Social Entrepreneur Spotlight: Kara James of The F.I.N.D. Design

March 8, 2023

The F.I.N.D. Design, one of twenty-four organizations in New Profit’s first Equitable Education Recovery Initiative Cohort exists to mitigate the effects of systemic and personal trauma on Black girls and girls of color by providing gender-based programming that empowers, elevates, and educates girls to be emotionally strong and resilient.

Their goal is to reiterate the notion that, when a girl of color has a safe space that doesn’t penalize her for who she is, a stronger sense of “self” and identity, support from positive peers and role models, and an environment of learning and expression, she’s empowered to be the “F.L.Y. Girl” she is; an advocate for herself, her school, her community, and for the girls that come behind her!

To help us get closer to The F.I.N.D Design’s work, Co-Founder and Executive Director Kara James shared more about her journey to find her own light and how she was called to help Black and Brown girls discover the light and power in themselves. We’re pleased to share Kara’s wisdom below. 

Q: What is one thing you wish more people knew about the issue your organization is working to solve?

A: I would want more people to know about the personal work they need to do related to Black and Brown girls (specifically, I’m just going to talk about them). Often we point the finger at girls’ behaviors—their responses to the trauma and what they have been through—rarely do we put a mirror up so that that finger can point back to ourselves. If any girl (or any child for that matter) is showing up in the world not their true authentic self, then that’s a problem amongst the community, and we need to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can to solve it. 

So again, to answer that question, I wish more people understood their relationship to themselves, their powers, and their strengths. To look within without judgment, so they do not reflect these internal challenges onto the Black and Brown women surrounding them. Only when you fully see your self-value will you be able to see the value within Black and Brown women and girls.

Q: What has been the most fulfilled part of the work that you do?

A: One of the most fulfilling parts of the work that I’ve done—there are many— is healing the little girl within myself. I talked about that mirror from a community perspective but it was when I was able to see the little girl in me that needed the type of services that we provide—to have those therapeutic safe spaces and a community of support that guided me through the process of restoring my heart, mind, and spirit—I was able to dig down within me and pull her out to levels that I have never seen before. And so the most fulfilling part of my job is being able to stand in my authentic self, which means that I can see that within others—my staff, my community members overall, but specifically Black and Brown women and of course the girls that we serve. I’m able to shine a light on them through my light which does nothing more than to pull the light out from within them. 

Q: Can you reflect on a moment that really shaped who you are today?

A: Absolutely. I was in my early twenties and landed in a space with cement walls, small windows, and bars everywhere. Yup, that space!!! Ultimately, I ended up there because I was fighting for my life- I just didn’t  know how to fight at the time. Because of my experiences, I normalized destructive ways of responding to my hurt, pain, and lack of self-worth. But it was in that jail cell, a guard looking at me and telling me, “I can look at you and tell that you don’t belong here.” He confirmed the very feelings I was feeling at the time. I knew I did not belong there. I also knew that it represented the mental jail I was in. I decided to start working on true liberation, which started with changing my mindset. 

Once I left, I remember reflecting on who I was as a person and wanting a difference in how I responded to the justified fight. I remember thinking, “I don’t want to stop fighting—I just have to learn how to fight,  not only for me but for the girls coming behind me.”  At that moment of rock bottom, I started to make small changes. It was not roses and peaches after that. Naw, I still came with it at times. L.O.L. It took a series of new experiences, awareness, and consciousness to get where I am today. After that experience, I landed a corporate job, and I was able to show up in that space and excel while using my personal experience to launch new systems and change old ones.

The skills learned through my journey, and my desire to walk into my purpose were the driving force of launching The F.I.N.D. Design. I desired to create a safe space for girls like me to thrive and break through the mental narratives that kept them stuck; to remind them of who and where they came from while shifting spaces around them that perpetuated such harmful behaviors and feelings. 

Goodness, I cannot explain the Heaven on Earth I encounter daily from my internal healing work and the journey that pours into my work and shapes who I am today. This level of freedom can only be understood if you experience it.

Q: What person or people had the biggest influence on you?

A: I would absolutely have to say, my mother. My mother was a timid introvert, and now that I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to appreciate the things she did not say. It showed up in her being and her resilience; it showed up in how she kept going when she didn’t have many people to lean on. So I honor her for the things she didn’t know how to say, but she was able to get through. She went from corporate America, like me, into nonprofits, and I’ve watched her stand on platforms that she was once told she would never stand on. I saw her stand in front of Congress and use a voice she once didn’t have. I am so grateful for the transformational journey that led her to be the light that was birthed in me. Through her, I saw what it looked like to say “no more,” I saw what it looked like to say, “I’m going to fight for what I want and what I desire,” and I’m watching her live those desires as we speak.

To get closer to The F.I.N.D. Design visit their website. Learn more about why Equitable Education Recovery is a key investment area for New Profit here