Founder & CEO (Chief Energy Officer)
SLS 360 | www.sls360.org
I was brought up in Kingsbury in North West London in the 80’s and was the only Black child in my class and my school for the first 3 years. I experienced being made to feel ‘other’ from a very early age due to the colour of my skin, my hair and my culture which was intensified when I started to learn to play the Viola and Violin. I was a Black girl in a very white world and felt like I didn’t belong. Music was my love however and my passion, so I stuck with it and went on to qualify as a Music Teacher, then Advisor and Assistant Head of a Music Service in West London, collaborating with schools to be creative with their curriculum and teachers to embed diversity and inclusion in their teaching. I was determined that the children and young people I taught did not experience music education the way I did, to instil a love and lifelong legacy where all music is celebrated and respected.
During lockdown I realized that there is so much work to be done to advance racial equity and eliminate systemic and institutional racism in the Music Education sector and I could be part of the solution, so I stepped out of my comfort zone (where I was very comfortable!) and set up my own research and consultancy business, SLS 360 to support and challenge individuals and organizations to be bold and brave in their commitment to EDI and attempt to affect positive change.
What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?
When I was younger the biggest hurdles I faced was a feeling I had to conform to fit in. I hid parts of my identity so that I would fit in and belong which was exhausting. Being the only one was lonely and when I went on tour with one of my orchestras and was ushered into the audience when I was walking with my orchestra to the stage to perform, I realized this world was not for me. I was fortunate to have a supportive family who were behind me and helped me to see that staying somewhere which doesn’t serve you is detrimental for your health. My calling was elsewhere and to be patient as everything happens in divine time. This helped me see another pathway where I could continue with my love of music and inspire others also. But most importantly, I could make a difference.
What books are you currently reading?
I am always looking to increase my knowledge and awareness of equity, diversity and inclusion especially how I can ensure the work I am doing is truly advancing racial equity and the organizations and individuals I work with also. I am currently reading (or listening to as audible is my preferred vehicle for learning) This is Why I Resist by the fantastic Dr Shola Mos -Shogbamimu. Not only is she an inspiration and role model for Black women, but she is also unapologetic about her mission and has stepped firmly into her greatness despite the vitriol of hate she receives.
My own development as a leader is important and I am also listening to The Promises of Giants by John Amaechi. This is one of the most powerful books I have listened to in a long time. He really exemplifies the importance of recognizing firstly as a leader you are a giant and secondly the responsibility that comes with that. He also has the most mellifluous voice which really helps.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started?
How important it is to have a business coach and systems and processes in place to ensure running a business is a joyful experience. I just finished with a coach who taught me about the importance of a CRM system, how to work out your worth and charging for your services, the importance of knowing your internal and external resources and the need for a network. My network, or my tribe as I call them, are an integral part of my life. People who care, are bosses in their own right and are there for me but also hold me to account and celebrate my wins.
What advice would you give to an upcoming youth or talents locally and internationally?
Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself. You are worth it and you will reap the rewards later on. But do your homework and make sure you get what you need. Find people who have the skills and knowledge you need and utilize this. Seek out free events and webinars to help you increase your knowledge and be a magpie! Take anything shiny and useful you can use. Lastly, take time for yourself. Reflect and journal everyday if you can to capture moments when you are fearful, grateful and acknowledge when you are smashing it! You are enough, you are worthy, go take your rightful space in the world!