Willow Expert Spotlight: Kameelah Benjamin Fuller
How does she do it all?
“I feel like I’m in a spot where there’s a need for me to fulfill a role as daughter and mother, but there’s enough space and independence among both of them that I’m able to take time to do the work that’s important to me.”
The strong female role models in Benjamin-Fuller’s family have served as a long-time source of inspiration. “My grandmother was able to raise a family of multiple children, move around and navigate the Caribbean, find work, find resources. She then supported my mom moving from the Virgin Islands to Boston to go to school and then she, for most of her life as a single mom, supported me and my brother while also caring for her parents.”
Throughout Benjamin-Fuller’s financial journey, she has held true to a commitment to ‘owning the outcome’. That means, being prepared for roadblocks and missteps along the way, a willingness to get the help she needs, or having a ‘side hustle’ at times to ensure financial stability.
“It’s hard to be willing to be vulnerable, particularly for women of color who have historically been positioned as matriarchs, as needing to have it together for our family and community,” says Benjamin-Fuller. “There has to be that willingness to be vulnerable and admit that you need help and support to move forward. Instead of carrying it as a sign of not being able to step into the powerful role that you are expected to hold; but rather take it as part of what it means to be empowered and powerful.”
Our country is currently facing challenging times – but these issues are not new. “While many Americans are stepping up [with Black Lives Matter] and wanting to be helpful, supportive and end racism once and for all, “we need to go deep into the ‘unpacking’ of what’s going on out there,” says Benjamin-Fuller.
“The more formal idea of diversity work started in the 60s in corporate America…in the 60s…and I was part of a D&I team in the early 2000s so this is not new,” says Benjamin-Fuller. “It’s a lot of the same things cycling through again and again and they’re probably not sticking because they’re not systematic and based on an infrastructure.”
“[Racism] is a systematic problem, and a social problem that has spanned many eras, many moons, and it didn’t even originate here in the U.S.; so to be a little over-zealous and wanting to dismantle racism just like that is not going to be sustainable or effective.
“You have to look at the foundational things that you can change,” says Benjamin-Fuller. “For example, in your organization, it’s ‘What are our hiring practices?’ ‘How do we train our managers to be good managers? If you get this bedrock thing right, you can build from there.”