Posts tagged thought leadership
Cancel Culture: How It's Hurting Society

Cancel culture.

You should google it.

Sounds kind of scary right?

Imagine living in a world where paths to redemption and forgiveness were thwarted by one single hashtag. Cancel culture is the somewhat recent phenomenon that is said to have originated on Black Twitter. It is the act of "cancelling" or no longer morally, financially, and/or digitally supporting people—usually celebrities—events, art works such as songs, films or TV shows, or things that many have deemed unacceptable or problematic.

What does this mean and why does it matter?

Well, with the influx of social media and the information age,it is increasingly easier to disengage with people and ideas that we think are not worthy of our time. Tired of hearing about deportations along the border? Just unfollow that one friend who tweets too many political article links. Drained by your high school friend’s obsession with Kanye West? Nothing a quick unfriend can’t fix. Right?

Society has catapulted into a new, and somewhat insidious realm, in which people can passively avoid much needed discussions with pretty much everyone. The effects of this method of communication, or lack thereof, manifest in deeply rooted behavioral trends that warp general mentalities of trust, control, and respect in various types of relationships (i.e professional, personal). Cancel culture is just a more grandiose and public excuse used to ignore the core causes of our discomfort. And the worst part is that, despite its popularity, it has proven to be ineffective!

Taylor Swift, Kanye West, The Grammys, R. Kelly. Afropunk.

These are just a few examples of celebrities and high-profile events that have been “cancelled” but still maintain stable, if not increased, dominance in pop-culture as a result of their public shamings. When you publicly cancel a person and hold an internet party celebrating their dismissal from all things good, you inadvertently give attention to that individual instead of the underlying cause of their ‘unacceptable’ behavior. Cancellations of Taylor Swift for problematic music videos overshadowed the opportunity to have discourse on cultural appropriation and white femininity in the music industry. The public shaming of Kanye West after his slavery comment blunder deterred fruitful discussions on mental illness in the Black community and the psychological effects of racist legacies in America. furthermore, it overshadowed his subsequent explanations and apologies. now, Raise your hand if you watched the Grammys.


I rest my case. It is nearly impossible to just go ghost on issues that permeate societal functions on a daily basis.

Essentially, cancel culture is myth of active moral authority that many latch onto to feel a sense of control and “rightness” in varying situations without seeking true accountability. When we cancel celebrities, it can seem like something entirely different from invalidating our friends and loved ones who have made mistakes. But soon, these virtual illusions of cancellation and dismissal transcend into the real world and inhibit healthy communication with those who have caused offense or hurt in our lives. This can manifest in quickly dissolved connections, an inability to converse with people who do not agree with you, and a decrease in empathy and other permutations of emotional intelligence.

This is not a call to lovingly accept abusive behavior, racists, and all the evils of the world. You still have to protect your energy. But that protection of your vibes and thoughts also means directly working towards solutions and interrogating the “why” of the matters you care about. Imagine how much positive change we could bring to our ever-evolving world if we invested our energy in dismantling the systems and rewriting the beliefs that have stagnated our collective progress instead of casting stones on people who are just as human, and prone to mistakes, as we all are.

Worried cancel culture may be impacting your interpersonal communication? Don’t be! That just means that you have taken this opportunity to self-reflect and interrogate your behaviors, beliefs, and actions.

And that is absolutely beautiful.


Life is about growth and taking active steps to be the best possible version of yourself. We are all worthy of learning new ways to do that.

Here are some practices you can incorporate into your daily communication to forge healthier relationships and have more meaningful conversations about the issues that matter most to you.

1. trust intent, name/own impact

Trust that people mean well, but still communicate the negative impact of their words or actions if they have affected you. This means you are letting go of preemptive conclusions you may have  conjured in your head after an incident. Instead, you are trusting that, when you bring up your hurt feelings in a healthy way and say what you mean, the other person is doing so as well. On the other side of the coin, if you have caused hurt or offense with your words and/or actions, you have a responsibility as well. It is your responsibility to listen to the effects you have had on others, express your intentions if they were different from the outcome, own the negative impact you had (no gaslighting allowed), and map out ways to better in the future. You have to trust that the people holding you accountable in your life are doing so because they love you and are active supporters of your growth & development into the best version of yourself :)

2. listen to learn, not just to respond

Listening to learn means practicing active listening. That means you are engaged and concentrated on what the other person is saying. Active listening is the opposite of passively hearing someone. It means that you are present and involved in the conversation, not internally focused on  crafting your response in your head. You will actually be better equipped to process what the other person is saying and, thus, have an informed response in the end.

3. make your criticism constructive not personal

I look at this as tackling the idea, the ideology, not the person. Before you offer a critique in any situation, pause. Then ask yourself, am I saying this because I want to solve a problem or because I want to tear someone/something down? Be intentional & mindful  in your critiques so that you can encourage progress not stagnation.

• • •

If this topic sparked your interest, check out The Vanguard’s cancel culture episode. The Vanguard is a podcast in which my co-host, Chukwudi Nwamba, and I explore topics within the realm of culture, education, entrepreneurship, and policy as they pertain to Black communities around the world. You can follow The Vanguard on instagram to stay up to date on new episodes and upcoming projects!

The Afro- Synergy Manifesto

by Odemi Pessu • Chukwudi Nwamba


At present, American society stands at a precarious state. The prevalence of racial insensitivity, in conjunction with a toxic capitalist mentality, has manifested in a society that is not only lost, but disillusioned. Even still, we are on the cusp of a revolution in multiple facets of our livelihood. In order to effectively deconstruct the systems of oppression that result in the cyclical glorification of elitism, racism, and other avenues of widespread inequality, we must collectively pursue the future we hope to become our present. As we aim to depart from subservient mindsets imposed on the Afro-Diasporic community in America and beyond, we work towards holistic liberation and independence in thought, livelihood, and expression. To enable this, we must invoke a pursuit of knowledge, not only of our history, but of the future that awaits.

America, for some, still remains the undisputed land of the free and home of the brave. However, are we making best use of the human capital and economic resources which exist today? Are we actively working towards inclusive frameworks, cultural agency, and diverse representation in forums of policy development and governing institutions?

The purpose of the aforementioned inquiries is to disrupt the social media trance and expose the manipulative tactics of modern technologists in the private sector. It is imperative to encourage critical analysis of the present human state through an afrocentric lens; upon honest examination you will find the facts point to illustrations of modern slavery. However, this modern slavery is not of the physical nature. Allow the note: Black people are still arrested and imprisoned at higher rates. This is a result of privatized prison systems designed to strip black people of their civil rights and agency; further reinforced by the proliferation of modern day lynchings. Modern slavery is defined by the micro- and macro-aggressions and conscious bias that run rampant in educational and financial institutions. We are witnessing a brain drain of minority talent under the guise of “corporate benefits”, “retirement plans”, “job security”, and a plethora of other ideals and propaganda that cultivate continuous subservient mindsets. The resulting enslavement of talent and thought further deters the development of oppressed peoples living in lands that are not native to them.

As strategic designers and Afro-synergists, it is our life’s work to critically interrogate the validity of modern social constructs and usage of the resources at hand --- both human and capital.

The recurring opportunity of improvement in the Black community --- discriminatory practices, financial oppression, public education funding gaps, etc --- bear fruit from the vestige of white supremacy. With this narrative, it is imperative to critically examine the construct of whiteness and its egregious history. Racial bias pervades digital media usage and the development of artificial intelligence. A recent Nielsen report revealed that Black Americans purchase smartphones at the highest rates of all minority groups. Even still, the harsh reality is that most Black Americans face steep barriers to accessing investment opportunities, leadership positions and subsequent wealth through these same companies.

Bearing this in mind, we are emboldened to empower the global Black community through the strategic design of impact-oriented initiatives to foster activism, education, creativity, and progress. Sourcing inspiration from our academic expertise, creative pursuits, and professional experiences, we wholeheartedly take on the task of invoking a new age of thought leadership. We root this pursuit in the embodiment of Afro-Synergy, a term we have coined to bridge the current gaps that disparage the global Black polity. Afro-Synergy represents the establishment of connectivity for the sake of development, creation, and liberation. We derive our term from cultural synergy, a notion described in the work of Nancy Adler of McGill University. Cultural synergy is an attempt to bring two or more cultures together to form an organization or environment that is based on combined strengths, concepts and skills. Through Afro-Synergy, we concentrate our efforts on bringing to fruition Afro-futuristic imaginaries in America, the African continent, and everywhere the global Black polity extends. We are working to strengthen our community through the dissemination of knowledge, disruption of defeatist social narratives, reorientation of socioeconomic frameworks, and development of sustainable infrastructures.

This work will take time and can only occur through the power of “WE”. We must move past the intentional distractions prevalent within greater society. We must seek out the truths needed to unleash modern thought leadership. Today, we take up the mantle to change this narrative. This manifesto is a declaration of our dedication to spearheading recruitment of and collaboration with the world’s most innovative and culturally aware minds, investors, doers, alchemists and social impact executives. WE together, considering the robust outline that will follow this declaration, will manifest the true essence of what liberation is in the context of the postcolonial, information age.  

Thus, this not a call out, but an invitation to those who believe that change is possible and within reach. This manifesto is a declaration to conceive the Afro-futurist imaginaries that, for so long, have appeared out of reach. This is an invitation to those who believe that through cross-cultural cooperation, strategic policy, and organization design we can manifest the social impact we hope to see. If you hunger for a better world, one we can proudly pass onto future generations, join us in the camaraderie of the revolution.

Specifically--- join us through monetary donation, purchase of services or direct outreach. This is our life’s work. The manifestation of this venture and your contributions as agents of change will equip us to create a new, more conscious and more liberated, reality for us and the thought leaders to come.


publish digital manifestos and written works with accompanying action plans designed to ignite collaboration and 360 investment in Afro-diasporic communities.


  • immersive cultural event experiences fostering authentic diversity and inclusion through fellowship and network synergies.

  • a tangible archive of Afro-diasporic progress

  • ethnographic research in the Afro-Diasporic polity

  • grants to fund projects aimed at inspiring development, creativity, and empowerment across the African Diaspora (in America and beyond).

  • designing sustainable measures to redirect Afro-centric music industry revenue into underserved community development