Have fun even in your most stressful moments. We can’t always control everything around us, but what we can control is how we react. There will always be stressful times when doing your best to lead others but If you make it fun, and lead others in something you are passionate about, the stressful moments are worth it.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adeola Adeniyi.
Adeola Adeniyi is a junior honors marketing major, film minor from Harrisburg, PA and a student at Howard University. During her time on campus Adeola has been a part of many organizations. She is a part of the school of business executive leadership honors program, the creative director for the school of business student council, currently serves as the Vice President of her organization Alpha Kappa Psi, Psi Tau Chapter, and is a member of the Howard Gospel Choir. Aside from her campus involvement, Adeola has a passion for making sure diverse groups of people are equally and positively represented when it comes to their presence in the media. Adeola currently hosts a podcast show titled “Well…This is Awkward” where she highlights black achievers and curates discussion on the evolution of Black music, fashion, culture, and thought. She aspires to develop content and create a network that hosts the work and stories of minority and underrepresented groups.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
My name is Adeola Adeniyi, the president of The Black Burg. I am a current Junior honors marketing major/ film minor at Howard University, and I grew up in Harrisburg, PA. I have always been the kid that was up to something, whether that be singing in church choirs, acting in my high school musicals, writing and directing plays, anything that I could do that would fuel my creative spirit you could find me there. I am still very much that same kid, my playground just looks a bit different now.
You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
My wonderful team and I created this organization in hopes to create a community group driven and directed by young black people that calls for the betterment of the city of Harrisburg by educating, liberating, unifying, and creating opportunities for the black youth to create a positive future and a unified community. We hope one day to expand the program to more cities however we have to establish ourselves first and home is where we want to start.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
So, one day during the beginning of the pandemic and a couple days after the murder of George Floyd I was sitting in my room conflicted because I wanted to be outside protesting alongside everyone else but I was very wary of the pandemic. I am not the type of person to just sit around and watch things happen so I decided that I was going to create a zoom session that served as a safe space for all the black youth of the city of Harrisburg to come and talk about our feelings towards all the protests and just what it means being young and black during these times. I then was able to create a team with some other incredible young leaders from Harrisburg: Jahnea Pressley, Marjia Allen, Na’ilah Burston, Trinitee Segar-Barr, Shaun Harris II, and Tyshaun Pollard and from there our organization The Black Burg was created.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
The “Aha Moment” was a team effort. After seeing the amount of young people who joined the zoom session for our first event, and how eager they were to know if we had any other events coming up and people just wanting to be involved in general; we realized this is what our community was missing. An organization for young people that was led by people who looked like them. A lot of the programs and community events that my team and I grew up with have all pretty much died down and/or no longer exist. We wanted to bring that back to our community and provide opportunities for the youth of the city to feel like their voice matters and to become more involved with things happening in the city.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
The most important step we took that I feel contributed the most to our success thus far was reaching out to other community leaders and asking for their guidance on how to get things started. Not being too scared to say that we didn’t know what was going on and reaching out to those who did. I feel that there is this stigma about the youth of this generation. It’s this idea that we “ act like we know everything “or are “too young” to tackle the issues we are trying to tackle, and sometimes that ideology contributes to older generations not respecting or wanting to assist young people when it comes to big things like what The Black Burg is trying to accomplish. However, the community overall has been so supportive, encouraging, and helpful to our organization!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
The most interesting story that has happened to my organization thus far has been when the weather decided to go against us. We had planned to put on a social distanced Juneteenth event outside where people could sit on top of their cars and watch performers showcase their talents. Unfortunately an hour before the event the weather decided to switch up last minute and let all the rain in the sky loose. It was at that moment when we realized that we had to make the quick switch from in person to virtual with only an hour to spare. Performers were also cancelling on us left and right which threw us into even more of a panic. However, my team and I were able to successfully make the transition from in person to virtual with the hour we had and we were able to draw in more than 1000 views. It was then when we realized to never underestimate the true power of teamwork.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
The funniest mistake that my team made at the beginning was thinking that posting something a week before the event was a good idea. We had an event that we really wanted to put on but due to busy schedules we didn’t promote it early enough. We thought that if we asked around, asked friends and family, and asked anyone we knew if they would come we would get a huge crowd. The day of the event finally came around and 30 minutes into the event we realized we were not going to get more than the seven people who showed up. It was a funny moment because we really believed we could draw in a huge crowd, but after realizing no one else was coming it made us rethink how and when we market events. People can tell you all they want that they are coming to your event or whatever it is that you’re planning, but that moment showed us to never believe till you see it because everyone who said that they were coming was nowhere to be found.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
Ms. Phyliss Bennett has been our biggest mentor and supporter. She is a huge part of the Harrisburg community and has been a great asset to our organization in general. When we first got started, she helped us reach out to people who helped our event become bigger than what we pictured originally. We say that she has the magical phone book because if you need a contact, she has it. She is a wonderful woman and we are super grateful to have her support.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
There isn’t just one individual, that I can think of, that has been directly impacted by what we have done so far. I can say, from our hard work at getting young people registered to vote, they were able to see what impact they truly have in our country. Like myself, they too are first time voters and this election was one unlike no other, especially in PA. The weight that PA held in this election was exactly why we do what we do. Hard work and determination is what turned the election around. I am extremely proud of what we were able to contribute in helping get young people registered to vote. I am even more proud to see that not only did they register but they showed up and made a difference.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Our organization focuses on multiple issues, but our main objective is to increase the voice and impact young people have in our community. 3 things the community, society, and politicians can do to help us address the minimize view of young people is:
- Actually listen to the younger members of the community to hear what we are dealing with and would like to see change.
- Create more spaces and opportunities for kids and teens to express themselves creatively.
- Do not suppress the voice of the youth and help them take action instead of taking advantage of them.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Because our organization is fairly new, I don’t have an elaborate story for each example but here are the 5 things I wish I would have known before I first started:
- Planning in advance is key! We are great planners. Having multiple members involved helps make the planning process easier and allows for more creativity, but you can never over plan.
- Trust your gut! Oftentimes as young people, we second guess ourselves because we are used to being under the authority of someone else. We spend so much time following the adults before us and are often not trained to be leaders. It’s a weird feeling growing up and learning to lead your peers and trust that you are making the right decisions, but your gut will tell you.
- Not everything will go as you intend for it to go! You can spend hours, days and months planning but learning to adapt to change is vital. At the last minute, unforeseen variables can change the plan you originally laid out.
- ALWAYS HAVE A BACKUP PLAN! Because unforeseen things can push your plans off track, having a back up plan makes shifting so much easier. Like I mentioned with our Juneteenth, we planned a celebration to honor those who have lost their life fighting for our freedom. Originally, it was planned as an outdoor event to adhere to some of the rules in place due to COVID-19. But then it rained that day. Thanks to prior communication with my church (Greater Zion Missionary Baptist Church, where the event was held), we had already had a back up plan should we need to have the event indoors and shift to streaming online so that we could adhere to indoor capacity guidelines. Although we have very little time to enforce that plan, once we shifted, our event was a great time and a good learning experience for us all.
- Have fun even in your most stressful moments. We can’t always control everything around us, but what we can control is how we react. There will always be stressful times when doing your best to lead others but If you make it fun, and lead others in something you are passionate about, the stressful moments are worth it.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
I would tell them that you truly never know whose life you will change through your positive impact whether it be 2 people or 2 million. Your impact and your voice are vital and are needed in order for the world to become a happier place. There are so many people who are scared to take that one step and make the impact that they want to make on the world. So, do not be scared because there is someone out there who is waiting for you to take that step and change their life.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
This is a hard question because I have a list of people that I want the chance to talk with. If I must choose just one, I would pick my forever first lady Michelle Obama! She is such an inspiration and one thing for sure, she never backs down from any challenge. I have been so inspired by everything she accomplished while in office and what she continues to do. Mrs. Michelle Obama, if you are reading this, I know a great brunch place we can go to, or I can make a nice little dinner; it’s up to you just say the word!!
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow us on our IG @the.blackburg to say up to date with everything we have going on!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!