It’s 6:00am and my Google Home alarm goes off playing the song “I Was Here” by Beyonce. One of my favorite songs to wake up to — it’s my daily reminder to live my life every day with purpose.

Purpose to always love and elevate myself, alongside my purpose to help others, spread love and to leave this world knowing that I contributed to change the world for the betterment of all of mankind.

And I woke up this morning with purpose!

The purpose that lives deep in my soul to not only foster anti-racism within the travel industry, but to foster anti-racism all over the world.

To fulfill that purpose, I led the Wanderful team in creating an event called Moving Forward: An Anti-Racism Town Hall for the Travel Industry. I was filled with excitement that morning to share this space for dialogue and collaboration with Black creators, non-Black creator allies, and travel industry representatives.

My Background and Purpose

As I sat down at my home office desk, I turned on YouTube to the Zen Relaxation – Healing Music Station to listen to Rise Up Positive Energy with 432hz track. I read over my introductory speech to start the day, making some changes to try to shed light on my backstory and my connection to this very important movement.

Karisma Shackelford of Wanderful with her son

“I am a proud Black woman by way of my ancestors who were taken from West Africa, brought to Haiti, mixed with the Spaniards, and then sold to the Shackelford Plantations in America. Once Slavery ended, my ancestors migrated around, settling in Louisiana and, in the late 1960”s during the Great Migration to the California Bay Area, my grandmother moved my father and siblings to Oakland and then on to Los Angeles, California, where my father met my mother and I still reside today.

I am a proud Hungarian Jewish woman by way of my mother who was primarly raised by my grandfather who survived the Holocaust and moved to the USA to start a new life.”

When first discussing the idea of this Moving Forward event with the founder of Wanderful, Beth Santos, I didn’t hesitate for a moment to offer to take the lead.

You see, being a woman of mixed race with family sitting on both sides of this black and white madness I have always found myself torn.

Pulled in one direction by my white side and pulled in another direction by my Black side.

I desperately tried to find ways to end racism to stop being torn into two and having my life completely torn apart.

I am a proud Black woman and I love everything about me that screams Black.

But I am also a proud Hungarian Jewish woman and I love each and every part of my Hungarian roots just the same.

For me not to love both my Black and white sides of me and my family was asking me to not love myself and the amazing gift of life that God especially gave to me. He made no mistake in making me mixed. I truly believe that there is no mistake in anyone or anything that is given the gift of life.

God knew that I would love every ounce of me unapologetically and, through the life lessons presented to me, that I would learn how to help elevate mankind during this transition.

The Demographic Transition

We are seeing a shift from whites being the majority and people of color being the minority to the roles reversing.

According to the US Census Bureau, white Americans are projected to fall below half the population and lose their majority status by 2044.

However, the shift has already officially begun. As of 2020, in the demographic of youth under the age of 18 (the post-millennial population), people of color are officially the majority and whites are in the minority.

By 2025, people of color between the ages of 18-29 will become the majority and whites of the same age will become the minority. By 2032, the same trend will extend to the 18-60 age group. By that time, whites will only have the majority in the senior ages (60 and above), which will continue to decline year by year.

The US — and the world — is experiencing a dramatic transition. But transition can be hard; it can be messy and challenging.

That’s where my background comes in.

Karisma Shackelford of Wanderful sitting at a beach restaurant

What are you?

All of my experiences played a role in creating the woman that I am today who has a burning desire to unite all races to join hands and be proud together to be the HUMAN race!

From growing up and being teased by my half-sister for being the “dark” sibling, to family calling me white-washed because of the way I spoke. Growing up, the most common question I was asked was: What are you?

You’re black? Well why do you have nice hair then?

What are you? That really stuck with me and evolved over the years into “who are you” in my own head.

It gave birth to my identity crisis I had through high school as a result of being of mixed race.

I didn’t quite fit in with the whites, because my skin was too brown.

I didn’t quite fit in with my Black friends because colorism is real. I wasn’t Black enough and my natural beach curly hair that went down close to my waist line didn’t help either.

Feeling closer to my Black heritage and growing up in a predominantly Black and Latino community, I always naturally gravitated to the Black side of me. To deal with this identity crisis, I thought, well the best way to fit in more was to cut off all of my hair. And so I did. I went from hair down my back to hair cut to my ears.

Karisma Shackelford of Wanderful at a cafe

Read next: On Labels and Identity in South Africa

Enough is Enough

As I went off to college, I felt like I had this identity thing figured out.

However, I had a rude awakening when I had my life threatened by my racist white roommates in college. That led to the school administration having to give me my own private on-campus apartment to protect my life.

The uproar that this caused put me in a position where — for the first time — I was asked to hate the white side of me.

Although my roommates were racist, I was not going to allow that to give birth to hatred inside of me for all white people. Because if I hated white people, I too had to hate my family and even hate a part of me.

This is where I finally said…. Enough is enough!

Karisma Shackelford creator of the Moving Forward event by Wanderful, standing in her USA flag shirt

Moving Forward

Which brings me back to the Moving Forward event with Wanderful.

“As you can all see I am a bonafide mut. But at the end of the day…I am a proud HUMAN BEING!”

This line in my introduction pretty much summed up my mission.

Leading this conversation with my peers in the travel industry was, to me, leading the two sides of me and facilitating a discussion between my white side and my Black side.

I wanted to invite everyone in to not only work with us through this journey to elevate, but to also collaborate and work together to create a colorful world where we all celebrate being the united Human Race.

I know this first Moving Forward event is just the beginning. But an open conversation amongst dedicated peers is a helpful start.

I hope you’ll join me at our next Moving Forward event in October to check in on the conversations we had and the actionable solutions we came up with together.

If you’re interested in the conversations we had during Moving Forward, you can read the facilitator notes from our breakout sessions.

You can also watch the recordings from our panel discussions.

And you can sign up to show your interest in attending the next iteration of Moving Forward.

I hope you’ll join me in saying: Enough is enough.

Review the notes from our breakout sessions during the first Moving Forward event