Every month I will highlight a Black artist, form of entertainment, business, or social media personality to help to spread awareness of Black Excellence. Be sure to check here on the 2nd of every month!
Welcome to 2017! It can be a year of dreams coming true, goals being met, and lives being changed, and it is also the start of a new batch of Monthly Spotlights! To start of the new year we highlight Miss Christina Kanu, a consultant, mentor, and graduate student focused on leading those she comes in contact with on a productive path. Read below to see how she consults others in their business ventures, her thoughts about the value of mentorship, and how being an avid sports fan ties into all of this.
M. Haynes: Hey Chris!
Christina Kanu: (laughs) Hey!
M. Haynes: It's been such a long time since we sat down and talked. How have you been?
Christina Kanu: I have been good. There have been a lot of changes in my life; I feel like I'm birthing two things right now with my pregnancy and this thesis. Plus I'm trying to move to this last "thing": my Ph.D
MH: How was your 2016?
CK: Honestly, 2016 was phenomenal. I did so may different things. My theme for 2016 was "The Marathon", and I feel like I completed it successfully.
This isn't your first time on #TheRatchedemic. What has changed since you were a part of the "Blogs With a Purpose" spotlight in April 2015?
Oh wow. Since then? Well, when I first started my site I did a lot more writing, but then I started having to find stuff to keep consistently updating. I found our that I had more impactful messages if I wrote less often. I wanted to give full soul food instead of just microwavable quick meals (laughs), so instead of always doing posts I started doing these things called Miss Kanu Messages. Those are short little vignettes of inspirational messaging. Then of course I officially launched my consultation business earlier in 2016.
So let's talk. You do a lot of work on mentoring and guidance, especially through your business. Talk a little bit about that.
Well I am CEO of Christina Kanu Consulting, LLC. To be honest I never saw myself doing this. I always knew I wanted to find some way to give back, and because I had some time I did that by consulting and helping other people. I would just sit down with them, try to learn their habits, schedules, goals, and all of that to try to help them get more settled in their lives. I focus a lot on leadership and trying to make people into better leaders. After a few months of doing that I decided to turn what I did into a legitimate business in November of 2015. I reached out to other people to help me with the process, and in March 2016 the paperwork came in that made it all official.
Did you have any problems transitioning to "official" status?
Not really. Most of my clients were really receptive to having to pay, and thanks to the positive publicity I've received many new clients. I worked with a political campaign, for example, and although we didn't win it was still an amazing experience. Right now though I'm keeping my primary areas limited to individuals, businesses, and non-profits.
Walk me through a Christina Kanu consultation session. What do you do that makes you unique?
For new clients, especially if we're doing the consultation over the phone, I start by trying to learn more about them. I ask them to explain who they are with about 10-15 questions. I ask things like, "What are your goals?" "What made/makes you feel less whole?" "What motivates you?" "What distracts you?". From there I start talking about ways to address their issues and how they affect their business or success. Sessions are usually about 45 minutes to an hour, but after just that short time I start to stick out in my clients' memories. I've had clients come back and tell me that something we talked about really helped them overcome a task; things like that. I also send a CKC Top 5* to them after a session, and from there we set up more regular meeting times.
I definitely can speak about you sticking out in people's minds. I have students** who are still talking about your visit.
(smiles) That's beautiful.
But with that in mind, what do you think of this idea that all Black youth need to succeed is mentorship? I know that you left an impression on my students when you came, but is that really enough?
(pauses) I think mentoring is a start. When you have someone at an early age who exposes you to things you never thought of your reality will be different. You will start to see that certain things are tangible-
Yes, but even more so when certain things are tangible. Having these figures that you can touch and ask questions to really helps. Since family dynamics are different we need people who can meet others at different places. We need these mentors to help give others the guidance and advice that they might not otherwise have. I don't think that's the only thing, but I do think it an important thing.
You are also a student of African American Studies. How does your education play a role in what you do and believe?
Oh wow. I think being a Black woman studying African American Studies at an HBCU in ATL makes me view the world through a Black lens. I have always had Black people's best interests at heart, and now I'm in the position to actually do something about that. I want academically to figure out ways in which we can not exploit Black athletes, particularly Black male athletes. I feel that we need Black people in all positions and places in society: CEOs, doctors, lawyers, and athletes. I also want those people in those positions to be fully educated. I want all of us to leave the community better than it was when we inherited it. I think about all of this a lot, especially now that I am about to become a Black mom.
You've mentioned your thesis, your academics, and started talking about Black male athletes. How do all of those things fit together?
I look at the exploitation of Black male college athletes in my research. I focus particularly on exploitation in basketball and football, because those are the sports that bring in the most money for the institutions they play for. I decided to pick this up because these sports are often the only places where these Black males are valued and praised. I want to talk to the athletes when they are in high school and college and help them to make better decisions for themselves and those around them. I want these athletes to be more empowered, to pick up skills, an education, maybe even a trade because they can't play these sports forever, and I want them to be more "woke", because they are figures that other future athletes look up to. They may one day become the Lebrons and the Kobes, so they need to understand their platform.
But why Black athletes? Do they really have that much of a role?
We can look at the way Black males are treated in education, especially the university system, and see how they are seen as valuable only through their physical attributes and abilities. We recognize that they are lacking in academics but we don't care as long as they are performing on the field. And then once they stop performing on the field we throw them away. The court/field is usually the only place where Black men are praised, and for the Black community that is a special thing. It's something to strive for, to get that recognition and that praise. In a lot of ways we set them up to fail by not preparing them for life after the sports. Only 1% of college athletes play professionally; where are the other 99%? Most of the times they end up used, abused, and then lost, but because others want that fame they had they try to become that 1%. It is a cycle in which the universities make money off Black bodies. I do this to scrutinize the universities that do this, but I also do this because I love them. I want them, the sports, the organizations, and the athletes, to be better
So where do you see your business and your research going? What is your endgoal?
I see myself consulting with universities to try to interrupt those cycles. I want CKC to expand to traiing other consultants and consulting with the major sports entities like the NCAA. I want to find ways to empower Black athletes and get them to think past just sports, and show them that even as athletes you need academics. I also think younger kids need to see that. They often see the product, but not the process. They need to see that process of becoming a great athlete.
Are there any last comments you want to leave the readers with?
Don't allow people to place you in a box. If they do, grow and do something different. I do so many different things: I see myself as a scholar, a socialite, a consultant, a friend, a sister, and a mother. I am all of them and you can be all of those things and more as well. I would say that you have to recognize that when you come into different seasons of your life not everyone is going to come with you, and that's okay. You have to be willing to let some people go. Lastly, I would say remain unapologetically you, no matter how hard that may be. I wake up and go to bed Christina and I don't want to be anyone else. Have fun and enjoy your life; you are you for a reason.
* = The CKC Top 5 is a follow-up questionnaire Christina sends her clients. It may include questions like, "What do you need to work on?" and "What did you take away from the consultation?" These questions are designed to keep the clients thinking about what they and Christina have discussed to make her consultation have a long-lasting effect.
** = In a past semester Christina came to my classroom and spoke with my freshmen students about organizing their lives and adapting to the rapidly changing world around them. She spoke about balancing time, building connections, and taking control of your life. It was a good thing.