With the recent sucess of The Ujima Awards, I had a chance to catch up with the CEOs of Fashion For A Cure and I.M.A.N.E.E., the duo that collaborated on the production of Ujima Awards. Lauren and Sean both brought personality and character and it was delightful to witness a positive and fun working relationship. Although just knowing each other through a mutual colleague, they seem to have established a mutual respect for each other as individuals as well as CEOs.
Interview conducted by: Kay Marie
Hi guys, I am sure you can use a break after the production of The Ujima Awards, thanks for taking the time to speak with me, I know you are ready for a nap, so let’s get right into it. Can each of you tell me more about your companies?
Lauren: Instilling My Ability to Naturally Embrace Excellence (IMANEE) is an organization geared to developing the leader within young people from all walks of life. We strive to utilize workshops, programming and mentoring relationships to help build self esteems, provide resources and overall knowledge. The idea stemmed from wanting to be a role model for my younger cousin. The name is a variation of her middle name, Imani.
Sean: Fashion For A Cure is a marriage of fashion and the medical field that serves as a platform to use fashion to adhere to service needs and do charitable work.
Your organizations appear to be geared towards two different demographics, how did the collaboration between the two come about?
Sean: The actual idea for collaboration came from the PR working with us on this project. She has worked with both organizations in the past and heard us both express interest in a project like this and…here we are
Lauren: Both organizations are extremely passionate about giving back to the community and recognizing individuals who are enhancing our communities. We felt that it was important to highlight the individuals that we may not always hear about
Lauren you addressed Ujima Awards’ importance to the community, what is the importance of the ceremony to you and/or your organization?
Lauren: My organization is all about setting the bar for excellence and leadership. All of these honorees encompass the ideals that I aim to instill in our IMANEE participants. By showcasing their leadership and commitment, we send a message to young people everywhere that you can become whoever you desire to be.
In the spirit of excellence Sean what was, or currently is, the most challenging about working on this project?
Sean: Honestly, I can not really pin point a ‘challenging’ moment, maybe picking a date? Just like working with any other team, you learn how to merge personalities and talents; where one lacked the other excelled and brought the entire team, and event, to that level of greatness. We just happened to be successful in merging and balancing personalities and talents.
Sounds like a great working enviorment, so what was planning and preparing for The Ujima Awards been like?
Lauren: FUN! Like Sean stated, we each bring a different personality to the planning of this event and that has been the most amazing part of it all. Memories of our late night meetings in my home office, PRICELESS!
Sean: *still chuckling* Lauren said it all
With all the laughs and great vibes, how was it working with each other and can we expect any future collaboration with FFAC and IMANEE, outside of Ujima Awards?
Sean: Working with Lauren has been nothing less than a blessing. It is refreshing to work with individuals whose visions are different yet very similar to my own visions. Lauren has brought nothing but positivity to this working relationship and environment. As far as the future of FFAC and IMANEE, maybe, maybe not.
Lauren: Working with Sean has been an enjoyable experience to say the least. It is always refereshing to work closely with a knowledgeable individual who is open to new ideas and programing. He is a model figure for positive black men in our community. However, you will have to wait and see what the future holds for FFAC and IMANEE!
Ok Ok, well back to Ujima Awards, where do you see Ujima Awards in 5 years?
Sean: In the next 5 years, Ujima Awards will be something communities look forward to annually; a catalyst for greatness in forgotten communities. It will be a national event yet still maintaining its connection to New Jersey. I see so much potential in what Ujma Awards will be.
Lauren: Dream BIG and big things WILL happen; I see televised EXCELLENCE in the next 5 years.
I like that, dream big! Is there anything else you would like people to know about Ujima Awards?
Lauren: This event goes hand and hand with one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
Sean: Ujima isn’t just a principle of Kwannza, this ceremony shows that it is and will always be work, collective work.
April 7th, do you think you all were well prepared? Excited? Nervous?
Lauren: Any emotions that a woman who is about to give birth feels, is probably what I felt at that moment. I felt as though the world is about to lay eyes on my baby and I want them to love it just as much as I do.
Sean: I had confidence that we were ready. We have been ready for this day since we released it to the public; if you stay ready you do not have to worry about wasting time getting ready. Glad to have so much support!