Social entrepreneur, speaker, activist and co-founder of Blackboard Africa, Amonge Sinxoto is a force of change that continuously finds ways to empower the African youth through her mentorship and leadership initiatives not only offered through the non-profit organization (Blackboard Africa) but through her relentless spirit to continue the good fight of truly rewritting the African narrative to tell a new tale of transformation, innovation, direction and purpose. Her determination to positively help raise young African leaders is just one of the many reasons why her journey has helped ignite a progressive fire that has engulfed the minds of the young many. We asked her a few questions about her calling and the challenges she (and Blackboard Africa co-founder Zingisa Socikwa) faced to get to this point.
Reading about Blackboard Africa’s journey (so far) and how much the company has done to empower Young African Voices, it’s quite clear that constantly finding the drive to fulfill that mission of “bridging the leadership gap” is not an easy task. What are your thoughts on how far you’ve come with the organization?
My journey with Blackboard Africa started around in 2016 so it’s been about 5 years now, when we started I think it was very cool in the sense that we were all about creating a platform for young Africans to find their voices and be the ones to sort of express their narratives and their views about who they are, what they are and what young Africans are capable of. I think it was very much about us being the ones striving that conversation forward and also just bringing in mentors to have those conversations. It was all about cultivating and I think it’s still very much so about that. I think as we’ve gone on we’ve had conversations about how we want the organization to be uplifting young people of the country and the continent.
In most cases, living a purposefully driven life requires some sort of a personal sacrifice and one can only imagine that your passion to assist in rewriting the African narrative does demand a certain focus. Can you talk about the battles of working towards such a big cause?
Like any sort of growth or journey, they are up hills and challenges, I think one of the major challenges that we faced when we started was… I looked at myself and I was 16 at the time, Zingisa was 22… We were young people and we struggled to find ways to create the initiatives that we initially wanted to create. So we struggled a lot with resources and finding access to making this thing happen you know? From that, we were able to look and say “hey, we have social media”, which is something that other generations can’t say that they had and how do we use this to kickstart what we want to do? And that’s exactly what we did, so we started with social media, then our website and that’s when we started getting buy-ins, people started reaching out to us and partnering with us.
I read an interview where you say, “you are always in a position to change something” and that got me thinking about all the young people that you, at some point, have inspired. How do you personally measure success? In other words, when do you know that you’ve done a good motivational job?
Geez… I think on a personal level, the work that we’re trying to do is never really done, right? It’s all about interactions, it’s all about engagements and gauging from the actual beneficiaries of our program to the actual participants of our programs. If they have taken the skills that we set out to give them & impart unto them then that for is a victory but then if they go on and take that forward, that’s also a victory right?
Can you talk about the projects that Blackboard Africa has? What drives the company to create platforms such ‘Pass-The-Baton’ or further remind young women of their responsibilities as leaders with ‘Fan Her Flame’?
Yeah like you said the major ones that we’re working on right now is ‘Fan Her Flame’ which is all about women development but much specifically with young girls, looking at their internal development, 21st-century soft skills but very focused on internal development so we’re looking at self-esteem, confidence, collaboration, purpose, planning and understanding the power of your voice and how to use the insights that you have within yourself. So it’s really about uplifting the young girl wherever she is to understand her worth, value and be able to share that with the rest of the world.
‘Pass The Baton’ which is looking at enabling young people with an entrepreneurial mindset, we’re also very focused on social entrepreneurship because we think that everyone needs to play their part in dealing with social issues but I think that it’s all around thinking creatively about really taking initiatives and enabling people with the kind of skills that they need to understand what goes into building a business and a social initiative.
It was all about cultivating and I think it’s still very much so about that.
Getting to this point in your career requires a solid support structure and I’ve always believed that collaboration is another key that opens a variety of doors that lead to bigger things. Who have been your pillars of support or people that inspire you to keep going?
there are so many… Family is just a major support structure. People who were on the page of supporting us and at the beginning were seeding us and helping us figure out which direction to go… Even now are talking us through logistics, structuring and how we go about building this into a sustainable organization.
Part of this year’s Nike Air Max Day celebration asked you to recognised some people you consider as inspirations. Can you briefly talk about why you listed the likes of Amira Shariff, Zoleka Monta, Lutho Sipamla, Pelontle Mosimege and Buqaqawuli Thamani Nobakada?
Yeah, I think when I thought about it… There are so many creative young people that are doing incredible, inspiring and uplifting things. I think the reason I went with these specific 5 people is that they are people who are pursuing their passions, dreams and interests. They’re creating their own spaces that they’ve always wanted, doing the solutions to problems that they’re experiencing, and doing so boldly, loudly, and unapologetically.