Last month, I had the opportunity to speak with God-is Rivera, the co-chair of the KInD Committee here at King and the Global Director of Culture and Community at Twitter. I learned so much from our short Q&A and I’d love for members of the King community to learn more about the roles she plays in the communities she is a part of, both locally and online.
What are your responsibilities at your position at Twitter and on the KInD Committee at King? How would you describe the connection between your involvement at both places?
I have been the Global Director of Culture and Community at Twitter for two years. It was a new role that I got to create based on a gap that I felt needed to be filled. I concentrate on how we connect with and understand voices from marginalized communities from around the world, who use Twitter for joy, to find each other, and to challenge the narrative. We want to ensure that they have a team that prioritizes their experience with Twitter and the topics they are talking about. Are they talking about Black Lives Matter? Are they talking about Me Too? What are the things that matter in their world? I was so excited to join the KInD committee this year because there was a renewed emphasis on how King approaches inclusion and diversity, the biggest part being awareness. We focus on what kinds of things are happening in the world and how communities are experiencing them, bringing other perspectives to the forefront and figuring out how we talk about that as a community.
What are your thoughts about current movements and the way that young people have chosen to become part of issues today?
I am very fortunate to live through and watch movements take shape on Twitter. Growing up, there was no social media. Young people have access to many streams of information. I would tell them to utilize what they’re learning to dig into history, to align movements with their own core values. Now, people see one thing and they don’t take time to wonder if it has happened before in other ways. When you are more educated, you can find a community of peers who feel the same. Knowledge truly is power. In school, I was on the debate team, and we often had to argue the opposite side of our beliefs. I would go down a rabbit hole of research to understand what makes people believe this opposite opinion. After arguing that, I could come out with a whole new mindset or at least understanding why other people feel this way. At Twitter, I have to pull back from my personal opinions and think about what is best for public conversations. It has to be coordinated so that anyone can utilize our service in a way that they feel confident about.
What is your favorite part about being on the KInD Committee?
I am just excited to be in a community that is willing to have these kinds of conversations. I know it is not everybody; some people simply don’t want to have these conversations or are nervous about having them, and that’s alright. We have to acknowledge everybody’s journey. I went to an independent school for a little while and something like KInD, where we can talk about things that really would have changed teenage experiences did not even exist. I am most proud to be able to talk with parents who are open to this. We are committed to learning together.
Can you tell me a bit about your career path and what led you to your position at Twitter today? What was intriguing about working on culture and community? How has your role changed since you’ve been there?
I got the spark when I was on the school newspaper. I started when I was in 10th grade and went on to be the deputy editor by the time I graduated high school. I went to Clark Atlanta University, studying mass communications thinking I would be a journalist. However, the world as it existed when I went into college was totally different by the time I got out. Social media and Google did not exist; we were still going to libraries and using encyclopedias. My passion was always to amplify the stories and voices of underserved communities. As a Black woman from the Bronx, I am often counted out. People have certain connotations of what makes up who I am, but I felt that my story and so many others deserved to be told. I thought I would do it through journalism, but industries pop up and go away. It was the prime time for journalism to learn and adapt to the new digital world. I started as a coordinator in marketing, which I loved because we get to control the story, where it shows up, and who is reflected in it, relating back to my original passion of augmenting underserved voices. When I became a director of social media, I was the one telling companies where to market themselves. But as I did that, there were no Black people in the room. There were often no women in the room. There were no LGBTQ+ people in the room. The industry was filled with a lot of the same people: straight, white, male, and able-bodied. I push to see how we can understand audiences to be more inclusive.
What do you enjoy most about your job? What are some challenges that you face?
This work is my passion. Not a day goes by that I don’t want to get up for work in the morning. What I’ve been wanting to do my whole life, I’m getting to do. This summer we did a first time activation where we took the words of many of our Black voices and put them on billboards in many cities that have been affected by protests and historical issues with police brutality. It wasn’t something political; it was just how Black people were feeling. We were able to elevate that in a way that resonated so much with the community. It’s those moments like that that I love. At the same time, we are in a place where nothing is perfect. Society is wrought with issues that have been somewhat swept under the rug, which comes to affect us at Twitter. We have to do a better job of protecting marginalized people with our policies, and there are days where people get angry with us because we do not get it done. I care so much about all of them, but we are all trying to figure out how these systems might be microcosmos of the real world, and how we can fix things that the real world has never fixed. On those days people are going through something, and I’m not always able to help them. But, it’s all worth it to me.
Who inspires you?
When I think of my mom and my dad, everything was against them when they had me. There were systems that were just not skewed in their favor. To me, my parents depicted all of the people who persevere in spite of anything that gets in their way. They really were representatives of everyday people that society does not always value or see. They are the people who inspire me because they continue to find joy, love, and peace when everything is counting them out.”
If you could go back in time, would you do anything differently?
As hard as things got, I would change the way I viewed negative things happening around me. They all have shaped who I am today. If I had known where I would end up now, I would have given myself much less stress at the time!
In a world that can often seem so negative, what is one positive piece of advice you’ve learned either in your career or personal life that you’d like to give to the students at King?
Everything going on in the world right now feels like a mess, but look at all that we can fix. Right now is a perfect opportunity for us to rebuild. If it seems negative, we can turn it into a positive and find a solution. This year was horrible, but I’d rather have us acknowledge that and get to the dirt at the bottom of it. From this pandemic we can see what we need to fix. Unfortunately, it took all of this, but we are already seeing changes in people’s lives and the world as a whole for the better.
Ms. Rivera’s words offer wisdom about looking at the world through multiple lenses to make our lives the most fulfilling that they can be. Even if we do not agree with what everyone has to say, heeding her advice will allow us to be more interested in and understanding of our peers’ opinions so that we can have true conversations about topics that we are passionate about.