WATERLOO — Poet, artist and youth advocate Cherie “Chillin’” Kabba splits her time between the Cedar Valley and the San Francisco Bay area, teaching technology to young people in both regions. In 2017, she founded The SoulTown, “a community-based magazine that tells positive, realistic and in-depth stories impacting primarily the black and brown communities.”
What drives you?
I do what I love. I am driven by Maya Angelou’s quote, “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”
I am driven by things I do not know in the world of technology. I am driven by curious youth that have a desire to learn from me. I want them to know more than I know.
The speed of technology reminds me of the speed of a light rail train traveling hundreds of miles in just seconds. I don’t want to be on the platform waiting for the next new thing, blink, then run the risk of missing it. This is the reason I have chosen to return to the Silicon Valley to immerse myself in the field of technology, working with youth and a technology network with a plethora of techies with like minds. I am driven to learn new things. Then, return to Waterloo and share it with youth.
Just when I thought I had an understanding of virtual reality, I was on a plane headed to M.I.T. to be trained in the field augmented reality. I’ve seen how small steps can make a difference by improving and enhancing the tech skills of youth.
What was your biggest accomplishment in 2018?
Is it possible to measure the size of accomplishments? In 2018, I was given an opportunity to rejoin the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula (Menlo Park, Calif.) and the Clubhouse Network, an international community that provides technology education to underserved youth, while simultaneously leading the team of The SoulTown Digital & Print Magazine in Waterloo.
We have successfully published 25 magazines. I have worked on many teams, but the dynamics of these teams are, by far, the most rewarding. This part of my life’s journey is about me going where I am celebrated, not tolerated. It is about balance. It is about being the best mother, grandmother, team player, friend, colleague — the best person I can be.
What are your goals for 2019?
My goals for 2019 center around me being intentional with what I create with the youth while retaining as much about new technologies as my mind will allow. goals include exposing youth to technology in a fun and fulfilling way. I want our youth to declare STEM-related majors during their first year in college. I’d love to coach a teen tech team that creates a project to exhibit at Maker Faire.
My goal for The SoulTown Magazine, our virtual city, is to keep the Sankofa Promise I made to my ancestors in 2006. As I left the House of Slaves on Goree Island, off the coast of Dakar, Senegal, West Africa, I promised my ancestors that I would help to tell their stories so their great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren would know of them and their struggles. We are connecting our culture to our cyber and conscious communities. Each story is written from the heart and includes the depth of the writer’s soul.
What makes the Cedar Valley a great place for business/education?
The Cedar Valley is an untapped market, a good place for the impetus for product innovation or customization. However, when I returned a few years back, I realized the Cedar Valley is a manufacturing city first. Technology is a close second.
The bridge in the middle of Waterloo is a symbol of connections. The connections made via networking in the Cedar Valley are forever. Once the myths have been dispelled, common ground is established between the cultures, and the bonds built are endless. The most valued possession we have in the ... the Cedar Valley today is our networks and “circles.”
What’s a lesson you’ve learned in your career journey?
The 10 most valuable lessons I have learned in my career are:
1. The path I have chosen to be a black, female entrepreneur blazing trails in literacy, technology and education is not easy. ... If it were easy, everyone would choose it.
2.Self-preservation is the first law of nature. Once I take care of myself, it becomes easier to take care of others.
3. I can help you build your dreams as long as I am building my dreams, too. Unsure of what your dreams are? I dare you to discover a passion project.
4. Seek first to understand, then be understood. Never assume a person can read your mind.
5. If you permit it, you promote it.
6. If someone wants my opinion, they will ask.
7. Don’t talk about it, be about it. My actions speak louder than my words.
8. I am a doer. Execution is the name of the game.
9. I know my strengths and I stay in my lane.
10. I go where I am celebrated, not tolerated.