Katara McCarty – Exhale
Heartfulness eMagazine|May 2021
Katara McCarty is the source and inspiration for Exhale, a well-being App for Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color. In December 2020, she was interviewed by Mamata Venkat about her life-long journey creating resources for some of the most marginalized people in society, and her approach to spirituality.
By Mamata Venkat

Q: I want to make sure I’m pronouncing your name correctly. It’s [kuh-TAH-ruh]?

Yes! How do I pronounce your name?

Q: [MUH-muh-thuh]

I remember the first days of school when they would come across my name. I would know that I was next because the teachers would pause, look at the list, and dodge it. You can probably totally relate. I remember being little and having to teach my teachers how to say my name. My whole life.

Q: That has been me my whole life. Inevitably someone follows up with, “Can I give you a nickname?” And I always say, “No! Learn how to say my name. It’s not that difficult.”

This has been a very interesting year, a very difficult year for the Black community. How are you doing?

With the pandemic, there was so much uncertainty in the beginning, and being quarantined I lost over half my clientele. I’m a public speaker and all events were halted. I also coach companies and organizations. In a couple of the companies, I was the first thing to be cut, because they were trying to stop the internal bleeding. I felt a lot of anxiety and uncertainty, and then what was happening with COVID in the Black community was really, really stressful.

Q: I know a lot about the last eight or nine months, but over the last few years what has really influenced you now in your career? I would love to hear about the origins.

I spent a lot of my adult life partnering with my husband. We launched a non-profit organization in our small town here in Indiana – after-school programs for some of the most marginalized under-represented, under-served kids in our community. We also built a school in Zambia, Africa. That work, which I did for eighteen years, was about showing up for those who were on the margins of society. Then, I became a certified coach and started my coaching practice and public speaking. While I was getting certified, I was the Director of Culture for one of the largest Verizon Wireless retailers in the nation. After being there for a few years, I then started my own practice. So first it was nonprofit, then the corporate world, and then I started my own practice coaching individuals.

In 2019, people started approaching me to speak on diversity and inclusion, and my message was, “We can’t have true diversity and equity unless we really focus on inclusion.” What does that look like? I have challenged folks not to only check a box with the number of Black and Brown people of color working for them, not to only invite them to the table, but to give them a seat and give them an opportunity to speak and listen to them.

When I looked at my roster, I remember sharing with my husband and my girls, “I feel like I’ve drifted away from my core values.” While I was still delivering a message for people on the margins, I was no longer working with them. I wasn’t in the neighborhood anymore. I wasn’t with the families anymore. And while I was building my practice, it wasn’t really aligning with my values.

So I began sitting with myself and asking: “Wait! How did you get here? This is not where you want to be. You need to pivot some things.” I started thinking of ways to offer my services and my coaching to Black people, Brown people, and then COVID hit and we were quarantined, so I lost all my previous clients anyway. I thought, “Okay. I think the universe has done it in a funky way, not that it was ordained. All my clients are pretty much gone. So what now?” This was an opportunity for me to truly pivot.

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