There Is Always Another Side!

HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) are important to me for many reasons. Situated in the heart of the Black community in my hometown is Bethune Cookman University. mcbGrowing up as a child, I was constantly reminded that the late Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune founded the college with $1.50, five little girls, and faith in God. So much of my early exposure to college life was through my participation in events on BCU’s campus. Through my involvement in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, I grew spiritually. A part of that growth took place during YPD (Young People Department’s) trips to Edward Waters College, an HBCU, located in Jacksonville, Florida. I looked forward to my trips to Edward Waters and getting a chance to meet with young people from all around the state of Florida. In fact, it was through these meetings that I learned about the other HBCUs that were owned by the AME church, to include the oldest privately owned HBCU, Wilberforce University. hu Through that exposure, I recognized the benefits of having a network of higher education institutions. When I think about my professional accomplishments, I cannot think about them without reflecting on the place that most significantly impacted my personal and professional growth, Hampton University. It is my “home by the sea, where I made lifelong friends, developed an appreciation for a standard of excellence, and was equipped with an education for life.

 

So recently, when I saw an article that referenced a quote by the Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, it immediately caught my attention. The following reflects her statement.

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have done this since their founding. They started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education. They show that the systems wasn’t working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution. HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. This success has shown that more options help students flourish.” (Betsy Devos)

Immediately, there were reactions to the statement, many of which emphasized how Secretary Devos got it all wrong. Below is an example of one such response.

“But HBCUs were not created because the 4 million newly freed blacks were unhappy with the choices they had. They were created because they had no choices at all. That is not just a very important distinction, it is profoundly important. Why? Because, if one does not understand the crippling and extended horrors of slavery, then how can one really understand the subsequent history and struggle of African Americans, or the current necessities and imperatives that grow out of that history and struggle?” (John Wilson, Jr., Morehouse President and former Executive Director, White House HBCU Initiatives)

Dr. Wilson makes a valid point which presents the other side of the story. Indeed, it is profoundly important for everyone to have clarity about “what” precipitated the creation of our HBCUs. elephant The lack of acknowledgement of slavery and its impact on African Americans by many continues to be the “elephant in the room” that prevents our country from making the best decisions for all of its people. Now to the other side, there is also another profoundly important message. Because African Americans did not have equal access to education institutions, our ancestors didn’t just focus on convincing others to allow us access to their institutions; some took it upon themselves to focus on access by creating their own institutions. bcuThat choice made it possible for many African Americans to have access to education, lead a better quality of life, and make an impact upon the world. I am reminded of that solution every time I drive by Bethune Cookman University and see it today, now sprawling across 85 acres and providing access to over 3500 students. I am reminded of that choice every time I tell someone of my professional growth that started at Hampton University which afforded me the opportunity to become the first African American to receive a doctor of philosophy degree in speech-language pathology from Memphis University.

There are two sides to the story. Let’s hold people accountable for having an accurate understanding of the root causes of our problems AND let’s all utilize the intellect and resources we each have to create solutions. I learned from a former boss, “you control what you own.”  Regardless of the story, there is always two sides. According to Lonnie Keene, each side is shaped by the individual’s perspective, exposure, and time frame of reference.

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My Dad Loved All Year Long

While February brings attention to showing our love because of Valentine’s Day, I was blessed to have a Dad who demonstrated what it means to love all year long. In fact, he set the example of the behaviors that I looked for when I began dating. There wasn’t ever a time that I did not feel my mother and I were not loved by my Dad.

Gladiolus variety groupMy mother loved flowers. In fact, she planted and nourished her flower garden daily. Every Friday, my Dad brought a beautiful arrangement of my mother’s favorite flowers home. She and I would play a guessing game to see who would pick the floral arrangement of the week. Rarely were we right and that was the way my Dad liked it- surprising us and watching our eyes light up when he arrived home.

cakeMy Dad made every holiday special, not just Valentine’s Day. The year always started with a chocolate cake for my birthday. On Valentine’s  day, I received conversational hearts, red hots, and a box of chocolates. At Easter, it was jelly beans, colored eggs, and an Easter bunny. For the fourth of July, we lit up sparklers together in the backyard. He made candied apples for Halloween and together on Christmas eve, we prepared cookies and milk for Santa.

 

As soon as I became a teenager, I was ready to learn how to drive. On Sunday afternoons, I could hardly wait for my Dad to pull into the driveway so that he could take me out for my driving lesson. In fact I would be standing out front, poised and ready to jump in the car as soon as he drove up.dadcar He always greeted me with a smile and motioned for me to hop in and away we went. Never once did he tell me he was too tired or how busy his day had been; rather, he immediately directed his attention me and asked about my day. Of course, before turning the wheel over to me, I could expect that there would be a question about the last lesson. For my Dad, it was about the rules and responsibility. If I passed my driver’s test, he promised to let me drive his car to school. My mother warned him not to make that the incentive, but he did anyway. And when I passed my test on my first attempt, I couldn’t wait to tell my Dad and see his reaction when he had to give me the car keys. Without hesitation, he congratulated me on my accomplishment and handed over the keys. But that too was my Dad, a man who kept his word.

Every summer, my Dad planned our family vacation. He wanted us to have fun and enjoy different experiences. My cousin, who was like my sister, always went with us. Sometimes, we traveled to other parts of Florida, while other times we went as far north as New York to visit my Dad’s best friend who I called Uncle Oscar. When the World’s Fair came to New York, Uncle Oscar invited us to visit. At the time of the Fair, my Mother and Dad had a previous commitment and were unable to go. He thought this was a once in a life time opportunity and suggested to my mom that my cousin and I should go anyway. My mother was rnewyorkeluctant. The two of us traveling alone, going to such a large City. But my Dad always had confidence in me and said, “I’m certain we can count on Patricia to follow our instructions. She’ll be fine.” And off to the World’s Fair we went. My Dad was right, I followed their instructions. After all, I never wanted to let him down because I knew how much he loved me.

My Dad was patient and always directed his attention to my mother and me, our favorites, and our desires. He kept his word, and wasn’t afraid to let us go so that we could become our best. When he passed, tucked inside of his wallet which I still have today were the pictures he carried of me and my mother. I miss not having him physically present but his love is forever a part of my heart.  I know he always loved me and I will forever love him.

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Love Pearls

February is love month for me! 20170217_170929-3

It’s always a reminder of my mother, Herlean.  For many years, in my quest to find my soul mate, it was my mother to whom I turned to for advice. She freely provided direction, often in a colorful, vivid manner, which made the advice memorable. Here are some examples of Herlean’s pearls of wisdom.

Me:  My boyfriend has stopped calling me. I have called him but he has not responded. I miss our time together and don’t know what happened. Should I continue to call? What should I do?

faucet

Herlean:  Be Like a faucet.  Turn on when he is on and remember to turn off when he is off. Seems like your boyfriend is off. It’s time for you to be off!

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Me: It’s Valentine’s Day and my boyfriend didn’t give me chocolates. He knows how much I love chocolate candy. I called my mother crying, “I can’t believe it!”

Herlean: Did you tell him you wanted chocolate candy for Valentine’s Day?

Me: No. I didn’t think I needed to because everyone who knows me, know I love chocolate.

Herlean: Well, before you can get upset that you didn’t get what you wanted, you need to remember to first make sure you make your request known. And by the way, make sure, your request is explicit. If there is a certain type of chocolate you like, then you need to specify that as well. Otherwise, you will be calling me again upset that you got chocolate candy but nor your favorite kind.

vegetarian

Me: I just met a guy who is a vegetarian. You know how much I love seafood. Do I have to give up my shrimp and crabs for him?

Herlean: If you want to keep him, you need to make sure he gets what he likes to eat at your house. Otherwise, he will have to go somewhere else to get it. I would serve him what he likes and prepare the foods I like for myself. Who says you both have to eat the same foods at the same time. Just make sure you eat together at the same time!

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Me: (The weekend before my wedding) You and dad were happily married forty-six years before he passed. What advice can you give me to make my marriage strong?

Herlean:  First, you need to remember that you set the tone for the day. So when your husband awakes, make sure he is awakening to a spouse who is positive, happy, kind, and focused on him.  When he returns home at the end of the day, make sure you are still at your best.  Over the long haul, don’t fall into a routine, shake things up, make being with you interesting and exciting- a place he will always want to return- no matter what.

love-wallpapers-heartsWhile I miss having the opportunity to call my mother today and get her advice, I am blessed that she left me with many pearls of wisdom that I still rely on today. Here’s hoping that you will find some of them useful to you as well. Remember, LOVE is action. Show someone today that you love them. Love is the BEST gift!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a business owner, one of my major responsibilities is to continuously examine ways to keep costs down and increase revenue so that my company realizes a reasonable profit. During one self-assessment period, revenue had decreased while costs had increased. Needless to say, if that continued, sustainability of the business was in jeopardy.cost-center Upon review of the costs, it appeared there was one major cost center that could be reduced and provide the latitude needed to sustain the business while  directing attention to increasing revenues. As a result, the decision was made to relocate the business and subsequently reduce overhead costs significantly.

In order to accomplish this, I pulled out my existing lease and reviewed the renewal terms.contract It clearly stated that the lessor needed to be notified 120 days before the beginning of the next lease period or the lease would be renewed automatically.  I immediately counted three months from the date and marked my calendar to submit my letter at least 2 weeks before that date.  Plans were then made to relocate.

One month prior to moving, a letter was received from the lessor stating that my lease had been renewed for another year. “That can’t be correct,” I thought. Someone has made a mistake. When I followed up, the office informed me that ‘my notification letter was late.’ How could that be? I had marked my calendar and sent it two weeks earlier. The contract put-on-calendarmanager indicated to me the date, which marked 120 days and it was not the date that I had on my calendar. After the call, I pulled out the lease, reviewed it again, looked at my date and the date the lessor was indicating it should be, and then realized that it was indeed an error. The error was on me, in that I had marked 3 months (90 days) instead of 4 months (120 days). And even though I had submitted it earlier than the due date, it was still late. missed-deadline

I called the sales agent who had originally worked with me on the lease and was told that the contract always stands. But I could advertise my space and see if I could get someone to lease it. He would work with me to do the same. Unfortunately, no one was interested. The window of time was narrowing, my move plans were in motion, and the contract manager was saying there was no option other than for me to continue my lease or discuss it with the owner. Then appealing  my case to the owner was my only option and an appointment was made.

meeting

I was nervous about the meeting because after all the years of leasing from his company, the owner and I had never met. Consequently, unlike the sales agent, he had no idea of who I was and similarly I didn’t know him. When the door of the conference room opened, the owner entered with my file in hand. He was all business , methodically went through the facts, and then asked me “what was this meeting about?” I then explained the situation at hand: the current state of my business, self-assessment process, my decision, my review of the lease, submission of my notification letter, and my actions to secure a tenant.  mymistakesI affirmed that my letter was late and that I had made the mistake of counting three months instead of four.   “And  so what are you asking of me?” he queried. To which I replied, “to let me out of my lease.” He laughed and said “I thought that was what you wanted.” He then went on to say that he could count the number of times of his hand that such a request had been honored. But he looked me in the eye and said that it was also the first time he had come to such a meeting and the tenant was not screaming at him, making demands even when it was their fault, and not acknowledging their mistake. While I don’t know you, what you did today speaks to your character. I will get with the sales agent and contract manager and get back with you. For now, “don’t worry just stay focused on growing your business.” I left with hope that my request would be honored.

Then months passed and each month a new bill arrived with late fees adding up. I would forward the bill to him with a cover note that I was awaiting his response to my request. Then finally, the long awaited response.

I apologize that it has taken so long to get back to you since our last meeting.

I wanted to relay to you that in the 50 year history of this company, the number of leases that we have terminated could be counted on one hand.  That said, I also wanted you to know that during our meeting, I was so very impressed with how you were handling your setbacks in such a professional and straightforward manner that I felt that your request was certainly worthy of consideration.  To that end, I have asked our office to wipe your account clean and to terminate further obligations.

I wish you nothing but the best.

Please remember us when you are rich and famous, as there is no doubt in my mind that success will be yours.

Needless to say I was overjoyed and relieved. The lesson taught many years ago by my mother to “always tell the truth no matter what the outcome might be” was indeed a valuable lesson. truthmatters2

 

 

 

 

Saluting a Civil Rights Pioneer

programOn September 8, 2004, in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol, the Honorable James E. Clyburn, United States House of Representatives (from South Carolina) welcomed those in attendance to the Congressional Gold Medal* Ceremony.  I sat, listening attentively, with a special sense of pride. The Reverend Joseph A. DeLaine, one of the recipients, was a family member. The Congressional Gold Medal was being bestowed upon him posthumously for his pioneer civil rights activism. In the Clarendon County town of Summerton, he stood up to the power white elite and made a simple request for a school bus so that black children would no longer have to endure walking nine miles along frost-covered back roads to get to their primitive, segregated schools. His plea turned into a lawsuit against local officials and became one of five cases collectively known as Brown v Board of Education, which resulted in the Supreme Court decision that ended the “separate but equal” doctrine in America’s public schools.

goldmedalAs I watched his children receive the medal in his honor, it reminded me that family had always been important to Rev. DeLaine. In fact, it was because he valued family that I had come to know him. His father and my grandmother were brother and sister. At an early age, my grandmother passed and my grandfather and their five children moved from South Carolina to Florida. Consequently, Rev. DeLaine did not grow up with his first cousins. But that did not stop him from wanting to know them. Over fifty years later, my mother received a letter from him introducing himself as her first cousin and explaining their family lineage. He and his wife made a special trip to Daytona Beach to reconnect with her. I remember how excited my mother was that he had never given up on finding her, after all she had been five years of age when they were separated.  As I sat in the Rotunda, I wondered how he had found us in an era of no internet or google. I smiled- no wonder it had taken fifty years. And then I thought, “he was always persistent and had resolve to obtain his goal.” Now the stories all made sense to me.

He had shared lots of stories and articles about his life and experiences with us. In fact, he had self-published in 1954 a booklet that he had written about “The Clarendon County School Segregation Case.”

clarendoncountycase

I now wondered how he had produced this publication. Again, ahead of his time and recognizing the importance of personally documenting events. After seeing the pictures of his house burned to the ground and hearing about how the KKK had chased him and his family out of South Carolina and how they had survived in New York, it became apparent to me that my cousin was a bold and courageous leader who never gave up.

delainefamilyPreparing for the trip to DC, I thought I would look back at some of the pictures he had given to my mother. When I took his family photo out of her scrapbook, there written on the back were these words in his handwriting.

“After getting adjusted in N.Y. everybody thought it was an awful tragedy but, in addition to the education revolution set in motion, beginning  in 1951 and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, May 17, 1954, it looks like the tragedy all worked for the best interest of all concerned. Bless the Lord O My Soul, And Forget Not All His Benefits.”From this handwritten message, I left knowing that his strength had come from his joy in knowing and trusting God as his source.

As we celebrate Black History Month, take a moment to reflect upon the life of a pioneer who has made an impact upon you. Now is our time. Let’s commit to paying forward so that others will benefit from our lives as well.

*The Congressional Gold Medal is the most distinguished award bestowed by the United States Congress. It is the nation’s top civilian award presented to those individuals that embody the best quality in America’s heritage. Before it can be awarded, legislation must be approved by the Congress and signed into law by the President. Congress first awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to George Washington in 1776.

Life is Time

reunionThis past May, I had the opportunity to return to my “Home by the Sea” and celebrate my 45th college reunion.  Life has a way of happening and I almost didn’t make it but my friend Kathy said, “we are going no matter what!” Together we hit the road- driving.  She left from Detroit and I left from Columbus, both meeting up in Cleveland; then we drove to Hampton, VA. We didn’t have to worry about a place to stay because our friend, Roz, had that covered.

As soon as we arrived, it was all about reconnecting… classmates, line sisters, friends from other classes, mentors, teachers, administrators, alumni leaders, etc.  classmates

 

Those connections, all apart of “us” and all “invaluable.” During our class meeting, we discussed that the next reunion would be extra special because it would be our “Golden Anniversary.” Now, my class was really extra special, in fact we call ourselves, “that class”–simply because we feel that “we are the best!”

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Given we did not get to officially march upon our graduation, the next reunion would afford us an opportunity to officially march as a class, albeit for the last time.

Just last week, on our class facebook page, we learned that one of our dear classmates had passed unexpectedly. It was a shock to us all.  One of our former class leaders, joined by several classmates, made sure we were represented at his celebration of life service. Afterwards, she sent me an email that said the minister focused on the “dash” in his life from 1949 – (dash) to 2017.  Everyone was reminded of what is important in a person’s life. It is not the amount of time that we are here on earth but what we choose to do with that time. After reading her message, it reminded me of a post I had just recently made of a similar quote- “Life is time.” So often we take time for granted. We assume we will get more. But it is losses like this one that reminds us that there is no guarantee that we will get more time. We each don’t know how much time we have. In the end, our lives will be measured by ‘how’ we used our time.

paulIn honor of my classmate, Dr. Paul Douglas McLean, my challenge for you today, is to choose wisely how you spend your time. Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today. Make sure the people you care about know it. Give your B.E.S.T. each day.

That’s what Paul did!

 

Hidden Figures-Hidden Reminders

If you haven’t seen Hidden Figures, it is definitely a must see movie! It has great characters brought to life by the brilliant acting of Janelle Monae, Taraji Henson , and Octavia Spencer. The narrative, cinematography and sound track also pulls you into the story. author Prior to seeing the movie, I had discovered several connections to my alma mater, Hampton University (Hampton, VA). The author of the book, Margot Lee Shetterly, is the daughter of Dr. Margaret Lee, a retired Hampton University English Professor and Hampton Alumnus. Additionally, all of the three leading characters were connected to Hampton. Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) was a 1942 alumnus. Katherine Goble Johnson (Taraji Henson), the lone survivor of the three, was married to Retired Lt. Col. Johnson, a 1952 alumnus. Two of her girls graduated from Hampton.  Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) had four children to graduate from Hampton. Aside from the connections to the characters, I found myself connected to the location, noticing how decisively things had changed, given a recent opportunity to provide consulting services at NASA Langley. And once the movie started, I was drawn to the issues confronting these women given that as a child I too had to drink from a Colored water fountain and use a Colored restroom. When the movie ended, I found myself reflecting upon reminders of life lessons, one depicted by each character is highlighted.

katherine#1  Never let perceived barriers prevent you from being your BESTKatherine Goble Johnson did not let the death of her husband and being a single parent with three little girls deter her from a strong work ethic. The placement of a coffee pot labeled “Colored” did not stop her from drinking her coffee and staying focused on the work at hand. When there was no restroom that she could use near her work space, she just took her work, ran to the building that was miles away, completed her work, returned and never complained. However, when she was questioned by her boss about why she took such long breaks, she unapologetically spoke up and courageously vocalized the mistreatment she had endured. Because she consistently gave her best, Col. John Glenn would not go into orbit without being assured that it was Katherine who crossed checked the numbers. And when he landed safely, everyone knew it was due to her precise calculations.

mary#2  Preparation facilitates achieving your goal.  Mary Jackson wanted to become an engineer. But to get there required taking classes in a school that did not allow Blacks to attend. She would not be discouraged by anyone, not even her husband. There was one way to move forward and that was to convince a judge that she deserved to be allowed admission into the school. Prior to her day in court, Mary did her homework. She knew she had only one opportunity to be successful and consequently did what was necessary to be prepared for that opportunity. Mary researched and found everything that she could about the Judge that was to hear her case. Based upon what she now knew about him, Mary developed a convincing strategy. Standing before him she presented her case in a powerful and compelling manner.  The judge was surprised and impressed that Mary had done her homework. He granted her admission to the school, albeit at night. That was the entry she needed to actualize her dream of becoming an engineer.

elevate#3 Make sure as you elevate, you take others up with you. Dorothy Vaughn had a way with the other women human computers. They followed her lead. She did all the work expected of a supervisor without title or pay. Repeatedly, she sought the position only to be turned down. In her continuous pursuit of knowledge, she learned that there was soon to be an IBM computer that would be programmed using Fortran. Unselfishly, she taught the other women “how to” program as well in preparation for the time when computers would replace them so that they would be marketable. Then one day, she was notified of the long awaited promotion to supervisor. When asked if the other women would be coming along and told “no,” she declined to take the promotion without them. Because her knowledge and skills were needed to teach the other women, they granted permission for all the women to move to the new location. They moved forward together.

The most significant reminder for me was that we all stand on the shoulders of those that have gone before us. It is incumbent upon us to want to know their story, learn and grow from it, build upon it, share it, and challenge others to pay forward.