just there was something different about that. I was like, yo, I feel uncomfortable and unsafe right now. Like, I feel like me as a person needs to remove myself from this situation. But I don’t I don’t know exactly what it was, but it was a feeling that I had. I think it’s that innate feeling that we all have is like that that paranoia that comes with Blackness right that’s it’s like, I don’t know if I don’t know if this is really a problem, but it feels like it could be a problem I should remove myself from it. And so I distinctly remember exactly where I was when it happened on that train in Boston after that game. Like, it was just too much energy that was uncomfortable and unfamiliar to me. That was too. It was like, you know, you see, like people win big football games and they burn down everything and everybody’s like, yay celebration. But if you did that, everybody is going to prison. It was that kind of feeling. And I remember that distinctly.

Michael Harriot [01:16:22] Like it’s when they play knuck when you buck, I mean, knuck if you buck at the club and it’s like 2:00 in the morning and everybody drunk and you’re like, Yes, it’s bout the time I leave now.

Speaker 6 [01:16:34] Hi, my name is Kaniah Washington. I’m from Los Angeles, California. And my question is geared more towards I hear amongst you all when you were discussing your different career paths from college into the quote on quote real world of just not feeling as though you’re doing exactly what you thought you would be doing. And I think now in our journey as college students, we’re kind of trying to find our purpose in a sense, and to see that you guys are not where you thought you would be being that that was probably your purpose. How would you define purpose now?

Michael Harriot [01:17:10] I will just say this, whatever. However you define it right, the purpose is the thing that makes you happy and fulfilled. But what I will say is. I am not even the same human being that I was when I was 18. Right? Like I was like I mean, not just the cell division and all the cells of my body, but I’m not the same person. It’s like. Like you’re not the same person you were when you were 12. You’re not going to be the same person when you’re 32 or 52. So what is your purpose now? Could be possibly your purpose, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be your purpose in ten years. It doesn’t mean you’re wrong now. Right. It just means that you won’t be the same person. In the future that you are now. And sometimes the difference is what you think your purpose is.

J’aime Griffith [01:18:08] Mine has changed I think. I think that it continues to change. So I’m still trying to figure it out right now, to be honest. Completely honest. Like I said, it has changed like throughout my journey and I’ve only graduated six years ago and so I feel like it has changed in every stage since I left. Like in New York when I went to Oklahoma and now in Grambling State University is something different.

Ashley Dabney [01:18:30] So yeah, kind of wrapping up what everybody said so far. It’s really a process. Your purpose is a process it’s an evolution. I always tie it back to my brand, which is a journey. It’s the evolution of who I am and who I’m becoming. Because like mentioned, who I was at Grambling and served as that purpose, did everything I needed to do in God’s plan, in God’s way. Now the person that I am to myself in my twenties, early twenties, is not going to be the same person I was even two years ago or even a year ago. So I’m defining that every day. But it’s something that gives me motivation. And as long as I have breath to keep going and to keep serving and to keep giving, that’s my purpose.

Panama Jackson [01:19:12] And I’m going to add one one caveat to this. You’re from from L.A., right? Was this your first time coming out here when you came to college here? All right. Completely new perspective on the world, right? You got out here, was like, what the hell? Right. Or you was like, this is awesome. Whatever it was, whichever one it was for you, right. So you learn something completely new by coming out here. You saw people you never would have met in any other circumstances. You saw places you never would have seen in any of the circumstances. That’s going to happen for the rest of your life. Who knows what? Wherever you go from here, if it’s a brand new, maybe you go back to L.A., but you’re gonna to go back to L.A. different than you got here. You’re going to see L.A. differently, right? You might go to Oakland, you go to New York, you go to Atlanta, like the first time I went to New York. I was like, my God, like, I have never seen a place like this in my life. Like, I was so fascinated with New York. Right. But it also changed the way that I saw myself and where I could see myself. Right. So every experience I kept having impacted the way that I viewed who I was and where I could go. Right. The first time I got to Washington, D.C., I was like, I think I could live here. So I ended up moving. I went to grad school in D.C. and then I moved up there. And now I’ve been here for like 20 years. But, you know, every experience you have can impact the way that you view your purpose because it’s all adding to the building blocks of who you are, however old you are right now. There’s so much you’re going to learn tomorrow. You might learn something brand new that changes the way you view everything about the world. Hopefully that’s positively because some of us have had tragedies in our lives that have completely changed the way that we view things. I’m a much I had a I had a significant tragedy happen in my life when I was 20. I was between my junior senior year in college. I saw something that I should never have to see, that nobody should ever have to go through. But it fundamentally changed me as a person. I’ve been way more happy, way less negative since then because I kind of felt like I was on borrowed time. Ever since then. It wasn’t till I had kids when I was like, Maybe I’m supposed to be here. Like that night that changed my life. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to die that night, right? Like that kind of thing. And it gave me a new purpose. It gave me a oh, the way that I approached and deal with people, dealt with people after that, completely different because I felt like I saw things differently. So based on what everybody was saying, which is all we’re all echoing the same things. It’s just like every new experience you have can impact and change the way you view something. All of that is going to change your purpose. Who knows when you’re going to find it? He’s right. Maybe you maybe the purpose you think you have right now is exactly what you supposed to do. But maybe tomorrow that’s going to change. Maybe next week. Maybe ten years from now.

Michael Harriot [01:21:52] Yeah, like.

Panama Jackson [01:21:53] 50. Who knows?

Michael Harriot [01:21:54] Here’s a little example, right? Like like she went to New York, she went to Oklahoma, and she she thinks she failed. But what if God or the universe was literally trying to build the perfect dancer and give them all kinds of experience in every area and genre? And she thinks, Oh, I failed in New York and I failed in Oklahoma. But in reality, her purpose was like, you know, it’s very few people in dance, students in the whole state of Louisiana that has a dance instructor with that much experience from around the country. What if that is part of her journey? And like that failure, the things she thought was a failure was building something more complete.

J’aime Griffith [01:22:50] But I was going to I was going to say that, too, like the disappointments and thinking that, like, I failed. I look back and I’m like, I had to go through that to get to this point. Then to that point, that to that point. Because it’s all a journey. It is all connected.

Speaker 6 [01:23:05] So. Hi, I’m Madison Johnson. I’m from Dallas, Texas. I have a quick question. How did you learn how to not doubt yourself or second guess yourself and not to hold yourself back and anyone can answer?

Ashley Dabney [01:23:20] I kind of wrap up for what you just said is everything makes sense eventually. It never makes sense in the moment. I can’t think of one situation where I’m like, okay, this is going to make sense. I’m a back pocket this and I’m going to use it again. Never, ever has that happened. And anything that I’ve gone through. I look back and say dang I needed that experience because now I’m prepared even more for this experience and I can pull from it kind of like how they say, get the word down in your soul. Like, you know, you need some experiences down in you so that way you’re able to do those things.

Michael Harriot [01:23:51] And another thing is going through with it doesn’t mean that you didn’t have doubt like you can doubt yourself and still go through with it like that is bravery, right? Like it’s not that you not don’t have fear is that you do it despite the fear, right? So the doubt is a feeling doing it is an action. And so the two didn’t have anything to do with each other, right? So don’t let the feeling stop the action.

Speaker 7 [01:24:27] I have a question for J’aime. Earlier you mentioned there were things in New York you learned like as far as headshots and like other things in the professional world that you wish you would have known. Are you going to instill that for your students here at Grambling State University?

J’aime Griffith [01:24:41] Yeah. Yeah, that’s definitely my plan. Everything that I felt like I didn’t know leaving Grambling. Like that’s been my my goal to teach the Orchesis dance company and all of my students in the visual and performing arts to make sure that they are prepared and they don’t have to go through or go through as less than what I had to go through as far as like trying to figure it out. If that makes sense.

Speaker 6 [01:25:13] How are you guys? My name’s Alanna Lewis. I’m from Saint Louis, Missouri. And basically, I just want advice. Okay, so nobody. And I’m the first college kid. Um, so basically what I’m trying to ask is my mom doesn’t think that if I go, no, she believes that if I go to a PWI or like high, low HBCU, that I’m like guaranteed to be a part of a workforce. But I feel as if, like I make the interview, like, I don’t think that just because I say, Oh, I go to Grambling, or even if I don’t go to a school, I feel like. Who I am. Makes me eligible for a job. But she doesn’t understand that. So, like, what is advice that I should give to my mom to help her understand that just because I go to Grambling, which isn’t like the highest HBCU, it’s not Spelman, but is Gramb. So it’s a school it’s a college.

Ashley Dabney [01:26:07] So who told you Grambling isn’t prestigous baby this is the Ivy League of all Ivy League institutions. Please. What is your major? First of all, will be the question.

Speaker 6 [01:26:18] Kinesiology, science. I want to be a physical therapist.

Ashley Dabney [01:26:20] Okay. First to start off with is in anything that you do, you have to be confident in what you’re doing. And the hard part about it is our family members are our own enemy sometimes. And they don’t try to be they do not try to be, but they are. And if you can’t hold yourself accountable for your confidence, don’t expect anybody else to do it. So that starts with having the conversation again. Grambling is a prestigious of all HBCU Ivy Leagues or anything. You can get any job you want to because of who you are and that’s like everybody mentioned, it’s just really being confident in that. And then, of course, your network, Grambling has several opportunities and career services to get a job and ministration always knows somebody. There’s always alumni willing to help you. So that’s never going to stop you. And we’re always going to prepare you for those interviews to walk in there like you got a degree from Harvard University.

Michael Harriot [01:27:17] And one of the things is I feel like that’s a myth that people believe. Like there probably are like some people who went to Harvard who could help you people help other people from Harvard get jobs because they were rich before they went to Harvard anyway. Right. Like they just got those connections. But like in the real world, like once you graduate and you got a degree and then you get so like you’re not going to be the president of the is whatever job you work at the first year but like the people kind of don’t care where you went to like it’s really disappointing like we did like it’s really disappointing that like the 4.0 student is the same as a 2.5 student once you get out of college, like, like all a lot of this stuff that we think is like you got a degree, yeah can I verify it. Yeah, I didn’t you know, that’s it basically. Right.

Panama Jackson [01:28:15] Let me.

Michael Harriot [01:28:15] It’s the same books like it’s the same bodies and the same books that they’re all studying from here.

Panama Jackson [01:28:21] Here’s something you can tell your mother. Which to say it respectfully, because if your momma were like my momma, you know, be careful how you say these things. But we have a famous saying in the Black community, I can show you better than I can tell you. Right? So just go out there and do exactly what you think you can do. You can’t you can’t win an argument with somebody who’s already decided the outcome on the other end. Right. But you know how you can change that argument if you go, you do what you’re supposed to do while you here? You go to class, you graduate, you go get a job. Then what? She can’t say nothing if you literally disprove what she thought in the first place. And I do want to I do want to echo the other thing. Listen, listen, listen, listen. I went to Morehouse, right? So I obviously have a very lofty opinion of self as how we all that’s how we all get taught. But I imagine you all get taught the exact same thing here, right? Like you said, you had Grambling you ain’t this is you at where you’re supposed to be. So you better wear that as if it is the greatest institution that ever existed. Because they got you here and they got other people like you here, right? Like you can’t ever walk out somewhere being like, well, I’m here, but I know it ain’t this. Don’t do that. Because I went to morehouse. You cannot tell me. You know, we have shirts at Morehouse that say Harvard, the Morehouse of the North like. You got to think that highly of where you are or else you’re not going to be able to carry that out to anybody else you’re talking to, much less family. Right. If you’re if you don’t believe it, why would your mom believe that? You know what I’m saying? So. Just go and show in proof, though. Just what year are you?

Speaker 6 [01:29:58] 2026. I’m a freshman.

Panama Jackson [01:30:00] All right. So good. You got you. She got some years just doing this, but you got to deal with that. That’s your momma, you just got to deal with it. But then when you graduate, you get that job. You could be like, look, here’s exactly why I came here, and here’s exactly what it did for me. You’ll be all right.

Speaker 6 [01:30:13] Thank y’all.

Michael Harriot [01:30:50] Getting back to his first quesion, his point is relevant because Harvard’s reputation is just some stuff that some white people made up. Right like for real like the books are the same. It’s not like they got some secret knowledge at Harvard right? So all you gotta do is just decide wherever you are is better than every other place that there is in the world.

Ashley Dabney [01:30:50] And she has on our sweater with a Grambling. I know the G represents Grambling, but honestly, for me, every day it represents I’m a gangster, okay? I was meant to be here. And I can be in every space and this code switch can go on and off. So you need to walk with that pride. And know, you ain’t got to say you’re a gangster. But, you know, I got a little Atlanta in me.

Speaker 6 [01:31:08] Okay, so I’m a gangsta. Okay. Thank you all. Well, hey, everybody, I’m Kirsten, and I’m from Shreveport, Louisiana. I have a question for J’aime. Hey, girl. So my question is basically it’s a two part question. The first part of the question is what advice would you give us as oinks or as any young aspiring professional dancer? And the next part of the question is, what advice do you have for somebody who’s trying to go the freelance direction with all of that? Because since you’re flourishing in that area, I would really like to know because I want to would like to do something like that. So what’s like any green flags or stuff not to do or just advice in general.

J’aime Griffith [01:31:52] Okay, Kirsten you gone have to give me that first question again. What was it?

Speaker 6 [01:31:56] Okay. The first question was, what advice do you have for the Oinks or any young aspiring professional dancers?

J’aime Griffith [01:32:02] Okay. So our Oinks for y’all who don’t know it’s the new members of the Orchesis dance company. We just call them oinks. My advice to my new dancers. But but just a dancer in general that’s like pursuing dance. Keep going. Don’t give up. I know that’s so cliche to say, but keep going because the minute you give up like you, you’re going to regret it. And then you going to start where you stop. You’re not going to start where you stopped off. You’re going to be. What am I trying to say? Behind. Behind? Yeah. So in the company or just in general don’t give up. Don’t give up. Keep going. And then what was the second one?

Speaker 6 [01:32:47] The second one was, what do you feel like? Do you have any red or green flags? What to do or what not to do when it comes to being a freelance artist? Freelance artist or dancer.

J’aime Griffith [01:32:59] One thing that I learned as the way that I got into like this freelance world is collaborating with my my friends. Like, I have a lot of friends who are dancers, who are videographers and things like that. And so I collaborate with them to create art. And another thing that I would tell you, Kiersten, is. Don’t be afraid to make it happen for yourself. A lot of times, as dancers, like we, we value the person standing in front of the room, their opinion, way too much. And sometimes you have to you have to try to make it happen for yourself. And so what does that mean for you if you want it? So for me, I wanted to be I wanted to perform. And so I found people around me that wanted to do the same thing. And we created art. I wanted to be a dance model. And so I would make my own costumes, and I would hire a photographer, and I would do it that way. Does that makes sense. Yeah. Okay. All right. You. You’re welcome.

Panama Jackson [01:34:09] And then a couple of things before we close out. One, I want to say thank you to Grambling State University for allowing us to be here, for having us here, for opening up your hearts and minds and your venue for us to come down here and share a little bit. This is awesome. I was I was very sincere when I said I have a lot of love for HBCUs. So if I could only ever go speak at HBCUs like True Story and I don’t I’m not saying this so that people know when I used to go do like public speaking, I wouldn’t even charge HBCUs. I’m like, Yo, I’ll do that for free because that’s what matters to me now. The other schools are going to come out of pocket, but my Black folks, if you know, if I could, I would do it for free because I genuinely believe that I would not be here without the spaces that were given to me as a student at Morehouse, at Spelman, because I spent a lot of time at Spelman. I even double majored, actually, so I could take all my classes at Spelman. I was very enterprising at a very young age, but I want to say thank you to everybody for being here. It really means a lot that you all came out. Hopefully you were able to take something away from all these wonderful panelists who had a lot of gems to drop, who had things to to share, who were very open and honest about their journeys. And I think that’s important because one of the most important things you’re ever going to get from people who’ve been where you are in life is, is their experiences, understanding those experiences that hopefully make things a little bit easier for you. That’s what I think is the job of everybody who’s come before us is to make things a little bit easier for those behind us. Check out Dear Culture. It’s one of the podcasts on theGrio Black Podcast Network, as is theGrio Daily. We have several podcasts on theGrio Black Podcast Network that you should check out subscribe. You can find them anywhere that you get your podcasts. We have some amazing shows coming out by people like Touré has a couple of shows coming out. Maiysha Kai we just we have a lot of really good content at theGrio that you should check out. So the Real Black Podcast Network, check us out on the Grio app. And in closing, I just want to say thank you to everybody for being here. Michael Harriot, J’aime Griffith, Ashley Dabney. I really enjoyed this conversation and I really enjoyed the opportunity to have that with you all. Jokes, seriousness, all that good stuff. It makes for good conversations. And I think that’s why we do this thing that we’re doing. So thank you all for being here. It’s been a pleasure. It’s been a blast. Hopefully we could do this again sometime. Black is beautiful. Have a Black one, y’all.

Michael Harriot [01:36:41] Thank y’all.