Curating destinies

by | Oct 30, 2016

“I promised myself a long time ago that I would write every single day, whether it’s a blog post, a journal entry or an article; in 10 years, I hope I will have kept my promise.”

“Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” This is the standard, seemingly simple interview question that can keep you up at night if you let it. When I started looking for a post-grad job early this year, I settled on a consistent answer: “I promised myself a long time ago that I would write every single day, whether it’s a blog post, a journal entry or an article; in 10 years, I hope I will have kept my promise.”

Fast-forward to my current situation: working full time for a magazine, and losing sleep creating a writing-intensive startup with my significant other. If you’d told me nine months ago that this is how I’d be keeping my writing promise, I don’t know if I would’ve believed you.

This project began with aimless musings via text between Doug and me. I was starting this new chapter in my life and Doug was switching gears in his, hence his conceptualizing a risky but rewarding platform. As we grew more passionate about this idea, it became clear that we might be onto something concrete. Thus, The Curatours was born.

After a few weeks of brainstorming the name itself (with help from some close friends), we had to make a lot of decisions about what this would actually be: a blog, a website, a community, an online shop? At the outset, all we knew was that we were in awe of the incredible things our friends, classmates and colleagues were achieving.

We aren’t the type of people who attach ourselves to those we think will be famous one day — we value authentic and meaningful relationships. Yet we found our social media timelines filling up with great news: a producer friend being accepted to a major film festival, a former classmate protesting and anchoring news shows, a fellow recent graduate using a great engineering job to pay for his music career.

These people were excelling, not because they were seasoned professionals or because the world was their oyster; rather, they reached these milestones because they were young, hungry and unapologetically black. If we agreed on anything from the beginning, it was that these stories had to be told and no one else was doing it — so we had to do it ourselves.

I can’t describe all the personal ways this hits home for Doug (I’ll let him tell you himself), but I know that my passion for this project stems from my love of storytelling. I’ve spent my short life exploring and learning and committing to memory the ways that words work together.

My nose fits comfortably in a book and I have some serious pen preferences (blue ink, ball point if possible). I don’t always use words sparingly in speech, but I take them much more seriously when they’re written down. Anyone who has met me knows I can talk for hours, but when someone else is talking and I have paper at the ready, my lips are (mostly) sealed.

That’s what I aim to do with The Curatours: tell stories that aren’t being told elsewhere, and do it as though they will be printed and shipped around the world for all to read. Be the change you want to see, right?

This was how I approached journalism when I arrived at Elon. It was my reason for asking professors to edit and reedit my media writing assignments far beyond their due dates. I always wanted to get it right.

In the era of simple content management systems and widespread social media usage, it’s easy to exchange ideas and share stories — but it’s harder than ever to do so with journalistic integrity. That’s what I aim to do with The Curatours: tell stories that aren’t being told elsewhere, and do it as though they will be printed and shipped around the world for all to read. Be the change you want to see, right?

I guess that’s another part of why we started The Curatours: it often feels like you have to endure years of work and upward mobility in order to innovate in your field — and that’s how it used to be. But our generation isn’t very patient. While this may be one of our shortcomings, it is also a key part of our particular brand of ambition. We are unwilling to commit to a lifelong career at a single company like our grandparents did, and we find ourselves creating our own opportunities more than our parents did.

While this is true of most of our generation, I am particularly in awe of how this manifests itself among young black people. Systemic inequities and personal encounters with prejudice tell us we will amount to very little. Even though our challenges are not equal across the board, we all have moments when we are told, directly or indirectly, that we cannot achieve our goals simply because we are black. And if we do, we’re told we’ve cheated the system.

I worked twice as hard and shaped my path to fit expectations I had for myself, instead of those that had been imposed on me by people who viewed my excellence as a threat.

So instead of following the paths of our these adversaries, we make our own. When I was the only student in my class to get into UChicago on the first try, I heard murmurings about affirmative action. At the same time, though, people thought I would feel so honored to have gotten in that I would automatically choose to go there. Instead, I went to Elon, a school people saw as unimpressive. And I thrived, not because it was a lesser-known school, but because I worked twice as hard and shaped my path to fit expectations I had for myself, instead of those that had been imposed on me by people who viewed my excellence as a threat.

Had I done what those (for lack of a better word) haters expected, I’m not sure where I would be right now, but I know I wouldn’t be here. I might never have switched my English major to journalism; I might never have completed the internships that led to my current job; and I certainly would not have met and fallen in love with the co-founder of this site.

When I look back at the road I’ve traveled, I can’t help but remember how rejecting UChicago seemed like a wrong turn to so many, even though I’d marked Elon on my own map long before I arrived at that decision.

Having just graduated from Elon, I see the impact of that decision quite clearly, but as I move through my life and career, larger decisions will overshadow it. The hope is that I will have bigger choices to make than picking out a college, but at 17 and 18 years old, it’s the biggest decision ever.

That’s why this site means so much to me. I couldn’t see then, and no one was able to clearly articulate, that in choosing my post-high school path, I had sole control of my future for the first time. It was as though I’d been holding onto the wheel of the car while sitting on the laps of my parents and teachers and older siblings, letting them guide my hands and accelerate. But when it came down to this choice, I had the privilege and the burden of steering all by myself.

In spite of the negativity that surrounds our ambition, black millennials find ways to dig in and do the work, with incredible rewards.

This site is dedicated to people who are taking control of their lives for the first time, moving away from their homes for the first time, creating a life after college or entering a new chapter of their careers. The stories we will tell here are about people who are doing these things. They are going it alone, taking the wheel — and excelling.

In spite of the negativity that surrounds our ambition, black millennials find ways to dig in and do the work, with incredible rewards. I watch my friends, classmates and colleagues reaping those rewards, knowing these incremental successes will lead them to be the heads of companies, the standouts in their fields and the kinds of people that mainstream media will have reason to write about.

But until then, I want to share these stories with the world, while these people are still on the way to that ultimate place of success, whatever that looks like for them. Hopefully their stories inspire other young black people in the ways they have for me. In 10 years, they can look back on these narratives to see what kinds of promises they made to themselves, and reflect on whether or not they kept them.

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