Remember that scene from Poetic Justice when Lucky, Justice, Iesha, and Chicago tumble out of the delivery truck and finesse their way into the family reunion cookout happening in the local park? That energy of acceptance that brought them into the fold and rewarded them with beer, plates of food, and some much needed relationships lessons was something we could all relate to. That’s the exact energy The Creative Collective NYC embodies with CultureCon, the annual Black creatives event taking place virtually from June 7-13, 2021. Founded by Imani Ellis, the event that brings together success stories of the culture like Tracee Ellis Ross and Regina Hall to the stage as speakers is back this year with free admission to Black creatives looking for that cookout community we’ve missed out on since Covid restrictions turned our routines obsolete. That however, hasn’t stopped this team, or their work for the culture, as they’re back with an impressive lineup, featuring everything from speakers Chloe x Halle Bailey, Ziwe, and Quinta Brunson to workshops on generational wealth and how to build your side hustle. You might even see a few of your Unbothered faves in there too. But, an event that makes accessibility its first name by inviting not only the musicians, entrepreneurs, and actors of our culture, but all of us to come together to learn and grow in our passions, doesn’t happen out of sheer prayers, pixie dust, and durag swag bags — it requires a team of creatives who work as one to make sure CultureCon continues to be a hub for innovation. “Creatives of color deserve a space that celebrates the contributions of voices who too often are left out of these same spaces and conversations,” says CultureCon Project Manager Sunny Dae. “[It’s] a space where creatives of color can see themselves reflected in every fiber of the experience in a way that feels both natural and intentional.” To understand how this intentional experience comes to life, and continues to grow from its initial 150 attendees to 2,000 in 2019 and an anticipated 10,000 attendees this year, you have to hear from the team’s leaders themselves. Thankfully, we had the chance to do just that. Ahead you’ll meet the team that brought CultureCon 2021 to life. DashDividers_1_500x100 Sunny Dae Role: Project Manager, CultureCon & Event Producer, The Creative Collective NYC What would you say is the “secret sauce” to working with this group of friends on CultureCon? I’d say the “secret sauce” is really leaning into people’s talents and trusting their expertise. When our teammates deliver — and chile do they deliver — we celebrate their contributions in a way that makes them feel valued and empowered. Why CultureCon? In a world where mainstream culture and media often marginalize the very people that influence and shift every facet of popular culture, CultureCon creates an experience that centers the wants and needs of these people. Creatives of color deserve a space that celebrates the contributions of voices who too often are left out of these same spaces and conversations. A space where creatives of color can see themselves reflected in every fiber of the experience in a way that feels both natural and intentional. What advice do you have for those looking to make their passion their career? Don’t stifle your dreams by waiting for the “perfect” moment – it will never come. Be planful, be strategic, but remain open enough to seize your moment when your spirit tells you it’s time. Always bet on yourself. My advice for people looking to grow in these unprecedented times is to stay curious. Sign up for the class. Learn the new software. Listen to the podcast. Explore the neighborhood. Attempt the thing that scares you. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s taught us that you have to live life with immediacy. Favorite CultureCon moment? I knew CultureCon was different when I saw that we put satin bonnets and durags in the 2019 gift bags!! From programming, food vendors, activations, and swag, everything about CultureCon is planned with intention. Everything is culturally relevant. Everything anticipates the interests and needs of the audience in a way that feels natural. You can only create an experience like that when you have an intimate knowledge of the people you want to serve. In the case of CultureCon, it’s easy because our team directly reflects the community we serve. What’s the best lesson that CultureCon has taught you that you wish you knew earlier? The best lesson that CultureCon has shown me is that there is a world where you can have all of the things — you can do meaningful work, you can show up as your authentic self, you can contribute, and have your contributions celebrated. That world does exist, and if it doesn’t, create it yourself. DashDividers_1_500x100 Amber Mayfield Role: Brand Experience Manager, CultureCon What would you say is the “secret sauce” to working with this group of friends on CultureCon? Because we are friends we have grace with each other and we have a good sense of humor. That gets us through the hard work and tight turnarounds. What advice do you have for those looking to make their passion their career? My advice is to go for it, and make that passion known to others. When you are honest with yourself about what you really want to do, and you start putting the word out, then your network can help you get there. My passion has always been centered on events and bringing people together. When I left my corporate job, I let everyone know my plan was to work on events. In doing so, Imani contacted me about CultureCon 2018 and that was how I got one of my first big contracts in events. How do you keep a ‘Creative AF?’ attitude as you’ve pivoted throughout the past year? I think the very definition of being Creative AF is an ability to anticipate trends, respond to new conditions, and pivot under pressure. We’ve all been Creative AF this past year! DashDividers_1_500x100 Skylar Kearney Role: Social Digital Manager, CultureCon & The Creative Collective NYC What would you say is the “secret sauce” to working with this group of friends on CultureCon? Our secret sauce is easily how diverse our backgrounds are. Each of us checks a box that’s required to make a successful conference like CultureCon come to life. We trust each other to make decisions and support each other as we build. There’s also so much love wrapped up in what we do. Each of us has a day job and we still spend hours pouring ourselves into this conference and this brand. It’s about the passion we each have to make an impact in our community. We all know this is bigger than us. It’s about the whole, not the individual. Favorite CultureCon moment? My favorite moment from CultureCon happened at the end of our conference in 2019. The entire team gathered backstage and you could feel the relief of having finished such a successful event. We were all worn out, having given all we could to ensure the day ran smoothly, but there was still so much energy. We were all buzzing, feeding off of the energy that this was actually happening–that WE did this. All of a sudden, our entire team is embracing each other, hooping and hollering, jumping up and down, and it was surreal. There was so much love and happiness in that moment. It’s a moment you keep with you forever. DashDividers_1_500x100 Carla DuBose Role: Digital Associate, CultureCon & The Creative Collective NYC What’s it like working on CultureCon with your friends? In one word — INNOVATIVE. Given how much our world has changed in the past year, it’s been exciting and gratifying to see how malleable we’ve all been with our ideas and execution of this conference. It’s beautiful really, we’ve all grown together through this. Patience has truly been a gift and virtue for all us throughout this process. Do you have advice for those looking to grow in these unprecedented times? To those who are looking to grow at this pivotal time in the world, stay the course. Be patient, applaud others until it’s your turn to be applauded. Rest when you can, not when you must. And above all else, know that nobody is going to do it like you because the power behind it all is you. Favorite CultureCon moment? I knew CultureCon was different because I never saw so many people who look like me convene in a space in such a capacity that wasn’t tied to a homecoming, a BBQ, or a church event. But in so many ways, it’s all of those things. You come to CultureCon to see the cousins you didn’t know you had, get reinvigorated about the work you’re doing and why your impact matters. It reminds you WHY you and your ideas deserve respect and the opportunities to thrive. How do you keep a ‘Creative AF?’ attitude as you’ve pivoted throughout the past year? I remind myself of my WHY. Because I’ve been inside for so long, like many of us, I need to motivate myself again about what I’m doing. Sometimes that requires days where I disconnect from everything and tap into the world outside of my screen. Whether that’s writing, drawing, or exploring a place (while social distancing of course). DashDividers_1_500x100 Kaitlyn Miranda Role: Digital Associate, CultureCon & The Creative Collective NYC What advice do you have for those looking to make their passion their career? My biggest advice to monetizing your passion is to be patient and live in the journey of it all. Tap into your talents, take time to educate yourself and perfect your craft. It’s so easy to allow social media to make you feel as if you have to rush into something but you don’t. It’s a marathon, not a race. Do things the way you want at the pace that keeps you at peace. What’s for you, will always be for you. You got this! Favorite CultureCon moment? My favorite CultureCon moment was definitely witnessing the conversation between Tracee Ellis Ross & Elaine Welteroth. The energy in that room full of thousands of creatives was so magnetic. Also – it was so inspiring to witness badass, powerful women take up space. A feeling that I’ll always remember. What’s the best lesson that CultureCon has taught you that you wish you knew earlier? The power of collaboration is INSANE! CultureCon has truly taught me the force you can create and the magic you can make by collaborating with like-minded creatives. Finding your tribe is super important. DashDividers_1_500x100 Kirby Dixon Role: Talent Associate, CultureCon What advice do you have for those looking to make their passion their career? Just start. It’s so easy to get stifled by wanting everything to be perfect: to want to create the perfect product, team with the perfect people and brands, and come out with the perfect rollout strategy. But none of those goals can come into fruition if you refuse to just START. I’ve grown in my passion as a creative by being pushed and inspired by my peers, friends and newfound contacts as a result of CultureCon. Seeing so many beautiful, creative minds step into their purpose by pursuing their passions has given me the permission and drive to do the same. There’s nothing more inspiring than being in a room – whether virtual or in person – that is filled to the brim with new and established Black and Brown creatives from all parts of the industry including media and entertainment, tech, business leaders and beyond. My advice for those looking to grow in these unprecedented times would be to not be afraid of speaking your dreams out loud, seek a close circle of friends and peers to hold you accountable for those verbal manifestations, ask for what you want and deserve, and foster true, genuine connections across various divisions. It takes work, but if you put it in, I promise you it will be worth it. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?