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Growing up, Bimma Williams was different. The choices for young Black people in his small Louisiana town were to play sports or work in a blue-collar job. Mr. Williams wanted more — a career in sneaker culture, where he could use his creativity and entrepreneurship.
It seemed impossible, but Mr. Williams persevered. He started a running blog and eventually attracting the attention of small brands, before moving on to larger sneaker companies. Unfortunately, he always encountered the same issue: “I was the only Black employee,” he said in an interview with the Black Wall St Times. “Leadership said there just wasn’t talent, but I knew that was a cop-out. It wasn’t a lack of talent; it was systemic racism.”
Returning home to Louisiana after leaving yet another job that didn’t fulfill its mission of diversity, Mr. Williams encountered a young Black man who was surprised at his career success. The conversation inspired him. “Young Black people rarely see a Black man working in a creative space. Society doesn’t make that achievable for young Black people,” Williams said.
Claiming a seat at the table
“So many young Black men and Black women don’t have the networks, contacts, mentorship, or people to tell them what’s possible with their creativity and hard work,” continued Mr. Williams. “I wanted to find stories of successful people who looked like them, doing the things they wanted to do.”
Mr. Williams started his independent podcast, Claima Stories, on that basis, interviewing Black men and Black women about their unique career paths and trajectories. “Claima” is shorthand for “claiming a seat at the table.” His goal is to reach as many young Black men and women as possible, providing information about accessing creative spaces and leveraging their talent.
A podcast was the perfect medium to reach people. “We debuted on Apple as #1 for independent podcasts in 2020,” Mr. Williams noted. At first focusing on sneaker culture and professionals in sneaker culture, Claima Stories then opened its doors to creative workers in other industries, following feedback from listeners.
Re-educating Black youth on their choices
Claima Stories seeks to re-educate young Black people about their potential and possibilities, reminding them that they can rise above while living in a society that does not support them. “You can be in charge,” said Mr. Williams emphatically, “You can create your own career. You do not have to be held back by the circumstances of being a young Black person living within a racist society.”
Focused on inspiring young people to reach their career goals, Mr. Williams creates networks and connections, and provides mentorship opportunities for his listeners. He is currently mentoring three young people, reminding them that while hard work isn’t easy, the rewards are limitless.
Creating support during COVID
Mr. Williams credits his sponsors, who include Nike and Sony, for supporting his efforts as silent partners, without demanding any input or direction for Claima Stories. While Covid has created challenges for producing a podcast, Mr. Williams sends each of his guests a remote podcast package in order to speak with him from their homes.
His future goals for the podcast include continuing to attract Black professionals from a variety of industries. He yearns to continue inspiring — and to be inspired. Claima Stories is available on Apple Podcasts, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.