What I’ve Learned So Far: Kula Koenig
By The Editors
Kula Koenig is an activist. And she’s been that way since she started collecting money from the residents of her apartment complex for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in junior high school. Currently, she serves as Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association. She spends much of her time at the state Capitol urging legislators to pass heart healthy public policies that focus on preventing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. She’s also joining the United Way California Capital Region in June as a Program Director for the Square One Project to ensure Sacramento kids are ready for high school, college and beyond. She was district director for former Assemblymember Roger Dickinson and has worked on various campaigns, including one to increase funding for youth development programs in Sacramento.
And Kula loves being of service to her community. She serves as president of the Sacramento Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and is passionate about black women being in positions to influence policy. BWOPA Sacramento’s mission is to activate, motivate, promote, support, and educate African-American women about the political process, encourage involvement, and to affirm our commitment to, and solving of, those problems affecting the African-American community.
FUN FACTS: Kula also loves gym time, craves her mom’s Liberian cooking and is addicted to self-development books.
How do you define success? Personal fulfillment?
Professional success is doing what you are meant to do in life. Sounds simple enough, but hard to accomplish. I heard Jack Canfield say that you can spend your whole life just climbing up the very top of a ladder and then realize the whole time it was the wrong ladder. That’s not success or fulfillment. To truly do what gives you joy (even on the stressful days) is success. Personal fulfillment is self-love. Truly loving yourself and all that you are.
What is the driving force in your life?
Not to disappoint my mom. 🙂 That really has been the driving force. What also drives me is to live my purpose. God put me here for a reason and gave me certain gifts, so I want to be sure to live that.
What has been one of your most life-defining moments?
When I was 6 years old, I escaped a civil war in Liberia and was a refugee in Guinea for two years. Whenever I think I can’t do something, am sad or disappointed, I go back to those moments and I remember that I was fortunate enough to survive, come to the United States, and thrive. It’s a reminder that I am lucky, strong, and blessed by God. So, I use that to get me through whatever difficulty I’m facing.
What’s the biggest work-related lesson you’ve learned?
When I have hit a wall while trying to solve a particular work problem instead of just pushing myself to get it done or figure it out, I step away and take a walk. Oftentimes when I come back from that walk I have an idea that moves me closer to solving the problem. It’s hard to step away from the computer though…..Dooooo it.
What do you value most in friendships?
The ability to be vulnerable and know that you have a safe space for outlet without judgment. That is so precious to me.
Best advice you’ve received?
“Forgive yourself and do better next time” From one of my mentors Trinette Marquis-Hobbs
Said on a podcast by Bozoma Saint John “Don’t make pro and con lists. Every time I’ve made a pros and cons list it’s to talk me into something bad or out of something good. Listen to your spirit. You know what you want and what feels right”
What would you tell your 16-year-old self?
Don’t be afraid to fail and fail again because you’re the type of person who gets back up. You are enough. You do not need validation from others. You do not need to please others or get them to like you. You are beautiful, whole, and enough.
What is your motto/personal credo?
“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” Steve Jobs said this in his Stanford graduation speech and it’s from The Whole Earth Catalogue. I think you shouldn’t get comfortable in anything. Not your professional or personal life. You should always be hungry for improvement. And I swear I will always be silly. I never want to lose that. My niece and nephew can attest to my silliness. Sometimes I forget I’m 34! Life’s too serious to be serious.
What Sacramento woman do you most admire? And why?
Oh man I have to choose one? I’m gonna cheat here and go for two: Drs. Addie Ellis and Arrickia McNiel. They have both taught me the importance of stillness to really figure out what you want in life. Addie has taught me not to be afraid. She is an entrepreneur, a disrupter of traditional ways of thinking, she just climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. She’s has this motto to be “unleashed” and just go for the damn thing!
Arrickia has the biggest heart I know. She cares for others and gives, and gives, and keeps on giving. Arrickia will have been in a car accident, recovering, but still show up at a community meeting because she has something to say. And she don’t take no mess! She’s so loving but I admire that she’s confident enough in who she is to not tolerate bullshit. And she holds leaders in the Sacramento community accountable.
Both of these ladies do not “go along to get along.” Nope!
Biggest challenge facing Sacramento in the next 5 years?
Housing. Housing. Housing. This is a national problem but something we definitely need to tackle here in Sacramento. I’m the president of Black Women Organized for Political Action Sacramento, and we have started collecting profiles of the different faces of those who are experiencing homelessness in Sacramento. We share resources at our meetings and talk about the need for rent caps so people can stay in their homes!