A Conversation with Sally Rumble, Creative Activist + Community Builder

“I’m 110 percent guided by my heart, which gives me the energy to show up, a lot. I’m not a wiz at time management by any means, I just go where my gut tells me to be.”
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When job titles begin with C and end with O, a smile is not what you’d expect to find in between, but for the past five years, Sally Rumble has not been your average executive. As Chief Happiness Officer at CreativeMornings, the 41-year-old spent her days connecting “big-hearted humans” and sparking imaginations all around the world.

Found in more than 180 chapter cities, CreativeMornings is a modern-day breakfast club that aims to bring together creatives by hosting inspiring — and free — monthly lectures. With such a committed focus on nurturing positivity in local communities, it’s no surprise that just this past month, Rumble decided to follow her heart and step back from her role as CHO in order to pursue her life’s passion, social justice.

“I already do a lot of work in the space, and it’s time to take a leap,” she explained. “I’m still not sure where all the balls I have in the air will land, but I’m putting my trust in the universe and hoping one of them will land in the right place. Whether social justice ends up being a full-time gig in the traditional sense or not, it has been in my heart 24/7 for the last ten years, and I’ve set the intention.”

The Fold was thrilled to connect with the native Australian in the midst of this wonderful transition and find out what taking this kind of leap feels like when you’re smack dab in the middle of it.

We’re so excited for you! Tell us all about this bold and brave new adventure you’re embarking upon.

I’m taking some time after I finish up at CreativeMornings to reflect, explore and make a decision that’s right for me. There’s potential for some side projects to get more of my time and energy, too. I really enjoyed producing the The We Love You Project back in 2016, and I’m excited to see where our partnership goes with My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, an initiative of the Obama Foundation. Hopefully it affords us the resources to take the Project to more cities this year.

Also, I’d like to focus more on The Wake Up newsletter I started last year, asking white folks to remove their blinders and have daring discussions about race in America. I provide tools, actions, events and tips in every newsletter.

Creative activism is my jam, which brings me to the Resistance Revival Chorus, a collective of sixty women. I’m very much looking forward to having more time and energy to sing at more performances. It is the perfect combination of two of my favorite things, activism and singing.

For many years you’ve been an active, and very inspiring, volunteer, for organizations ranging from the Justice League of NYC to Children of Promise. What compelled you to spend your free time helping others? What would you say to someone considering dipping their toes into the volunteering pool?

It’s the human thing to do, and I do it because we’re all connected. Your liberation is directly connected to mine, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual identity, or physical/mental ability. To be aware of suffering, injustice and oppression and not do anything makes one complicit.

Everyone has something to offer activism. Can you play the guitar? Sign up to teach lessons to kids from underserved neighborhoods, [giving them] opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise get. Whatever access you have to resources, knowledge, skills, money – pay it forward. Just start.

How will you be able to apply what you’ve learned at CreativeMornings to your work with social justice?

I’ve found myself in a fortunate position where I suddenly know a lot about how to build, scale, engage and sustain globally-distributed chapter communities. There was a time when I recall being asked about it weekly from entrepreneurs, friends, other volunteer-led organizations, you name it. This prompted me to design a one-day workshop that I may end applying to a new space in the future.

Can you talk a little bit about why you think CreativeMorning’s mission is so important?

Because the more we stare at screens, the more disconnected we become. What we hear the most from potential hosts is that they need and want CreativeMornings in their city to bring folks out of their silos. Having people from all walks of life and disciplines gather and connect under one roof, monthly and locally, is our secret sauce. I believe it’s a response to the importance of real-life, real-time community building and face-to-face connection in this digital age.

Do you have a favorite past breakfast lecture? Why?

It’s hard to narrow it down to just one. My favorite talk from our online archive is Vanessa German from CreativeMornings Pittsburgh. My favorite in-person event is a tie between Casey Gerald at Brooklyn Museum and Paola Mendoza at the New School.

The storytelling and vulnerability in these talks are killer. They leave the viewer with status quo-shifting actions to take, too. I worked hard at providing a stage for people of color at CreativeMornings, so my ego takes personal delight [in that], too.

What are some Sally Rumble secrets to finding happiness in life and within oneself?

For the last decade, I’ve been saying that happiness comes down to 50 percent loving and being loved, and 50 percent being productive. Whenever I’m serving others, creating and receiving love, I’m happy.

You’re also an industrial designer. Can you talk a little bit about exactly what that is and why you enjoy it?

Industrial design is the practice of designing consumer products – anything from a toothbrush to a car. I don’t practice anymore, but I had a career as an industrial designer for 13 years. It was an exciting time for me, because I was working everyday designing products that never existed before, improving on existing products or breaking the mold entirely.

Good designers focus on their end users’ needs, something I learned how to do very early in my career. I’ve carried this imperative part of the creative process with me, and it helped inform me on how to build community with CreativeMornings’ hosts and volunteers in mind.

How do you find time for all of the different hats you wear? What are some essentials to effective time management? 

I’m 110 percent guided by my heart, which gives me the energy to show up, a lot. I’m not a wiz at time management by any means; I just go where my gut tells me to be. That said, I can’t be everywhere, and I bake in downtime and [use] self-care to keep me going. Also, I don’t have kids, which lends me the extra time to be out there. I work with activists who do, [and who have] grandchildren too; they are the heroines of our time.

What does a day off look like for you?

Lots of [time on the] couch...and petting my cat, Delilah. She’s the ultimate healer.

What do you love most about living in New York, and what do you miss most about Australia?

The diversity and the opportunity. You can be anyone in New York, and you can reinvent yourself, too — you’re almost expected to — and, for a creative, that’s everything. But what I miss about Australia is having space, the beautiful beaches and the smell of eucalyptus in the air. Also, Australians don’t take themselves too seriously and are self-deprecating in a humorous way. I miss that.

What’s the most surprising thing to ever happen to you?

Landing a three-month internship in a top New York industrial design agency, coming all the way from a tiny unknown university in a little-known city on the other side of the planet, and now answering this question from New York City, almost 18 years later.    

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