When Chris Rock is right.
I went to the very cool BET “META” (Media, Entertainment, Technology Alliance) event two weeks ago at Milk Studios here in Los Angeles. While I was there, I thought to myself, “Chris Rock was right!”
What’s this, you say? Peppur is friends with Chris Rock? No, I’m not friends with Chris Rock (yet?) but, years ago, he delivered this quote in an interview:
Success is a combination of opportunity meets preparation, and after awhile, your peers are in a position of power.
– Chris Rock
The quote stuck with me because, 1) I wanted to be successful like Chris Rock and figured I should listen to what he has to say, and 2) I wondered, what kinda power are we talkin’ about here?
As I’ve gotten older, and as my friends (peers) have risen higher in their fields, I see now what Chris Rock meant.
The META event was a two-day, invitation-only inaugural social impact conference convened by BET Networks. I attended the event with Betties Danielle and Tina on invitation from my friend and fellow Bettie, Crescent Muhammad, who had a hand in the event via her corporate position in life. She is the Managing Director of the Council of Urban Professionals (CUP in Los Angeles), who’s mission is to “inspire, elevate, and empower the next generation of diverse business and civic leaders…[by supporting] the career progression of professional women and people of color.”
I love that she was not only able to extend an invitation to this important event, but that she actually did. And I know why. She didn’t invite us there to kick it, she invited us there to rock it. Technically, she was doing her job to inspire, elevate and empower — us — but, what really happened is, she got us in the room. And that is super groovy.
For those that don’t know, “The Room” is essentially that playing space where stuff happens — where decision makers and people of influence mingle and air drop contact info like popcorn thrown easily into mouths at a Black Panther movie.
Getting in the room is called access.
Access is what you want. And I was there. Representing.
“BET Networks is uniquely positioned to convene thought leaders from across sectors for this timely dialogue about the power of media, entertainment and technology to positively impact the African American community,” said Scott Mills, President of BET Networks.
In an intimate setting, thought leaders like Brittany Packett, Jim Shelton, Donna Brazile, Hill Harper, Queen Latifa, Charles King, Lee Daniels and my personal friend, Cheryl Grace of Nielsen came together to listen to one another, share information and uplift one another. In A Very Huge Way.
For some women, simply being in the room is the leg up they need in order to succeed, because access often times is everything. Being in the room not only allows you the opportunity to witness first-hand what others are doing, but it also allows you to meet ‘n greet with people, to connect in a meaningful way, to show them what you’re workin’ with. To do business and get stuff done.
However, being in the room is just the beginning. It is then up to YOU to do the work from there, and that’s the preparation part Chris Rock referred to. For example, what good would it do for me to be in that room if I wasn’t then prepared with my own projects be it something related to Brown Betties and empowering women, scripts related to my novel or blog, or even having some practical current-events knowledge that can help keep a conversation going? It would be useless, and a pretty good reason for Crescent to not invite me to anything of value again until I had my rocks together.
I’ll admit, it took me a minute to get into a groove. I had a few moments of feeling intimidated by all the greatness, but as I leaned in I realized my greatness, too. No one else is like me, no one else is doing exactly what I’m doing in the way that I’m doing it. THAT is power, that is my currency and it’s up to me how I spend and invest it. So I got to work. I began delivering my personal pitch — that one that has me asking the right person for the right thing in this right time. As I got into it, I had a great time. I felt empowered, I felt inspired, I felt ready to do the damn thing – and so did Danielle and Tina, in their own entrepreneurial ways.
And then I realized something else, I think I was meant to be there. Here’s why:
I met two of my personal sheroes at this event, Beverly Bond and Amy DuBois Barnett. I had no idea they would be there.
From 2004 on, Beverly has been an inspiration and career mirror to me via her brand Black Girls Rock! for young girls. She started BGR out of a need to see Black women in a positive light, the very same reason I started Brown Betties around the same time. I was able to tell her this, face-to-face which then prompted us to hug it out over our need to serve Black women and to exchange info. It was sheer icing that she’d actually heard of Brown Betties and our show; she knew of my work too.
Amy was the editor in chief of Honey, one of my favorite magazines of which I was an original subscriber back in the late 90s. She was/is also the first African-American woman to run a major mainstream magazine in the United States. The reason I blog and the reason I started the Brown Betties Gazette years ago is because I’ve always wanted a magazine that speaks to Black and Brown women. I told her this and now we follow each other on Instagram. #BigDeal.
By the way, these women became my sheroes because I believe this:
If you see it, you can be it.
Hill Harper worked out at Equinox gym when I worked front desk there and I’d have the Betties rehearse in the studios for our Harlem’s Night Cabaret show. You know I brought this factoid up to him and he said, “Wait, weren’t you all the group who had that show, the Brown Betties?” Yep.
Queen Latifah was there and I told Danielle how I wrote Queen Latifah a letter back in the 90s; I’d read in an interview that she liked California Rolls and said I’d love to take her for lunch some time to chat (uh, why Peppur??) and that I’d take her for California Rolls. At the time I didn’t even know that was sushi! But, her career was one that I admired – I saw how her hard work was leading to success. And I wanted to be around that. I wanted to talk to her at META, to tell her that story. But I didn’t. Next time.
Charles King was there as well. He was an agent at the then William Morris Agency, where he started in the mail room. In the late ’90s, early 2000s, I met him at the American Black Film Festival in Miami and I told him I was a writer and that I would be seeking him out for representation. I had his card on my bulletin board for almost fifteen years as a reminder to keep working hard. I haven’t told him this story yet. Next time.
Being in that room reminded me of what I was and am trying to be. It gave me access to them and access to myself. It reminded me of my journey to success.
Here in Bettie-land, I am creating a community of women that supports one another. What I have, you have be it an invitation or knowledge. I work to create programming that helps us and makes us better women, however that may translate individually. If you’re not a part of our community, I offer you to reach out to me and introduce yourself. I’ll do my best to give you access. To be a part of your story.
In the meantime, I offer these nuggets that I hope will be as influential to you as Chris Rock’s quote was to me:
- Women need to help women; therefore, surround yourself with good women.
- Women need to remember that we are powerful no matter at what level we’re currently operating.
- Women (and men) rock when prepared for opportunity. This means from keeping your LinkedIN profile up-to-date, to having your hair and nails done, to keeping your blog or website current. Everything is a stepping stone. Everything you do is a marker toward your success; you may not realize it now, but it is. Be and stay prepared.
When Crescent invited me to META, I didn’t know what the event was, I simply said, “Yes” because it is important to do so. It’s important because I know she wouldn’t invite me if I shouldn’t be there, it’s important because I’m in a position of growth and one needs to meet people in order to grow, and I believe in the power of the unknown and taking risks. I was ready with my business cards, I was prepared mentally and I fixed my nails in the car. However this translates for you, do the same. Because #success.