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Wednesday Wind Down: Bricklayer

Hi, Sweethearts!

OK, I am still on a high from watching Boss: The Black Experience in Business – a documentary about African-American history in entrepreneurship and business industries. If you haven’t seen it, please do. Definitely a must-see. Here’s a play-by-play of how it all went down in my world. Special Shoutout to Carmen Mays, Founder of Elevators on 4th, and my alma mater UAB for hosting this event and reminding Birmingham of the juggernaut of Black entrepreneurship she was and will continue to be.

boss film uab

BEFORE THE FILM

20190716_175221.jpgI have a confession to make. Networking events are not at the top of my social list. It’s where my introversion leaps out to block my smile and I have to overshadow her by scanning the room for people I know and introducing myself to people I don’t. In all that I do that involves others (blogging, dancing, and massage therapy), solitude is where I am cozy.

So, what did I do? I made my introverted nemesis attend the pre-film reception. I’m also recovering from a knee injury and walking from my car to the event space was the longest distance I had accomplished without using my crutches. Needless to say, I was ready to sit down. While familiar faces wove in and out of their elements, I shared sincere laughs with another great businesswoman in my state and we decided to sit together during the film.

Me – 1
Nemesis – 0

DURING THE FILM

I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. I tried to capture a few notes, but only if the visual stayed the same. As soon as it changed, I looked up fast like a little kid with a bad case of FOMO before bed. Throughout the film, I was infused with strength. It would have been easy to be angry at the injustice, but I was undoubtedly empowered. Fortified. The stories of my ancestral heroes sealed the natural cracks in my entrepreneurial foundation. Some of the stories, I knew and taught my students. Others, I learned for the first time. I sat forward with my hands clasped at times and in other moments I smiled in awe.

What a beautiful rocky road of Black determination, I thought. Seriously. We were given manure and we made it grow – over, and over, and over again. Our money was stolen and we generated more like a prosthetic limb. We pumped the life-blood into ourselves after being left for dead. Agriculture. Banking. Hair. Clothing. We are a force to be reckoned with no matter which decade you decide to slice. I recalled my first time reading Ebony, Jet, Black Enterprise, and Essence as their humble beginnings were told in front of me. To see bursts of Color in a monochromatic printed world was lifechanging. Seeds of cultural self-esteem were planted within me at an early age and watching these gladiators of vision and ingenuity reminded me of their fruits manifested through today’s industry moguls. I sighed and smiled again to see such relentless prowess right before my eyes.

AFTER THE FILM

20190716_195315.jpgI sat up straighter. My back was stronger and my neck held my chin a bit higher. My hearty handclaps might as well have been among a sea of applause at Carnegie-Hall.  I felt so proud. So tall. As an African-American Woman Entrepreneur, I am walking on the bricks of hard labor and I get the immutable opportunity to place my own brick along that historical trail.

Black business owners have proven that skin color should never override intelligence and passion. We are beyond capable of building a present and a future for ourselves and others – nationally and internationally. Regardless of the opposition of ignorance, we continue to showcase dexterity and incredible resilience. Can you imagine the escalating levels of repeated faith it takes to accomplish such feats? I can’t imagine. To create decades of legacies without an Ellis Island is an irrefutable honor that should never be undermined or forgotten. 

Lastly, I also realized that I am exactly where I should be. To be reminded that those pillars of strength began with pennies in their pockets was just the juice I needed keep my energy going. Six months ago, I plunged into full-time entrepreneurship after my school closed, and it has been an exceptional journey. I have no complaints, but people often romanticize the life of owning a business and I couldn’t help but smile to know that my grit was in good company. My scars were in the right place. My tired eyes could still see my ancestors rooting for me. My hands were still capable of facilitating my dreams just like their cotton-picking fingers repeatedly reached for hope. My heart was still able to incubate their fire for economic freedom. My spirit was still synonymous with theirs and my feet could still walk forward on the bricks of their backs — one day, allowing someone to step on mine. Let’s keep building, America.

You don’t have to lose who you are to be successful.
Cathy Hughes, Founder of Radio One –

Peace & Thanks for listening! Keep shining!

boss film pbs

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Pomp & Circumstance

In March of this year, I witnessed a beautiful blend of past and present.

IMAG2424My fraternity brother was inducted into the Birmingham Police Department after graduating from the academy. Be it that he is my little-big brother (he towers over my 5′ 4.75″ frame), I was so proud when he shared the news and invited me to come to the ceremony. I had attended military and law enforcement events before, but unfortunately, most of them were funerals. This time, I was in the audience as a member of his support team and I was honored.

Upon arrival to the designated room, it was clear that this was a family affair. Many people were just as excited as I was to be present for such a special occasion. Even children that may not have understood the magnitude of the moment were all smiles seeing blue police uniforms everywhere. There were sergeants, captains, and city officials waiting to honor the new graduates with their new badges and priceless pearls of wisdom. I found a good seat and waited with expectation for what would happen next. I’m used to attending events by myself, but this time was different. I felt out of place for a minute because I wasn’t with a pack. I didn’t come with a 15-piece cheering section, yet, I cleaned the lens on my camera phone and checked the front and back doors in hopes of getting a good photo on the first try.

Families and friends were buzzing around like paparazzi waiting for celebrities. To us, that’s exactly what they were. They were our heroes and we were excited to see their debut.  A short, petite female officer stood in front of the cadets like she was six-foot-four.

BPD Academy Grads 2017

I was immediately proud and wanted to raise my feminist fist. As she gave orders to stand at attention, recite prolific promises, and march forward, the room absorbed her command as well. Everyone seemed to be at spiritual attention. My fraternity brother marched by and I felt the wind of his maturity and pride. He was seriously motivated to uphold his vow and relieved to finish the first leg of his municipal marathon.

I smiled.

Then, I got emotional.

The tears almost fell from my face when I realized that this was the same police department that tormented his ancestors – with water and other horrible means. The history of what I was watching flooded my soul and a for a brief moment, I was overwhelmed. Dignity arose within me for every freedom fighter, foot soldier, and civil rights leader ever to grace this God-given Earth. I didn’t feel militant. I felt regal. I felt strong. I felt American.

My vision was blurry with teary pride as I watched each officer shake hands with superior officers, some of which were parents initiating their children with a solemn salute. This was the dream so many slaves had when their heads fell upon their pillows made of dirty cotton after surviving lashings they didn’t deserve. When marchers stood in the streets locked arm-in-arm, singing and chanting in the blood thirsty faces of evil, they imagined a mirror image of liberated faces on the other side.

I couldn’t breathe easy for a few minutes. I couldn’t stop smiling for a few more. There was nothing more American than what I was feeling right then – a dream realized and an honor bestowed simultaneously. I blessed them in my spirit and prayed over their lives… that God would keep them alert and ready at every call and even when no one was in need of their service. I prayed for protection and wisdom and for the understanding of their families.

The fact that something so ugly could metamorphosize into this moment made me proud to the recipient of their sacrifices. It was a social spit in the face of centuries of racial injustice.

I was grateful. I was proud. I was filled.

What makes you “feel” American? Moments like these do it for me. 

Peace & Thanks for listening!

kelly-ingram-park-59e7f8e524b9c99b
AP Photo/Butch Dill

Happy Memorial Day?

Good Day, Good People!

I hope your day is going well so far because guess what… it’s a holiday weekend, baby! *insert public jig here*
We’re not out of school yet, but at least I have a class-free Monday thanks to the service men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country. I teach a significant amount of veterans each quarter and yesterday one of them said something that struck a chord within me. 
After class, she expressed her annoyance in that she hates it when people say “Happy Memorial Day” to a veteran. I asked her why although I had an idea of where she was going with the conversation. She explained that the day commemorates the death of fallen soldiers and there should not be a “happy” greeting in front of it because it’s not a happy occasion/holiday. I listened to the rest of her spill and so did a few lingering students waiting to sign the attendance roll. Considering it was a speech class and I encourage them to consider all sides or “voices” on an issue, I took the opportunity to share why someone would put “happy” in front of their memorial day. 
My deceased military family members did not die in combat, but they did serve admirably. They were happy in doing what they loved… serving. Marines, Army, and Air Force run deeply in my family tree. Memorial Day for me is not happy because they aren’t here. It’s a Happy Memorial Day because I make sure to pause and celebrate their happiness. While I wouldn’t dare compare the pain of them being missing from my life to someone who has greeted the casket of their fallen soldier, I’m not sure if I’m completely in favor of removing the “happy” from the holiday. Their ultimate sacrifice was not happy, but their gift of service probably made them happy. Whenever I see military personnel (active, reserve, or veteran), I tell them thank you for serving. No matter what. Each time, I get the same response – “Thank you ma’am, “Thank you for your support,” or “It’s my pleasure.”
Maybe it’s ingrained, but I’d like to think they are doing something that makes them happy… serving others. 
I understand her disdain for people that walk up to a veteran and saying “Happy Memorial Day” with a pasted smile. I sympathized with her past military experience where individuals were not respectful of her fallen comrades. I acknowledged that Monday may not be happy, for she is entitled to feel and commemorate as she deems appropriate.
She is the one with a “V” on her chest, not me. I cannot step into her shoes and say “I know how you feel.”
All I can do is honor my fallen with a circulation of happy memories and allow her to remember hers as she sees fit. She’s earned it.
What do you think? Should we take the “happy” from in front of memorial day? 
Peace & Thanks for listening.
Photo Courtesy of American Soldier by Toby Keith

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