The Life and Times of Birungi Ives
I rose out of Penn Station like a phoenix! I was greeted by the honks and shouts of Manhattan. I told the cab driver that I was headed to the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting. As if guided by the GODS, he drove me straight there. Depending on the taxi driver, it was not always that easy! He dropped me off on the corner, because he didn’t want to make things difficult for himself and fight the one way system. Typical!
I saw the hotel in the distance. But, was it an oasis providing sustenance for my enterprise or a den of confusion, darkness and the monetarily aloof! Beyond a doubt, we would find out! Why? Because, I had arranged a sitter at a moment’s notice. Any mother would know, how hard that is. The sitter was not going to be wasted tonight or any other night, for that matter!
As I approached the hotel, I saw onlookers gathering outside! I got a little taste of how celebrities feel, as they entered the Oscars on the red carpet. It felt real good! (I did not know it at the time, but in a few years, I would be on the red carpet.)
The red carpet was a world away from earlier that day, when my son was throwing a tantrum over not having his apple cut into pieces. We were rushing again and he had to get on the bus. What’s wrong with just using your teeth? Sheesh!
I was not in that place with an irrational five year old, any longer. I was in the place, where I was going to make my dreams come true. I was in THE WOMEN’S RESTROOM of the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers! I thought it made sense to go for a pee! I was so nervous and that was the first place that came to mind! The hotel foyer was buzzing with cell phones, laptops, cameras, bodyguards, and people of importance, some of whom I obviously did not recognize. Well, they had bodyguards. They must be “somebody”. I was asked to move to the side by one of the bodyguards. Who did he think he was, anyway?
Then I spotted, THE BAR! It was as if I could hear the angels sing and see the clouds parting gracefully out of the way. Boy, I wanted a drink to calm my nerves! The bar was definitely the second place that I would hit, after the restroom!
In the restroom, I was in the stall overhearing conversations, a.k.a. eavesdropping. I got out of the stall to join in. Nothing was going to happen in the stall, that was for sure. I washed my hands. Then, I asked a woman with a name tag (Shoot… did I need one?), “So what’s your organization?” She replied that she was with the Global Observatory, an organization that serves as a communication platform for climate change. I told her about my Global Echo Online Forum and how I use a relatable approach to bring global issues to a broader demographic! (Talk about having to think on your feet!) She said, “We need you, let me introduce you to some of my colleagues!” So, forget Miracle on 34th Street! It was happening right then and there in the BLODDY WOMEN’S RESTROOM of the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers! Later, I had realized that the miracle was that I showed up in the first place, despite my fears and having no clue how it was all going to happen.
After meeting this kind woman’s colleagues, I headed to the bar for a drink! (I told you that was where I was headed next.) When I got there, I ordered a glass of Pinot Noir. Then, I turned to my right and saw a tall beautiful black woman stood next to me. I had a feeling she was African. Being of Ugandan decent, I can usually spot these things with accuracy! I introduced myself as Birungi Ives, and told her that my first name was Ugandan and not always easy to pronounce by most people. She responded that she was Ugandan too! That was when the magic of the night took off in to hyper drive. She told me that she worked for the International Criminal Courts at The Hague. A conference that had brought her to New York had ended and she wanted to see what was up at the CGI annual meeting. Without tickets, she and I resorted to schmoozing at and around the hotel bar!
Like a guardian angel, she picked people out of the crowd that I should introduce myself to. All in all, I met Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics at the time (GO CELTICS!); Margaret Butler — Development Manager of the Clinton Foundation; Pierre Omidyar — co-founder of eBay; Julia Ormond — founder of the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking (ASSET) and Actress; Reverend Jesse Jackson (see photo above); and Van Jones — former advisor to the Obama Administration and founder of Green For All.
It was an amazing night! Unfortunately, I missed Brad!
Two months later, I met with Van Jones at his office in Washington DC. The meeting was equally inspirational and full of priceless guidance. Although we’ve kept in touch over the years, we would not meet face to face again, until 8 years later.
Two years after the life-changing Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, I would bump into Julia Ormond, again. However, it would be under more legitimate circumstances. In 2011, we literally crossed paths again at the Clinton Foundation Gala in Los Angeles, California. This time, I had full press credentials and was accompanied by GEOF’s very own press photographer. Standing on the “blue”* carpet, between reporters for Rolling Stone magazine and NBC’s Los Angeles television affiliate, I interviewed Julia Ormond and so many more celebrities that it boggles the mind. You may wonder how I came so far from starting a small blog in the attic of our bungalow in Huntington, New York to interviewing celebrities on the “blue” carpet in Los Angeles for GEOF. It all came down to a certain set of skills.
However, before this amazing event in Los Angeles came to be, we lost almost everything!
To be continued…
*Blue is the Clinton Foundation’s signature color. Hence, the blue carpet, instead of red.
Preview from the next installment:
This unexpected move forced me to contend with issues that I was either unwilling and not ready to face before or unaware existed. So, all in all, it was a good thing, a necessary thing. However, it did not feel that way at the time. Looking back, I see how critical this perceived setback was to my growth and self-awareness. You cannot become who you hope to be, without knowing who you really are. Sometimes, that realization requires going back to where you started, back to the beginning!
If you missed Installment #2, please feel free to read it by clicking on here.
In future installments, you will find out how I managed to go from being a stay at home mother to running a company, where I have worked with industry influencers, such as Elon Musk and Cindy Crawford.
If you want to see what GEOF became, I welcome you to visit the website at geof.us . The site has not been updated since 2013. So, visiting the site is like visiting a museum and observing an ancient relic. Basically, the site looks very dated, but it works as a point of reference for how my journey began.
If you want to see what I am up to now, I welcome you to visit the website for my company ALIGNE at a-ligne.com . Learn more about my work by reading the feature that my alma mater, Mount Holyoke College, wrote about me, by clicking here.
If you want to change the trajectory of your life and learn the skills that got me to where I am today, I welcome you to visit my ALIGNE Academy at aligne-academy.thinkific.com .