Omena Ukeleghe, the founder of Creative Jam Session, is our newest International FMA Partner in the Netherlands. Take a moment to read about Omena’s achievements and her contribution to the FMA.
If you could go back in time and give some advice to your younger professional self, what would it be?
When one door closes, several bigger and better doors will open for you BUT you must kick those doors open!
Who inspires you within the industry today and why?
Bazoma St John hands down! The woman is an inspirational no holds barred, takes no prisoners powerhouse! I’m working my way to be Bazoma St John 2.0 😊
Edward Enninfel obviously! The man has brought more diversity and fresh perspectives to a magazine that has always been part of the white establishment. He’s using his platform and the magazine to champion people of colour within the fashion industry.
What would you say were your “milestone moments” so far?
Founding the Creative Jam Session (CJS). I wanted to create a network that wasn’t your typical BAME/PoC network but a network that’s a safe space for people to be informal, talk openly and Jam!! It was my fear that stopped me from starting the network years ago. Last summer something clicked and I said f**k it, now is the time to do this, whatever happens at least you tried! CJS is approaching its first birthday in November!!! We’ve grown from a network of 30 like-minded creatives to over 650 members!
What has driven your success?
My mother…she was my first exposure to what it means to be a hustler and an entrepreneur. I’m proud to say I am my mother’s daughter. Speak your mind and don’t back down when you see or hear something wrong.
Why is intersectionality important for the future of the industry e.g. ethics, sustainability, intersectional feminism, class, ethnicity?
Listening and learning are essential. At its very core, intersectionality is about learning and understanding different perspectives. Listen to, include and meaningfully collaborate with diverse groups. Hear and honour their words. We must remember it’s not the responsibility of marginalised groups to do all the work in educating people on their experiences. This often takes up lots of emotional labour and should never be taken for granted. People must be prepared to help undertake some of the labour by doing their own research.
Speaking of challenges and change, what would you say were the main hurdles that you had to overcome working within an industry which is predominantly homogenous and how would you like to see the industry evolve?
Brands need to address the lack of cultural diversity of their organisations by introducing inclusivity initiatives, increasing awareness of sensitive topics and social issues through training for all employees (especially those in senior roles), establishing employee councils focused on diversity and inclusion as well as creating an advisory board of external experts.
Brands and retailers must take more time to consider the potential reaction to products/campaigns they release and take the time to look at how to improve cultural understanding.
Do you have any hints or tips you can share for young people within the Black and minority community wishing to enter the industry?
Don’t back down and if one door closes, pivot and find another route to achieve your goal(s). Those new doors will be bigger and better than the initial door you were aiming to walk through. And don’t wait for someone to give you a seat at the table. Bring your own seat or even better make your own table!
You founded CJS why and what are its aims?
I founded CJS because I was fed-up with some of the formality and agenda of the networks I’d been exposed to/was part of. CJS is an essential community for people seeking a safe space to Jam together on ideas and important themes with less formality of a formal event or networking evening.
We focus on curating events that share experiences to further a diverse representation in the creative industries through networking. Our aim is to provide a series of monthly Sunday socials for members who work in the creative field. Above all, to make them feel inspired and included.
Throughout our collaborative talks, we will work to create a safe space to connect, network, and celebrate everyone’s achievements in the creative industries.
The CJS has joined forces with the Fashion Minority Alliance as the Netherlands chapter. What are you hoping we will achieve together?
In the wake of COVID and Black Lives Matter, Amsterdam’s creative community is having to reassess its role, not just as a global hub for the creative industries, but also as an environment where diverse talent and voices can thrive. This is where CJS and FMA will play a vital role.