Black to the future: Planning ahead for success

Black to the future: Planning ahead for success in 2011 

Tiemo Talk of the Town

Tuesday 7th December 2010

Toynbee Hall

London E1

By Bunmi Williams

On a bitterly cold night in December 2010, positive, forward thinking people, gathered to be warmed and uplifted by inspirational and motivational speakers  to help them better prepare for the New Year to come.  By the end they left realising that some successful people set store by preparing for a better, brighter future  a year in advance! Spoken Word Poet and Radio Broadcaster Lyrical Healer excellently facilitated the Toynbee Hall seminar organised by Tiemo Talk of the Town.

Sotonye Diri

First on stage was Sotonye Diri. You are left somewhat breathless by her list of formidable achievements. At just 25 years old, the ex Queen Mary University Law Graduate already has 3 published books to her name, runs 3 businesses and is fast becoming an accomplished public speaker.

From network to net worth

Sotonye’s message was one of both individual self-determinism and collective route’s to achievement. She strongly believes that “your network determines your net worth”, whilst Sotonye also acknowledges that to achieve your goals you have to be very self-determined and focused.  Sotonye believes that ultimately it is you alone who can provide yourself with the determination and will power not to quit, but to strive through the difficulties to reach your ambitions.  Sotonye has observed that it is often the individuals who stop themselves, by putting imaginary blocks on what they can achieve. She urged the audience to understand that “the thing you fear doing you MUST do.”

Having started off somewhat inevitably in a law career after passing her degree, Sotonye realised that though this might have satisfied her parents wish for their daughter to go into a “respectable profession”,  this wasn’t the career for her long term.  Witnessing the destructive path many young girls were going down, she wished to do something more positive and practical to help turn this situation around. She knew in her heart that these young people had the ability and talent to do so much more. Sotonye became  concerned with working with and assisting young people to realise the fruits of their talent.

No More Excuses

Her first book, ‘No More Excuses‘ (2009) was inspired by the responses she received  from role models when she asked the question: “Young people are dying. Don’t you have a heart?” She used this as her starting point to interview 16 African –Caribbean role models and high achievers from Levi Roots, to Dawn Butler MP to Alexander Amosu – (R’N’ B ring tones) to learn from their stories and share these with a wider audience.

Her follow up book, ‘No More Excuses Coaching Manual‘ was written in just 6 days. This book aims to inspire specifically young people  to be their own personal coaches (but can also be applied to those over 30). It is an amalgamation of all she’s learned from self-development books she’s read and individuals she has heard speak over the years. She remained  focused during the 6 days of writing; staying up late  often getting by on just 3 -4 hours sleep, whilst holding down her day job too. Now that’s focus! Sotonye had a goal and a deadline and was willing to sacrifice to achieve.  Another key message she was keen to get out was that despite  the fact there are always negative people out there who’ll say “you can’t do this and you can’t do that”, all you need is belief in yourself and 2-3 inspiring people in your inner circle, who’ll support your development  At 25, she is truly  a remarkable woman and one to watch!

David Gustave 

44 year-old David Gustave was reading and writing before he started School and always knew he was clever and a  little bit different to his peers he grew up with in Peckham, South London. He admitted that he was an angry, aggressive young man not averse to getting into regular fights.

After a rough time on the streets, progressing to working in a mundane job at a local Job Centre, a colleague spotted his intelligence and he was encouraged to go and study. As he looked into this, a twist of fate in his enquiries, resulted in him securing a place, (aged 33), to read his favourite subject, Medieval History at Wadham College, Oxford University.  Whilst expecting to receive the usual stereotypical response from the students towards a Black student entering a white upper class institution, he found that students in fact warmly accepted him and he was even invited to live with some of them.  David found he had more in common with Oxford students intellectually than many of the people he associated with in London.

Studying at Oxford and returning to the Old Kent Road, South London at weekends, David found himself living an almost ‘split identity’ lifestyle, with deep psychological battles based on ‘not deserving success’ raging within his soul. This was exemplified when, after gaining a good degree, he got sponsored for his masters and went onto a pupilage at Middle Temple, but still wrestled with bouts of anger and confusion about his role in the world. This inner turmoil was given a sense of meaning by a remarkable lady called Camila Batmanghelidjh, the Founder of Kids Company, who identified that David’s feelings were not driven by a need to be successful, but rather his desire for status.

Now an Educational Motivator back in South London, with Kids Company, David can honestly say he didn’t set out looking for success but is certainly enjoying the ride. He has been profiled in many well known publications – GQ magazine, London Evening Standard, New Statesmen and made it on to the ‘Independent on Sunday’s’ 2009 ‘Happy List’ of the 100 people who made people happy! A link to this is attached at the end of this article.

When questioned by Lyrical healer about this story of ‘overcoming’, David honestly stated that the biggest hater was himself and the violence in him stemmed from a need to control in order to survive.  Analyzing his success he admitted he may have been ‘infected’ by a poverty mindset and that the fear of failure spurred him. This was  in stark contrast to his peers growing up, who possibly saw success via less rose tainted glasses i.e. as a way of ‘dislodging’ them from their comfortable social clique. Reading literature such as ‘Invisible Man’ by Ralph Ellison, which revealed the internal and external dialogue one goes through, made David conclude that the need to be transparent and the definition of being a man had its roots in being literally a “gentle man” and in control of one’s emotions.

David firmly believes in building success slowly upwards from firm, solid foundations. His favourite film embodies this message. “Field of Dreams” is a film about building a foundation and watching it grow. He’s also a strong believer in integrity and quoted Muhammad Ali’s “Never lose your integrity. Treat other human beings with integrity.” He certainly demonstrated that on the night; rather than stay for the whole evening, as soon as he was finished speaking and answering questions he was literally running out of the building to keep another important engagement – visiting young people in prison, who were relying on him to hold them in mind, keep his word and pay them a visit. Tremendous!

David has not 2011 or even 2012 in his sights, but 2016 in mind, with ambitions to stand for and be the Mayor of London.  David is blazing trails and aiming to leave a spiritual and social legacy.  For further information on David please view the links at the end of this article. It was bitterly cold outside, but the fires of inspiration were definitely burning inside and warming the atmosphere for the final speaker, Angie Le Mar.

Angie Le Mar

With a portfolio career as one of the UK’s top Comedienne’s, TV and radio presenter, Play wright and Actress Angie Le Mar made no excuses for her varied career and encouraged us to break the popular straightjacket label of ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ and told the Toynbee Hall audience, “we are capable of doing all things, so go ahead and….DO”!

Growing up with dyslexia, several exclusions from school and being told by her teacher that she would not amount to anything, Angie’s record is certainly not one of a School dropout as she set the benchmark of being Britain’s first black female Comedienne and now defines success as a constant stream of ‘change’ that occurred during her life. She was unique, and funny, as a Black female Comedienne, which resulted in her sometimes being booked to do 5 gigs a night!

Angie’s endured at times a dramatic, roller coaster life, involving periods of ‘wanting’ to win accolades to times when she simply wanted to  give up on life or merely stay alive as she fought to live after the discovery of fluid in her brain during her last pregnancy, a dangerous time  which almost cost her eyesight and most importantly her life!  “The pressure was so great I wanted to kill myself.” This most frightening period of her life lead her to return to her church roots (her Father was a Deacon, her Mother, an Evangelist) and resulted in her having a‘ conversation with God’ to which he informed her that “ I made you great but you keep going to others for permission to be great.” This “conversation” lead to cutting out the middle man and the creation of  her business, ‘Straight to audience Productions,’ which would serve as her own vehicle for producing and promoting her own productions.

Angie’s Top tips

1.     Apart from praying for opportunities, be ready for them as well. You can’t always plan for life, but you must be ready for it.

2.     Structure your day well by getting up as early as possible so that you can get as much done within the day.

3.     Surround yourself with like-minded people.

4.     Be a finisher i.e. always finishing what you start. Her Father always used to tell the young Angie, “If you start something, you must finish it.”

5.   When you hear the whisper telling you to be careful of someone, listen. It’s God talking to you.

6.     Don’t go to places you don’t want to go….this final point driven by a call to her radio show by a young girl asking if she was actually raped when, after having sex with her boyfriend, he allowed 4 other young men consecutively to have sex with her. This harrowing phone call spurred her to write the play ‘Do you know where your daughter is?’ as a  message to increase female self-esteem and the need to set up boundaries by females as means of protection from unwanted attention.

7.      Enjoy  every moment like it’s the best time. Act and live your life like you’ve peaked, as this could be it. Life is a process. Enjoy it. Whoopi Goldberg

8.     Have faith and believe we come from greatness and success is who we want to be.

Lyrical Healer raised the issue of competing, a topic Angie was very frank on, stating that she never felt the need to compete, as she has always felt comfortable within herself, even from childhood. A question was raised from the audience about how to tackle dyslexia, to which Angie gave a very interesting response, as she has dyslexia.  She spoke from the premise that it’s not an affliction, but a gift, as stated in the book – ‘ Gift of Dyslexia’ and the person should focus on what they are, what talents they have and nurture them.  Angie quoted the statistic citing that 49% of successful business people are dyslexic.  For further information on dyslexia and Angie Le Mar please read the links at the end of this article.

Final motivational messages from Angie and Sotonye

Angie – Get clued up on your industry, have people around who will pull up and reward someone that looks like you!

Sotonye –  Time management, idea boards, write things down and make sure your projects are sustainable.

Tonight was a night that the stars really came out and shone, not just from the  glory of their physical achievements, but also the revelation of the glory from the ‘inner beauty’ that embodied their strength of spirit.  From bearing their past pains, walking us down their sometimes ‘rocky road’ of destiny and confiding with us like trusted friends, their future visions for themselves and their community. It was easy to identify with their ‘ordinary people done good stories’ and once again our faith was reaffirmed in a higher existence that says, ‘if only you can see yourselves the way God sees you.

STRETCH yourself to release your  inner potential …for anything is possible!  I must also give praise to the young man, Benzial McLean who kicked off the evening with a heart warming song, ‘In the still of the night’. This was one December night, when you honestly did not mind facing the cold… for the messages disseminated were too crucial to miss out on for those wanting to use the festive season to not only praise the Lord, but to plan ahead for next year’s success and the years beyond.

Merry Christmas and have a purpose fuelled New Year.

By Bunmi Williams

©Tiemo Talk of the Town

No unauthorised publication or reproduction of any part of this article or photographs is permitted without the permission of Tiemo Talk of the Town.

First published 21st December 2010. Updated 2nd January 2011.

Thank you for reading our review. We hope you enjoyed it and that if you did, will post a comment and/or share it with others who have the same interest in this topic and may also appreciate the chance to read it.


1. Happy List 2009 Ft David  Gustave and Camila Batmanghelidjh   – Independent on Sunday

2. The Gift of dyslexia – comprehensive guide to dyslexia including computer software advice

3. Tiemo’s review of Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2010 comedy shows and ‘Do You know where your daughter is?’ by Angie Le Mar. SPARK, Journal 1, Volume 3. – 2010

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