We had the good fortune of connecting with Kési Felton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kési, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
My thought process behind starting Better to Speak was initially to address the lack of Black representation in children’s literature. As my politics and my skillset in content creation evolved, I figured I could create something that encompassed all elements of what I’m personally passionate about while filling a gap I believe exists in my industry. I believe media – from news media to social media content and everything in between – should be better used as a tool for social justice. So we’ve expanded from our book drive to a podcast featuring community leaders and a communications arm that provides digital/social media services to Black-led organizations. Cultural norms, values, and trends are all illustrated through (and often started in) the media. We often communicate our personal values and cash in to the attention economy with what we consume and share on digital platforms. In my case, I want to try and use those platforms as a tool for good and empower my own voice on and offline while helping other young leaders do the same.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a Journalism student at Howard University and Founder of Better to Speak, a media platform and social advocacy organization whose mission is to impel change through the power of sharing your stories. From planning and executing social media campaigns to digitally capturing historical moments, my goal is to learn about how to best utilize digital platforms to tell great stories and build real-life communities that last. I honestly got to where I am today by experimenting and tinkering around with my interests and passions until I was able to create something that represented a good mix of them. From social justice to content creation, I wanted to do more than just report on issues (which is what I do in my journalism program). No shade, but I just wanted to do more with the skills that I was learning in media. The biggest challenges included not finding spaces in the world or my community that affirmed what I wanted to do. I later realized that I had to move forward with the understanding that – while there’s nothing new under the sun – I had to move forward and forge my own path. I want people to know from my life and work that it’s okay to challenge social norms for the sake of pursuing equality, equity and justice – versus going against the grain just for the sake of being contrarian or different. I’ve often never felt seen or fully supported by institutions, but I still felt a deeply rooted need to seek the approval of those same institutions. I now feel much more fulfilled doing work that actually benefits my community, my loved ones, and my vision.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Aw I miss home! But if I were there I’d probably just go to a bubble tea spot, Ponce City Market, the High – typical Atlanta tourist things lol! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Audre Lorde is the foundation of everything Better to Speak is and represents. Her essay “The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action” and poem “A Litany for Survival” quite literally changed my life and empowered me to be more vocal about what I believe in on a personal level. I would also shoutout the numerous Black leaders and storytellers I’ve had the honor to work with along my journey, whose stories continue to fuel Better to Speak in ways that have made this platform more than I could’ve imagined it to be. It’s cliché but there’s so many to name so to my Beloved Community – thank you.