Makiyah Moody // March 12, 2019 14:24
To learn more about the Black & Bold: Perspectives on Leadership series, click here.
Christal Jackson, Founder of Mosaic Genius and Head and Heart Philanthropy
Compassionate. Strategic. Connector.
What would you like to share about your current role?
I run a social impact agency called Mosaic Genius focused on providing access and opportunities to entrepreneurs and investors serving communities of color. Mosaic was birthed out of the work I had been doing for years with Head and Heart Philanthropy, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2011 focused on improving educational and health outcomes in communities of color around the world. Years later in 2017, I founded Mosaic Genius. I love the fact that I can wake up every day and serve people. (Pictured at right Christal Jackson. Photo credit: Al Torres Photography.)
What are some of your career highlights?
Geez, I have so many. Hosting President Bill Clinton at a summit focused on Haiti with the National Retired Basketball Players Association. Hosting a luncheon for African American women in the home of a white woman, and having one of the 70+ year-old women approach me and say this was the first time in her life she had been in that neighborhood as a guest; she had only been in the neighborhood as help. Lastly, hosting people on Martha’s Vineyard that didn’t know each other until the event, yet they left with new colleagues—and in some cases friends for life.
If there was a headline for your leadership journey throughout your career, what would it be?
Grace and favor in unexpected places.
Can you share an example of when this manifested for you?
I feel like all of the time. (Laughter.) When I started convening people, I had no idea our network would grow to over 1,000 and our convening capacity in financial terms would reach $1 billion.
What are your favorite types of challenges?
I enjoy building things. It can be a challenge to get people to trust a new path, especially when they have done things one way for a long time. The key thing is getting people to trust you.
What book has been meaningful or influential in your development as a leader?
Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon because the main character was always looking for “home” and he soon realized that “home” is the journey back to ourselves. I believe that my work is sacred and will lead communities and individuals to their best selves.
Work in the social sector can be very personal and linked to one’s values. Can you think of a time when your values were in tension during your career and how you reconciled that tension or not?
Oh my, several times. It was in these moments that I learned what it means to listen, appreciated diversity of thought, and extended grace. I think it's easy to get so caught up in your work and circle that you forget about people who are outside of your network but have shared experience working towards the same goal. I realized this when I was invited to attend The Skoll World Forum at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.
Summer 2017, Democratic Representative Maxine Waters coined the phrase, “reclaiming my time,” as she thwarted Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s attempts to waste her time with nonsense. Can you share an experience in the workplace where you have had to reclaim your time? What was the context? How did you navigate it? What was the outcome?
Yes, I’ve had to decline and terminate relationships. While they appeared great opportunities, we weren’t aligned and ultimately it was going to be a waste of my time. These situations are difficult to navigate because feelings get hurt and egos get bruised, but I believe time is our greatest asset. It’s a gift and we have to use it wisely.
What’s your approach to self-care? Are there any rituals you use to survive and thrive?
I believe in getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. I spend quiet time praying and meditating in the morning. I try to exercise at least three days a week, eat a reasonable diet, and find ways to spend time with people who value me as much as I do them.
If you could change the social sector in a way that would benefit, lift up, or affirm Black women, what would that change be?
I wish Black women would see that there is enough to go around—which would in turn, I believe, help us to better advocate for one another. We have to mirror what and how we want other people to respond to us first. Then I wish there was more attention and resources invested in focusing on recruiting younger women to enter professions directly from undergraduate school.
To read another interview feature with Christal, click here.