October’s LeadHER of the Month: Kési Felton

It’s officially Fall, so get ready because you are about to FALL in love with this LeadHER of the month!  Our very own Kési Felton has made a tremendous impact on her peers through her creativity, positivity, writing skills, as well as her inspiring dedication towards advocacy for Black women empowerment.  She is a Junior, Journalism Major, Sociology Minor from Atlanta, Georgia.  You may have seen her in a CNN interview last semester where she was a bold voice for Howard University students during a very difficult time for us.  She currently serves as the Director of Communications for the Howard University Student Association (HUSA), the Content Director for Her Campus Howard, the Secretary for Safe Spaces HU, as well as the creator of “Better to Speak,” a social media platform that gives knowledge to the voices of Black women and their stories.  Kési’s voice may be calm and mellow in person, but her accomplishments thus far have been LOUD and uplifting…

 

Asha: What was the driving force behind your reason to be involved with Her Campus Howard?

Kési: At the end of our Freshman year, Deni (current Her Campus Howard President) asked me to be the Content Director, then the Senior Editor.  My main inspiration was to have a group of women to not just do events and community service, but to also have content.  My major is journalism so I liked that element of being able to write content and work on a skill collectively.  A lot of the content we do is based on women empowerment, so that along with the events and community service is what really interested me.

 

A: History has taught us the power of our voice, not only as people of color, but as Black women, what was the purpose of your “Better to Speak” campaign that you began a little over a year ago?

K: That was inspired by Audre Lorde.  I came across the “better to speak” quote Freshman year, and it was just something that was a mantra to me because growing up I was never a super outspoken person.  But, over time, and after coming to college, I learned to find my own voice…and found spaces where I can use my voice to effect change, while having a positive influence on people around me.  And I think, for Black people, it is important to have sources of inspiration that show that if we speak up then we can pursue our dreams and become the people that we dream about being.  So that was the main inspiration behind starting the brand.

 

A: As a blogger, what is the most important concept you try to focus on?

K: I write about lifestyle a lot…I talk about a lot of different things like lifestyle, entertainment, and politics sometimes.  I just talk about different things from the perspective of a Black women.  I try to show how just because something isn’t specifically dealing with Black women, that it still in a way pertains to Black women.  I write about my lifestyle and lessons I’ve learned about life, and just sharing them on that platform.

 

A: What advice would you give to other women of color that hope to inspire others with their writing?

K: I would say don’t be afraid to show your work, because I know that was one thing for me when I was younger.  I would write a lot and just kind of keep it to myself, but when I started my blog it was kind of the first step for me to find my voice.  Sharing my work online and having people respond to it was super affirming to me, and just showing that I do have something to say and my voice is important, valued, and needs to be shared.  Now I’m trying to move out of just using my blog, to using my actual voice in real life, and just make a positive impact talking about the same things.

 

A: What do you aim to accomplish most while being involved with HUSA 58?

K: I work a lot around the branding and the way people perceive HUSA.  When I was a Freshman I didn’t really see a place for me to fit in as far as working with HUSA and doing different things in student government.  So, I think just changing that perspective and making it more something that everyone can get involved in.  It doesn’t matter, you don’t have to be a political science major or a specific major to be involved.  Whatever ideas and skills you have are needed.  So yeah, just making it something that involves everyone and is inclusive.

 

A: There are unfortunately a lot of negative stereotypes about the types of personalities women must hold to be a leader.  What is one non-traditional aspect of your personality that you feel serves as a strength and why?

K: A lot of people say I’m very calm, and people that know me know that I’m a very quiet person.  A lot of the leadership positions that I’ve had, even since high school, I’m not really stern or outspoken right away.  I just like to do my job and not cause a lot of conflict.  I think there’s this misconception among women that you have to be a certain way.  I never tried to force myself to be something.  Affirming my place wherever I am and knowing that I’m there for a reason, and not allowing people to walk over me or drown my voice…I try to make sure I’m not glossed over in whatever space I’m working in, because my skills and my work ethic speak for itself. 

 

A: Who or what is your greatest inspiration and why?

K: I would say my mom, because she works at CNN and I would shadow her and just get different experiences in the news room.  She’s always that person on her team people go to for advice and for that senior leadership in the room…she knows what she’s doing.  I think having that type of assurance…knowing who you are and what you’re doing is definitely someone I try to aspire to be.

 

A: What was the biggest challenge you faced this year and how did you overcome it?

K:  Over the summer when there was a possibility that I wasn’t coming back to Howard because of money.  I had secured this position with HUSA and Her Campus, and everything was going really cool…and then it was like “Oh I’m not coming back” all of a sudden.  It was like a blow because these were things I felt like I worked very hard for, and just school in general.  Howard has always been my dream school.  So, that was something that was very difficult to work through, just trying to figure out the money situation and still trying to maintain my positions and do the work.  HUSA had been doing work since May, so all summer we were doing things, so I guess just not losing that morale and trying to keep up with the work to show that I’m still committed.  One way I overcame it was just by showing up everyday and not being discouraged.  I knew that I still had a job to do at the end of the day, because it was really up in the air and like “Hey well if I do come back I still need to be able to take care of my jobs.”  Praying about it everyday was one thing that was really big for me, and relying on my support system and my friends.  Definitely just remaining faithful the whole time.

 

A: One of the greatest qualities we have as Black women is our resiliency, what advice would you give to any Howard women that are currently dealing with any hardships?

K: The light does come.  I heard this from a video with Jada Pinkett Smith, she was doing an interview…and the light literally does come.  There were so many days when I thought I wasn’t going back to school, but it wasn’t like “Okay I’m not going back to school my life is over,” it was more like “Okay I’m not going back to school, and if I’m taking a semester off, what am I doing…” I can’t just give up on my goals in general, God wasn’t saying that goal is cancelled or wouldn’t happen anymore, he was just saying to take a different path to that goal.  I think one thing I would tell other women going through hardship is, don’t be so stuck on one path to a goal.  Be open and flexible to the process and journey to get towards that goal.  I would definitely say trusting the process, because God is always trying to show you something, and grow you, and teach you things that you will need in the next chapter or season of life.

 

Kési lives by the Audre Lorde quote, “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid…so it is better to speak.”  She is a perfect example of the success that comes when we dare to make noise in a society that constantly tries to silence us.  Stay true to yourself, your passion, and your VOICE, always.  You have a tribe of women behind you.  See you next month for another story with substance! #hcxo