In this instalment, resident blogger Dami Fawehinmi interviews Kanndiss Riley, the First BAME Female Women’s Equality Candidate for the Thanet District Council. She is the co-founder of Sheisclothed with Tracy Lomanga, a social enterprise that helps young people between 14-25 years old continue in education and find employment. Riley is also a project manager working in the Health, Education and Environment and Anti-violence activism. Her advocacy work takes her to events, campaigns and schools to run workshops or speak about these topics.
Tell us about your journey.
I started working with Tracy after I finished university. I wanted to help her create more immersive content for her brand and strengthen her outreach. The next thing, I was looking at B2B sales and the business operations seeking, waking up thinking about Sheisclothed and going to bed brainstorming for the next goal. We have come along way from the initial speaking at Houses of Parliament; now we are working with organisations all around the South East to develop young peoples aspirations into clear goals and tangible results.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t change yourself, life will provide self-development. Changing at the will of others can be the route course of your stagnation. Every time you change and have to rebrand yourself, you are not focusing on your goals. Feedback and input from your closest friends who seek only to improve you won’t impact your self development but when you receive advice to change, for instance the jobs you are applying for because they don’t think you can get it, you need to move away from that advice and focus on what you are doing. Do not be limited by their experiences and ambitions.
What do you believe will drive change in the Black community?
Listening: the power of shared experiences. I think reinstalling conversation, both the element of intergenerational discussion through story telling, and listening to elders, but with the impactful element of adults listening to their children. If adults hear from their children, they can make change in both work and the environment, for their kids, and likewise if their children listen to them.
What is your biggest failure?
My greatest lesson was failing my A-levels. Thank God I am resilient but even more so that I went through it because I will never give up. No one will tell me I am not capable ever again. Sometimes, you have to struggle to really appreciate how much you can teach yourself. How far you can push yourself and how to control your emotions. I didn’t scream and cry, even though I was repeatedly getting U’s in my exams. I got through it in the end with CDD, which got me into university and now I’m studying for my MA. I had to find out the tough way - how to teach myself and which methods work best but if I hadn’t said no, where would I be? Not here!
What is your biggest success?
Standing in the General Election May 2019 for Thanet District Council, and up until then, it was graduating from university.
What three pieces of advice would you give young black professionals?
YOU ONLY NEED THE TOP TEAM
Tell as few people as possible about the highs and lows. Also, make sure they are the people you want to call when you are struggling as much as when you get good news.
REMEMBER WHY YOU ARE DOING THIS
I always say to be the success my ancestors dreamed of; I believe we should try to be better than the generation before and follow our purpose on this planet.
BE A BLESSING TO EVERYONE
Everyday I try to go out of my way to be pleasant to everyone – I truly believe emitting the energy you wish to receive will come back to three times over. People ask how I stay so energetic and optimistic for life. Every time I do well for others things are better, if I don’t put my 120% in (whole self) it turns out just like the energy I put in.
How do you seek out opportunities relating to your field?
I get a lot from Instagram, Twitter and word of mouth. I’ve met many great people on public transport, libraries, events and more. I once met a Dame on a long train ride, exchanged book reviews and then she referred me for a job I loved doing. You never know who you might meet.
Do you have any exciting plans for the future?
We have just announced our programme for year 7-9 to build on their leadership skills, confidence skills and public speaking skills.
You can book Sheisclothed via their website www.sheisclothed.co.uk
If you are interested in supporting the company with its goal to get as many young people into further education and employment please email firstname.lastname@example.org. I take freelance project management contracts too email email@example.com.
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