From the moment I stepped foot in the lobby of the Westin, I was overcome with joy and excitement for what the day was sure to bring. For the first time, Black Girls Media held an in-person conference and it was everything I imagined and more. Restoring my faith and confidence that the realm of media and entertainment was for me, the timing of this event couldn’t have been more divine.
The organization was established by Tasha Mccaskiel back in 2017, as a result of her struggle to get hired in the media industry post-graduation. After months of feeling lost and uninspired, she founded a platform where women can empower one another and network to break the barriers as media professionals. As a recent graduate of Spelman College’s English program, I have also found post-grad life to be quite challenging. It can be hard to find your footing after the footprints that have been laid out for you are no longer there. Starting as a chat on GroupMe, this organization has prospered into a safe space for all girls worldwide looking for their talents and voices to be seen and heard.
Hosted in Atlanta, “the black mecca for all things media” as Tasha so accurately notes, the event had a wonderful turnout. With boss babes traveling all over from New York to Los Angeles, we celebrated and gems were dropped. I got a chance to speak with her about her experience as a growing founder:
“We have to remind ourselves, that we are learning every single day. Even with this conference, things were going wrong and lessons were learned. I’m like you know what, let’s give ourselves grace. It’s my first time doing it, I’m here, and everyone’s enjoying themselves. So I think it’s just about really being easy on ourselves.”
It’s clear to see that Tasha’s mission for creating her company has remained the same since the beginning, making a safe space for other women just like her.
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Now let’s get into these panels!
One of my favorite panels on financial literacy featured Raquel Curtis, entrepreneur, and financial consultant, Elle Diop finance and business guru, Yasmeen Telsem, sales manager of global content partnerships at Twitter, and panel host MiAsia Symone from Streetz 94.5. Each panelist put us on game with wonderful tips like why it’s important to add your significant other as a business partner: when you employ your partner, dinner meetings and lunch dates where you discuss the business become write-offs!
Ellie also spoke about the importance of debt, “I want you guys to understand that we’ve been trained to believe that all debt is bad, but there is very much good debt.” Learning that debt can be used to maximize my financial portfolio was something I was never taught to do, but knowing so early on is a definite game changer.
The Black Women in Leadership panel featured Lauren Paige-Woodard communications manager at MTV Entertainment Group, Shawnae Corbett-Rice, Vice President of Marketing at Warner Records, Ashle Mitchell, Talent Executive, Bishara Dorre Talent Acquisition Recruiter-Paramount, and panel host Elizabeth Smith Media Personality/ Producer from V-103. They each touched on the importance of having thick skin, getting to know who you work with, and navigating various personalities in the workplace and especially the entertainment industry.
Ashlee shared with us her first experiences in the industry, “When I first came in [to the industry] Chile, I used to cry whenever I had to work with A list celebs. It’s like you’re doing everything wrong! So you would have to have tough skin for sure if you want to be in the music and entertainment industry, and not take anything personally. Because the next day they don’t even know they told you anything.”
Another panelist Jahylin Elizabeth McKee gave beautiful insight on what it means to invest in yourself not only as a professional but as a Black woman. “When I think about investing in myself, the first thing that comes to my mind is: if no one has told you people are going to give up on you. You have to make sure that you don’t give up on yourself, and investing in yourself looks very different in different stages of your life.”
When I first invested in myself early on in my career, that looked like taking a risk and leaving home. I took a risk and I had $500 to my name and I moved and lived on my homegirl’s couch. That was an investment for me at first and it was uncomfortable. And every time I feel uncomfortable or ‘this feels weird’ or ‘I don’t know if I belong in this room’. But I think investing in yourself requires you to fail forward. It also means attending conferences like this! I’ve been going to conferences ever since I graduated from college. But I feel like I got the most experience here.”
Danielle S. Reed, founder, and publicist of Reed Limited Entertainment, who performed public relations for the conference, shared what she hoped attendees and speakers would walk away with:
“We are just expecting women to walk away with connections, networking. We want girls to get the chance to get their resumes updated but we also want to make sure that folks walk away with some new opportunities, some resources, some new things that they learned from some of the professionals that we have here, I’m just hoping that everyone soaks up this experience and is able to take it back wherever they came from and also continue to support the mission of Black Girls In Media.”
This conference not only affirmed me–but changed me.
Being at the BGM Conference was vulnerable, magnetic, and affirming. Speaking with other Black women who have forged a way for themselves and their dreams reminded me of why I want to chase after my dreams relentlessly. At times we find redirection doesn’t always make sense in the moment, but with discipline comes discernment and ultimately the right path.
Hearing various testimonies of women who have gone through those moments where the footprints start to blur helps me to understand my defining moments. And the Black Girls in Media conference was most definitely one of my defining moments.