meet our zero night speakers

First, what the hell is Zero Night?

Once a month, we come together for a cluster of 10-minute talks from our hygge fam and members of the Charlotte community. Normally we do this on a Friday morning over coffee and breakfast, but in October we’re changing things up a bit.

Introducing our second ever Zero Night. On October 17 we will hear from 6 incredible speakers, and we can’t wait. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., talks start at 7 on the dot and we’ll wrap up by 8:15 p.m. at the latest. It’s all happening in the Not Just Coffee spot at hygge jay street. This one will be extra big because it’s not just an event – it’s a birthday party. Hygge is turning 4 and we’re inviting everyone to our party ???? our theme for this Zero Night is #GratefulAF, because we truly are grateful for all of you ????

It’s gonna be awesome and you should definitely come. You can RSVP here, but first, take a moment to check out the peeps who will be speaking:

Tamara Lavalla

I am perfecting that elevator pitch right now, because how do you explain the yellow nook to someone? I’m a visual artist. So I straddle the worlds of working as a designer and a visual fine artist. I’m kind of getting into experiential and place making stuff, so those worlds are starting to overlap a little bit. I’m working on that. That’s the beauty of it, there isn’t a job title for it, but it’s also the complexity of saying that to a human and have it make any sense. Graphic designer among other things, visual artist, fine arts artist.
Had a 2 week stint with Goodyear Arts where they gave her studio space. It wasn’t a big long residency, but it was perfect, that’s how I pulled off the Grateful AF piece.

I’m currently personally working on a body of work to mount a show next year, which is a solo show but it’s collaborative. It’s called Mutually Assured Selection, the subtitle is a one woman group show. It’s exploring some traditional things, like drawing and painting, but it’s also exploring collaborating with sound designers and artists that use light or artists that are performers. So it’s pulling in artists that I love and admire and doing something collaborative with them. Also working with some clients on designing more spaces. Those are conversations currently happening.

I’m grateful for everything, which is such a trite, stupid way to answer that, but it’s like what am I not grateful for? Right now is the messiest place I’ve ever been in my life but I’ve never had more gratitude, so the whole idea of that is gratitude in the face of adversity, gratitude when it’s not natural or when it’s not easy. That’s why it’s hard to pick what rises above it. I will say surrounding myself with good people. without that all of the other good things would lose their meaning. The people in my life right now are as good as they’ve ever been.

Gerard Littlejohn

I run Steve Smith Foundation. I just kicked off my own content development business called creators collaborative. Content development, pr strategy, messaging development. But really what I’m trying to do is give people a seat at the table and give opportunities to people of color and minorities. they don’t always get a chance to do large scale campaigns or be able to work on things outside of sometimes things we get bottlenecked into like weddings. So really giving people a seat at the table to be able to do something different. I’ve done probably 5-6 projects this year. So I run Steve Smiths Foundation and do this and really I’m just trying to be a proponent of giving back and giving opportunity to people.

Just started creators collab this year. I was born in Charlotte, I’m a unicorn. I was born in Charlotte but grew up in Lexington, graduated high school in 2003 and came here to go to UNCC and have been here ever since. I’m a single parent home kid, I didn’t always grow up in the greatest neighborhoods, grew up in the projects until I was 9 or 10 years old, then moved into another house that was better and bigger but wasn’t necessarily in a better area. That’s why I believe in giving opportunities, because someone gave me one.

I get a chance to give back every minute, whether that’s people we’re helping through our nonprofits or families who have been affected by domestic violence or families who have a need for affordable housing, adn then from my own passion creatives who need an opportunity. I even have a partnership with this group called creating exposure where you bring in a kid who has an interest in photography or broadcasting or anything that I’ve been able to touch through my own walk as a PR and Communications background. To be able to have them on a shoot or project, my life is about giving back. My goal is to create a pipeline from Creating Exposure to have kids who maybe aren’t totally ready to shoot alone, they can come with me and maybe be a second camera just to see it. Everyone doesn’t have exposure, everyone doesn’t have opportunity. That’s a buzz word here in Charlotte, and for me it’s not a buzz word. It’s real. I really want to be able to give people across a large spectrum opportunity.

I’m grateful for opportunity. Every day I get a chance to give back and affect people’s lives whether directly or indirectly. I know that I’m probably making a difference here in Charlotte. So I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for my own family, coming from a somewhat broken family or a family unit that wasn’t traditional, I’m thankful I have that, I have a wife and two kids and I’m grateful for that. I’m just grateful again that I get a chance to use the talents that God has given me and to affect change positively directly or indirectly in a city that needs it. I’m just grateful I get a chance to get up every morning do what I love doing, so many people don’t live out life with passion or with purpose or with intent, and I get a chance to do all 3.

Keia Mastrianni

I started as a food writer here in Charlotte. I covered Charlotte’s restaurant and local food scene for 5 years or so and then kind of moved on to do regional and national food writing, which I still kind of do. Involved with that is photography and I’ve done some oral history work. Through my food writing career I kind of discovered a passion for baking, so I picked up baking pie and that has taken on a life of it’s own, which started my small pie business called Milk Glass Pie. My partner is a farmer in Shelby so I also farm with him and so we have our hands in a lot of community projects that center around food. We do pop ups together, we started to do a series of pop up dinners to raise money for structures on our future farm property which is going to just get started. We’re going to move Oct. 15, so we’ll be officially on the farm them. I always tell people that our life is centered around food. We are involved in the growing of it, the cooking of it, telling the stories about it, and we exist in mainstream food culture in the south, but through the work we do we also kind of exist on the periphery of what’s happening in food. Farming for around 5 years. @thechefsfarmer. Grows for chefs in Charlotte restaurants. Different vegetables depending on the season, unique stuff. I started doing pop ups 5 years ago, but in the last 2 years it’s taken a life of its own where it’s been covered in magazines, we’ve been invited to food festivals and do different demos and stuff like that. I love a seasonal fruit pie, right now I’m loving muscadine pies. Anything berry or fruit based.

At the essence of everything, I am grateful for the work of life. I’m grateful for personal growth and change and the work it takes to arrive at that kind of transformation. I think my life has been a series of transformations. My life has been a series of different transformations and I think it begins with the work. You know it takes a lot of courage and strength to be willing to look at oneself and make a personal change, so I’ve always been grateful for that. I feel like it has been the impetus of all the work that has followed. Through doing that scary internal work I’ve been able to walk through personal fears which has in turn allowed me to walk through so many other things or have the courage to try other things. I think my life has been a product of the work, from when I started writing to you know creating a food writing life from scratch that has allowed me to be in nationally recognized publications to deciding I’m going to do a pie pop up for the first time and continuing to pursue that, and my life as a professional plate spinner has been a lot of hustle. I’m grateful for the work in that way too, that I’m able to do that in many ways from a physical level from a spiritual level and from a place where I’ve been able to create relationships. But it starts with the work.

I think that a lot of people don’t ever get the chance to do that. I have relationships in my life and examples of people whom haven’t done that work on themselves and . continue to remain in the space they are. I’m grateful for that kind of awareness and it’s made me hungry for continuous evolution. I think that the most difficult times in my life are the ones I’m most grateful for. There’s a saying that pain is the touchstone of all growth, so it’s those experiences are the ones that have built me.

Josh Jacobson

I own a social entrepreneurship company called Next Stage that works with nonprofit organizations to help them set strategic direction and strengthen operationally on their journey to make impact. I specialize in strategic positioning and tactical implementation, helping nonprofits develop the platform and tools necessary to support effective operations and fundraising activities.

I am most grateful for my wife, Adara, who fans the flames of my passion to “do good” and is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.

Julia Murray

Meet Julia Murray, our incredible branding photographer and the branding/wedding/engagement/general photographer for SO many others here in Charlotte. She started taking pictures in her sophomore year of college as a creative outlet and side gig.

I’m grateful for curiosity. I’m grateful that it’s been a part of the way I think since I was very little. If I hadn’t been curious back in 2013, I wouldn’t have started my own company or moved out of my small home town to see what else life could look like. Without curiosity, life’s mundane and we don’t look at even the little things with big eyes. I’m grateful that every day, whether it’s in my job or relationships or just looking up at the sky, I’m always wondering more about them. It makes life fun!

Carrie Cook

GreenLight Fund is a fund devoted towards making investments toward our low income neighbors, children youth and families. It’s making investments where typically there’s been disinvestment or people have been marginalized or oppressed by historical, societal policies, rules and regulations. It’s about going back into communities and being rooted in those communities and making investments in education, healthcare, mental health, college access and retention. We’re a fund devoted toward creating better economic mobility. We launched in 2017, raised about $3.5 million, and now the goal is to spend that money down and make investments in community. We’re looking for a return of a stronger community and more opportunities that get expanded for our neighbors. We’re a national fund, but I launched our Charlotte work in 2017. We’re in 8 cities, and Charlotte was city number 6. We make all of our investments in Charlotte specifically. We raise the money here and then spend the money here.

I’m grateful for breath and life and shoes. I’m grateful for every single thing, even the bad that makes you appreciate the good. Every little thing that you think ‘why is this happening,’ it’s for a reason. Every thing, the good, the bad and the in between shapes who we are, and that’s what I’m grateful for. Every breath and every experience.

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