We had the good fortune of connecting with NiiLee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi NiiLee, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Growing up in a world that constantly dehumanizes our bodies based on race, gender, and sexuality, I lived cis-assumed majority of my transition. Chosen family helped me through a lot of my everlasting transitional phases and birthed a passion for community building. JeSuisNiiLee Mutual Aid Collective was created to not only assist but to nurture community.
I realized there was a dire need of financial, emotional and psychological support intra-communally. Therefore, I established JeSuisNiiLee Consulting to host conversations to give space and volume to inconvenient, awkward, unavoidable truths. To discuss trans and queer-centered topics in hopes to bring awareness and unity between the cisgender, transgender, and queer communities.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m the oldest of 4. I grew up in a single parent household in the 90’s by two very young adults. Life was hard, not only trying to survive but also navigating my sexuality AND gender. I’ve been through lots of hardships – starting over and over and over again. Life taught me resilience and I found purpose. As much as I’ve been extremely vocal with my feelings and naming what I want and needed, I didn’t start out that way. We didn’t have appropriate language back then. Now with the help of social media and far more representation in media I’ve been able to not only find language but give volume to it. I can now accurately “use my words”. In the work of community building a major lesson I’ve also learned was that solidarity does not require community. That taught me that although our journeys are often lonely, I am still apart of a collective but it does not necessarily require community. So the work that I do is intentional and deliberate with authentic community building. Being black, queer, and a transwoman, I face challenges at every intersection of my identities and having solid relationships helped me overcome most of them. Still working to overcome the others. Anti-blackness is far more of a beast than Americans will ever know.
If you also agree that this work is important to the queer and trans community please become a sponsor and contribute to the JeSuisNiiLee Mutual Aid Collective. We will award grants, host communal events, as well as workshops for queer and trans people. Our first project to announce will be our gatherings for Thanksgiving and Christmas annually for those that need community through those emotional times. For more information please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit the collective at www.opencollective.com/
“40 under 40” is coming soon!!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My favorite spots are in the Midtown area. I enjoy bike riding through Piedmont Park down to the Beltline. Breakfast at Barney’s is a dope spot for Brunch on Sunday. People that are coming here for the first time have to experience climbing Stone Mountain. I grew up on that side of town by the way. I’d have to show them Atlantic Station hoping, they have the pop-up street markets, as well as Ponce City Market. I’d reserve a section at Traffik to support the drag show. Of course pop into Phipps Plaza to do some shopping. I love creative arts so a day at The High Museum. Then maybe something fun like rock climbing at Stone Summit or go-karting at Andretti.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The journey of being black, queer and trans is frequently a life sentence of cultural isolation and social invisibility. So I’d first like to shoutout my best friend Saleem, who saw in me my passion for teaching and community. He pushed me in this direction of community building and organizing far before I believed it to be a passion or saw it for myself. Second and Thirdly, my step mom Dot and my Aunty Joyce who have always supported and stood behind every step of me walking in my truth. The world we live in demands a sturdy support system – mine starts with them.
Other: Clubhouse: @jesuisniilee