There are safe spaces, places where members of a marginalized group can come together to freely express their whole selves. And then there are brave spaces, places where a group can unapologetically do the aforementioned while fostering an environment for collective building, growth and solutions.
Imani Ellis founded The Creative Collective NYC to foster the latter.
“We call them brave spaces because we’re trying to move away from this place of fear and moving into this place of just being empowered,” Ellis, an entertainment publicist, told HuffPost. On her search for a space like this for young creatives, she realized that she was only looking up the professional ladder and not at the people around her. So she invited a group of friends to her Harlem apartment to connect and exchange resources and ideas in 2016. Apartment gatherings turned into monthly meetups as the CCNYC began hosting regular events for black and brown millennials to lean on their peers for professional support.
Now, in its second year, the collective is about to hold one of its largest events ever, the second annual CultureCon, a conference dedicated to shining a light on the importance of people of color empowering those around them.
“We wanted to really create a day conference that was literally curated by us. It was for us. It was by us. We didn’t need a translator because we were our own audience,” Ellis said.
With a sold-out inaugural conference, hundreds on the waitlist and award-winning director Spike Lee as the keynote speaker, the group is hoping to make this year’s conference bigger and better. Attendees can expect a day of panels, fireside chats, workshops and marketing activations tailored to fit the needs of creatives of color.
And it’s not just about career guidance. The day will include conversations about how the upcoming State of the Union presidential address impacts millennials of color and the importance of the November midterms. There will also be discussions about how culture can drive the bottom line and the value of storytelling, especially for underrepresented groups.
“Diversity not only drives the solution, but it drives the bottom line. So I think we’re in this really great place where we can take away this title of it being safe. Because, yes it is safe, but also walking into this new chapter replaces also being brave because [of] the collaborations and the encouragement that spurts out of these real-life interactions, especially in a digital age - it feels like coming home,” Ellis said. “That’s really the synonym for me. It literally feels like you’re home when you’re walking into this place that you know has been built just for you.”
This year’s speakers include John Legend, Charlamagne tha God, La La Anthony, DeRay McKesson and Tyler Mitchell. Ellis said she doesn’t want the sessions to be about perfection but about the real stories of how getting to where you want to be isn’t always cute.
“We tell our most esteemed guests to tell the truth about the times when they were sleeping on the couch, the times that they were depressed, the times that they didn’t think they were going to get it through,” she said. “I think that’s something that really kind of stands out because we don’t want them kind of coming like the shiny, pretty package paper. We really want it to be a place of vulnerability.”
CultureCon will take place in New York City on Oct. 13. Learn more about it here.