I had the opportunity to catch up with entrepreneur, community advocate, wife, and mother Kimberly Dilosa of Fion Productions; most of you may know her as Kim, Tee Kim, or Da Gawd Mother of NOLA, because of her commitment and love for the community. Kim operates her business with empathy, advocacy, loyalty, and excellent service that has earned her the title “Da Gawd Mother of NOLA.” The title of “God Mother” isn’t given to just anyone, and Kim rolled up her sleeves and worked without pay to invoke change, especially in the area of children outreach programs.
I have watched several African-American female leaders leave this community due to lack of money, lack of support, and just plain ole lack. Still, Kim is one of few African American leaders in New Orleans whose love keeps them committed to serving the people. Our chat left me feeling proud and honored to know this amazing woman.
How were you inspired to start your business?
My background is in community development, but I was born with a love of community service. As a young girl, my grandmother introduced me to the world of community service. It all started because I complained of being bored and the lack of summer programs. To help cure my summer blues, My grandmother created a summer camp for me and called it “Kim’s Camp.” I was the counselor, and my younger cousins were the campers. We got shirts made and everything! And this would be my first nonprofit organization in a sense.
What is Fion Productions?
Kim: FION stands for Future Icons of NOLA. I started FION to make sure the TRUE black narrative in New Orleans is communicated in mainstream media. My goal is to share the success stories that exist in our city versus the arrests, killings, etc. I personally know these stories and always wondered, “Why are we not hearing or seeing what’s good about our city regularly?” This question earned me a Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Fellowship!and the goal of my fellowship was to direct focus to change how the black narrative is being communicated in our city. I used my fellowship to test the waters in creating huge platforms to showcase what’s great about black New Orleans.
How did you use your gifts, talents, and love for an underserved population in New Orleans in an industry that doesnʼt showcase African Americans in a positive light?
My community service work laid the foundation for me being one of New Orleans’ ultimate people connectors and community leaders. I developed my nonprofit in 1997 with a mentoring via service-learning education approach, which led me to create service projects that resulted in changing the energy of how African Americans are seen and heard in Greater New Orleans. I found that this representation largely depended on what we allow ourselves to absorb about us in the media and how they report it. During the duration of my fellowship in 2014 through 2017, I focused my energy on rewriting the media’s black narrative. I turned that work into a philanthropic production company that creates events to serve as platforms to showcase all that is spectacular about Black New Orleans
For every child, the media shows being arrested, killed, or committing a crime…I can show you five who are succeeding academically, in community service, in athletics, surviving terminal illnesses, etc..
What is the Black News Channel?
Kim: As an innovative and life-changing network, BNC’s mission is to provide intelligent programming that is informative, educational, inspiring, and empowering to its African American audience.
What does the partnership between Fion Productions and BNC mean for New Orleans, especially Black New Orleans?
Kim: FION is the New Orleans liaison for BNC. I am making sure New Orleans is well represented on this platform that debuted to over 33 million viewers on February 10th. I am a 504 girl from my heart, and I get annoyed with ALL of the viral reports of killings, arrests, break-ins, etc. And I know my city is also home to black child prodigies, kids who have overcome terminal illness, innovative black-owned businesses, etc. I am here to help get the stories told, matching financial investors with black New Orleans brands that deserve a national platform!
How did Fion Productions land the contract with The Black News Channel” BNC”?
Kim: I was literally called to a secret meeting by a friend who said, “Kim The Black News Channel needs to be formally introduced to New Orleans for ESSENCE Fest, and they need someone who knows EVERYBODY in the city. Can you please come to Starbucks on Magazine to chat about you taking this project on?” I was scared as hell! LOL. I had NEVER heard of BNC, but I researched the newly formed company, and I crafted a VIP Essence Fest party in 21 days flat.
What does it mean to be “The Gawd Mother of NOLA?
I came home after college graduation in 1997, looked around, got upset, and started working. I gave up all of my 20s and 30s to invest in children. I was a free-spirited 20-something rebel leading a team of 13-17-year-olds teaching them how to think outside of the box, think about ways to better themselves and their community on their own terms. I wanted them to know that they had the power to make a big difference in their lives through good works and deeds. They could change how others view them and their communities by being ambassadors. I mentored over 1500 kids with the help of dedicated volunteers. The kids call me “Tee Kim.” I can be in a hotel, a grocery store, at graduation, when I hear “Tee Kim” being yelled across a room. That’s one of my kids! I have little pieces of me all over this city, all over this nation.
Who gave you this title? In New Orleans, a God Parent better know as Nanain or Parrain is someone dear to our hearts, and they always had made sure to look after their “God Child.”
Fast forward to being called “The female Clarence Avant.” I had no idea who Clarence Avant was, and I was directed to watch his documentary on NETFLIX. I would learn that he’s “The Black Godfather” one of the most influential businessmen in the entertainment industry. Clarence Avant has helped so many people achieve success while he stood behind the scenes, and here I was being told I was the female version of him, I was blown away. Next, Byron Cole, one of New Orleans’s most notorious community fighters, said: “You’re the GodMother of NOLA”! The rest is history! @gawdmotherofnola was born, and I’m genuinely honored to bestow the namesake. Over the years, I have taken care of every child who has come through my program as my own biological child, and now I will utilize media platforms to care for and show off the people of New Orleans!
Do you have any other businesses, combs in the fire?
My husband and I own ASolid Photography and ASolid Travel Inc., and my parents own Fellowship Journal, the city’s only faith-based newspaper. Therefore, we can take care of any client, brand, company, church, etc. that needs branding, travel accommodations, etc. across the spectrum.
Looking back on 2019, which was the year for Fion Productions, tell me, what was your proudest moment?
Kim: My proudest moment, DEFINITELY, producing the Black News Channel/Essence Fest party! I was like, “OMG. I really spoke this into existence!”
You are not only the Gawd Mother of NOLA, but you are a mother, wife, family member, friend, business owner, sorority sister, and so much more. How do you manage to avoid burnout and find balance?
Kim: I am a mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend. I involve everybody on this journey. It’s the key to staying balanced! My husband is my best friend, and we turn gigs into dates! Every chance we get to sneak away, we take it because of our bookings and busy schedule.
Kim: I started community organizing at the age of 22, gave up a few times into my 30s after giving it my all running in full throttle mode. I burned out, bottomed out in 2014, and I had no choice but to find a better means of balance. I told God, “Either you’re gonna take me or do something different in my life.”
What advice would you give to another woman starting a new business or career?
Kim: Just do it! I’m a mover. I don’t wait for others to solve problems; I jump in and solve them, and I highly recommend that they do the same.
What has this experience been like for you?
I’m having fun on this journey. I believe I finally reached the crown of this chapter of my life. I love it!
More of Kim’s proudest moments and first collaboration with the Black News Channel!