An influential panel was conducted by alumni from Dorsey High School on Thursday, February 9th.
The panel titled, “Pave Your Own Lane” featured six successful alumni, whom all have their own businesses. Kamerie Gibson (Dorsey High School Class of 2015) served as Moderator, and Ashley Williams (‘15), Roman Combs (‘16), Alton Pitre, Diandra Dillon(‘15), and Rasheeda Jones all served as panelist for the event.
“Pave Your Own Lane” is a revolutionary youth development program designed to provide mentorship and access to opportunity to underserved African American and Latino indigenous communities and help meet the community’s goal of preparing a new generation to become entrepreneurs, investors, business owners and inventors. The program uses the teachings of infamous entrepreneur and rapper Nipsey Hussle, focusing on assets over liabilities, money management and business principles, along with motivational and educational programs for Black youth.
“Pave Your Own Lane” started with a short screening of “No Church in the Wild”, a film co-produced by Kamerie Gibson that examines the US government’s role in the systemic eradication of African Americans, and then followed with a slide show that discussed Nipsey Hussle and his influence on the community.
“What makes [Nipsey Hussle’s] message, and being a native, so integral for the culture?” Gibson first asked the panelist.
Roman Combs, CEO of Roman’s International Project LLC, answered, “The fact that Nipsey Hussle was in the gang culture, doing what we try to avoid, and then started to preach a message, not just of positivity, but more so being real about reality. You know, he wasn’t trying to be a positive person, he was like this is what the world is. And he spoke from that point of view of knowledge.”
Combs continued, “Having principled the marathon concept…the fact that he spoke that type of wisdom, he came from the same struggle we’re trying to avoid, to seeing him making movies, starting a business, and really influencing the culture for the better. I think what made him so powerful, for me, was he was in the dirt and then rose up, not just making a difference in our community, but globally.”
“Nipsey was authentic, and a perfect example of representation for people who are from South Central Los Angeles,” Rasheeda Jones, CEO of Tawfiq Publishing Co. said. “Sometimes people communicate messages, and want us to go to college, and want us to be a certain way, and act a certain way. But he led in a way where we didn’t need that, like he was very relatable. And so being able to see him resemble someone of what my brother looked like, and someone of the culture in which I come from, I was able to hear him differently. And I think that’s what we need. Sometimes we need to be able to see ourselves and people, but with a positive message.”
Gibson’s second question to the panelist asked, “How important is ownership to the culture in this current day and age?”
Real Estate Agent, Diandra Dillon, shared that “ownership is the most important thing for the culture. Ownership brings power.”
She continued, “Property ownership brings clarity. If you’re not owning anything, you’ll see life passing you by and decisions being made around you that you can’t do anything about…Images and representation that’s on media often portrays us as ignorant, impoverished people who incapable or just violent. Once we start having ownership of the images that we’re seeing, and having more ownership and land, we start to create our own future.”
“Ownership has always been everything to me,” shared CEO of InPosition Management, Ashley Williams. “I get to wake up every morning and do what I love because I own the power of creating my own company, working with artist, producers, engineers, publicists, in the UK and South Africa.”
“The people I’ve gotten to connect with just from taking a chance on myself and owning my company is priceless,” she continued. “I’ve met and connected with so many people around the world, and I get to have a legacy behind me.”
The next question asked to the panelist was, “Is college the only pathway to success?”
Each panelist shared that while college isn’t the only pathway to success, it does propel you. They also recommended that students further their education at some kind of college/university after they graduate high school.
“We have some of the best community colleges in the nation in Los Angeles County,” shared Pitre. “I went to community college and then went to Morehouse. You don’t have to go to college, but in my instance, it helped me. And it’s ironic because when I was young, I looked up to the active homies, and I hate to say it but a lot of them are in pain now.”
Pitre also shared that, “It don’t matter if you can’t afford it, if you think you can’t afford it, I couldn’t afford it, but I made it possible. So set your mind on college, preferable a Black college and just go and finish it. College is just a testament that you can finish something, and be determined to go all the way through, and you meet so many lifelong friends there.”
Jones shared that, “You don’t have to go to college to be successful, but it’s definitely life changing if you do. There’s so many things that happen in college that you can get the opportunity to be a part of. I became an activist through college, and I was able to find out who I was a Black woman in college, so if it wasn’t for it I don’t know where I’d be.”
Ashley Williams said, “if you go to college, if you don’t go to college, it’s not really going to dictate how well you do and succeed. Like that comes from self. If you have determination that grit, the will to keep going to fail and try again like you will be successful. So for me college gave me relationships that will last the rest of my life. It gave me experiences. It gave me abundance, but I know very successful people that are doing just as well as me that didn’t go to college. So there’s no magic answer, but just follow what you think you’re supposed to do.”
The panel ended with Kamerie Gibson asking the final question: “What should the students be paying attention to right now? With the wisdom everyone shared on the panel, what should they be focusing on?
Roman Combs shared that students should be mainly focusing on their character at this time in their life.
“That’s not taking something that doesn’t belong to you, that’s telling the truth, that’s doing the right thing when nobody’s looking,” he shared.
“That will take you to the next level. Because at the end of the day, what I learned is, success is not just about what you do, but it’s who you know. It’s about the favor that you have with those people, and it’s only the favor that God can get you, that get you to that level.”