This post was originally published on Twitter’s blog for their #TwitterVoices: With Our Words series.

My path into digital community building was carved out for me by my parents, in real life. My community, #blkcreatives (pronounced hashtag Black creatives) reflects the values they modeled in their partnership: honesty, relatability, respect, and authenticity –– and Twitter has been the tool we use to build out those values, influencing a generation to use their work for the betterment of everyone around them, online and off.

When my mother married my stepfather by law, but my Dad by love, they decided to both leave their current homes and find a middle ground. We were coming from Chicago, my first hometown; their compromise made Memphis my second. It was closer to our Mississippi roots and far enough away from the city for me to appreciate taking alternate routes.

Our consistent traveling from one home to another during my childhood meant that I was always being introduced to a new cast of characters in the story of my life. But after graduating from college, I didn’t see any stories that reflected the reality that I wanted to actually live. That’s what inspired me to create #blkcreatives. The heart of this brand is a virtual community of Black creative professionals looking to create full, healthy, and sustainable lives –– much like what my parents set out to do.

Melissa Kimble

Twitter has become a vital tool for how we not only build, but sustain the #blkcreatives community. My parents’ strategy, experiences, and perspectives, was a strong example for me at 10-years-old. Who I am is a direct reflection of their decision to build a life in the South, and it created my desire to observe the details in all of my surroundings, and ultimately fueled my love for storytelling.

I’m someone who’s always been a bit of an outlier in the digital industry, but Twitter has opened the door to opportunities for me, which in turn have allowed me to hold the door open for others. In the middle of the wildest summer ever––summer 2020––something even wilder happened.

Two of my Tweets were turned into billboards to support Black Lives Matter. This was already a big deal, but what I didn’t expect is how much it raised the visibility of our mission. Now, I know that sounds like a cliché, but during a time of complete lockdown, seeing a physical, tangible statement meant everything to me.

#blkcreatives Photo by @chancsmith_

The response to it was enormous and really served as a proof of concept for me. And because our visibility was raised, it made it easier for people to support our mission of empowering and uplifting Black creatives from a financial, emotional, AND mental standpoint. From that moment we were able to not only donate funds to those in need but we also were able to connect creatives to viable opportunities by way of our job board and direct referrals. @blkcreatives is so special to our industry because we take every opportunity and resource that’s given to us, and pour it back into our community in some way. We create with an intention to serve this demographic of Black creatives –– a demo that is often commodified before they are genuinely supported. Our representation brings our humanity to the forefront. Beyond black squares and diversity and inclusion causes, there are real, actual people who need support and we’re committed to sharing and telling their stories. Context is just as important as content, especially in this digital age.

Twitter has also allowed us to act as an amplifier for the missions that elevate what really matters. Through creating intentional digital Twitter-only experiences like our infamous Twitter chats. They’ve literally been the reason why our community has gained so much visibility on Twitter. Once you find a way to nurture your community on Twitter, the possibilities will reveal themselves. Our Twitter chats have also been the key to staying constantly engaged with how our community is feeling and how we can support them.

When I think of the stories that reflect our mission, I think about Michell Clark. Since 2015, Michell has been a guest at least 3 times for our Twitter chats and our friendship began through this platform. As a writer who writes affirmations for Black creatives, through our chats and connection on Twitter, we’ve been able to watch him continuously reach new heights while empowering us. Or I think about Lisa Beasley. Another life-long friend that I’ve met through our Twitter chats. Last November, after witnessing her hilarious Margaret Thatcher impression, I urged her to share it on Twitter and we’d amplify it. The video went viral with millions of views and that moment has led to incredible opportunities for her. I also think about Ariana Walton Smith, a content creator who I referred to for a position at We Are Rosie. Through Twitter, We Are Rosie’s Kiana Pirouz connected with me and the referral not only resulted in a new career level for Ariana but also a valuable team experience for a company doing amazing, necessary work. I also think about Nefertiti, a Memphis hair care expert, that I was referred to via Twitter.

@blkcreatives contribution to this industry is best told through the community we serve and their stories. What diversity fails to recognize, is that behind the statistics and data around race, Black creators are real people, with real stories, struggles, experiences, and insight. It doesn’t take into account the fullness of our humanity and our range. @blkcreatives is dedicated to translating that value via our stories and the other communities we inspire to do the same.

When you inspire @blkcreatives, we pour that into other Black creatives and their ecosystems which strengthen our culture holistically as well as financially and mentally.

The stories I’ve shared here are just a handful of a much larger collection, and I’m grateful to be a part of a vision that widely impacts this generation of Black creatives. Twitter allows me to see and leverage that influence on the internet every single day.

My hope for Black creatives as they continue to navigate the creative space is that they continue to embrace and own their autonomy and creative freedom, stay connected to strategic resources, take care of themselves, and that they are compensated handsomely for their contributions to culture. I hope that they lead with authenticity vs attention. Attention is fleeting, it lasts a moment, and then it’s taken away by the next craze. Authenticity leads to connection, relationship, and community. It’s been our primary strategy for garnering support on Twitter and it’s never failed us yet.

My parents and my community in real life have been a model for what it looks like when trust, compassion, and consideration are established. @blkcreatives on Twitter will continue to lead with that in mind.