How Trell Thomas Leveraged His Experience to Create His Own Table of Black Excellence
Trell Thomas has a family background that is deeply rooted in tradition as he comes from a grandmother that was a sharecropper and a mother who picked cotton. Growing up in this environment allowed him to become very aware of the Black excellence that was inside of him.
Always one to seek knowledge, Trell would be the one in the family to break the mold by reaching for a profession that wasn't typical in small-town South Carolina. When attending college, he majored in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in History. He was set on becoming a producer, report, anchor, and continuing to grow but he realized that path wasn't going to allow him to change the world. After interning at NBC he was offered an opportunity to work for the network which wasn't what he thought it would be. After speaking to his Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brothers, he got the opportunity to step for then-senator Barack Obama who he also got the chance to meet. The meeting was so impactful that Trell knew he had to do his part to help Mr. Obama get elected president. He got a call from the communications director where he was offered the opportunity to be her assistant on the campaign in Atlanta. He soon found his tasks increased when he began to interact with celebrities during the campaign. He had the opportunity to work with the likes of Usher, Sanaa Lathan, Chris Rock, Dr. Maya Angelou, and many more before transitioning to North Carolina. After this project was done he went back to his job at NBC. Not satisfied, he researched things that could get him to work in Washington, D.C. He attended a political boot camp where he learned about non-profit work and the different sectors of public work.
Once the boot camp was completed, he moved to D.C. and taught campaigns on how to use social media to move their campaign forward, which lead to public relations work. After working on the 2012 inauguration, eventually, he packed up and relocated to New York City where he did corporate, entertainment, and music public relations. He worked with Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, and VH1's Save the Music where he was offered a position at Viacom. Through these connections, he would create partnerships with larger brands thus increasing the value in his personal brand. After realizing he had outgrown the corporate structure, he knew it was time for a shift. Solange had just released her album A Seat at the Table and it was a skit with Tina Knowles Lawson and Matthew Knowles that spoke on being pro-Black unapologetically that awakened and freed Trell into a feeling that would lead him his purpose. It was time to bring the creativity and money home to his own community and create a table of his own to eat from while feeding others. He aimed to move the culture forward so he packed his bags and moved to Los Angeles where he connected with Tina and Richard Lawson who became mentors and family. This relationship led him to become the executive producer of her Instagram TV show.
Read more of Trell's story below.
How has crossing paths with influential people shaped your life?
Sometimes the tiny things you do grow into something much great. You plant seeds that grow into redwood trees. It gives me an opportunity to pour into them. It gives me the opportunity to plant seeds for my future, for their future, and the future of those who the work is going to impact. That has always been what I wanted to do, just doing it in a Trell way.
Tell us about how the idea for the Black Excellence Brunch happened.
The Black Excellence Brunch was inspired by the concept of Sunday dinner. What would happen at Sunday dinner is there was so much love, so much building up, affirming, and laughter that warmed my soul. I wanted to recreate that for my friends. I started doing it in my home after I got homesick. In New York, I had about 6 Black friends and I told everyone let's go to the grocery store, and let's have brunch. All of them looked so good and I said this is Black Excellence. Little did I know I was planting a seed.
Later after I had planned my move to Los Angeles, I picked a restaurant with an amazing rooftop to host my going away brunch. The looks we received from people gave every sense of pride. They felt good, they looked good. I said If I can help make my people feel like this all the time I would, so I planned another as my Welcome to L.A. function. We walked down Hollywood Blvd and people kept stopping us to take pictures of and with us, asking who we were and what we did. After a conversation with Mrs. Tina regarding the death of Philando Castile, she asked me "when do you feel good about being Black?" I was reminded of Sunday dinners and the rooftop and she said to do that. Do what makes you and other Black people feel good. She then takes me in the kitchen, asks me to hold a ladder as she climbs it, gives me the plates from her wedding, and tells me you are going to do your Black Excellence Brunch in my theater where she was my guest speaker. Since quarantine, I have started doing them virtually and I've gotten so many people from all across the world.
Tell us about your partnership with Instagram for Share Black Stories.
Share Black Stories came from Friend Fridays. I saw so many of my Black friends behind the scenes doing things but weren't getting the love and recognition they deserved, especially when you're young. Society has created this idea that you have to be older and seasoned and a veteran to get your flowers. I have friends that deserve to be appreciated now. It's a way for me to appreciate my friends and a way to connect people to one another. I often dream and manifest that things will come true. Share Black Stories came to me in a dream. The vision just started coming to me after I saw the Share Black Stories button on Instagram. I got my graphic designer to create something similar. I said we needed a place where people can learn about our story beyond what the media was telling. We need a safe space on social media where we can love each other and share. The series has continued to grow. My intention was to sell it but Instagram came on and wanted to partner with the goal of amplifying it.
What has COVID and Quarantine taught you?
This has been the best thing that could have happened to me. I learned that there were so many things I can do behind my four walls of my home. My life has elevated to a level that I can't even explain and it's still growing. It's taught me to go within. As a Black Man, meditation, therapy, and facing your demons and taking ownership, which oftentimes is taboo. Our therapy is the barbershop or church. I have been seeking therapy, which has opened doors for me. I have launched 4 separate streams of income. I have gotten closer to my family.
When speaking about the importance of mental health in our community and Trell has this to say:
Our mental health is the pinnacle of importance. Everything flows through your mind. If your mind is unhealthy, your body is unhealthy. We are not on this journey alone. A healthy mind creates a healthy life. What I found is there are things you experience when you are young that you can't easily decipher but make a lasting impact. Those things need to be addressed. It allows you to explore and learn about yourself in totality.
Trell’s mission is to empower people of color and spread positivity through black excellence. To be apart of Trell's World visit him on Instagram.