Marcelle Lashley-Kaboré (J.Marcelle) is passionate about impacting change. In 2013, inspired by her first visit to Africa, she added Social Activism Entrepreneur to her already successful career path as an Experiential Marketing Content Curator and Producer. Her purpose is to be an advocate and provide a platform to be a voice for the voiceless. She desires to help equip youth to re-write their own narrative and rise against their injustices. In her youth development work to date, she has used multimedia to create a voice and choice platform for youth which has garnered 5 NY Emmy® nominations for social justice and documentary film pieces.
J.Marcelle’s goal is to be impactful on a global level and become a multi-media mogul in the space of youth development and positive content for youth. Through her non-profit organization, Girls With Knowledge, Inc., J.Marcelle will continue to reach young women and girls in underserved communities around the world by creating content that is a powerful safe haven for them to grow, learn, and literally change the path of their life. She uses tools like Social Activism and Entrepreneurship as a means to empower girls and women not only in her own backyard of New York City, but also to communities with marginalized groups of women and girls around the world. Her social activism has already impacted villages in Trinidad, Guyana, Liberia, India, and Burkina Faso with plans to expand even further in the years to come.
“Our youth are faced with constant hopelessness, especially in today’s media. I want to create vehicles and platforms that will let the world know that the younger generations are going to lead us into a new future as long as we continue to have an effective hand in molding them.”
– J. Marcelle
“The Global Goddess”
Who is J. Marcelle and what was your motivation for starting your brand?
I am a mother to many, even though I don’t have any biological children of my own that maternal instinct is innate in me. That is one of the things that fuel me; being able to pour into young people as well as into young leaders. I am a global ambassador, someone that is very passionate about empowerment and particularly the people that have been marginalized on a global scale. I am very passionate about creating a platform with resources such as education, access, and opportunity that leads to action because that is what empowerment means to me and to “Girls with Knowledge” (GWK). I didn’t really set out to establish a brand. I set out to further my efforts and to just do great work. Service has been in my heart from childhood so it’s just been a part of me. The more success that I’ve been able to achieve and attain, the more I felt an obligation to continue to create opportunities for other people. The more opportunities that were created for me and the more doors that were open for me, the more I felt compelled to be able to pick another sister up or lock arms with another sister and help her along, share that wealth of knowledge, or lend support and encouragement. In my core that’s who I am. I think that for me, who I am at my core has been consistent even though it is going to evolve, grow, and manifest itself differently. I am who I am at my core. The empowerment piece for me is not just a trend. It is literally what I’ve been doing whether recognized or unrecognized for years.
Tell me a little bit about the Global Goddess Experience.
I am Trinidadian by birth and I come from a Guyanese family, so I’m half Guyanese and half Trinidadian. I launched the Global Goddess Experience at the top of 2018. I’m excited to announce that this year we’ve been able to go to West Africa, South America and Asia. We set out for some goals this year and we were able to accomplish them. We look forward to going even further next year, maybe even joining Women by Choice in Cuba. But essentially, the Global Goddess Experience is basically a part of GWK, our non-profit organization. This year, we focused on our adult leaders, where we joined together women to provide support and service to women and lead NGOs in other countries that are doing amazing things. Our model is relationship, reciprocity and replenishment. Our objective in going there is to establish relationship. We come together and we have these groups. So let’s say for instance, in Guyana we worked on a medical mission. So, what was very important for us in Guyana in particular was to establish relationship, have a cultural exchange, reciprocity, and then to replenish ourselves. Because, as women, we often give and we don’t build ourselves back up, we go back home tired. Guyana’s trip was established during Guyana’s first carnival. So we went there, we established relationships with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education so that we could join with food doctors to provide medical mission to the interior, to individuals in the interior and in the village. We went to three or four different places, but that trip was a 10 day trip. So part of it was medical mission ]and really connecting with the people in the villages and really kind of building with the women that were there. But we also wanted to immerse ourselves in the culture, which of course is eating the food, learning the traditions, and of course, participating in carnival. We wanted to make sure that we were not only doing great things and doing great work, but we were also experiencing the best that the culture had to provide. So we jumped up, enjoyed the music and all that Guyana had to provide. We went to Kaiteur falls and Bartica to the interior to the diamond and gold mines. We really just wanted to see the beauty of the country. We ended our trip at their exclusive resort island, Aruwai. I’ve always gone into other countries and there’s this stigma behind missions work that it’s only something that’s religious, and the other stigma is that you go in there and you have to take this vow of poverty. We go there and we can’t enjoy the riches of the country or have a good time and party. Whenever I travel, it’s a 360 experience. I can go into a village and I can sleep anywhere, like the floor but I can also go to a five star resort because they have those in that country. So, a lot of times what happens is, we go to countries and we feel like because there are areas of need, that that’s all the country has to offer. It’s really important for me that when I take someone to a country and we give back that we’re not going there with the colonizer mentality, and we’re not going there to feel like we’re rescuing anybody. We’re going there for a reciprocal exchange. So we’re bringing something to you. We’re coming with our hands extended and we’re offering you something, but we also know that you have something to give us. Whether it’s knowledge, tradition, culture, the beautiful land that you live in, whether it’s fruits, and organic foods, your music, like all of that is something that we can take back and we can grow from. So, I found that our empowerment, can often come from empowering others. That’s basically what the Global Goddess Experience is. It was a really, really beautiful experience. I’m looking forward to continuing to do it and I’m really looking forward to educating people on the richness of our culture, the richness of our land, and then doing that in other places as well.
What are the main challenges that you faced with building your brand?
Resources are always a challenge. They’re not insurmountable, but you just have to think outside the box when it comes to funding your initiatives. Every time I hear of an organization or women’s group or someone that’s doing great, I’m like, we got to help them because I’m really big into collaboration. I love seeing other organizations and things that women are doing and I want to be a part of it. I’d never look at it as competition. There is knowledge that when women join together, the earth will shake and the earth will rattle. So, I think that there has always been things that have been placed among us to make us compete in opposition to collaborate. I’ve had my head down, doing the work, and now I have to build a team of people who are equally passionate. It empowers them to help me do the work so that I can raise my head and start to look for more resources, supporters and start to promote what we’re doing so that we can continue to get the funding that we need to keep this going.
How did you discover your purpose?
Sometimes you’re pushed into your purpose. It’s interesting because earlier on, I would say that in my career in Corporate America, I remember feeling like I wanted to be friends with the other women that worked in organizations that I’ve worked in, but I remember thinking there’s only room for one of us. It was really embedded in me that we were supposed to compete and that didn’t sit well with me. I was just uncomfortable knowing that people were trying to keep women from working together and it started to make me want to push against the grain. I’ve never really been one to just go with the flow. I have always been inquisitive. This has really kind of evolved organically. And I’ll say that, sometimes the girls empowered me, as much as I empowered them. They began to push me into my purpose in finding purpose for them.
What motivates you to keep going?
Really feeling that sense of purpose fulfilled is a blessing. I think that when I think about most of us, maybe in America, or maybe even in the world, we work because we have to. Everyday people go to jobs that they don’t love, but they need to go to that job because they need money to be able to support their families, or go to school. Even though it’s challenging and can be difficult, I’m blessed to be able to really do something that I love and to really make an impact on our current generation and the next generation. So for me, it’s the legacy. When I leave this earth, I want to know that I’ve been able to make an impact and that’s really it. It really is a blessing to be able to wake up every morning and do something great and know that what I’m doing is going to literally help to change someone’s life. If I do it right, it’ll help to change more than just one person, you know, it’ll change generations.
What advice do you have for women who are looking to follow in your footsteps?
Create your own path. And what I mean by that is, learn from your mistakes, learn from the next business mistakes, learn from my successes, learn from the next business success. But more than anything, know that it is your own path. It is your own journey. It is your own destiny. And you don’t have to do it the way I did it or the way the next woman did it. You can create your own blueprint. You can take all the knowledge that has been laid before you and you can choose your own path. More than anything, don’t be afraid to collaborate. Don’t be afraid to be confident. Know that what the Creator has for you is yours. Your destiny belongs to you. Your name is on it, and can’t nobody snatch it from you.
Tell us about your accomplishments so far and which one you’re most proud of.
I know that my organization is not as big as some others and maybe hasn’t done all that others have done, but I am proud of what progress we have been able to make. When I go into my program, and I see my classes busting at the seams, and I have to hire more staff because I have to make sure that we’re within ratio because everybody wants to be a part of that organization, that makes me proud. Having five Emmy nominations and being able to create an opportunity for young students in our program is also one of my proudest accomplishments.
What’s next for J. Marcelle?
Only God knows, but I hope nothing but continued greatness. I’m on a very focused mission to get more funding to continue the great work of GWK. We have a lot of boys that expressed interest particularly in the entrepreneurship and the social activism part of it. GWK will remain girls, but our young men clearly need some of this as well. So we are looking at how we can incorporate programming for men, but still keeping it separate. I’m still a producer, so I am continuing with other opportunities to produce content that is in line with empowerment for women and girls that’s in line with global change. I really just want to continue to be able to focus on them and get more support and collaboration.