It’s January 15th, 2018, and as I start today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day, I pause to realize I’m a byproduct of his Dream.
A grand dream it was and a grand dream it still is today. But I must confess we’ve come a mighty long way. As an African American business owner myself, originally from Alabama and living in Dallas, TX, I awake every morning with the ability to pursue my own dreams: To empower growth and shape the future of learning with our amazing team at TrainUp.com.
Throughout my life and career, I’ve been blessed with incredible opportunities that wouldn’t have been the case just a few generations ago… Dare I say even one generation ago?
However, in 2011-2013, when my business needed a boost, my investors (yes, predominately white), didn’t judge me based on the color of my skin, but rather on the merit of the business, our growth prospects, and the potential for success that the team and I possessed.
The team at Trinity Consultants, the consulting firm I worked for from 2000-2004, didn’t judge me by the color of my skin but rather by the output of my work, the solutions I delivered, and the innovation I demonstrated. Thus, leading to their initial funding of TrainUp.com.
The high school I attended was another byproduct of Dr. King’s dream. At the Alabama School of Math and Science (ASMS), their goal is to recruit and accept the best and brightest from the state of Alabama to come live on campus and take college level classes. They simply wanted the best and I was fortunate enough to make the cut. I can’t overstate how important this advanced high school education was in challenging and preparing me for college and beyond. It helped ignite within me this dream to accomplish anything.
I’m not saying it’s all peachy, of course I still face racism in business today and it’s almost humorous to see the reactions on far too many business leaders’ faces when I walk into the meeting room for the first time. However, instead of focusing on the negative, I mostly want to acknowledge how far we’ve come and why the dream lives on.
As I look back, I’m inspired every day by what the generations before me had to endure so that I might be blessed with the opportunities I have today. My grandmas, both born in Alabama in 1934, and both of which are still living today, had to endure unthinkable things as they aimed to raise their children. Trust me, you won’t believe all that they and my granddads had to endure, so I’m honored by the amazing dignity they show today. I remember when my grandma Mildred, finally after 40+ years, retired from the Alabama Board of Education. For years she did the dirty work, cleaning bathrooms and mopping floors, for those who set the education policy that at the time wasn’t equal for blacks and whites.
My parents both have passed now, but my dad dealt not only with being an African American in the heart of the south, but also with the stigma of being a Vietnam War vet. My mom, who attended an all-black school till the sixth grade when the schools in AL were finally de-segregated, had to endure fights every single day till blacks and whites learned to live and be educated beside each other. As a young woman, my mom picked cotton and cleaned houses for Alabama senators and local political leaders, who often said and did racist things. Yet vividly reminded of Dr. King’s dream, she endured. She earned a college degree in business and instilled the value of education in all her children.
She believed education was a part of that equal opportunity that can separate us. It was through her initiative and consistent reading that she found out about the opportunity for me to apply to ASMS. So parents, always remember: YOU, not the schools, are the primary catalyst for your child’s education.
So, as I traverse through the generations and express my gratitude, it’s also important that we back that up. This famous quote by Dr. King inspires us today to continue to pass his dream onto the next generation.
I’ve chosen learning and education as my primary means of making a difference. Though it’s not yet officially announced, be on the lookout later this month for an all NEW TrainUp.com and a Give Back Program where a percentage of every registration will be donated to local non-profits supporting education for at risk youth.
In 2018 you’re going to hear a lot more from me, you’ll get to dive deeper into my story, and be part of giving back. We are going to continue to dream and live out our vision to empower growth and shape the future of learning one class at a time, one training initiative at a time, one innovative solution at a time. So, on this day as we salute Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I celebrate being a byproduct of his dream and rejoice that today I’m 98% free to pursue my own. Now it’s up to all of us to close that final gap!