Who are you? Self-awareness

Make Things Happen

“Self-awareness is the golden key to making life changing decisions and sticking to them”.

(Dr. Prem Jagyasi)

Dictionary.com defines self-awareness as conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.

Sounds simple enough but I like to explore self-awareness more when I conduct teambuilding exercises. Self-awareness is needed within the work environment and impacts how well the team functions.  We all bring different things into the work environment daily and need to understand how and what these things are.  I routinely ask the following question when I start the teambuilding process:

Who are you?

Take 2 minutes and ask yourself the question Who are you? multiple times.  Record each of your responses.  My examples to this exercise are:

  • Who are you?  Black man
  • Who are you?  Blogger
  • Who are you?  Leader
  • Who are you?  Running tourist
  • Who are you?  Son
  • Who are you?  Uncle
  • Who are you?  Mentor
  • Who are you?  Friend

Now it is your turn—answer the question and record your responses—I will wait! 😊

How many responses did you list to the question?

The answers may surprise people you work with and maybe yourself.  There is not a right or wrong way to supply responses to the question.  The major point is everything you listed enters the work environment with you daily.

This is an important point as we build teams and help staff members get to know others on the team.  I have used this teambuilding exercise multiple times to enhance the work environment and help with team growth. 

The point of this process is to allow team members to fully understand what they bring to work. It also shows a new level of self-awareness and how we interact with others.  This exercise enhances team awareness and shows everyone they have more in common than they thought.

True leaders can use this data to ensure they treat staff members as individuals and not let their self-awareness impact how they treat others. 

Example:  I do not have kids–this should not impact how I deal with a parent who needs to leave work early because of a sick child.  Some people in leadership positions make decisions based on their worldview only.  This is a horrible way to lead a team.

Authentic leaders understand how they are viewed and the impact this has on the team.  Self-aware leaders create more self-aware leaders. 

So, I ask again—who are you?  How does this level of self-awareness impact your daily interactions?

“What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself”.

(Abraham Maslow)

The grateful 5 (5 things I’m grateful for)

Grateful

“A grateful heart is a magnet for miracles”

(Pinterest)

Dictionary.com defines grateful as feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness; thankful.

Pretty simple concept and one to dig into a bit more.  I do a lot of reading and came across a blog article titled the Top 5 Things I am Grateful For.  The article and title are straight forward so I decided to try my writing chops to explore this from my perspective.

Family

Spend any amount of time with me and I will tell you about my family.  My family on my mom’s side consists of 5 uncles and 4 aunts.  The last time we counted I had 32 first cousins and 69 second cousins.  I know that last number has gone up, but we have not counted them in a long time.

This large extended family unit allowed me to grow up in an environment where most of my early friends were family members.   We did not add nonfamily friends until we started school because there were enough of us around to field our own teams in most sports.

I am grateful for having so many family members who go out of their way to look out for each other.  Seems like a simple thing but we spent most Thanksgivings with this large unit and enjoyed our time together.  COVID-19 put a halt on our large family get togethers last year but hopefully we can find a way to get the crew together this year—safely!

Friends

My Walk into the Future journey has allowed me to make some truly great friends.  Please note, I do not let a lot of people into my inner circle, so my friends are special people to me.  I have friends who are not cousins and I have known them my entire life.  We stay connected and get back together whenever possible and continue to grow our friendship.

I have friends I met while in the Air Force and we have become our own family unit.  I look forward to getting together and catching up whenever possible.  COVID-19 has put a halt to our running tourist trips, but I am sure we will get back on track in the future.  New Orleans is calling!

I met my best friend in the gym one morning as she bullied me to help her with the weights she was lifting—true story! 😊  Seriously, a simple gym conversation launched a great friendship, and we chat and catch up on life as much as possible.  See you on Park Avenue!

My tree branches are all friends I look forward to catching up with.  Could be a simple email, text, or phone call but love hearing how well my folks are doing in this world.  I enjoy seeing them exploring life via Instagram stories and pictures they share.  I live through them daily and enjoy seeing the growth of my tree. WE ARE!  Go Bucks! Go Noles! Go Gators!

Running

I found running later in life but cannot imagine a world without me putting in my miles.  The concept of running a half marathon was foreign to me in 2013 but now I run 6 to 8 half marathons yearly (pre-COVID).  I had no intention to run another half marathon after my first attempt because it took me three full weeks to recover.  Of course, I had no idea how to train, hydrate or recover properly—lessons learned the hard way! LOL.

My stated goal for 2022 is to explore my first full marathon.  I am hoping COVID does not come back like 2020 and eliminates all future running events.  I am always looking for motivation when I run so training for a full marathon should keep me putting in the miles for years to come.  Trying to convince several friends to come race with me. Let’s go Laurens! 😊

“Running helps me maintain my ‘never killed anyone’ streak”.

(Pinterest)

Health

Happy to report I can eat and drink whatever I want.  My running and weight training programs help with this, but I am blessed with good health.  Running has not caused undue aches or pains and helps me maintain a healthy weight without counting calories.  My weight training provides strong muscle structure to keep me moving forward.  My annual physicals produce good numbers, and the doctor does not have to get onto me to eliminate anything from my diet.  Grateful to continue to age well! 😊

My Blog

Started the Walk into the Future blog without a clear understanding how it would impact me.  I thought I would just write a few things down and see if anyone wanted to read my words.  Turns out the blog has become an extension of me and gives me a platform to share thoughts, ideas, and adventures.  My writing process has slowed down as my work obligations expand but I am still able to keep 4 to 5 weeks of blog articles in my production library.  I would like to get back up to 8 to 10 weeks of articles in reserve in case I need to revise or update them before publishing.  Not sure how long I will continue to publish the blog but still have a ton of material to explore so hope you stay with me on this journey! 😊

Bonus:  My readers

Grateful for everyone who takes the time to read my blog.  Your positive affirmations always put a smile on my face and inspire me to work to produce better content weekly.  Thank you for following the Walk into the Future blog!  Well done!

What are YOU grateful for?  I welcome your thoughts!

“The struggles ends when the gratitude begins”.

(Neale Donald Walsh)

Walking with a positive work environment (Repost)

(Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

“Positive work environments outperform negative work environments”.

(Daniel Goleman)

Positive people make positive things happen is one of my favorite sayings to inspire people in my world.  I created this as a mantra when I enter a work environment to help my team understand the mindset, we need to get positive results.

I was introduced to Positive Psychology during my course work and it remains with me daily.  One premise of Positive Psychology is people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives.  This could be on a personal or professional level.  I like leveraging Positive Psychology within the work environment to show direct reports how our mindset influences work outcomes.

I mentioned in an earlier post, my daily response to how I am doing is to say fantastic.  This is not a way to hide my true thoughts or feelings but a way to energize myself.  I found by saying I am doing fantastic provides a new level of energy for myself and it can inspire others around me to join in on the fun.  The word fantastic is not used very often in daily life so it makes people take notice and encourages them to get on The Energy Bus.

Now imagine if you had a leader who was always negative and never had anything nice to say.  How would this person impact the work environment?  I am sure this negative mindset would translate to everyone in the work environment and would not be a pleasant place to work. 

Leaders must be cognizant how their energy (positive or negative) impacts the work environment.  This knowledge will go a long way to build a positive work environment culture to ensure positive things get done daily.  Sounds simple, huh?

It takes a while for this positive process to take hold within a new work environment.  The speed of this process can be enhanced when everyone is ready to engage.  One negative teammate can slow or aggravate the process, but this can be mitigated by the rest of the team pulling in the same direction.  A new initiative for me is to follow Rule #6 from The Energy Bus—I have a sign posted that reads No Energy Vampires Allowed in my office in a prominent location.  I will point to the sign when the tone of a conversation starts to become negative.  I welcome different views and opinions but look to negate negative tone, language, or interactions.  It takes time to eliminate the negative, but the goal is to move forward in a positive manner.  I struggle sometimes because I want everything to head in a positive direction but also know things take time. 

A positive work environment is a place where everyone can thrive, grow, and provide input.  We spend a large amount of our lives in the work environment and I strive to create a space where we can work hard, laugh, and enjoy the process.  Leaders who understand work does not have to be stressful create a space where productivity can be displayed daily.  I have worked in places where people dreaded coming to work and I made a vow to never duplicate these types of environments when I reached the big seat.  Well, I have been in the big seat for a while now and smile whenever one of my tree branches reach out and say they want to work with me again.

I am sure not everyone feels this way, but I have enough of these folks to form my own wolf pack.  😊 Still learning and growing but will continue to promote positive work environments because they are productive and fun.  Imagine that, fun in the workplace!  Guess Google, Microsoft and Apple understand what people want in the work environment.  I do not have ping pong tables, yet, but play a lot of reggae in my office.  Irie!

What do you see as the benefits of a positive work environment?  How do you contribute to ensure your work environment remains positive?

 “Positive anything is better than negative nothing”.

(Elbert Hubbard)

The Wonder Years

art artistic blank page book
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My how the time flies

When you look back and wonder

How did we get here?

When did that happen?

The promise that was promised

Had diminished over time

And left the wonder of why

And can the path be adjusted

To fulfill the destiny of the wonder

That was first wondered by me

Half Marathon training (South Florida)

Celebration of running

“Life is short…running makes it seem longer”.

(Baron Hansen)

September 5, 2021 is coming!  This date may only be circled on my calendar, but it has importance to my Walk into the Future.

The Virginia Beach Rock N Roll Half Marathon will take place on 9/5/21.  This year’s race marks the 20th anniversary of the Rock n Roll series in Virginia Beach and will also be the last time this race is run.  Received an email last week stating the city of Virginia Beach and the Rock n Roll series agreed to make this the last hoorah.  This is my first visit to Virginia Beach, and I will have to make the most of it.

The date of the half marathon is significant to me due to my training program.  I did not have a huge half marathon training focus in 2020 due to COVID-19.  I got miles in but never found my training pace because most races were cancelled due to COVID protocols.

Fast forward to 2021 and races are slowly coming back and the running tourist in me is excited to hit the road again.  I am looking forward to exploring new locations and testing myself against courses I have only read about or seen pictures.

So, what’s the problem you may ask?  Great question and thanks!  The problem is:  it is HOT down here!!! 😊

I will not get into the concept of climate change, global warming, etc. but this south Florida heat and humidity is impacting my training program.

I officially launched my half marathon training on 6/28/21.  This put me two months out from the Virginia Beach Rock N Roll half and should be plenty of time to get mentally and physically prepared to run.  I am getting my runs and bike rides in but struggle to extend my miles due to the heat and humidity in my current location.  My long runs top out at 7 miles because I want to be mindful of the impact the heat has while training. 

I get up earlier for my weekend runs but the temperature hits the mid-80s by 9 am and only goes up from there.  Not complaining because most of my runs on done close to the water so I can always stop and make it a beach outing when I am done with my runs.

I did not think the four-hour drive from Tallahassee to Fort Pierce would make much difference on my running program but there is a different level of heat down here.  Again, not complaining but stating a fact.  This is a fact I must come to grips with soon to keep preparing for future races.  I targeted several local 5ks to keep my competitive juices flowing but need these short races to get me race ready. 

I added more bike rides (gym and outside) to get more miles on my legs to build up the threshold needed to run and complete a half marathon.  This is a new approach for me but a safe way to extend my training without having to deal with the south Florida heat.

I recently added treadmill runs to my training program.  I am not a fan of running on a treadmill, but this equipment allows me to log miles and push myself to get ready for the actual process of running a half marathon.  My new training routine consists of morning miles on my regular route near the beach and then a treadmill session with equal miles.

The one treadmill trick I started using is to cover the time/distance/speed display.  Running on the treadmill is a mentally draining exercise for me and I believe it is because the display does not match what I THINK I’m accomplishing.  Simply put, it feels like I have run further than the display shows so I get frustrated with the process.  Covering the display allows me to forget about the distance and time and just put in the work.  I see multiple people who appear to enjoy their time on the treadmill, and I am amazed watching them.  I need to get over my treadmill DREAD and just put in the work. 

Looking forward to cooler weather so I can get back to longer outside runs again.  Did I mention it is hot in South Florida? 😊

“Don’t be a jogger.  They are the ones who find dead bodies”.

(RuntotheFinish)

Winter Park, Florida (Park Avenue Adventures)

“To travel is to live”.

(Hans Christian Andersen)

Happy to report the Walk into the Future adventures continue.  I am excited to get back to regular excursions again with more and more people being vaccinated.  COVID-19 put a halt to most outings, but I am getting comfortable being out and about again.

Decided to explore a familiar area recently and ventured back over to Winter Park, Florida to spend a day on Park AvenuePark Avenue has an eclectic feel and provides multiple places to shop, dine and entertain yourself without having to get in and out of your car.

My day started with a trip to my favorite run shop, Track Shack.  I make a point to visit Track Shack whenever I’m in the area because the staff makes me feel at home.  They also update their running gear selections, and I am always looking for new training ideas and gear.  I wear Track Shack gear during my races and wanted to see if they had new color schemes to add to my wardrobe.  I did not buy new gear on this trip but picked up some CBD gel caps. 

I added CBD to my training program last year to help with soreness and inflammation from running.  My run friends recommended CBD and I finally decided to add to my program to keep me running.  CBD has allowed me to continue to train hard and not miss sessions due to soreness—it also helps me relax and sleep better.  Give it a try!

Made my way over to Park Avenue after leaving Track Shack.  The Winter Park Farmer’s Market is a huge Saturday attraction, and I made a stop to see what the vendors had for sell.  The kettle corn vendor was the most popular vendor of the day—it is amazing to see folks buy the huge bags of kettle corn.  I like kettle corn but could not make myself buy the supersized bags the vendor had. 

There was a vendor at the Winter Park Farmer’s Market selling jerky—this is not a revelation but was surprised with the selection available.  Most people know about beef, turkey, and alligator jerky.  The surprise for me was this vendor had kangaroo jerky.  I had no idea people ate kangaroo and did not expect it as a jerky selection.  I am not a huge jerky fan but wondered all day why anyone would eat kangaroo jerky—may have to try it next time I am at the Winter Park Farmer’s Market.

Took the short walk over to Park Avenue to explore the shops and dining options available.  Track Shack hosts multiple races in this area so I am familiar with Park Avenue—the races start and end in the heart of the entertainment district here.

Found a corner breakfast spot that I had never visited before.  The Croissant Gourmet Bakery has a great menu and provides the perfect spot to dine, and people watch at the same time.  This spot is right off Park Avenue but gets a lot of foot traffic.  Most people came in for baked goods, but several stayed for breakfast and the coffee.  The Croissant Gourmet Bakery layout reminds me of a New York style bakery—the staff was friendly and got people in and out.  I had a traditional breakfast (two eggs, potatoes, bacon, toast with coffee).  They had a fantastic raspberry jam I would recommend if you visit the Croissant Gourmet Bakery—well worth the trip.  I plan to visit this spot again when I am back in Winter Park.

One of my reasons to visit Park Avenue was to venture into the Wine Room again.  The Wine Room provides a unique experience where you can purchase a wine card and then explore wines from around the world.  Insert your wine card and then decide if you want a sip, half glass or full glass.  This is a great way to try multiple wines and not commit too much money if you decide you are not a fan.  I strategically visited the Croissant Gourmet Bakery first to ensure I ate something prior to exploring wine options. 😊

I am a novice wine drinker, so the Wine Room allows folks like me to try different wines without committing too much to the process.  I favor the sweeter wines but experiment with others by purchasing by the sip.  This process helps me determine if I like the wine and not waste time or money if I do not.  I tried multiple wines that caught my interest, and most were very good. 

I made my way back to the sweet Italian wine section and found one I really enjoyed.  Decided to go all in and purchased a full glass to enjoy.  The Wine Room is a great place to enjoy wine and get some people watching in.  There were several folks there who really knew wine and it was interesting listening to them describe the wines to each other. 

Will leverage their knowledge on my next visit to the Wine Room and explore additional wines—one sip at a time.

The most talked about wine during my visit was the Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was very good, and I will try it again when I am back in the Wine Room: 

https://www.abcfws.com/caymus-cabernet-sauvignon/234305

Left the Wine Room and got some window-shopping in.  There were a lot of people out for the afternoon, and everyone had smiles.  This was a fantastic way to spend the day and I enjoyed every minute of my time on Park Avenue.  Look forward to additional adventures on Park Avenue—this may turn into a monthly getaway for me. 😊

Where have you wanted to visit?  Give Park Avenue a try if you are in the Orlando area—highly recommended.

Irie!

https://orlandodatenightguide.com/2016/09/guide-perfect-afternoon-park-avenue-winter-park/

Authentic Leadership continues to grow

Chess

(Image by Devanath from Pixabay

“Authentic leadership is revealed in the alignment of what you think, what you say, and what you do”.

(Michael Holland)

Authentic Leadership continues to be a driving force in my daily interactions.  Amazing how I stumbled across this leadership style during my dissertation process back in 2013 but it is something I genuinely believe makes a difference in the work environment.

I am also amazed by the number of folks who only know about this leadership style after talking with me or sitting in one of my presentations.  Looks like I need to do a better job of spreading the benefits of Authentic Leadership. 😊

I was asked back in January if I would be willing to be the guest speaker for the local Association of Florida Colleges (AFC) monthly professional development program.  Inspiration Man was quick to say yes, and the topic they requested was Authentic Leadership.  I had to dust off my files but thought this was an excellent opportunity to share Authentic Leadership with colleagues at my new school.

This was one of the first time I was able to stand in front of a group of people since early 2020 due to COVID-19.  I was excited to be in front of live folks again in my efforts to move the crowd. 

I started the presentation with a brief introduction to Authentic Leadership and the benefits it brings to the work environment. 

Authentic Leadership is rooted in positive psychology and allows leaders to improve their self-awareness and regulated behaviors.  The importance of self-awareness becomes more evident daily as I interact with others. 

All Authentic Leadership variables are important but none of the others come into play if a leader is not self-aware.  This was a major feature of my presentation to my AFC colleagues.  There were several head nods when I made this point and a couple folks asked if they could expand on how self-awareness helps them daily.

The four variables were shared:  self-awareness, relational transparency, internalized moral perspective and balanced processing.  The variables were highlighted together as a quick overview and then I did a complete breakdown to show how each enhances the work environment.

  • Self-awareness—the leader displays a full understanding of strengths, weaknesses and how others view their leadership
  • Relational Transparency—the leader presents their authentic self to build trust. This includes consistent words, thoughts, and actions.
  • Internalized moral perspective—the leader integrates personal morals with self-perspective.  Self-awareness enhances the leader’s ability to understand how their morals influence decision making.
  • Balanced processing—the leader can view multiple sides of an issue (positive and negative) before deciding on the issue.  This variable encourages direct reports to provide input because the leader wants their feedback.  This improves job satisfaction for direct reports.

I spent extra time on balanced processing because I want to train new leaders to understand how important this is in the work environment.  Staff will speak up with new ideas IF they believe input is wanted and will be acted on (as applicable).  Leaders who want input from staff need to let them know they are willing to listen but there are times when something truly cannot be done.  Nothing wrong with this because it enhances relational transparency in the work environment. 

The AFC members had a lot of questions about Authentic Leadership and how they can improve their self-awareness.  I am happy with the dialogue we started during the AFC event and look forward to sharing Authentic Leadership with other organizations soon.  Got a couple requests to bring my presentation into departmental meetings and I will say YES when the invites come in.  😊

How has your Authentic Leadership knowledge grown?

“The power for authentic leadership is found not in external arrangements, but in the human heart”.

(Parker J. Palmer)

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2013/05/12/what-is-authentic-leadership/?sh=6f7ed67fdef7

Make your bed!

Books

“Good order is the foundation of all things”.

(Edmund Burke)

My Walk into the Future allows me to pick and choose my adventures and some take me to amazing places.  Others find me rooted at home but still bring a level of joy and satisfaction.

I am an avid reader and love to find new books to help me as a lifelong learner.  My latest find was the book by retired Admiral William H. McRaven titled Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe The World.  

The title is simple enough and gives the reader an understanding of what the Admiral will cover in this book.

I love the fact the book is broken up into short chapters that are easy to follow and integrate into daily life for readers.  Admiral McRaven uses things from his life to help highlight the importance of how little things add up to make life move forward.

The book starts with the simple premise of why making your bed daily sets the tone for the day.  I understood this fact when I read the book but did not fully gain knowledge until I shared the book with a coworker who reads more books than I do.  My coworker assumes since I am retired Air Force the concept of making your bed was instilled in me during my time in the Air Force.  He was surprised when I told him I rarely make my bed because I did not see the importance of the act.  I am not a slob but making my bed happens when it happens—I did not go out of my way to make the bed before heading to work.

My coworker was shocked with my admission. I can be set in my ways but went back and read the chapter on making your bed to figure out what I missed.

I started making my bed DAILY after reading again to see if this simple act made a difference in my day.  The verdict is in—yes, it does!

This simple act appears to be a springboard for a productive day for me. 

The flow I have been able to display at work came once I made the decision to start my day with a simple act of organization.  Taking the time to make my bed and organize before leaving the house for work or my runs puts me in a better mindset for the day.  I arrive at work with a mindset to organize and I can transition quicker once I make it to my desk.  This may all be a coincidence but the flow, production, and ability to get more accomplished came once I decided to make my bed.

This is a recent phenomenon for me but exciting at the same time.  The ability to make a difference daily is something I take pride in.  Making my bed appears to heighten my ability to get this done.

Let’s be clear on this!  I fully understand making the bed has not given me a new superpower, but it provides me an opportunity to cross off a daily task early in the day.  I view making my bed as the first win of the day and gets me ready to win throughout the day.  I love crossing things off my to-do lists and I can get this started before I leave the house. 

Therefore, making your bed is an important step for the day!  It sets the tone and establishes a foundation for success—give it a try and let’s see what making your bed can do for you!

What are your thoughts on the importance of making your bed?  How does it set the tone for the day?

“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned”.

(Benjamin Franklin)

Always remember Rosewood, Florida (Repost)

Justice

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

(Nelson Mandela)

Happy to see the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement continue to draw attention to racial injustices.  The momentum gained after the George Floyd murder continues to lead people worldwide to protest injustices.  It feels real this time, but I thought that after Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardner, and Michael Brown.  Too many instances where black people are killed, and the justice system does not provide justice.  Not trying to be cute with words here but most of these examples were seen on video just like George Floyd but no justice for black victims could be found.

Would like to say these are just isolated examples and America really treats black people well.  Yep, we all know that would be a huge lie and I could not say that with a straight face anyway.  America’s majority has treated people of color horribly and then try to convince us everything is okay.  It is not and has not been okay for a long time.

Decided to go back in history and introduce Walk into the Future readers to Rosewood, Florida.  Most people have never heard about Rosewood or the horror the black families endured there.  It does not get the same press as the Black Wall Street massacre but is closer to home for me.

Sadly, I did not learn about Rosewood until the 1997 movie directed by John Singleton was released.  I grew up in Florida and never heard a word about the massacre in a history or civics class.  Rosewood is less than a two-hour drive from my hometown Jasper, Florida so it is equally shocking how close this type of mob/Klan activity was to my family.

I watched the movie and remember thinking this happened right down the street from my hometown.  How is it possible I did not know about this?  How could an entire town get wiped off the face of the earth and nobody said a word?  This appears to be the American way.  We condemn other countries and regimes for their atrocities and then hide ours from the public.

The movie stirred me to visit Rosewood in 1997 so I could see the place for myself.  Sadly, the only substantial thing to identify Rosewood is a placard to let you know you are in the place where the town of Rosewood use to be.  There are a few buildings there now but most of the things in the area are incorporated to Cedar Key, Florida.  Felt weird being at the site of a massacre of black people but believe this was an important lesson to never forget the past so these things do not repeat.  Like what is happening now; we cannot just let these injustices occur without responding in kind.

The BLM movement is here to stay, and we will need to remain vigilant to ensure human rights are respected for all.  Keep learning and growing tree branches—we need you to make this a better world!

Learn more about Rosewood, Florida here:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/03/rosewood-florida-massacre-racial-violence-reparations

“The scars and stains of racism are still deeply embedded in the American society”.

(John Lewis)

Repost from August 20, 2020.

Black Wall Street–100 years later

hostility-sculpture-in-tulsa-3910356_1920

Hostility Sculpture in Tulsa, Oklahoma

(Image by Mike Goad from Pixabay)

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

(Dr. Martin Luther King)

My first introduction to Black Wall Street came when I served as a panelist for a Florida State University (FSU) Black Student Union (BSU) program.  The students invited me to enhance their professional development program, but I got a history lesson I did not expect or know I needed.

I love working with college students because they bring a passion for subjects they are interested in and that passion keeps them curious and intent on growing daily. My role on the panel was to help BSU students understand how to present themselves when networking for future career opportunities.  We got that process going and had a good question and answer session with lots of input from the students in attendance.

One of the students present asked the moderator why the activities for the week was labeled Black Wall Street?  The response is where my education on the subject began.

The BSU leaders saw Black History Month as the perfect time to educate its members and guests on important periods, i.e., The Harlem Renaissance, Black Wall Street, Black Excellence and Black Power.  I was familiar with each of the periods identified for the month except Black Wall Street.  I assumed this was BSU’s way to show members how to build financial freedom and eventually make their way to Wall Street (NYC).  I was wrong and totally missed the boat on the meaning of Black Wall Street.

The BSU leadership wanted to show members how financial freedom could be gained by following the blueprint laid out by the founders of the true Black Wall Street in Greenwood, Oklahoma (Tulsa).  I had never heard of Black Wall Street, Greenwood, Oklahoma or the massacre that happened there in the early 1920’s.  My students were more than happy to fill me in on another history lesson I never received during my formal education programs—this seems to be a common theme with American history.

The concept a black town in Oklahoma was self-sufficient in the 1920’s seemed unreal at first but decided to learn more after talking with students.  I consider myself a lifelong learner and this was another educational journey I needed to fully see the great things that happened on Black Wall Street prior to the massacre.

O.W. Gurley was a prominent figure who relocated to the Greenwood district and purchased land which then could only be sold to people of color.  This was Gurley’s vision to establish a place for the black population.  Most of his businesses were frequented by black migrants fleeing the oppression of the Mississippi delta.  Gurley worked with others to pool their financial resources and support the thriving businesses being developed in Greenwood.  The residents of Black Wall Street were doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs. The success of the black residents of Greenwood played a role in the 1921 massacre because of the jealousy of their white neighbors in nearby Tulsa.

My Black Wall Street education increased my knowledge of this important period of Black History and led me to dig deeper on the actual massacre.  The news program, 60 Minutes did a report on Black Wall Street and the massacre a few years ago.  This led to additional investigations and a team has been formed to find and excavate hidden graves to bring closure for descendants of the massacre victims.  This painful piece of American history continues to garner interest and my hope is we never experience something like this again.

Learn more about what happened in Greenwood here:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/antoinegara/2020/06/18/the-bezos-of-black-wall-street-tulsa-race-riots-1921/#65183f08f321

60 Minutes program on Greenwood, Oklahoma:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yA8t8PW-OkA

“History has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own”.

(Michelle Obama)

Note:  This was a repost.  My mentor thought it was timely to put this in front of readers again.  It has been 100 years and this injustice is finally getting national attention.