A masterclass in building healthier relationships
The year 2023 has proven to be an amazing year for North Minneapolis resident Phyllis Braxton. The world-renowned Miraval thought leader, diversity equity inclusion specialist, and founder and CEO of Pink Consulting LLC, released her first book in March.
The best-selling “Be Right or Be Effective: A 30-Day Journey to Master Life’s Messes and Overcome Unexpected Challenges,” has been called “thoughtful, compassionate, funny, vulnerable, and brilliant.” She has also been described as filled with “authentic wisdom” that will “inspire you to take action and better your life.”
But Braxton, who has been a force of nature in the self-care space for more than a quarter of a century, is far from done. A second book is due out early this winter. And she continues to make an indelible impact in the lives of others, whether here in the Twin Cities or well beyond, through her consulting, activism, coaching, artistry, and empowerment initiatives including her very own nonprofit wholeSOUL Inc.
So how did the extraordinary Braxton make the journey to where she is today?
“I was so naïve”
Along the Pascagoula River and barely five miles from the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico lies Braxton’s hometown of Moss Point, Mississippi. One of five children raised by Viola and Sammy Braxton, she and her siblings were taught by their parents the importance of education from a very young age.
“My mother had an eighth-grade education. My father only finished the third grade,” explains Braxton, who adds that both parents worked in cotton fields. “They emphasized education and made it a priority that all of us go beyond high school.”
The message clearly got through, as the five children of Viola and Sammy have collectively gone on to earn an associate degree, five bachelor’s degrees, and a total of seven master’s degrees. Braxton herself will soon add a Ph.D. to that tally.
Still, there was one thing that Braxton’s family never discussed. “My parents never talked about race,” she reveals. “They taught us about hard work, the importance of being a good person. But when it came to race relations, they kept us in a bubble. It just didn’t come up.”
It was after graduating from Moss Point High School and matriculating to Atlanta’s Morris Brown College, a historically Black college (HBCU), when Braxton notes she “came into my culture, into my Blackness.”
“There was a march of some sort,” recalls Braxton, “and some of the students were talking about taking it to ‘the Man.’”
“I was so naïve,” Braxton laughs today. “I was like, ‘Who’s the man?’”
Attending an HBCU certainly proved to be the right choice, she says. “It anchored me, grounded me. It expanded my awareness of Black culture. And it taught me just how complex the world was.”
Seeing the world open up before her eyes, Braxton continued to apply herself academically. Her success at Morris Brown caught the attention of recruiters at the University of Minnesota, where she earned her master’s in adult education. As she pursued her doctorate, she also served as an adjunct professor teaching graduate-level courses in her field.
Hurricane Katrina turning point
When Hurricane Katrina made landfall on August 29, 2005, there weren’t many places hit harder than Moss Point, Mississippi. Sustained winds exceeding 125 miles per hour and storm surges of more than 20 feet in many areas destroyed much of Moss Point.
Braxton was devastated. Feeling the need to go back home to help out, she made the decision to walk away from her Ph.D. studies.
In 2006, she founded Pink Consulting LLC, which took off in short order and to date has conducted intercultural and personality assessments, provided professional and personal coaching, and delivered intercultural development services to more than 100 organizations, reaching more than 100,000 individuals.
Whether working with small nonprofit agencies or much larger institutions including Princeton and Stanford, Braxton says that Pink’s programs and services “are always customized to fit the client’s needs and goals.”
And while she continues to serve others through her consulting work, Braxton never forgot the lessons of her parents when it comes to education. A lifelong learner, Braxton has added a second master’s degree, this one in clinical social work from St. Catherine’s University, which accompanies her graduate social work licensure (LGSW).
Braxton is also the first Black thought leader ever certified by the Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona, a global leader in health and wellness. Plus, she never gave up her pursuit of her Ph.D. and is nearing the completion of her doctoral studies in the Leadership for Change program at Fielding Graduate University.
When Braxton’s first book, “Be Right or Be Effective,” hit shelves on March 9 of this year, it debuted at #3 on Amazon’s Best Sellers list of cognitive behavioral therapy books. “The book is designed to meet people where they are,” she says, “to support them in building positive mindsets and enhancing their skillsets.”
Braxton, who admits to her own struggles with anxiety, is concerned about women and girls, and in particular women and girls of color, who have experienced trauma in school and the workplace. “I believe in coaching over counseling and supporting people through a trauma-informed lens.”
The follow-up to her first book is entitled, “Good Intentions, Bad Results: A Practical Guide to Build Intercultural Confidence and Healthier Relationships at Work, Home, and School.” It continues Braxton’s work in the trauma-informed therapy space and is due out later this year.
When talking about the message she is hoping to send with this latest effort, Braxton explains, “I wish for more empathy and grace. Empathy for ourselves so that we can extend it to others. So that we can find ways to grant each other more grace. So that we’re curious as opposed to accusatory. And that we lift one another up to choose life, and abundant life. A purposeful life.”