What comes to mind when you hear the word rich?
For Brittany Packnett Cunnigham, the definition looks very different than most others’. And the award-winning activist says it’s time everyone else shifts how they define it as well.
“Wealth,” Packnett Cunningham begins. “We’re conditioned to think it’s dollars when it’s really personal connection. Others think it’s followers, but deep down we know its purpose. The world chases accolades, but courage resides in those who do not.”
Although she generally tends to stay away from corporate deals, Cunningham Packnett decided a partnership she was presented aligned so perfectly with her belief system, she couldn’t turn it down.
She recently joined forces with Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whisky to produce the #Richest25, “a bold new body of work that challenges the collective idea of what it means to be rich.” The idea came about after the latest Forbes list was released which, while more diverse than it’s been in the past, was still mostly filled with white men.
Data released today even shows us that the wealthiest 10% of Americans own a record 89% of all U.S. stocks highlighting the stock market’s role in increasing wealth inequality.
The first collaboration of its kind for the brand, Glenfiddich recognized this disparity and couldn’t have chosen a better person to help reshape the concept of what it means to truly be rich. Cited by President Barack Obama as a leader whose “voice is going to be making a difference for years to come, Cunningham Packnett helped hand-select 20 individuals from across the United States who broaden the definition of wealth by reimagining its true meaning.
The list was also inspired by a landmark study that suggests that American society’s definition of professional success devalues what truly matters most to them such as relationships, community and well-being.
Some of the honorees include Kimi Werner, an ambassador of the ocean, George M. Johnson, an award-winning writer, and queer rights activist, and Vanessa Garrison, women’s health advocate and COO of Girl Trek.
Essence recently sat down with Packnett Cunnigham to hear more about the Rich List, why it’s so important and how we can all more be wealthy, starting right now.
Brittany, you’ve mentioned that you haven’t done many activations like this before. What about this opportunity with Glenfiddich changed your mind?
We’ve all been pushed to redefine what we think rich means over the pandemic and this opportunity really crystalizes that evolution of thought many of us have made.
That has been measured in time, the breaths we take, and how we treat each other. With this initiative, we’re spotlighting those who don’t often get a lot of attention and that is what my work is all about.
As an activist, do you ever find the line that separates service and self-service blurring a bit? How do you reconcile that when people seem to be more wealth-obsessed than ever?
Great question. I’ve always made my work about centering the right types of conversations, so when Glenfiddich approached me with this opportunity, I was honored to take it on.
The question “what does rich mean to you” is so important because many of us are not included in those conversations according to the standards that have already been set. If we can expand wealth to include whether we’re checking in our neighbor or taking care of this planet that takes care of us, we’re moving toward being a better race of people.
There’s a quote that I love by Ava Duvernay: “If you’ve created a life where only yours have changed, then your dreams are too small.”
I dream of building new tables, not just being invited to one. That’s real wealth.