Today we’d like to introduce you to Britney Robinson.
Britney, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I think for me my journey started in 10th grade.
I walked past the counselor’s office at Hamilton High School and saw a ‘Tutors Needed’ ad–I applied.
From that day on, from 10th-12th grade, I worked for UCLA’s Community Based Learning program as an afterschool Math tutor. Through working with the CBL program, I was able to meet Bud Jacobs (who was at the time the Executive Director of CISLAW at CAA). I ended up consulting for CAA’s Communities In Schools Los Angeles West drop out prevention program.
This entire time, I was also a private tutor and you could always catch me at ‘Nutrition’ or ‘Lunch’ helping someone with their Math HW. I even came to school on Saturdays to help Ms.O’Brien with her Math help workshops.
After Communities In Schools program funding ended, I went on to tutor for Insight Treatment Center in Sherman Oaks–an outpatient treatment program for teens. I got accepted to UCLA right out of HS in 2009 (Math major–go figure), but my dad was deported the same year. I soon realized that I just needed to be home to help my mom and my little sisters. Not long after that, my mentor and 6th-grade AVID teacher –Miss. Carolyn Brown–passed away. I was devastated.
I dropped out of college. I got to hear the rumors that I dropped out because of a boy, because of everything that was NOT the reason. I got to see all of my peers get their degrees and even pursue Master’s degrees; it was extremely discouraging. Honestly, getting my degree meant the world to me and it felt like the way things were going in my life–it would never happen.
I worked the retail life for eight long years and supplemented that with my passion–educating. I have tutored over 150 students. Funny thing is, I think it took me so long to get back to my path because I beat myself up to something crucial about leaving UCLA. I don’t think that I would have realized that my path or my passion was to help others if it wasn’t for Stephen and Zee Spezzano –their two daughters, Zoe and Sadie, were my first private clients. I tutored them throughout their middle school and high school tenures.
Fast forward to 2018, I met Shanna Shaked of the UCLA Learning Assistant Program. The premise of this program is getting diverse groups of students to succeed in STEM. When you look at the NSFs database, you’ll see that minorities pursue STEM at drastically lower rates than the majority population. This program focuses on fostering group collaboration, active learning, inclusivity, and increasing the level of student satisfaction and belonging in STEM. Shanna took me under her wing and listened–when not many people had.
Whoa. It was like I hit the jackpot. I got to talk about educating folks that look like ME.
Focusing on minorities in STEM meant me focusing on my culture a lot more.
It has made me realize that…you know when people ask you–“So, what’s the dream? If you could do anything in the world, what would that be?”.
The dream would be to educate educators. It would be to travel the world and give seminars on mental models and inclusivity in STEM (particularly focusing on racial achievement gaps).
It’s so often that minorities are overlooked in STEM because educators think that ability is fixed. It is so frequent that minorities are overlooked in STEM because we don’t SEEM like we have the wherewithal and the drive to continue rigorous coursework (often not because we don’t, but because we are already dealing with many other societal repercussions). I have literally been TOLD to just major in something “easy” so that I can just “get in and get out”.
It is so often that our teachers forget what the learning process is like–they become unconscious experts and are unable to resonate with the struggle that is LEARNING.
All of this meant that one day in April of this year, I was sitting on the Blue Bus and decided that I wanted to have a networking event for local Black creatives and entrepreneurs. I wanted to provide opportunities to connect and to elevate EACH OTHER.
And, ever since that day on the bus, I haven’t looked back. I had the first event in September with 47 vendors and I paid for EVERYTHING out of pocket. The vendors paid nothing. No one paid anything–they just came to sell their awesome goods and network with the people of the Crenshaw neighborhood who came through.
I will be having the second event this October 27th and decided it will be a monthly event. Hopefully, I really get to make a difference in the lives of people who think it’s hopeless because the world doubted THEM too.
The rest? History.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I think that I detailed a lot of challenges and obstacles along my path in the previous question but if I had to list them they would be:
-Losing the breadwinner of the house (my dad).
-Losing my mentor.
-Dropping out of college.
-Being a Big sister.
-Keeping the faith and the drive.
-Saving the money to house my first event.
Please tell us more about your work. What do you do? What do you specialize in? What sets you apart from competition?
‘For The Culture’ is the name of my networking event and marketplace. The ‘For The Culture’ space is designed to highlight local entrepreneurs/creatives and small businesses owned by local Black entrepreneurs.
We often blur the line between “commitment” and “self-endangerment” and because of that, too many people are burning out before they have the chance to truly shine.
I’ve realized that sometimes–you need to be around like-minded individuals who can truly resonate with your struggle in order to bloom into the being that you know that you can be.
I think what sets me apart is that this space is truly about engaging and creating connections. I don’t just want people to show up and shop when they come (though supporting Black businesses is a plus). I want them to BUILD lasting connections that mean business partners, or more opportunities, or a changed mental model.
I recently implemented the role of Engagement Facilitators. These lovely Queens will literally facilitate engagements between strangers. We find out who you are and what you do, and what you’re looking for. Then, we connect you with other local Black creatives that fit that. And, you leave fulfilled, every time.
We have a business card table –anyone can drop a stack!
We promote each other.
We celebrate each other.
We have a positive affirmation board. You never know what your positive affirmation can do for someone who is experiencing a hard time. I know that the affirmation board from the last event filled me with so much joy –I was honestly surprised.
The icing is that all guests (of legal drinking age) get free mimosas. We gotta make you feel good before we can make you feel great, ha!
So–I think that, in total, people know me as a giver. Whether I’m tutoring or trying to find a way to promote and help Black businesses, a ‘giver’ is what I will always be.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
As I said before, Carolyn Brown watched over me throughout highschool. She, Ms. Ezeh (the reason I love math) and Ms. Sylvestre of Foshay Learning Center chipped in to help me pay for my prom dress. Ms. Brown was always there–if I needed to vent or if I just needed some advice.
Stephen and Zee Spezzano (my first clients) helped me realize my passion for teaching.
Trevonne Ephrim — helped me out of a crazy two-year depression.
Shanna Shaked — the first person in a while to believe in me. She lit the fire again when I thought I was no longer passionate.
- Tickets to my event start at $7
- Website: thisoneisfortheculture.occur.la
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fortheculturebizexpo/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fortheculturebizexpo/
Milk It Media, Deshon Hayward, DMG Imaging