This summer, Ivellisse Morales sat down (remotely of course!) with bombilla client ProInspire to discuss her path to leadership, the fight for racial equity, and the power we all have to use creativity to change the world.
We're living ancestors writing history. It's time to reflect, reimagine, redesign - collectively, without permission, and with urgency. It's time to lean into the transformation that we desperately need.IVELLISSE MORALES
Can you tell us a bit about your background in the social sector?
I've been a creative activist for social change ever since a child! I kid you not 🙂 From penning and performing a song called the "Bully Blues" in elementary school to branding my own social enterprise in high school, I've been on a purposeful path to use the power of communication to raise awareness on important issues that need attention and action.
I graduated college with 10 internships under my belt, all with a major focus in public relations and marketing for social change. My first job was at a PR agency, where I cut my teeth designing corporate social responsibility programs and cause marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 companies and major nonprofits. I worked on a range of social and environmental issues, ranging from childhood cancer, girl empowerment, micro-financing and autism among many others.
My ProInspire Fellowship ('14) then gave me the opportunity to move across the country to lead marketing & communications for a youth workforce development nonprofit. After my Fellowship, I returned to the world of creative agencies where I worked at the intersection of branding, design and environmental sustainability.
Burnout and unhealthy work environments forced me to re-evaluate my career ambitions and motivations.
I decided I needed to be the change I wanted to see. I left the corporate world in February 2018 to change the face of purpose-driven business through my branding and design agency called bombilla. Bombilla (bom-bee-ya) means lightbulb in Spanish and is symbolic of the power we all individually have to make change. It's also impossible to say without a smile on your face!IVELLISSE MORALES
How has ProInspire activated you as a leader?
We're the creative directors of our shared future in this beautiful blue planet we call home. How are we going to step up to solve the great social, political and environmental crisis of our time? Through ProInspire, I've learned that there are many ways to show up authentically as a leader, and to make change. We need collaboration, communication, and community. We need knowledge, awareness, education, access. We need art and self-expression. We need players at all levels and in all positions. We need everybody to be #litonpurpose.
To be #litonpurpose is to embody the change the world needs by focusing on how our individual gifts can collectively make the world brighter.
Change starts with you (us). In the words of Howard Thurman, "Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
Where are you now?
My days are delightfully spent building bombilla from my apartment in sunny Oakland, California. In the past two years, I've built a national, diverse network of storytellers and designers who are creatively conspiring with organizations and small businesses to make systemic change. What a blessing to wake up every day and help our clients promote issues like federal paid leave policy, racial and gender equity, reproductive rights and access to education and economic opportunity.
Fun Fact: A handful of our creative collaborators and clients are from the ProInspire community! Shout-out to Andrea Cameron and Idelle Delapeña for your expertise and support since Day 1 and Sherry Ezhuthatchan (Hatch & Bloom), Nikita Mitchell (Above the Bottom Line), Alicia Santamaria (adelante coaching+consulting) and Carlos Aguilar and Christopher Punongbayan (California ChangeLawyers) for being amazing clients.
I'm excited to share that I recently started co-teaching an online small business course for Uptima Business Bootcamp, a member-owned business accelerator that supports diverse entrepreneurs in accessing quality education, mentorship and resources to create thriving businesses. It's an honor to be an alum, student, mentor and teacher in this program.
I come alive when I help Black & Brown entrepreneurs own their future and use business as a force for good. It's a path toward self-determination.
Outside of the Fellowship program, what is the biggest impact ProInspire has had on your career/professional life?
ProInspire is a gift that keeps on giving! I'm grateful to be a part of this welcoming, supportive and generous community who cares about racial equity and real social change. We're a network of social change agents inside different industries who are leading forward in our own big and small ways. It's inspiring. Thank you ProInspire for the lifelong friendships and connections and thank you Monisha for your fearless vision and leadership.
Given the current state of the country and the focus that ProInspire has on race equity what are resources that you use or turn to during these times?
First and foremost, Black Lives Matter. Equity work is critical as we globally grieve and grapple with the raw realities of white supremacy, racism, patriarchy and global capitalism. Enough is enough. This is a collective awakening for humanity.
We're finally talking about anti-Blackness and racism directly - across industries and sectors. It's taken us centuries, generations and multiple movements to get here, and we've still got a long way to go. We're in the biggest fight of our lifetimes, ya'll! Dismantling and decolonizing isn't easy.
Transformative change isn't easy. Change is messy, beautiful, painful, regenerative, violent, inspiring, powerful. What a time to be alive!IVELLISSE MORALES
In the midst of chaos and change, I (re)turn to self-care and creativity.
Self-Care. The system is designed to keep us distracted, disconnected, divided, depressed and distraught. I know the system stops with me, and taking care of me starts with honoring my mind, body and spirit. Am I hydrating? Eating? Sleeping well? Listening to my intuition? Taking a break from social media and screens? Loving on my family, friends and community? Letting them love on me? Am I honoring my energy and capacity? Am I making space for mindfulness and spirituality? Making time for self-expression, pleasure, joy and laughter?
Overworking in the name of activism still feeds capitalism. We've got remind ourselves this is a marathon and not a sprint!
Creativity. I'm learning and unlearning, unlearning and learning. I takes time, patience, care and compassion, humility, honesty and hard work at a minimum to decolonize our mindsets, behaviors and everyday choices. What keeps me hopeful are examples of successful people-powered social justice movements in human history. What keeps me inspired is the power of creativity and self-expression to spark action. I personally turn to doodling, writing, poetry, dancing and singing to make sense of the anger and pain.
Some of my favorite resources to reference include:
- Killing Rage: Ending Racism by bell hooks
- Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, Feminist Guide to Social Movements by Charlene Carruthers
- Decolonize Wealth by Edgar Villanueva
- Emergent Strategy by Adrienne maree brown
- Latinx: The New Force in American Politics and Culture by Ed Morales
- Burnin' Album (1973) by Bob Marley & The Wailers