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.
BEFORE THE FILM
I 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
I 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!