My twin sister TK Quann and I have teamed up with Spike Lee Joint x Uber Presents ‘Da Republic of Brooklyn series. Featuring Uber Driver-Partners; Brittany “Sunny” Shen, Domingo Nolasco, Malka Khan, Keith Mabry and Rodney Christiansen who are using Uber as a vehicle, figuratively and literally to pursue their passions on their own terms.
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‘Da Republic of Brooklyn’ inspired me to the core, leading me to reflect on my own hustle and how I felt connected with Brooklyn at a very young age.
*Photos: Terry Gates
I remember visiting NY on the weekends with my family since I was 7 years old. One weekend I specifically recall since we visited distant cousins of ours that relocated to Brooklyn from Maryland (our original home town). Even then, despite my age I felt a deep connection with the borough and it’s residents. The energy was undeniable…little did I know this would become my home but I knew for sure I would somehow be connected with it.
When I cofounded my site, Urban Bush Babes (UBB) in 2011, I had quit modeling at the time, had an uncompleted college education and was currently working another full time job in NY. Granted I was grateful to be employed but it was not a career choice I wished to pursue for the long term. Despite the long hours of my 9-5, I did not let that deter me from working on my passion. So everyday, 7 days a week after work I would go home to write and develop my website. Yes, I have to admit there would be some sleepless nights (ok many, many sleepless nights), but I was determined to meet my own personal deadlines regarding articles and content I had in mind for UBB. Sleepless nights also included no play. Everyone at my 9-5 knew not to ask me to join them after hours, I had work to do after hours, and they knew my intentions. Even in the beginning when I continuously declined, the respect and encouragement I received from my fellow work comrades was nothing less than genuine. I wasn’t surprised because many had their own passions they were pursuing as well, hustling to make those passions come to fruition. Despite the support, I had no freedom in taking time off or controlling my own schedule through my employer, these factors would have helped tremendously.
The hustle eventually enabled me to work full time solely on my website and brand in 2014, in short becoming my own boss.
I knew this was one of the reasons why I felt so connected with NY, there are so many others like myself, like you, who embodied the same drive, doing the necessary to make their dreams a waking reality.
Which is why TK and I are so inspired to collaborate with Spike Lee Joint x Uber Presents ‘Da Republic of Brooklyn series.
The featured Uber drivers Sunny, Domingo, Malka, Keith and Rodney embody the spirit, strength and endurance of what it means to really hustle for something you love. For when I think of hustle the word “love” comes to mind, for without love, hustle can not survive.
The Uber brand has created an atmosphere in which drivers have time to pursue their passions by 100% creating their own schedule, while generating a sufficient income to support those passions, unfortunately this is often not the case as many of us are familiar with. Click here to watch their individual stories.
Scroll below as TK shares her story
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Watching Uber Presents: ‘Da Republic of Brooklyn’ was a refreshing and inspiring reminder of how all of us are connected by our stories of perseverance, struggle and hustle to pursue our goals. ‘Da Republic of Brooklyn’ is a series directed by Spike Lee which features Uber driver-partners and their stories of hustle in BK. The series will certainly make one reflect on their own hustle story.
Ever since I was a little girl I knew that one day my path would lead me to a career involving writing however the path you expect many times turns into the least expected and most surprising one. When I first moved to Brooklyn I felt an instant connection. A connection that I was not the only one hustling and it was a bond that fueled my own hustle. I gleefully became entrenched in the spoken word circuit. I had been writing poetry and short stories for many years and performing poetry was a new and exciting avenue. Poetry evolved into rap and I began songwriting. As one knows NYC is a conglomerate of dreams inundated with creative aspirations and while working to bring those dreams to a reality one must find work in the meantime that pays the bills because you quickly discover dreams alone do not suffice with your phone service or landlord. I worked on my craft everyday after 9 to 11 hour shifts working in the service industry as a cocktail and restaurant server.
Living in Brooklyn while working on my craft helped fuel that energy because I live amongst so many others who are doing the same. I continued performing at open mics and met other creatives along the way which led me to perform in Europe every summer for festivals in front of audiences that reached 30,000 to 500,000. I opened for some of my favorites artists. I travelled to Mauritius, Croatia, Macedonia, Solomon Islands, Argentina, Spain, Germany, Poland, Italy, United Kingdom, France, Albania, Romania and Russia. I never dreamed my passions could take me to these places but I did and do believe that hard work can take you places you never imagine for yourself.
Albeit I was living my dream during the summer festival circuit that way of life was only seasonal and during the off time I was still working in the service industry. Cipriana had co-created a site that focused on positively highlighting women of color; specifically black women. I joined the site three years into its birth as an executive contributor which allowed me to flex my writing muscles in other ways outside of music. Cipriana and I are also huge fans of vintage shopping and thought that visually we could show women that you don’t have to spend a ton to look great when living on a budget like ourselves. We started to get some amazing feedback and positive traction which were the seeds for budding career in the fashion industry. I never once envisioned I would have a career that involved fashion however when I was able to merge the two, my love of writing about topics of a social or political nature and fashion, it made complete sense. I was able to leave the service industry after ten years and pursue a career that opened many doors in various arenas. Most importantly I was making a living doing what I love and being surrounded by others in Brooklyn who had also found that joy was a huge source of inspiration.
The type of energy I discovered in Brooklyn is unlike any other place I had experienced. My success didn’t happen overnight and I haven’t nearly reached all I hope to accomplish but I understand what it feels like to hustle for your goals. Hustling is striving for what you want to achieve and I continue to strive everyday to proudly contribute to my own hustle story. I appreciate the steps that Uber is taking to support those with their own hustle stories. Uber is helping to facilitate those goals with a structure that allows drivers to work on their terms in way that is conducive to their goals and not counterproductive as many of us have encountered with some lines of work. We all have different wishes, dreams and goals. Our hustle stories may be different but we are the same in our desire to bring those goals to fruition.
You will meet many in Brooklyn who share the same interests that drive their hustle stories such as Uber driver; Brittany “Sunny” Shen. Visit to explore her inspiring and courageous story.
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Visit to watch Spike Lee Joint x Uber Presents: ‘Da Republic of Brooklyn’