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The last couple of weeks have been in crazy. First I took more or less a 24 hour journey to Seattle to attend a one and a half day meeting and now I’m wide awake at 5am in a Nairobi hotel (though I’ve been awake since 2am willing myself to go to asleep, alas at 4.30am I gave up on that).

In between I’ve been working like crazy at my own company, about to launch a new TV show that I’m really excited about, while also managing new aspects of the Shuga project in Kenya. Crazy, stressed and hectic is how my life has been recently. Needless to say I’m exhausted. But my brain won’t quit, probably the reason I’m wide awake now, as I think about the multitude of things that need to be done – rolling out the media buy for the Brothers for Life campaign in Zambia, developing the new timeline for Shuga’s new components, writing reports to clients, casting for our show, oh and did I mention we’re about to sign on two new clients in Zambia – one to be the biggest that we’ve ever had. Not to mention when I find time in my spare time, I co-manage (marketing only) one of Zambia’s hottest artists. It’s exciting stuff but not for the lazy that’s for sure.

Last weekend we were doing our first open auditions for presenters we were looking for, for a new young and hip show we’re doing. I was less than happy with the results. It made me question what is going on with ‘our youth’ of today. I remember when I was 17 I had already launched an organisation with my sister and we were planning our first edition of Trendsetters. I researched everything I needed to do before going down that path – knowing that print journalism wasn’t something I knew about, but I read magazines to find a style that worked for me and for what we were looking for for the magazine. This seemed to be a foreign concept to the people that came to the auditions.

But I don’t entirely blame them, as my friend wrote in his blog, mediocrity has long been accepted as a way of life in Zambia. While I agreed with his post, I also thought it was a cop out. As an individual you can choice not to fall into that category and certainly not to accept it – which is what I strive to do in my life. These kids that came to audition should not have looked at our national broadcasting channel and thought that was all there was to presenting. Knowing that this is a show for young people, and that we were looking for young, dynamic, full of energy type of people, they should have looked for references to imitate. At one point in the interviews, the judges, including myself, got fed up and literally told people to leave if they were going to come in with low energy and no confidence. Yeah I know that’s mean considering I can be low energy, but hey, I wasn’t auditioning!

The truth that a lot of them spoke about was the lack of opportunities for them, opportunities to nurture their talent, and while presenting might not have been their strong point, some of them could kill it with their singing! But we weren’t doing Zambia’s Got Talent. Though some did have access to DSTV to see international shows like Oprah and Tyra (not really the style we were looking for), the majority of them watch local shows, which frankly, are still in the 80s. This was their only reference point. This was a clear indication that the media in Zambia needs to switch it up, provide new ideas and inspiration to young people. Not to toot our own horns, but nothing is around to do this the way Trendsetters did.

In Kenya, I met a group of young people taking part in our Shuga Rising Stars mentorship programme. They basically get the opportunity to work with the some of the core people across the Shuga initiative from the award-winning director, to the marketing people, through to the public health partners. As I’m a strong believer in mentorships, myself being mentored by Aaqil Ahmed and having my own mentee, I thought this was an amazing opportunity for anyone on this project to be a part of. In a hard to break into industry like the media/creative field, this was an opportunity these young people couldn’t pay to be a part of it.

But after sitting with them, and I did think they were lovely, I just didn’t get the sense they understood the magnitude of what they were a part of. Sure, they recognized they got some great contacts and learnt some new skills, but I wasn’t sure if they could see how it could fit into the big picture of where they were trying to go. OK, me and my I’ll give you my advice even if you didn’t ask for it self did share my thoughts on how they could really own this opportunity and make it work for them. Though, after our one hour talk and I asked them if they had any questions – again, not to be more than who I am, but I’ve also been in the game awhile, not everyone has access to my knowledge (did that really come out as conceited as I think? Insert smiley face) – I was a little disappointed that they didn’t have any questions. I’m not one to give up on young people who are determined to make it in their careers, so shared my contacts for them to reach out to me whenever they wanted to. I don’t see why everyone has to go through the hard work unnecessarily, if someone can help you out, that’s why I believe in giving back, each generation has to do better than the one before right? I do believe that, but I’m not getting much hope of that with the young people I’ve met in my six odd months in Africa so far.

I won’t give up on them, without seeing what role I can play – like everyone else – to continue to develop Africa and nurture great talent coming out of the continent. I hope the work I do in Kenya and Zambia will impact them and see new directors, writers, marketers and more coming out of the continent, along with our more traditional career options of educators, doctors, lawyers etc.

I’ve been up for more hours than I’d like to think of and my alarm just went off, so I may as well get up, hit the gym and watch the sun rise over the city of Nairobi.

Until next time.

The last week has been really exciting for me because we’ve been working on a new exciting project. It brought up old memories of working on Trendsetters, and those good, old days! But it also brought up discussions about the state of young people in Zambia today. Something I see in my own nieces and nephews that worries me.

I remember when I was a young person (well, obviously I mean when I was younger) living in Lusaka, I saw things around me that moved me. Things that I thought weren’t fair or right and that I could do something about it. I remember when we marched for peace – there was a handful of us, maybe 20 odd people, if that, but we marched anyway, can’t remember the circumstances but I remember marching to what is now Memorial Park, with our little banner and our blue ribbons for peace!

Soon after, at the young age of 17, my sisters and I (through our then non-governmental organisation Youth Media), with some other people (slightly older) started Zambia’s first magazine for young people – Trendsetters. We dubbed Trendsetters as the definitive guide for being young in Zambia. The premise of the magazine was to address the issues that was critical for the development of us young people, to be healthy, responsible and contribute to the development of our nation. The core theme was on HIV and AIDS, as the country, indeed the whole continent, at the time was ‘burning’ as it were, with the spread of HIV, the silence around it and the high levels of infections, and little or no treatment available for those infected.

Six month after it was launched it won an award from the Population Council, for Best Team Reporting Effort – an award previously won by CNN. Chuffed we were indeed. Trendsetters went on to have spin off products such as Trendsetters School, for a younger in-school audience, and Trendsetters Radio. Youth Media also launched another initiative called Children’s Press Bureau – an initiative that trained children to be journalists and got them working alongside trained journalists in the national media, it was an adaptation of an initiative already being done by Save the Children. After 10 years in existence Youth Media shut down – there are rumours abound about what happened, and soon we shall reveal the truth but until then…

Five siblings in total worked at Youth Media at one time or another. I guess our love of media, behaviour change, social change (if you will), was firmly cemented and that’s how four of us went on to set up Media 365.

And now I look around at the young people I know, including my nieces and nephews, and not only do they not really care about what is going on around them, but they all aspire to be models, actors, rappers, or something else that they think will get them rich quick. When will someone tell kids that those successful people in the entertainment industry really are the minority?

At the same time, I wouldn’t mind them wanting to be all this and more, if I thought they were truly passionate about it. But they never read – it’s escaped my nephew that one thing that stands out about the great rappers is their skills with words – they don’t watch classics, my other niece thinks watching Nollywood will hone her craft. Sigh. The other day my other niece decided she wanted to be a gospel rapper, ‘oh like Kirk Franklin?’ I questioned her. Her response, ‘Who?’. Oh my.

We live on a farm, off a long dusty road, and the current temperature in Lusaka is about 37 degrees, while the kids were on holiday, I tried to spark an entrepenuerial spirit in them – well they weren’t reading so I figured they could do a side hustle. I suggested they make flavoured ice lollies to sell to people on the road. Nope, they weren’t having it, the profit margins were too small they said.

Two of my nephews are amazingly talented when it comes to drawing, so I suggested they create the label for my parent’s (their grandparents) diary business. Nope, they can’t be arsed to do that either.

After dinner, dad has recently being sharing early independence day stories – this is really stuff that insiders know, dad served in some pretty high positions during those days – you can’t get the kids to get away from the table any faster. They’d rather watch the latest videos on MTV.

I use my family as an example, but I tend to find a lot of young people here to be like that. It’s amazing that it was young people that forced a change of government in Zambia – hmmm wonder if the song Donchi Kubeba really was the driving force. Kids just wanted to party!

Ok, it was probably more my generation of young people than the 18-25 (I think I have the generation definition right) who led that ‘revolution’ but those 23 and under, sheesh! I don’t know. So I really hope this new project we’re working on will help to inspire these kids and show them that they can be anything they want to be but it requires hardwork and education – not necessarily the formal kind. I’m really excited about it and give the Creative Director – my brother – a tight timeline to deliver on! Well time waits for no man!

In the meantime, do Like the Trendsetters page on facebook. Thank you! Oh yeah and my title of this post is slightly misleading isn’t it?

Yesterday I felt hurt. It’s not something that I often feel, or at least admit to feeling (must be a combination of hormones and lack of sleep). In the last seven, almost eight years, I’ve lived in London, I have felt prejudice and minor racial insults. You know the usual, ‘I didn’t recognize you because you’ve changed your hair’ kind of stuff – despite the fact that I am the only black girl in the team. I guess white people look the same when they change their hair, yet black people look completely different. Or is that just code for ‘all black people look the same’?

I’ve always brushed it off and not taken it too seriously, though I did make a mental note to ignore the person the next time if they insisted they hadn’t met me before. I was then accused of being aloof. Go figure right.

So anyway, yesterday, this woman who I’ve known for pretty much the entire almost 8 years I’ve been here, comes to the office bearing gifts for the whole team for a project we’d pulled off successful but guess who didn’t get a present? Yep, somehow I was forgotten. Not my team mates who only joined 18 months ago, but me. Ok, I suppose on top of being black, I am kind of aloof after all, so I guess you could be forgiven for not noticing me in the corner…

Still it hurt my feelings, it’s not nice not to be noticed. Little, brown girl in the corner.

I try not to let external validation affect me. My purpose in life is not to have other people tell me I’m great, I need to know and believe that myself. If we look for external validation we might never be happy. It also makes us forever unsure about our skills and accomplishments, leaving you feeling insecure and over critical or unappreciative of your successes.

But as I firmly believe, the universe provides your signs to show you your purpose and even validate your feelings, if you will. Recently I was feeling down. No matter how many wins I’d achieved, I didn’t feel it was enough, still felt not completely sure that I was good at what I was doing, or making any difference. Because I was looking for that external validation.

Then something happened. I opened up my facebook page for pretty much anyone to find me. I had a whole bunch of people I didn’t know requesting me as a friend, I thought most of them were requesting me because of my MTV affiliation. Imagine my surprise when a good number of them sent me a message saying how much they admired my sisters and I, how we really changed their life with Trendsetters.

My sister

I was honestly overwhelmed. We hadn’t published Trendsetters in a good three or four years, yet people still remembered it and regarded it highly. It was Zambia’s first publication for young people and unlike some of the stuff out there today, we weren’t trying to tear anyone down but uplift a generation of young people. We profiled positive young role models and provided inspiration to young people to encourage them to aspire for greatness and to protect themselves by not contracting HIV. The magazine was informative, yet educational.

I couldn’t believe after all these years and my many years at MTV, people still valued the work I did when I was 18!

This wasn’t the main decision that made me look deeper to find my personal legend, but it did help me stop and take stock.

I’d spent many years looking for this external validation, when it was in me all along. I knew I could be successful at anything I put my mind too. But I also knew that my family and helping people be better were the things I cared about the most. I could achieve part of this at MTV, but to do both, would require some changes. So, the first part of my journey was to make the conscious, yet painful decision, to leave MTV. Having handed in my resignation, makes the unknown both scary and exciting.

I’m happy to be on this journey though, as deep down, I know it’s time I put me first and find my way, with my family around me.