Category : Life Updates

314 Day Challenge 2018

It’s #PiDay to the world, but to those of us in St. Louis, MO, it’s #314Day. To celebrate, I decided to challenge my friends across the internet to share the 3 places and 14 things they loved most about our city. With Vogue Magazine’s article, “An Insider’s Guide to the Magic of St. Louis,” as inspiration, the challenge included the following levels:

Simple Challenge: Write It Out

  • List 3 places people should know about in STL.
  • Share 1 experience you love most in St. Louis.
  • Tag 4 people who’ve influenced your St. Louis experience.
  • Post your answers using hashtag #314DayChallenge on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.

Bonus: If you use the Stories feature on Instagram and Facebook, use this photo to tag your favorite places and people in the city:

“Show Me” Challenge: Show the world what you love about St. Louis.

  • Film yourself in your home or favorite place in the city and answer the 14 questions below about you and the things you love most in St. Louis.
  • Post the video using hashtag #314DaySTL on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.
  • Tag 3 people to do it too.

Simple rules: Make it awesome. Let’s show the world how much heart and pride the people of our city have.

Level Up Challenge: 3 Places, 14 Questions

  • Film yourself in three (3) places around the city and answer 14 questions about you and the things you love most in St. Louis.
  • Post the video using hashtag #314DayChallenge on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.
  • Tag 3 people to do it too.

14 Questions to Consider

  1. How long have you lived in St. Louis?
  2. What neighborhood do you rep?
  3. How do you feel you contribute to the culture here?
  4. Favorite spot to eat?
  5. Best local artist or band?
  6. One person everyone should know in St. Louis?
  7. Best experience/memory you’ve had while living in STL?
  8. What’s one place that used to exist that you would bring back?
  9. What do you do on the weekend?
  10. If you told someone to “Meet Me in St. Louis,” where would you take them?
  11. Most underrated thing about the city?
  12. What keeps you living here?  
  13. If you could envision one thing to make STL better in the future, what would it be?
  14. Who else do you think people should hear from? (Shout out three people)

Want to add more questions/ideas: Connect with the creator of this challenge, De Nichols, via Facebook message or Twitter (@De_Nichols).


I am overjoyed and grateful for all who participated in this one-day challenge. It was fun to watch the different social media stories throughout the day, and some people actually leveled up and joined me in creating videos. Here are three from YouTube:


Teaching “Design as a Catalyst for Change” at Washington University in St. Louis

In “Design as a Catalyst for Change,”—a course designed and taught by social innovator and designer, De Nichols—students learn and practice skills of community-based social impact design. The focus of this course emphasizes how values of empathy, equity, privilege, relationship building, and justice integrate into the communications design process when working with and within communities. As students identify and select a social cause on which to focus, they develop a series of print and digital works that communicate their chosen issue, pitch proposed design interventions, and visualize a collaborative implementation processes. Learning modules feature weekly readings, direct engagement with national social design practitioners, design charrettes, and on-site learning, allowing students to gain greater depth and perspectives for harnessing design as a catalyst for change.

Dawn of Birthday 29: In Remembrance & Celebration of Life

On this day 9 years ago, I gave a eulogy at the funeral of my best friend (and high school sweetheart), Santez Walker. The next day, June 1, was my 20th birthday.

I remember returning from Memphis back to St. Louis on my birthday–heavy-hearted–and entering my apartment where Erin and other friends had prepared a surprise cookie cake to try to cheer me up.

I still get emotional when I think about those moments. At the time, I thought celebrating my birth and life was unfair when his was unexpectedly and suddenly lost. I didn’t know how to appreciate my friends in the midst of my own jadedness about losing him. But in following years, I learned to honor the creative, daring, and loving spirit of Santez through my birthdays. I committed to making them a little more meaningful, a lot more creative (like him), and as full of love and friendship as possible. And for most of these recent years, I have kept this commitment because of you–my friends.

Thank you all who have celebrated past birthdays with me. You are my tribe, and your presence has meant more to me throughout these years than I have ever admitted.

I look forward to tomorrow, and I’m grateful for the reminder it brings to celebrate life, cherish friendship, and fill our lives with love/gratitude.


DE/tour Mailer 01

Did you know that I’m on a “tour” right now? 

Me neither, but I’ve entered a deep wave of public speaking and travel that lasts now through July, and one of my mentors, Roseann Weiss, proclaimed it as the “The DE(TOUR)” (get it?). She’s pretty wise, so I ran with it.

On this detour from life in St. Louis, I am making stops through Baltimore, Chicago, DC, San Francisco, New Orleans, Houston, and more to engage with creative changemakers across the nation and make magic happen, and now you can come along with me to capture some of the moments through my YouTube vlog channel and Instagram Stories.

Learn more about it at, and
check out moments from the first city (Baltimore!) below:

The Day I Talked about Sticky Notes and Mental Health in Baltimore | DETOUR
The Day We Used Sticky Notes to Talk about Mental Health
I was welcomed back to speak at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and I chose to share about how activism has affected my mental health as a creator.Watch moments from
Designing Civil Rights.
The Day I Got Lost in Baltimore | DETOUR
The Day I Got Lost and Found a Mural Haven
When I travel, I love moments when I get the chance to explore space, culture, and creativity within a city.Check out some of the graffiti
and art murals I stumble upon
in Baltimore

And Over on My Main Channel…

I’m making (semi)weekly videos that take you through the inspiration, stories, and reflections around some of the most popular notes from my project, Sticky Note to Self. Watch the latest video, “See It, Seize It,” and be sure to subscribe for all the upcoming videos, posted on Sundays.

De Nichols Selected as a Kennedy Center Citizen Artists Fellow

De Nichols was selected as one of five fellows for the 2017 John F. Kennedy Center’s Citizen Artists fellows program, which recognizes artists across the country who utilize their art form for positive impact on communities.

“The recognized Citizen Artists Fellows will be mentored by Yo-Yo Ma, Kennedy Center Artistic Advisor at Large, among other Kennedy Center artistic partners. Additionally, they will receive national attention for their impact in their local communities and opportunities to showcase their voice and work on stage, through exhibition, and at national convenings.”

To commence participation as a fellow, De will join thought leaders from the arts and related fields together for the Kennedy Center’s Art Summit to explore how the arts can propel our thinking towards new ideas and actions, including the leaders we look to for guidance and inspiration.

Learn more at

On Speaking: Women’s March

On Monday I re-read Rep. John Lewis’s speech from WashU’s 2016 Commencement. I also read my own words that I’d spoken nights before at WashU’s commencement ceremony for art students.

From his words, I kept courage.

“If you see something that’s not right, not fair, not just, do something about it,” he said. “Say something. Do something. Have the courage. Have the backbone to get in the way.”

From my own words, I was reminded to “start breaking the rules of what you’ve been told.”

I’ve been often told that if I don’t like something, that I should disengage with it. Don’t be in any way connected to it.

But I’m encouraged by Rep. Lewis’s notion that disliking something is sometimes the very reason to show up, the very reason to disrupt and break the rules/paradigms–to get in the way–and fix the issues or replace them with something better.

A lot of people have asked my thoughts on the women’s marches that are happening nationwide and if/why I was asked to speak at the one in St. Louis. One person even expressed, “why you let these white women set you up like that? It’s a trap.” Or why are you giving them your energy? What are you doing this for? Are you selling out?

None of the above.

My reason is not to feign unity–I still don’t personally feel that sentiment embodied in this effort locally or nationally, and I think we should not tell ourselves lies otherwise.

It is not to pacify white women and their or anyone’s post-election guilt (with over half voting for Trump) or their fears/tears, as it is not my role to fix those myriads of issues they must work out amongst themselves.

It is also not to speak on behalf of all WOC (or any other womxn/femme demographics that are constantly forgotten/silenced/sidelined/policed/ignored) and our numerous/complex issues, as I have not been given that authority, and it would be narcissistic to think I could.

My participation is, however, to hold space and be unflinching in addressing the tension and discomfort that circulates between us.

It is also to hold a mirror and a window up to our collective selves and challenge–force us to see–who we might become if we strip internalized egos/traditions/lies/stereotypes/privileges/grudges/biases/entitlement/prejudices/oppression/racism/complacency/supremacy/absentmindedness/fears for the sake of forging a more equitable and just experience for the most marginalized and disregarded of girls, women, and families in this country…and who we become if we do not.

It is indeed to hold the door and usher the possibility of finally actualizing intersectional womxnhood and womanism and not throwing any demographic of womxn/femmes away to fend for herself/themselves in this political mayhem and battle. I personally feel so many of these “marches” cater to non-radical, white, Christian, middle-aged, middle-class, able-bodied, cis-het women, and that irks me because this battle is deeper and more vast and more complex than the needs/concerns/issues expressed by “wealth gap” and “reproductive rights/women’s health” alone.

But like Audre Lorde, I believe in the embodiment of Gamba Adisa (warrior: she who makes her meaning known), and I’m not afraid of working through the tensions and cultural divisions that womxn face. For many, these marches are a starting point and Saturday is a first step. For me and many others, it’s another check point on a long journey, and I think we make a gross mistake of repeating history and its oppressive cycles once more if we don’t forge a different path forward.

So in short, yes, I will be present.
No, I will not march.
Yes, I will speak.

Image via AM Network

To Zim, with Vision

I received an email blast today from Zim Ugochukwu, CEO of Travel Noire, via her regular mailer of stories and life inspiration from her journeys as an entrepreneur. Typically, when I receive these emails, I smile, accept the inspiration it provides, and proceed forward to the next of dozens of emails in my inbox. Today, something different happened. There was a deeper connection I felt to her story and her testimony than ever before, primarily because I find myself at a similar crossroads that she shares. Her story reads:

Hey DeAndrea,

I wanna share a story with you. Right off the heels of giving thanks and spending some much-needed time with loved ones, I’ve been thinking a lot about my journey as an entrepreneur.

The day I became an entrepreneur was completely unexpected. 

It was June 2014, and I was working full time as a producer for a tech conference. I had a sweet schedule — I’d work at my house for two days a week and for the the rest of the week, I’d work at the home of the lead producer of the conference. 

At that point, I had been running Travel Noire for about 9 months. And don’t get me wrong — I loved the job, it just wasn’t where my heart was. 

But let me tell you about the day I was fired.

I was sitting in a coffee shop in downtown San Francisco. I sent a note to my boss early that morning — I wasn’t feeling my best. 

I’ll never forget the moment in that coffee shop when I received this email:

That email came two days before my 26th birthday, over email and two weeks before my summer vacation — talk about soul crushing.

I told myself that at the end of July of that year, I was going to put in my 30 day notice. My plan was to move on and make Travel Noire my full-time gig. 

But I thought that I’d be the first person to shoot my shot and tell my boss I was leaving. I didn’t expect it to happen the other way.

I remember sitting in the coffee shop shocked that I was officially fired. But you know what? It wasn’t the first time an employer let me go.

Before I got the job as a producer, I had four jobs in San Francisco, and I was fired from most of them. And before that? I spent 6 months looking for a job, pretty much begging someone to accept me and give me a chance. 

I’ve been fired from most of the jobs I’ve ever had, for one reason or another. But getting fired from my job as a producer felt like it came too soon. I didn’t feel like I was ready to jump into entrepreneurship. 

But there I was at 25, with this growing thing called Travel Noire — and no full-time staff. 

I had to make a choice. 

I could be uncomfortable, put on my entrepreneurship hat, and try something new. Or I could play it safe and try to find another job to make ends meet. 

As scary as it was, I decided to take the leap into entrepreneurship.

And then something cool happened. I decided to take that vacation I had coming up. I hopped on a plane to Amsterdam and France. 

After 10 days of soul searching, it was time for me to head back to the states and get to work. 

While away, I learned a couple things that have helped me push through the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. 

I realized that you’re never going to be ready for whatever you’re put on this Earth to do. Never. 

And, of course, you always have the option of staying in your comfort zone and living a life that doesn’t inspire you. But is that really living?

Margie Warrell, keynote speaker and bestselling author, says there are four harmful things people do that prevent them from taking risks and accomplishing more than they ever imagined. People:

  1. Overestimate the probability of something going wrong.
  2. Exaggerate the consequences of what might happen when something does go wrong.
  3. Underestimate their ability to handle the consequences of risks.
  4. Discount or deny the cost of inaction and sticking with the status quo.

A lot of people tell me that I’m a risk taker. I tend to take more risks than a lot of my friends and family members because I’ve learned that without risk, there’s no reward. 

But most importantly, I embraced the power in feeling the fear and uncertainty and doing it anyway. 

Nothing is ever as bad as we make it out to be. As long as you consistently put in the work — despite how gruesome, scary, or discouraging the work may be at times — you’ll always be equipped to create the amazing life you dream of having.

DeAndrea, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Go ahead and shoot your shot.


Never had I ever responded to Zim’s emails, but today, I felt compelled to share with her the impact that her story had on my day and heart. In reply, I wrote:

Hey Zim,
Thank you for sharing your story. Right now, I needed it more than ever before. 
This week, I turned in my 2 weeks notice to the plush museum job–my comfort zone for the last 4 years–to which I have been employed. I did it for various reasons (including racial unrest and insensitivity that erupted with its current exhibitions), but moreso in realization that so much growth, accolades, and momentum had been escalating with the work that I was doing outside of my role. 
This year alone, I became the Visionary Award recipient for the city of St. Louis, gave my first commencement speech, and had my work collected into the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture. I’ve toured the nation educating people on the powers of creative changemaking and design thinking, and I have been featured in more conferences and magazines than before. This has all been through the efforts I’ve sparked and led through Civic Creatives, my startup that I began in grad school and had since regarded and moonlighted as pure hobby.
This week, I finally took the risk and leap of faith to pursue Civic Creatives, keynote lecturing, and creative changemaking full time. Not just as a career, but as a deeper commitment to my life’s purpose. I decided to step into my own potential to actualize my dreams with the same diligence, tenacity, and commitment I gave to my job. It already is unfolding to be the best decision I could ever make. 
I want to stay in touch with Travel Noire, its team, and its tools, as I seek to find time/space to retreat, reflect, and refresh as I embark this ambitious transition. Thank you for continuing to share your tools, and if ever my team and I could be of support and inspiration back to you, please do get us involved. 
With vision, forward. 
De Nichols
Right now, our society needs more people connecting and sharing and being vulnerable with each other. More than ever. I am thankful that Zim shared her story, and as my journey continues, I hope to keep paying forward the vision and inspiration I gain from these encounters.