“The Leap”: From Kissimmee to The Capital

My journey from community organizing in the sunshine state to working with one of the most notable black-owned public affairs firms.

Aside from the fact that paying bills is a thing in this world, there is a long list of reasons why joining Think Rubix (TR) was a no-brainer for me.

In January of 2021, I took a leap of faith and quit my job in Orlando, Florida. I had been doing a lot of innovative organizing for a non-profit where I learned everything I know about project management, dignified impact, and Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). However, I had a burning desire to bring my talents to the nation’s Capital to work more towards larger-scale systemic change. So, I packed my Sentra up with whatever it could fit, and heavily sedated my dog to prepare for our 15-hour drive to Washington, DC — with no lead for a job in sight. After almost a year of job hunting and waiting many tables to support myself, I landed my dream job with TR.

First, how did I end up here, in the equity consulting field?

My sophomore year of college, I was in need of some community service hours so I pursued a Community Service Chair position for the Black Student Union (BSU) and got it. Little did I know, God was leading me towards the path of my purpose. Whenever I’m assigned responsibility to something, I don’t like to half step. So, although I found a lot of the service projects that my predecessors took on to be really cool (i.e., community clean-ups and gardening), I had to ask myself: what was going to make the most impact in the Tampa Bay community?

In collaboration with a handful of other service based organizations on and off campus, we were able to accomplish so much for the Tampa Bay community. With just a team of undergraduate students, we raised over $200 for a local after-school program, hosted a workshop on interview readiness skills for the Lake Magdalene group home, made clothes and book donations, hosted a turkey drive, and created BSU’s first ever Single Mother’s Dedication Brunch.

After a year of various community projects, I recognized that I had a gift for gathering and organizing, but I was yearning to do more of this work. I was faced with the question again, how can I build and uplift my community?

Determined to get the ball rolling on my new found passion, I joined the Andrew Gillum Campaign back in 2017 in hopes to get the first African American into the Governor’s mansion in my home state! Although he did not win, I was successful in turning out Central Florida alongside the team in record numbers, despite raising the least amount of money in our primary! I learned so much on that campaign but the truth of the matter was that, I AM A SORE LOSER. The inner competitor and athlete in me began looking back on everything I did and analyzed if I could do it better- but the reality was it was not my fault — there was simply a need for better planning and support. That’s why people like Think Rubix (TR) are so important to this work! When we are given leaders who are ready to put it all on the line for the progression of our communities, it is essential that we capitalize by creating a concrete plan!

Diego PH via Unsplash

What initially stood out to me about TR is the immense amount of energy the team puts into helping people boldly tell their stories verbally and visually and mobilizing folks to get on board with the vision. I believe that is what separates movements from local news to the explore pages of every Instagram account holder. Communities will follow a great leader, but the masses will follow a movement — and the only way that can be accomplished is by proper storytelling, strategic engagement plans, and follow through.

At Think Rubix, we ALWAYS understand the assignment. We specialize in activating and leveraging the right contacts on all platforms across the country to accomplish a goal. We understand the culture and cater our approach to it when necessary. I’ve personally noticed a disconnect between the traditional way of engaging people versus what it actually takes to mobilize a large amount of people to get the desired outcome. I recognized that not only did I have an opportunity to work on various social issues but build out culturally relevant plans that activate untapped demographics. The major difference between TR and our competitors is that when we move in and out of these trending spaces, it’s authentic.

Think Rubix understands the value of the intangibles in grassroots efforts and helps funders navigate the discomfort protocol and bureaucracy in different spaces to ensure the outcomes are a step towards positive systemic change. All of the amazing things TR has accomplished are a true testament to the leadership’s ability to gather the right people to create a powerhouse. I like to imagine us all as a Transformer, the Optimus Prime of Social Innovation. I believe the common denominator of the team is the value we see in each other and the people we serve.

Arseny Togulev via Unsplash

That leads me to reason two; the main priority of the firm is to ensure that no one is being harmed. It disgusts me to see how often people in powerful places exploit marginalized communities for their political or social gain. It is very easy to portray yourself as a savior to funders to reel in more dollars at the cost of other people’s dignity and livelihoods. Thankfully at Think Rubix, people are more important than the perception of potential funders. We want a positive change in our communities, and TR continues to set the standard for the right way to do it.

A project of TR that really sold me was their work on the 2017 Alabama special election that resulted in the win of the first Democrat since 1992, Senator Doug Jones. This wasn’t a time that people were just pissed off enough to show up to make a change, this was the product of a well thought out campaign plan and strategic coalition building! When we have a special candidate whose values align with the constituents, we cannot take that for granted- we must plan strategically and act with intention in every space we get because getting people to vote is a very tricky task to successfully accomplish.

Element5 Digital via Unsplash

Some approaches that our founding principal, DeJuana Thompson took under Woke Vote were not only telling folks to go and vote but also leaving behind literature that enhanced voting literacy, properly paid EVERY single canvasser, and activated leaders from across the state to organize and deploy the right folks to tap into rural hard to reach places of Alabama. Another EXTREMELY important move that I believe made a big difference in the turnout was the lack of black cultural references or appeals that might’ve alienated white voters. So often we see candidates who try to appeal to specific demographics and end up doing more harm to their ticket than good for so many reasons. Being a black candidate is a huge obstacle to overcome, especially in a predominantly white republican state. We didn’t see Obama trying to hit the dougie back in 2012 to get re-elected when he found it convenient, and it was small decisions like that that make candidates more relatable to a broader audience. Like the TR way, we recognized an opportunity for a revolution and did what had to be done.

My last and most important reason why I joined Think Rubix is because of the minority-majority staff. As a young professional and woman of color above all else, it is extremely important to be surrounded by people who not only understand me but look like me too. Coming from the south, I can tell you I’ve experienced and seen the many faces and tones of racism — it can be very indirect and almost covert in professional environments. At TR, I instantly felt at home and being in an environment that welcomes ALL of me allows me to focus more on the important work that we’re doing.

Tim Mossholder via Unsplash

At Think Rubix, we understand the culture because we are the culture. That’s the difference between the other consulting firms and us. Some think they understand it, but we live it and embody it, and that can’t be taught.

If you want to see what our passion can do for you, get in touch with the Engagement Studio today.