Reflections on a Year at Kolibri:  

I have been the Co-Director of the Kolibri Foundation for a little over a year now.  Moments like these feel like important spaces of reflection and celebration. As I write these reflections, I am deeply inspired by Beyonce’s Renaissance album and see it as the soundtrack for the year and this personal reflection. I would push you to listen to it while reading this piece to help add color to these reflections.  In my experience of political work, there is always song and dance, and I hope my words dance off the page for and with you.

I am Black, Femme, and young. (Cozy- Beyonce)

I have always been Black and femme. I grew up in South Carolina with working-class grandparents in a small town where everyone knew each other. Despite my upbringing and lived experience, existing in this role as the darkest-hued person on my team continues to show me parts of myself that I hadn’t seen before and reminds me of how my Blackness, age, and femme presentation showed up for others. I have experienced racism, sexism, and ageism in new ways over the last year. I have seen what it means to exist in my body in rural towns from Louisiana to Oklahoma and in professional and relaxed settings in spaces like Puerto Rico and London. These experiences have helped to broaden my understanding of what it means to be Black and femme in 2022. These experiences have pushed me to deepen my political praxis and understanding of anti-Blackness, colorism, fatphobia, and ableism. I have also been called into profound courage to call out these moments in real time, even when I am the perpetrator of these experiences for others. As a political practice, I have decided to resist the white supremacist expectation that I would close off parts of myself to show up in this role in a traditional manner. I refuse to create a persona for this space that is different than who I am elsewhere. Or use the positionality and power of this role to correct, shame, or retaliate against someone whose actions didn’t respect my personhood. Over the next four years, I am excited to live out loud in this role in a way that continues to create authenticity for myself and the space for others.  I can’t wait to get even cozier in my skin and this role.

Black community is everything.  (Cuff It- Beyonce)

This work has been some of the most challenging job I have ever done. It could be the burnout of working during a pandemic, continual racial uprisings and calls for accountability, the fall of Roe, or the nature of the work itself. There can be a  lot of isolation in philanthropy, particularly at levels of high leadership. There was a period early into this work when I went into seclusion trying to complete the work. I had a significant transition moment midway through this year when a friend pushed me to return to what I knew as the basis for starting over and showing up better. I have since leaned back on my upbringing as a Gullah child and sought community sincerely and continuously. I have built and continue to build places of joy, reflection, rest, and discourse. The communities I have sought out, poured into, and supported the cultivation of has been one of the most significant gifts of this work and my most prominent reminder of why I show up to this role. Whether it is my team, our larger foundation community, those in the South, or other Black women Directors, community has been my continual saving grace. Over the next four years, I am committed to creating and being held accountable to and with the community authentically and joyfully. Shout out to Josh, Janis, and Jane, who reminded me I can always come home and never have to be alone in this work.

Rest in the South of France  (Virgo’s Groove- Beyonce)

Hi, My name is Chi, and I am regularly a part of Team Too Much. For many years, I have subscribed to the lie that is grind culture and working to and beyond burnout. This summer, I took some time off for the first time in my professional career. I didn’t write. I didn’t try to close up all the loose ends or wrap significant bodies of work. I left my job with the knowledge and trust that my team could handle everything while I was away, and whatever needed me would wait until I came back. I listened to my body and my family and took a break. I didn’t feel guilty about leaving and didn’t push to justify it to anyone, including myself.  I traveled through England and France. I wore soft clothes, slept late, ate fresh foods, shopped, and explored. My time in Europe this summer pushed me to build my life differently. I am unlearning that I have to earn my rest and that the work can’t continue without me. Through practicing interdependence in my career, I can call for rest when I need it and support others, calling it into themselves. 

 I am now curating a life where work is one part but not the whole of my world. I am prioritizing my wellness, joy, family, and rest equal to my passion and calling at work. Since then, I have created even more space for the fullness that is my life. I have removed slack and e-mail from my phone.  I have no-meeting days/weeks and am supporting our team to lean into similar practices. I have picked back up my yoga and baking practices. I have begun reading and writing about things that aren’t related to philanthropy. Over the next four years, I can’t wait to look back on the life I have been able to build and see the fullness beyond the work I put out into the world.

I am brilliant, insightful, and damn worth it, and so are you. (Thique or Move- Beyonce)

I quote the queen who inspired and created the soundtrack for this reflection, “It’s just that I’m that girl.” In this role, imposter syndrome showed up for my colleagues and me. I refuse to be intimated or allow negative self-talk to prevent me from bringing full brilliance to this role. I am brilliant, capable, rooted, constantly growing, and inspired by those around me. This role has given me the space to grow, shift, change, and build work that makes me proud.  It has also been the joy of my life to get to work with nine other folks who are equally as brilliant, insightful, and compassionate folks. Kolibri is creating space for our brilliance to coexist and collaborate, creating a healing experience for us and our partners. We have cried, laughed, danced, and made significant life changes and decisions in and outside our daily work. The best gift of the last year has been the space to align with these folks. Over the next four years, I am excited to see what is birthed from our collective alignment.  

Talk Less, Be More (Plastic of the Sofa- Beyonce)

“I want to stop talking.” I proclaimed much louder than I intended. In front of a room of strangers, all leaders across philanthropy whom I respected and admired, I said the thing I had been holding most inside. I immediately felt guilty, insecure, and like I should do some explaining. Inside, my inner voice whispered, we are so tired. Reflections on one year at Kolibri Foundation have given me a lot of things and at the top of them is the ability to say something and realize things other roles had never allowed me to. In this role, I don’t have to fundraise or do the dance of philanthropy. I also don’t have to be the emotional release for someone with more power, money, or access because my presence as Black femme comforted them. There is freedom in releasing the burden of constantly talking. I believe in deep community and relationship building. I enjoy listening and learning from others in thoughtful and well-designed spaces.  However, the first year of Kolibri gave me the freedom I wish for many Black Women directors; the freedom to say the secret thing that is behind the constant guilt of nothing having enough time.  The truth for me is that I have time to live a fuller life and build sustainable work when there is space to create, dream and listen more. In the silence between moments, I desire to exist in a way that allows me to lean into the abundance of this role.  Over the next four years, I can’t wait to see how taking space to talk with intention, write, reflect, and be will shift me, mold me, and allow me to be transformed in the name of the work.

Woman with a headwrap and glasses with a joyful smile. The image has a monochrome filter with a green background.Written by: Chi-ante Jones (she/her)
Kolibri Foundation Co-Director