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Event Recording: A Conversation With Kasley Killam

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She’s Helping Black Leaders Realize That Rest Is Their Biggest Currency

Learn about Innovation Fellow Genevieve Leighton-Armah’s Bay Area pilot program

Photo Caption: ​​Genevieve Leighton-Armah with Fredrika Newton, a former Black Panther Party member and the widow of Huey P Newton.

Photo Caption: ​​Genevieve Leighton-Armah with Fredrika Newton, a former Black Panther Party member and the widow of Huey P Newton.

What is Bay Area Black Leaders and what inspired you to start it? 

Genevieve Leighton-ArmahIt’s an initiative I started after I was inspired by the murder of George Floyd. I was working in the nonprofit sector at the time and was surrounded by a lot of people who were empathic, at a loss, and feeling for Black people; it was easy to ask for support — I raised $5k in one week from my co-workers to begin doing this work. I created the initiative Bay Area Black Leaders to create restorative rest, reflection and equity planning for Black leaders. 

What problem are you trying to solve? 

Allowing Black people to rest and making space for them to stop, mourn and heal. To help them have the energy, inspiration and support they need to continue doing their work without becoming depleted or burning out. 

The Bay Area is known for the Black Panthers. People talk about how folks that were involved are no longer around. It shortened their lives because they weren’t allowed to rest and get the continued support they needed. 

How does Bay Area Black Leaders work?

I create luxurious experiences for Black leaders, bringing them together and honoring the work they’re doing. For the first cohort, I hand-picked a group of Black leaders I’ve seen in action and have hosted two beautiful dinners, hiring Black chefs and making sure everything in the space was Black-owned. 

People have really enjoyed connecting. I think it’s helped them to recognize their calling and path and not stay in spaces that are limiting. I’m trying to raise enough money to host a retreat, and I’m exploring corporate sponsorships where they’d be able to highlight their investment in this work. 

Why choose a cogenerational approach? 

My inspiration comes from the Black Panthers and the elders in my life. At the dinners, I have elders influence every space I create, the learning happens in both directions (youngers from olders and vice versa). There’s also an element of intergenerational healing that’s happening – because we’re allowing Black leaders to rest in ways now that they weren’t permitted to do in the past. 

What’s your big audacious vision? If you succeed, what change will we see? 

I’d love for people to not see putting themselves first as selfish, and for everyone to realize the richness in rest and understanding that it’s our biggest currency. 

I see myself doing retreats internationally and taking this idea to a global audience. I see all Black leaders moving with presence and peace — sitting still with ourselves and being clear in our decision making. People live longer when they have better rest, and I want Black leaders to be around for a long time. I’d also love to see a 3-day work week and a 4-day weekend! 

What does rest look like for you? 

I try to wake up with ease, I don’t set an alarm, knowing I have the luxury to do that. I am someone that wakes up naturally at a certain time. I pray every morning — I grew up Catholic and have come back to that religion. I meditate every morning for 15-20 minutes. I check my blood pressure. I try not to rush throughout my day. I eat lunch without my phone or the TV in front of me. In the evening, I journal and write about what I’m grateful for. I’ll slowly rub lotion into my hands for 5 minutes. Rest is a muscle that we have to build over time. 

How can people get involved with your work?

Right now, what I really need are connections to funders and grant writers and people who are able to help us raise the money we need to continue doing this work. 

What’s one of your superpowers as a leader/innovator?  

I like to incorporate different generations in the work that I do. To be a connector. It’s very easy for me to be in community with different age groups. 

Learn more about Genevieve Leighton-Armah here