“I wonder if individuals really design their lives around people they never really knew. If so, how can they? If we have not experienced someone (Madame Walker) we only know what is exposed...not necessarily that which shaped/drove her. If the objective is financial, is that sufficient...particularly if we only can surmise the challenges and tough decisions. We can be inspired as much by poor choices made by others as good.”—Antoinette Ford
These thoughts were sent to me in response to our poll of a few of our past African American cover features. February being Black History Month, we thought it would be a good time to find out who inspired these very successful business owners (see page 17). Not surprisingly (at least to me), we did not get many of the usual names you might expect. Madame CJ Walker notwithstanding, these entrepreneurs have more personal role models and inspirations.
Like Christopher Che, I am not a product of this country. However, I arrived here at a young enough age to have learned about many of the awesome, courageous African Americans that have shape history—Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, Dr. Martin Luther King. I know that it is through their and others’ efforts, that you and I have the freedoms and opportunities we enjoy today.
I too have my heroes. Some of them are from my own country. One is even quite well-known here, Marcus Mosiah Garvey. But, there are three who I consider to be the ones that have shaped my world view—my mother, my father, and my aunt.
My parents sacrificed much to make sure that their three children had education and opportunity. They worked hard, loved, and took time to teach us right from wrong so that we could go on to teach our children the same way. They were not perfect. They had their flaws, and we learned from those too.
My aunt is blind. When we were growing up, not everyone believed it. She cleaned (the house was spotless), cooked (better than most), and seemed to know our every move (mostly the bad ones). She was always well-dressed and well-groomed. She never had the opportunities many with the same disability have today but she never complained. She was the queen of her domain and was well-respected in her community. Everyone knew her or of her.
My aunt never had children of her own but she cared for several that were not her own (including my husband) and they consider her their adopted mother. She cared for me and my siblings while my parents were working here in “the States.” We never wanted for love or discipline. Whether she realizes it or not, her strength will live on in all of us whose lives she touched.
To history, that may not mean much, but they shaped me. So, I encourage you as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, to consider the influence you have on this and future generations. It is your actions that are likely to shape their world view and inspire them to greatness.
As we embark on a New Year, I wish you all a happy and truly prosperous one.
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