Episode 22: Lavar Thomas & Ruby Maddox - "Building Leaders of the Free World"
Having interviewed a good number of Black expat professionals, there’s often a common theme of travel in their coming age of story. Now this isn’t the case for everyone, but it’s unsurprising when talking to Black expats in particular. Seeing the world introduced through a new perspective, for many of them, would influence the professional decisions they would make later in life. For Kory Saunders, her career in study abroad was influenced by the cultures she grew up in and the travel experiences she had while completing her higher education. For Chiponda Chimbelu, growing up in the U.S. and Zambia, definitely impacted the professional opportunities he pursued.
In the same vein, that’s what happened to both Lavar Thomas and Ruby Maddox, the co-founders of Leaders of the Free World. Lavar would have his first solo travel experience as a teen to Spain and eventually would go on to being a Peace Corps volunteer in Rwanda. Ruby was a little bit different and didn’t go abroad until was an adult when a social enterprise initiative took her to Ghana. But for both of them, these experiences would be absolutely transformative and motivated them to launch their organization.
As you’ll hear in this episode, they didn’t know each other well prior to becoming co-founders and didn’t meet each other in person until they met in an airport in Ghana, with their first cohort of students.. But It was their shared paralleled mission and a providential introduction would make this whole thing work. You’ll hear how their personal stories of understanding culture and identity led to focusing their organization on providing international experiential learning experiences for college aged Black men.
In 2016, when Ruby first appeared on the Black Expat site, she wrote, “At its core, Leaders of the Free World is about psychological emancipation.” With guidance, mentoring and support, Leaders of the Free World challenges young Black men to see themselves beyond just their social and geographical boundaries and limitations.
This was true then and it still is now.
So after you’re done listening and you feel motivated, check out their contact information below to learn how you can support this mission.
- Lavar and Ruby individually share their first international experiences
- Having your Americanness questioned (as a Black American) while in Africa
- How and why Leaders of the Free World was launched and the idea of liberation ideology
- The role of the mentors in the organization and why they are necessary
- Diversifying opportunities in the age of Covid-19
To hear the full episode, click below or listen wherever you get your podcasts.