Jamie Coleman | Detroit, Michigan
Former Alabama State University Volleyball Player
Written by Malik Brown
I've always been involved in sports. I've always been involved in so many things. I was going from here to there every single weekend, and that's literally what I am doing now. I played every sport except for softball, and I haven't been in any dance classes. I was a skater, swimmer, and a bowler. I played basketball, ran track, and then I settled on volleyball, which almost did not happen, but shout out to my mom for getting my dad into making me.
I’m a coach’s kid. My dad played football at a local high school and was an All-American, then he went on to Michigan State and played in the league. Once he finished his career he started a whole bunch of like 7-on-7 programs and football camps, so I used to run the ladders, and jump the bags at Michigan State every summer. I wanted to play football, but he would not let me, unfortunately.
Sports for me was a default. I had no option, and you just got thrown into it. I'm forever thankful for what sports has done for me because they taught me a lot of things around teamwork, commitment, and discipline. I think a lot of it is delayed gratification as well, which is a big part of my story, but it teaches you how to stay committed, even when things are really rough. I think the pressures you get, and the highs you feel when things are great, but the pressure and the lows you feel when things are just going really bad is what I learned. I tore my leg at one point in my career, I got rejected from a team I have been playing on for years at one point, but I overcame all of that stuff.
It was a very strategic play of how I got into Google. I saw the movie The Internship, and that was what first put Google on my radar. I had no idea what I'd be doing, but the perks in the movie sold me. That was my freshman year of college. So I applied for the internship, and a recruiter got back to me and said, “You're far too young, but here's a program for sophomores that you may be interested in.” I applied for their Bold Immersion program, got into that, and went to Google's headquarters for 10 days. That kickstarted the internship interview. I did three interviews for the internship, got that, and then that became a full-time offer. I did not start out wanting to go into tech. I just wanted to work at Google. Prior to Google, I wanted to be a news reporter.
We built 7th Ave in the time of the pandemic. We wanted it to be the Black Clubhouse, so purely a social audio space, but for people of color, because when the pandemic happened, we had no safe spaces digitally. We raised just under $4 million to start this project, which was phenomenal for all Black investors outside of Twitter. We were very proud of what we were doing, but we quickly realized that was just something that people really did not want. We completely pivoted to something, which now functions towards the creative economy. That's for anybody that creates TikToks, newsletters, podcasts, and things like that. What we have provided is an end-to-end solution for creators that will allow them to consolidate their digital identity, deepen their relationships with their current followers, and then sell directly to them.
It's very important for me to empower and feel like I can create a space for Black folks, just because I understand a lot of the privileges that I've been able to acquire over the years. Even with me being a full-time athlete, I was able to still have internships and study abroad and even work at Google. It was only fair that, given the space that I'm able to walk into, I'm only able to open the door for others that come in behind me. I've always believed that we as Black folks are not dumb, stupid, or lazy, we just typically lack the resources and exposure, so if I'm able to provide that in any capacity, I'm always willing and wanting to do that.
I created culture therapy as a way to create a vulnerable, safe space for people of color, or really just anyone that comes across it to say, “Hey, this is my story, this is my truth. And because of that, I'm able to heal and kill these curses and create new cycles of wealth.” That could be mental wealth, financial wealth, freedom, or whatever. It really just started from me making a podcast. I was telling my story, and I'm having some great conversations with friends. I was seeing that we were all going through the same things where our family were not our biggest fans but our biggest kryptonite. That was because we could not talk about certain things in public and realized that I was really trying to seek therapy. My mind goes into the point of killing Black ignorance and providing voices for people who may not have the language to say how they feel, and this is the outlet for them to know they are not alone.
Traveling for me has always been an exciting part of my life. I played club ball, so it was always really exciting when you got to go to the different states and play at the different tournaments. When I was in elementary school, I was always in the multicultural classrooms, which means foreign exchange students or people that came from different countries got placed in my classroom. When I was in first and second grade, my best friends were Chinese. Then you move into third or fourth grade, my best friends were Indian, Chinese, and Korean. I was very fascinated with Asian culture overall, and that's where it started. I had these books, and I was learning Mandarin. I got to college and I knew I wanted to travel abroad. My first international trip was to Barcelona where I studied abroad. I was there for two months, and I came back and had to do spring volleyball. Since then, I've been to about 22 countries.
I've always enjoyed proving people wrong and that might be a bad thing. I've always enjoyed showing people that the impossible is possible. For me being at Google, people were like “If you go to an HBCU you won't get into big tech.” I was like, “Okay, watch me.” It was the same way with volleyball. All the different internships I was doing or me studying abroad and missing a couple of weeks of camp and things like that, they told me it would affect my play. I had an agreement with my coach where as long as I showed up, I balled out, and I knew what I was supposed to do, let me go do what I need to do because for me, I always understood volleyball was a means to an end, and I will be damned if I did all this work and then at the end I ask myself “What am I going to do?” I saw that happen to so many of my teammates, friends, and other people. They make you prioritize the sport. I can't harp on it enough the importance of athletes being able to advocate for themselves and find ways in which they can allow all these things to exist now.
I live my best life now, and it was well worth it. It's a matter of priorities and balance, and really just reaching out to these companies and being very proactive. I wanted Google since my freshman year, and it was a plan to get it. It wasn't like I just woke up one day and was like “Oh, I want to go work for Google.” It was literally four years in the making. My biggest thing is to learn how to advocate for yourself against all odds, because they do not care about you the way that you think they do. Advocate for yourself, be very proactive and realize what priorities you have.
I probably have a different perspective on purpose finding. I don't believe I've found my purpose just yet, and I'm not necessarily looking for it at the moment to be very transparent. I think once you found purpose, you no longer serve your purpose here and it's time to go home. While I'm here, I'm walking in purpose, but I haven't necessarily found the entire purpose of why I exist just yet. I think it's a journey. I can tell you the things that I enjoy doing and why I think I've been gifted with different skill sets, but for me to say I am in purpose will be a misleading statement on my behalf. I don't know my purpose, but I know what I enjoy doing.
Creative Direction: Nia Symone / Tyrone McClendon
Director of Photography: Scoot Took It
GFX & Video Edits by: Ethan Garner
Story Written by: Malik Brown
Chris Palmer | Atlanta, GA
Former Emmanuel College Lions Basketball Player
Written by Malik Brown
I started playing basketball when I was about seven years old, just because my older brother played. I fell in love with the game. I played football for four years, tennis a couple of years, and then baseball. I did a couple of different sports, but basketball was always my passion growing up, and I loved the competitiveness of it. I wanted to develop my game and play at the college level.
Going into my freshman year of high school, I was a 5’10 shooter, so I wasn’t a big or athletic player, but I knew I worked hard. I really wanted to put everything I could into the game. Going into my sophomore year when I grew a little bit, I just made it a priority to reach out to as many coaches as I could, probably almost 1000 colleges. I was just writing personal letters and doing everything I could from a responsible standpoint off the court, as well as training myself and just trying to become the best player, in the hopes of one day getting a scholarship.
Coming out of 2016 to now, it's gotten harder for recruiting because you have the transfer portal, and everything's going crazy because of COVID. Because of all of that I really tried. I really tried my best to be proactive and reach out to coaches and try to go to as many elite camps and clinics as I could. I just tried to stay on top of the ball and control what I could control. Luckily by my junior year, I wasn't firm on just going division one or going to a certain school, I was open to some different options. I'm thankful that I was able to get into a school that I was able to develop as a person and as a player, both on and off the court.
I didn’t know too much about Emmanuel College. My older brother played at Toccoa Falls College which is in Toccoa, Georgia, and it's about 45 minutes north of Emanuel so I think I went to go see them play. I was a sophomore in High School. First thing that stuck out to me was they had a great facility, so I looked into that. I started to do some research on it and realized that they had 10 straight years of 20 plus wins, so it was a winning program. I kept an eye on it, and then as it kind of trickled down my list of who was interested and who I was interested in, they were the ones that stuck out to me the most and fit my core values.
I went into college not knowing what to expect, specifically in the classroom. All the deadlines, and there's no one holding you accountable. It's on you. There's going to be consequences, but no one's going to hold your hand and get you through that. At the beginning, I was just focused on going to the gym every day at 6am like I was doing in high school and just working as hard as I possibly could. I think midway through the year, I was able to balance out school and basketball in a more time effective way. The people at Emanuel were great. Love my teammates. Love my coaches there. They taught me a lot. It's a school with about 1000 people in it, so everyone's pretty much an athlete and can relate to each other. The relationships I built there were nice. I would say overall, it was a good experience.
From a basketball standpoint, and a lot of people will see this when they go into college, you're not as good as you think you are. You’re playing against bigger and faster players. I think that was the first roadblock of adversity when it comes to being on the court. You have to humble yourself and find ways that you can get better and control what you can control on the court, so I would say that was the first roadblock. I would definitely say my sophomore year I had a lot going on. My dad was diagnosed with cancer that year, so in the middle of the season that was a very stressful time. Mentally, that year was a bit tough, and then just other stuff going on. It was a hard year for sure.
I didn't really know anything about mental health or battling adversity because nothing crazy had happened until some of those moments in college. I would say something that helped me during my sophomore year was taking up yoga and doing some meditation. I had no idea what to do, I was just going on YouTube and doing some random stuff that helps. I also reached out to family, friends, people that I trusted, and was able to open up to them at a level that some wouldn’t be comfortable doing. That was very important for me.
At nine-years-old, I knew I wanted to be a college coach. I wanted to get into basketball, so I actually did my first camp when I was 13 years old. I ran a basketball skills academy. I advertised and did a basketball camp, not really knowing what I was doing, so it started there. Then when I was in high school around 16 years old, I started training some kids in our organization that were younger, and I started charging $10 an hour. With that I built some clientele throughout the time I was in high school. During the summers in college, I came home and then I had some high school players that I was working with, and I believe somewhere during my sophomore year, I started working with my first overseas Pro. As time went on those high school players started playing in college, and I kept those relationships. Going straight out of that last year of Emmanuel College when I was coaching, I didn't think I would go straight into being a GA somewhere or trying to get an assistant spot somewhere, but it was the summer COVID happened. When that happened, I just went back home and I worked with all of the clients that I built relationships with. I was pretty much in the gym from 7am to 7pm doing whatever I could to help people get better. Through those relationships. I've built the passion to continue to help those people grow.
I think my purpose is to honor Jesus in everything I do. I think my purpose on this Earth is to be a light in someone's day and to help out when things aren’t going well and stay by people's side. I want to try to bring as many people up to heaven with me.
Creative Direction: Nia Symone / Tyrone McClendon
Director of Photography: Scoot Took It
GFX & Video Edits by: Ethan Garner
Story Written by: Malik Brown
Brea Elmore | Stone Mountain, GA
Former Memphis Basketball Player
Written by Malik Brown
I was born and raised in Stone Mountain, Georgia. I followed in my big brother’s footsteps. He was an active person in sports and played football and baseball. I didn’t just want to sit back and do nothing, so I started off with cheerleading. Then I picked up the basketball and ever since then I never put it down.
I was five when I started playing basketball. My dad helped me grow that competitive edge. We'd be in the backyard almost every day until the sun was down. Sometimes he'd throw the ball across the yard and make me so mad. But I had to go get it, and I had to play. It really helped me stay competitive and build that strong grit in me.
When I first started playing basketball I was very nervous and very uneasy, just having to step out there and play. Your parents are in the stands, and the yelling gets to you as well, so just stepping into that confidence was tough. Gradually as I got better, I was more confident, and I started believing in myself.
I try not to look at other people as my competition, but as myself. So when I'm playing basketball and I mess up on a play, I just have a mental conversation with myself like, “That's okay. Next play.” I'm my biggest competitor.
I can't pinpoint the moment that I knew I could make basketball out of a career. When I talked to my brother he said he saw it in me. I was just doing what I love to do, so I never really saw myself going to college for this. It just all kind of came, but to pinpoint it I would say middle school. That's when I think I said I'm pretty good at this.
I hated the recruiting process. I hated taking the visits because I was in my shell and I was having to break out and talk to these coaches and I’m like, “Oh my God.” It was kind of overwhelming, but at the same time, I enjoyed it. I don’t remember my first offer, but I do remember that Memphis came for a house visit. It was so funny because when they left, I told my brother I wasn’t going to Memphis and I was very headstrong on that. But I was so tired of the recruiting process. I was like, let me go ahead and commit. It wasn't like I wanted to go because I liked the school, it was because I was tired of the recruiting process.
I'd gotten this card from Memphis and I put it on my dresser. One day I got home from practice, and I just looked at it. I was like, “Okay, I'm gonna go to Memphis.” I feel like if it was another card I probably would have selected that school. It sounds crazy, but that's the truth.
As a four-year athlete at the University of Memphis, I would say it was one of the toughest journeys of my life thus far. Just coming in as a freshman, I was really confident, and then the confidence dropped and I started questioning if I could play. I lost my love for the game after my sophomore year because it was tough. I felt like there was a difference between coaching and tearing the player down. A lot of us freshmen felt like we were getting torn down. It was tough. It was a battle. Every time in practice, it would be the upperclassmen versus the underclass, and we were going at it because we wanted to play. I went home, got in the gym, and got my confidence back in my junior and senior year. Those were great years, but those first two were rough.
I would always call my mom complaining, but I'd say counseling was definitely an option. I didn't use it until my junior year. Freshman and sophomore year, it was either parents or teammates. Sometimes it was hard to trust teammates, so it was really parents. I was definitely depressed and going through it.
Losing my mom made me start going to counseling. I was dealing with that, and everything that came with basketball. My grades were slipping. I wasn't going to class. I wasn't doing work, because I wasn't there at the time. I remember just going into the office, and somebody told me “Try to bottle that up and put it in a box.” I felt so disregarded and disrespected. After that, I checked out and I went to counseling. It helped, but I still struggled.
I talked to my brother. We always talked, but moving forward, it was really hard. I felt numb for a very long time. I lost direction, but when I started my clothing line, I feel like that's when I was able to come back. Mind you, I lost my mom in 2016, and I didn't start my brand until 2020. That was four years of just feeling numb through life and not really knowing how to navigate it. I’m not in counseling right now, but I know how to journal and go outside and do different things to get myself back to myself.
I would definitely say journal, write it down, because holding that stuff in doesn't hurt anybody but you. So get it out, write it down. If I don't want to write sometimes, I'll just prop up my camera and just talk. Sometimes I'll cry, smile, or laugh, but I'm getting those emotions out. I would definitely say meditate, sit with yourself, get your answers from yourself. It's hard sometimes to go and get that advice from other people because only you can fix you, but sometimes you get your answers from yourself if you just pay attention and listen.
I play in the AEBL, and this is my first year with them. I haven't played organized basketball in two years so it's nerve racking. I came from overseas, and I was playing in front of a lot of Caucasian people. Now I'm back in a Black audience and you hear the crowd getting excited. It's different, but I love it.
When COVID started and they sent us home, I was like “What am I going to do?” I kept having thoughts of “What do you like to do?” I like to eat, and I want to be a chef. I like to get dressed. But I needed a message behind my brand. When I lost my mom to breast cancer, one thing she always just told me growing up was the only person that can stop you, is you. I took that and ran with it, and I started November 5, 2020. I never stopped and it helped me grow spiritually and mentally in life.
I think one of the things that I've carried over from basketball to my business career is leadership. When you're an athlete, you have to have that motivation to get up and do it. Nobody is going to tell you to get in the gym. If you love it, you do it. I took that mindset and shifted it to my business. I didn't know anything about building a brand, so I would just wake up and do research.
I feel like I haven't found my purpose because life is a journey. I'm always learning new things every day and I feel like nobody has one purpose. I feel like we're here to serve and do what we can to uplift people and bring them up. I feel like the more I go on my journey, the more I'll step into different roles with my purpose, but having just one purpose, no.