Posted by Brianna Kilcullen on

Today is one of my hero's birthdays, Anne Frank. A fellow Gemini who captured my heart since I was 8 years old and first learned about the Holocaust in my 4th grade class in Verona, Wisconsin. Anne's story resonated with me so much that I somehow snuck a copy of Schindler's List out from the library and waited until my parents were out of the house one day to watch it by myself. That was a turning point in how I looked at the world. 

I always knew people were having different experiences than my own due to my Dad's job (he was a college basketball coach). When they weren't playing ball, my mom usually had my dad's players over to our house to either babysit us for extra money or for a home cooked meal. Most of these young men playing basketball (majority were on scholarship) came from all walks of life. Tough upbringings that my Dad would share with us when he talked about recruiting. 

But it wasn't until I met Anne one fateful day in 1998 via book that I really connected with someone (my own age too!) who was writing such poetry in one of the most difficult experiences that a human could go through. That's when I felt a fire ignite within myself. A fire that has led me to South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, Poland, Cambodia, and finally - Anact so that I could understand humanity. I actually thought about NOT sharing this worrying it might be too "deep" but then I thought - I don't want to hide pieces of my own human experience and moments that have sculpted my life anymore.


I tried to visit the Annex when I was in Amsterdam in 2016 but it was closed the day that I was there so I took a photo instead and vowed to go back. I've tried to hide this piece of myself that wants to break down and cry each time I see humans treat one another poorly but I don't believe it's what I was called to do. So if you're reading this, this is meant for you to know and hear. I'd rather spend my Saturday night paying homage to extraordinary beings like Anne than be drinking booze to numb out from the reality of the human condition. I'd rather be watching documentaries learning about what others have gone through so I can be better at holding space for the pain they carry. I'd rather put all of my energy towards understanding what is my responsibility to give back to humanity while I'm on this planet then have one more conversation that is created by the culture. 

I don't know why I am this way (my family wonders too) but it is what it is - God makes no mistakes. When I don't share what is in my heart then that's when I feel disconnected from who I am and from others and that feels AWFUL. And with that, I leave you with two of my all-time favorite Anne quotes. Here's to you Anne. May I show the same courage in life that you showed through your incredibly short lived life. May we all.


"I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart." - Anne Frank


"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." - Anne Frank 

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Downtown Jacksonville

Posted by Brianna Kilcullen on

I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida but more specifically Atlantic Beach. Atlantic Beach is a cozy nook with a small town charm; however, I did not go to school where I grew up. Instead, I went to school downtown. My 11-year-old self still remembers hopping on the non-air-conditioned bus during those sticky, humid Floridian mornings and the goodbye waves to my dad as I sat on the brown peeling leather seats that my legs immediately stuck to as we pulled out of Fletcher Middle School’s parking lot en route to James Weldon Johnson Middle School. I always knew we were close to school when I smelled the coffee grounds while traveling over the Mathews Bridge. 

Going to school downtown while living at the beach was an experience I am forever grateful for because it shed light onto the intense racial inequality that exists within my city. It opened my eyes on a daily basis. Who would have thought that almost twenty years later I would be living less than a mile from my old middle school in Jacksonville’s downtown? Unfortunately, my time downtown did not last long. Here’s why.

Our downtown has a serious issue of people who are physically and mentally hurting arriving at the GreyHound Bus Station. People arrive from all over the country where passengers disembark without anyplace to go. If you have ever been to LA and seen Skid Row, you would feel like we are not too far off from that after a drive through LaVilla. What breaks my heart is that we accept this as normal. I am here to tell you - it is not. 

Sometimes in the morning when I was living downtown, I would get up and go for a run down the streets around the new courthouse and Jenkins BBQ (my favorite), by the Clara White Mission House and the old houses that look like they were built in the 1800s, through FSCJ’s campus to the outskirts of Springfield past the Cathedral to the Jaguar stadium and WJCT’s station and loop back to Bay Street and up Laura before ending at the Barnett Building. To switch it up every once in a while, I would run along the river to Riverside and back again. On these runs, I witnessed some things that I could no’t believe with my own eyes.

I share this with you because Americans have a habit of looking down on other countries and other people without realizing that our backyard is not very clean itself and many people in our local communities are suffering and in need of one another. Here are some of the things that I witnessed: 

  • I witnessed a man just released from the hospital with soiled scrubs walk barefoot like a zombie through downtown for several days on end. 
  • I witnessed another man carrying a machete style knife as he slept outside of my building. One of his lungs had collapsed and he would scream out to anyone who passed for some type of human connection. He still roams downtown trying to connect with others to this day. People refer to him as the beatbox man. 
  • I witnessed a woman singing to herself on the corner for hours, her face sunburnt from the hot Florida sun. She went missing last year and I have not seen her since. I will never forget meeting the Barnett Building cleaning crew who shared with me that one time this woman had fallen and they helped pick her up. When they did, the woman told them she had not been acknowledged or touched in years, and she was so grateful for their kindness. That made me cry. 
  • I witnessed another woman who would sprawl out in the gutter with all her belongings beg for cigarettes on the weekends. 
  • I witnessed a man crippled by drug use standing outside of Jimmy John’s begging for money every single day. 
  • I witnessed a man named Elijah physically attack men if he felt like they were threatening any women(whether they were or not). 
  • One night I looked outside after I heard screaming and saw several drug dealers pull out a gun on a couple who claimed they had ripped them off. The look on the couple’s faces when they saw a gun pointed at their faces is something I will never forget. 
  • At night, I heard the screams and fighting throughout the streets. One of my neighbors told me as soon as the sun goes down everything changes. All I knew was that once I was inside for the night, I was not going back out there until daybreak. 
  • I woke up one morning to find my car broken into and I often witnessed others have their cars burglarized. 
  • I learned to always have my doors locked and to do rolling stops. I actually learned this in Baltimore but felt like I applied it more often in my hometown than I did anywhere else I have ever lived. 
  • I learned to avoid the intersection where 7-11 is located because heaven only knows what could and was going down there. One time my mom was driving early in the morning and while parked at this intersection, she had a woman come up with just her underwear on and try to open her car door. 
  • I made mental notes of who hung around the Riverwalk when I went for runs and which areas had blind spots so no one would see me run one way and surprise me on the way back. 
  • I saw a family packing up their car in the morning who had just slept in the same car the night before. They were hustling to get up and get out before the relentless downtown parking police ticketed them. 
  • I saw the morning crew starting to line up outside of the library ready to open at ten am so they could hang there for the day. 

I share this with you because I believe that we should be leading with our hearts more than ever. We should not be turning away from that which breaks our hearts but turning toward. Because from the bottom of my heart, I do not believe that anyone or anything is a lost cause. Jesus showed us that redemption is possible for all of us on this planet. 

One morning, I visited my friend Nathan at the amazing community garden he built in Springfield. I was sharing with him what I was experiencing and he mentioned a book he was reading about testing conducted on hamsters. The testing concluded that when hamsters are isolated, they lean on any type of drug for connection but when they are together and can be connected to one another, they do not need any drug.

That really resonated with me because it made me think that maybe that is what is going on in downtown Jacksonville. A lot of people who do not feel seen, heard or like there is a future for them so it becomes an apocalyptic stomping grounds for the mentally ill with no reprieve in sight. They are an eyesore for the politicians of Jacksonville and a heartbreaker for the empathic ones. I feel called to say something not only because it makes my heart break but because of my own belief system. I used to think that my greatest accolades in life would be based on what I did and accomplished. Now, I believe it is based on how I made others feel and how I am able to offer my skill set to let someone else know they are not alone while giving a voice to those who do not have one.

As for a way forward, I realized that I would not be able to help others without helping myself which is why I had to remove myself from living downtown full-time to calm my own nervous system and feel safe to move about without fear of being watched, tracked or harmed. I do not believe that anyone would have hurt me intentionally downtown but unfortunately, I do not trust people who are taking drugs to not hurt me and I do not feel physically or mentally strong enough to protect myself. 

That is why I chose to continue to build Anact and partner with others who see the same things I see and have the bandwidth and the ability to do something about it. I am attracted to anyone who believes in shedding light on those who don’t have a voice in our local and global community. I’m researching and reading up on the use of psychedelics (in controlled environments) to help those dealing with their own neuroses to face their trauma, quiet the ego and release it so they can get to the root cause of the wounding. 

My hat goes off to downtown warriors such as Folio, Wolf & Cub, Bellwether, Sulzbacher and more who have either carved out spaces to run businesses in these areas or are directly helping those in need. Y’all are the realest. 

In light of surviving year one of a pandemic, I pray that our community will continue to have more compassion for one another and to honor each other’s human experiences regardless of what we have gone through, what we are suffering from (because we all suffer), how much money we make, what we have done in the past, whether we live in a home or not, or what we have to “offer” in this world. 

I pray for the people listed above as well as for everyone in my life and on this planet everyday. I hope that in sharing my experience living downtown from what I witnessed and continue to witness brought you on that journey with me and inspired you to take action in some way. Because if not you, then who? 

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Posted by Brianna Kilcullen on

Staten Island Bridge

One of the most beautiful experiences I have had in my life to date came from one of the most unexpected places: the Staten Island Bridge. In 2019, myself and a slew of my family members banded together to run the NYC marathon in honor of my Aunt Regina who has lupus. She is currently in the hospital so please keep her in your prayers. 🦋

We were in the last wave and for most of us it was our first marathon. There was an option to leave your belongings with UPS who would drive it to the finish line in Central Park. As my protein bar jumbled around in my stomach and I wished I had gone to the bathroom at least one more time, the alarm went off for us to begin and like a slow moving caterpillar we began. 

Several minutes into running, I looked to my right and a UPS driver and I made eye contact and he took his hand and slammed it down on the horn and I kid you not, I thought I was in a scene out of 300 or Gladiator. The rest of the UPS drivers followed suit and in my mind the UPS trucks and driver transformed into elephants covered in steel armor and myself and the runners became foot soldiers all united as one force.

And not a force against other people but a force against the voice(s) that live in our head that tell us we can't do it and that we aren't good enough. Next thing I knew, I was balling on the Staten Island Bridge. I was crying at finally finding this feeling and experience in the most unlikely place (cue Rhianna) and never wanting it to end completely forgetting that I had 26+miles ahead of me and the voice(s) in my head. 

I've always been calling extremely sensitive (it wasn't until recently that I found out that means high emotional intelligence). I seek to find common ground - the pieces that bind us rather than separate us. (I had several experiences in my childhood that sculpted me this way and have made me ultra attune.) That's why finding this collective feeling and momentum made me a runner for life but also made me realize that anything was possible. If I could bottle up that feeling and energy and spritz it whenever I see people being unkind - I would. 

Angela Davis

I share this with you because after my best friend gave me a play by play of Reddit's virtual army that came to life this past month, which was inspired by Gamestop - I got that same feeling I did in 2019. This feeling of people coming against the bullshit that permeates throughout our culture and society. The decision to unite as one and take action. It is one of the top reasons I created Anact. To create a movement of individuals who are like ENOUGH and take action whether it's picking up trash on the street or trading through the evening to redistribute the wealth and not letting a small group of individuals determine who survives and who dies. 

I am here for it.

Sad truth of shareholders

One of my hopes for Anact is to create an Anact "army" as well as an Activist hub (think Tom's in Venice Beach, CA if you've been there) that lets the inner activist breathe and take action on what we hold near and dear to our heart. A safe space to connect with one another and be seen for who we are and not what we are expected to be or society labels us. To fight for the world we want to see and never stop fighting. I'll leave you with this piece that I recently read that captures the essence of what drives me and what I believe should drive all of us:

Mirabai Starr writes about our relationship and responsibility to the maternal energy of the universe in this way:  

She is your Mother the Earth, and you belong to her. She nurtured you in her dark belly, birthed you in joy, and sustains you at great cost to herself. You have slept in her forests, beneath the safety of her canopy. You have cupped her snowmelt in your hands. You have investigated the life hidden beneath the surface of her deserts, skied her alpine slopes, and biked her slickrock canyons. You have reveled in her generosity and been grateful.

She has never asked much of you in return. Up until now, your gratitude has been enough. Your delight has been her reward. Up until now, she has not needed you as you have needed her. But that is shifting. . . .  

“Tell me what is troubling you, Mama,” you whisper, exactly as she always spoke to you when you were small and frightened and bleeding from some injury (real or imagined).

“Pretty much everything, honey,” she answers. . . . “I’ll get through this,” she says. “You’re not getting rid of your old Ma so easily.” She reaches down to smooth the crease between your brows. “It’s you kids I’m worried about.” [2]

Because we have been steeped in patriarchy, we may resist the idea of a “maternal” universe, yet the pattern it reveals—that all life is birthed, held, and nurtured within this cosmos—is undoubtedly true. A cosmic egg, tended, hatched, and nurtured over time is a much better image of all growth than any transactional notion of being saved.

 Let's act up.

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Posted by Brianna Kilcullen on

As we prepare to close out 2020, we remain cognizant of all those we have lost and the systemic racism that is interlaced within our legislation system and our culture in the United States. 

At Anact, we believe that all people are equal and deserving of a good life. We have seen firsthand the negative impact of the textile industry on farmers, garment workers and the planet, which is why we created sustainable towels and bags made out of hemp and organic cotton that are better for them and for you. 

But we didn't want to stop there. We are also aware there is oppression and inequality all around us, which is why we wanted to create a brand and movement focused around activism so that each time you use our products you're reminded there is a community of people out there that believe in being mindful of one another's experiences and strive to treat others the way they would want to be treated. 

That's why we continue to stand behind the Black Lives Matter movement and behind victims such as Breonna Taylor. We realize that we all struggle from things we might not speak of but we hope that you will feel inspired to speak and act on behalf of those struggles that we do see in front of us. 

All the best,
Founder & CEO, Anact


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