CHANGEMAKER: Kwamara Thompson, Amplifying the Black Voice and Elevating the Black Community
Meet changemaker Kwamara Thompson — an educator, entrepreneur and edtech consultant.
Working across the country, she is constantly striving to amplify the Black voice and elevate the Black community.
Her company, TEC (Thompson Education Consulting), has helped numerous organizations in several ways — including enhancing their strategic growth plan; creating and managing successful teams; leading with empathy; and thinking with equity in mind.
Thompson, personally, along with her company, have been promoting “sistahood,” community and empowerment for more than 20 years.
One of her life’s missions is to help Black communities attain financial empowerment and generational wealth.
Following is a Q&A where she elaborates on what drives her to succeed, the success she has already achieved and her goals for the future:
What drove you to succeed when you were younger?
Thompson: Wanting to make my parents, my family and myself proud
What drives you to succeed now?
Thompson: My passion and drive to fight for an equitable society, to right the injustices and severe wrongs that have been done for centuries against Black people, to create a human-centric society.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Thompson: I wanted to be a professional basketball player and/or a pediatric surgeon.
Did you have to overcome adversity growing up based on your race?
Thompson: I always felt different and out of place. In Black communities, I was too “white.” They would call me, “Oreo,” (black on the outside, white on the inside).
And, in the predominately white communities, I was met with micro-aggressions about how I wasn’t really Black, I wasn’t like other Black people.
I was definitely tokenized. I was paraded as the Black friend, highlighted on company webpages as a leader within organizations, often asked to speak on behalf of Black/”urban”/poor people when those voices were needed at the executive table.
What inspired you to do a documentary about race relations in your hometown of Morristown, NJ?
Thompson: Honestly I was quietly enraged that my white friends didn’t like to go to the predominately Black part of town because (they considered it to be) “dangerous” and “low-class.” They thought negatively about it out of ignorance and fear. (I did not live in that area either, but I never had any fear being around other Black people.)
What motivated you to be a teacher in urban school environments?
Thompson: I wanted Black kids to see that they could get out of the cycles of generational poverty. I wanted them to know there were people who believed and supported their dreams, and would give them the support and the tools to succeed.
I had lived a privileged life and I wanted to bring my talents back to my community.
Working in urban and rural environments speaks to my soul. Many of my students couldn’t believe I came from a real-life Cosby family, except reverse (my mother was a doctor and my father was a lawyer).
Also I thought I had a dynamic way of teaching, which I always really thought of as just facilitation — helping students uncover their own strengths and talents. And I also wanted to help foster a deep love of reading and learning. I believe it is imperative that we are all life long learners.
Through TEC, you’ve worked with banks around the country on their diversity & inclusion programs?
Thompson: While we predominantly work with nonprofits, community-based organizations and school/school districts, we have ventured into the private sector, especially financial institutions. Banks saw what I was doing in helping to create equitable ecosystems and asked me to help them, internally at first. We invest a lot of time doing audits and surveys, creating customized position descriptions and sustainability/accountability through the creation of company-wide learning management systems. Often, companies will work with us for two to three years.
We typically use a multi-prong approach — internally, we help companies with hiring and promotions, as well as creating equitable and safe environments for working and belonging. Externally, we assist them with serving all customers, regardless of race, gender, sexuality or socio-economic backgrounds. We also work with them on their product offerings.
How, specifically, does diversity & inclusion come into play with products?
Thompson: Products are often designed by those who don’t think about the user experience of all customers. For example, banks often require lots of requirements just to open an account, without thought to the hurdles of those who may not have permanent addresses nor easy access to their personal documentation. And, overdraft fees often penalize those who are financially struggling.
What is the name of your new YT channel designed to elevate the voices of black women?
Thompson: I am A Black Woman, Yes I Matter. Click here.
What is the name of your new podcast and where can people find it?
Thompson: VCB News, where we talk news but center on the Black experience. You can find it on YouTube and iHeart radio.
You’ve produced several plays in NYC and London written by black women?
Thompson: When I went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, I majored in Dramatic Writing. There was a time where I wanted to write and produce plays, films and TV shows. I did for a while. I wrote and produced a play in London, Elovve, in 2002. Then, I really got into my work in education.
And now, that I have had some success, I find ways to invest back into the community. Through my company TEC (Thompson Education Consulting), we’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars into Black-owned companies (predominantly Black- and women- owned). As a part of that work, we started producing plays by Black playwrights. Right before the pandemic, we had two plays going — one in the East Village of NYC and one off-Broadway. Sistas on Fire and I Am You.