When people think of black history, they often focus on the struggle and how hard everything once was. We forget that no one did it alone. I choose to remember and appreciate the struggle of my African American ancestors while honoring the privileges and opportunities I’ve had.
I would like to hear more people recognize when somebody took a stand for them. For me, Black History Month is a time to appreciate the men and women of all backgrounds who mentored me in my journey. My maternal grandmother is the one person to whom I accredit so much of my success. But I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the programs and organizations that enabled me to realize my potential when personal circumstances may have curtailed me otherwise.
Why does this matter for black history? That’s where inequities start—understanding what’s available for education often begins and ends with your ZIP code. The gains and deficits we experience in school shape who we are and what we think we can accomplish—unless someone steps in.
My grandmother cared for me when I was in high school. She and my godmother would tell me what it was like for a young black girl to try to get a good education in the 1930s and ‘40s, which is to say, incredibly difficult. When my grandmother would say, “Don’t screw around in school; this is a privilege,” I knew she meant it, and that really pushed me hard. I try to instill passion for education in my nieces and nephews, but it doesn’t always resonate the same way to them.
During my senior year at Temple, I rotated to Lockheed Martin, where I started to learn about human resources, putting me on my career path in leadership development and to LMI. I had the good fortune to continue at Lockheed after I graduated, and a few years later I was mentoring my own INROADS students. It was the greatest gift—I was in a position to guide others and help my organization understand why supporting these students was so valuable. I am thankful to Lockheed for the diversity they had in age and race within the company.
I’m grateful to INROADS, Aetna, and Lockheed Martin for leaning into diversity and enabling us to grow and learn to be professionals in a supportive, safe environment. I felt like 1,000 people were trying to help me grow. Not every day was easy, especially when I was the only African American woman in my twenties and early thirties, but it was worth it. Today, I show up every day for work to honor the chance they gave me.
I encourage everyone at LMI, and all of you, to appreciate the privileges in your life and use them to open the door for someone. Ask yourself, who can I swing this door open for because I’m here? Diversity is not just about race—perhaps it’s someone who is socioeconomically disadvantaged, or identifies as LGBT, or is considered too young or too old for a certain field. When you are in a position to help raise someone up, do it. Who can you make an “inroad” for?
I coach at the intersection of passion and purpose. When you do what you love, you never really have to work.