Seanne N. Murray, Esq. is an activist, advocate, social entrepreneur, and founder of STOP STUFF™, an action oriented apparel and entertainment enterprise.
A passionate and pioneering executive in a number of fields, Murray is committed to discovering and introducing innovative solutions for change and progress. She considers it her divine duty and unequivocal obligation to help others reach their highest potential and make this world a better place for all.
N’Digo recently sat down with Murray to discuss STOP STUFF™, her specific interest in some of the issues plaguing Chicago, and some of her history making family members.
Tell us a little about your professional background and career beginnings?
My background is business: finance and law. I took the NJ and PA bars, practiced for a short while in Philadelphia and then ran a non-profit housing development company for the late football great Reggie White. I did institutional sales of convertible bonds on Wall Street for several years, was SVP of business development and strategic initiatives for a healthcare IT company that owns the global rights to the .md domain, had my own medical education company for several years, and finally managed a $50 million portfolio of music IP for the likes of Smokey Robinson, Rick James, Norman Whitfield, and others.
Can you tell us a bit about some of the history-making members of your family?
My triple great grandfather, William H. Davis, taught Booker T. Washington his ABC’s and was the Principal of Black schools in Charleston, West VA for 24 years. Almost every black person educated in the Charleston area at the time came into contact with him. He was buried in his Union army uniform in 1938. My grandmother, Roslyn Murray, while not famous, created the Michigan Institute for Child Development in the 70s, educating countless children in Detroit from 1st through 12th grade on 6 campuses. Her sister, my great aunt Raynoma Gordy Singleton co-founded Motown with Berry Gordy, taught Smokey Robinson musical theory, signed Stevie Wonder to the label, and also created the publishing arm of the company.
What is the Stop Stuff brand and what are the different branches which it entails?
Stop Stuff, the social enterprise, is an action oriented, socially conscious apparel, technology and media enterprise. 15% of apparel sales goes to non-profits successfully stopping stuff we all agree we need to stop. Our goal is to contribute half a million dollars to U.S. non-profits over the next 12 months. Stop Stuff is about wearing a brand that represents what you stand for and a movement for change. I started with a focus on gun violence, for obvious reasons, and now include stopping things like homelessness, hunger, child abuse, human trafficking, etc. Beyond apparel, we do live programs, we’re developing an app geared toward empowering millennials to impact policy, and we’re developing our first film and cartoon. Our core focus is P.E.O.P.L.E.: peace, education, opportunity, leadership and economic empowerment.
Our Stop Stuff, Each One, Teach One, Uplift One tour is specifically about empowering millennials to be themselves and change the world. I believe everything starts with self-actualization. Hence, our motto, “Be Yourself. Change the World”. The most important thing people can do right now is to go to stopstuff.com and buy a hat. Buying the hat makes a difference in terms of putting money where we need it and making an overall statement of what you believe by what you wear.
The Stop Stuff Institute, is a non-profit geared toward creating 1 million leaders, activists and social entrepreneurs to develop innovative solutions to world problems. It’s an incubator for leaders. We provide guidance, resources and education to millennials with a focus on creating leaders who can develop innovative solutions to social issues.
How did the idea come about to start the SS brand?
I met Jerry Levin, former CEO of Time Warner, who’s son Jonathan was shot and killed in NYC while he was a teacher. The story struck me so deeply that I made a personal commitment to do something to stop gun violence. On a more personal note, I’m a 9/11 survivor. The second plane flew right over my head. An experience like that changes you. I know what if feels like to experience extreme trauma, to fight against death while watching others die around you. I also know that the great love we shared in NYC in the aftermath of 9/11 is what gave us the strength to survive, thrive and rebuild the city. That knowledge drives me every single day because I know, for sure, that we can change the world.
How did you come to take a big interest in some of the problems happening specifically in Chicago?
Chicago is unfortunately the seat of gun violence. It’s important to me to do what I can to help my people. The history of Chicago is so deep. From being founded by a black man, to being the place of horrifying violence by whites in 1919 who wanted their jobs back, killing over 30 black people during a 7 day stretch of mob murders that left 1000 black families homeless after their houses were burned to the ground. And now, young black men, who gathered in 1919 to protect themselves and their families, are killing each other, without recognizing the amazing legacy they come from and represent. I absolutely adore Chicago and the people of Chicago. We recently applied for a two million dollar grant that Chance the Rapper helped to promote for Chicago Beyond through The Stop Stuff Institute. The end result will be leaders from Chicago with business, marketing and networking skills, funded start-up companies and innovative policy movements to take Chicago and the U.S. forward. We’re gonna get right!
What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
I don’t know if I have any surprises or secrets. I’m an open book and have published much of my story and thinking. I’m easy to get to know via social media because I’m so transparent.
With all the things on your plate, how do you balance it all?
Balance, what’s balance? LOL! There’s really no need to balance when you absolutely love what you do. This is my calling, my true vocation, and it’s what I happily live and breathe. After the Alston Sterling shooting in July of 2016, I went ghost on everything and put 100% of my resources and time into Stop Stuff because nothing matters more to me than making a difference, saving lives, changing the world and empowering others to do the same.
Who would you cast to play you in the movie on your life?
I love this question because it’s one I’ve never thought of once. What a great vision! I’d say Zoe Kravitz for the younger me and her mother, Lisa Bonet, who everyone thought I looked like in college, for the older me.
Do you have a favorite book that you highly recommend?
Interestingly, I’d recommend first going to college and a grad school of some kind first. Beyond that, I’d recommend a wide variety of books that evoke openness and non-judgment about self and others. That will be different from everyone. I have an amazingly eclectic collection of books from the Bible to the Quran to African Religions and Philosophies, The Isis Papers, Anais Nin, etc., etc. I love to read and receive inspiration. My all-time favorite book is “The Great Gatsby”. A business woman, and I have all books about her, whom I admire is Coco Chanel. She was a ground breaking innovator unafraid of and successful at literally changing the industry of women’s fashion and design. I also highly recommend, “Before the Mayflower”, a book about Black history that should be taught to and read by students of all races.
Best advice to those aspiring to create and affect change?
My advice is to first focus on you. Be sure that you truly love and understand yourself. If you’re Black, go to an HBCU if you’re college bound, study your history, understand the greatness and excellence from which you are derived. Once you are fully self-actualized, you can step into your destiny, which is to impact the world in a positive way. Go with what you are most passionate about, that thing, that desire, that lights you up and gives you the greatest joy. For those who are ready to or desire to change the world, focus on that which is actionable. Don’t copy, innovate!
Any favorite affirmations or quotes you swear by?
I have a few favorite quotes.
“In one soul, in your soul, there are resources for the world.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“We cannot rise higher than our weakest brother.” – Mary Jones Parrish, a survivor of the Black Wall Street massacre of 1921
“Stay stripped down on the come up.” – Seanne N. Murray
What’s next for you and the Stop Stuff brand?
There’s so much coming up for Stop Stuff. Most notable is we’re setting up for our first tour. Hopefully Chicago will be our first stop. Speaking of Chicago, we are now an official NEW ERA approved brand and I have to thank Leaders 1354 at 1152 W. Madison for working with me and helping to make that happen. Also, look out for Stop Stuff franchises around the country focusing on alleviating problems to specific areas. I’m really proud of the social enterprise of Stop Stuff because it is sustainable and scalable. That’s what we need to create tangible and long term change in our country.