founder, Expedition Subsahara
what does confidence mean to you?
Confidence is the ability to feel comfortable in any room and to take up space unapologetically.
I started Expedition Subsahara as a social connection and a way to connect cultures. It began as a tiny seed — a dream — and we’re continually working to grow that seed into something beautiful.
Originally from Senegal, West Africa, I came to the United States because my mom wanted me to have a bright future. She thought the best chance for me to thrive was for me to get a quality education. While there are schools in Senegal, there are a lot of gaps in education and it’s not always a priority for young girls to attend or finish school.
When I first came to America, I realized that Africans have a misconception of what America is like: think big houses, fancy cars and lots of cash. I basically thought America was Hollywood. And now that I’ve lived here for half of my life, I know that Americans also have a misconception of what Africa is like. Though Africa is a continent of diverse countries, sometimes they get lumped in the same stereotype. People have asked if I lived in a hut, had a lion as a pet, or if there are streets where I grew up (no, no, although that would be cool and yes). I’m privileged to understand these cultural misunderstandings. Neither Americans perceptions of Africa nor Africans perception of America are truths, but there are hints of truth in each. There are advantages to creating a life in America, just as there are advantages to living in any country in Africa. My mom knew my educational advantage would be here, though, because an American degree means something to the rest of the world.
I understand now that if you take a single stereotype and make it THE story for an entire people, you’re doing a disservice to the world. It creates conflict when rather than investing in understanding one another’s stories, we focus only on the story we know. It makes it hard to empathize with other cultures and people. Every culture is made out of a million stories. Each country’s story is complex and beautiful.
It is our goal at Expedition Subsahara to create a space where we can connect African and American cultures in a way that’s respectful to both. We want to expand dialog to increase understanding and empathy. Connecting cultures starts with being introduced to them. Our products are made in Africa by African artisans. No matter where you display or wear them, you’re helping start a conversation and hopefully ultimately creating a more empathetic and understanding world.
...And if all of that is not enough, we plan on using the proceeds from our products to build a school back home, in Senegal. The school will benefit women like those who make our products, so that they have viable, technological knowledge to use in the modern workforce. We created Expedition Subsahara as a bridge that extends to everyone so that maybe someday our similarities matter more than our differences. And on that day, we hope girls’ education will be on an equal platform across the globe.
When is your first memory of feeling confident?
I have always felt confident in myself, but it goes and comes — sometimes more and sometimes less, but it’s always there.
When is your first memory of feeling insecure?
When I came to the United States from Senegal, West Africa, I didn't speak a word of English. It’s strange and unsettling when everyone is speaking around you, but you’re not able to understand or communicate back.
WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL MOST CONFIDENT NOW? HOW HAS THIS CHANGED?
My laugh makes me feel very confident. I am known for my laugh because it’s loud and contagious. It’s the kind of laugh that takes up space and infects everyone in its path. Soon, everyone is laughing. For a brief moment, my laugh creates a connection with a group of people and we all become one. It is really dope. I'm also physically strong and that makes me feel really confident. Powerlifting is my other source of confidence.
What is something you’re most proud of?
I forget pain really fast. I know that is kind of weird, but for example, when I fall short of a goal or even hurt myself, I forgot by the next day. I’m ready to plunge forward and try something new. It is a REALLY good gift for someone who loves jumping off of the deep end and seeing what happens.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
You know, my younger self did the best she could with what she had. She made a ton of mistakes, but those mistakes made her bigger, faster, stronger and more confident. I would tell her to make every single mistake again. But really, I would just let her do her, fall and get back up to find herself in the lessons.
How are you using your platform to make a difference?
Twenty percent of all of ES sales goes into a fund for girls’ education in Senegal. It is our goal to build a girls STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) school and be the change that we want to see in this world.
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