What is Service?

Yesterday was the day that America honors the life and sacrifices made by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the world’s most impactful leaders. As opposed to being a day off, it is supposed to be a day of service. But that leads me to ask a question of us all: What are we doing to help humanity on a regular basis? Could you imagine what your relationship would be like if you only celebrated your significant other once or twice a year? How would you feel if your parents had only acknowledged you quarterly? They would just be meaningless displays from people looking to check off a box.

Just as people need to be loved every day, we should be doing something good for someone else on a daily basis. Maybe it’s letting the person at the stoplight know (s)he left the gas tank open. Maybe it’s stopping by your local co-op to grab a hot meal for the homeless person on the corner. Maybe it’s donating some money to keep Bennett College open. But we have to do something if we truly want to honor the legacy not only of Dr. King but the spirit of what America claims to be. And everyone shouldn’t know you did it. Just do it. If you are recognized for it, great. If you’re not, great. Either way, you did something beautiful for someone who can do nothing for you except pay it forward.

Oh, and, by the way, I found that cool graphic by following one of my favorite accounts on Instagram, The 9 to 5 Podcast. Check them out by clicking here.

 

Make embracing a spirit of service a priority.

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The Charge (MLK, Jr. Day 2018)

“We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know we will win. But I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house.” — Rev. Bro. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This quote is of the Dr. King, Jr. that I have come to love even more than the “I Have a Dream” M.L.K., Jr. It takes a mature person to take a step back and say, “Though my heart was in the right place, I was wrong.”

Segregation was a struggle because of a lack of equal resources combined with an abundance of white people who looked to stand in the way of our self-sufficiency. Integration, however, has been a struggle of epic proportion because many of those who would be our strongest leaders divested from our communities in hopes of separating themselves from the negative stigma America had placed on our communities. White America gave them jobs and titles and affirmative action on predominantly white college campuses and athletic scholarships and, before we knew it, our community was devoid of its greatest resource: leadership.

As they moved the Talented Tenth out, and subsequently their offsprings, we saw the illicit drug industry thrive, single-parent households increase, a spike in black-on-black crime, and the value of education decrease in more impoverished black communities. Miseducation and distractions in the form of substances and soulless entertainment had replaced much of the pride that once defined the exclusively black community. And, on the other side of town, those blacks who had “successfully” integrated themselves and their families into white society felt accomplished and that their mere existence (even if from a distance) serves as an example to those with whom they never come in contact. It is sad to feel uncomfortable walking into a community that is one you should be taking ownership of, only to realize that, in actuality, it is owned predominantly by WASPs, Jewish people, and Asians.

On this Dr. Martin Luther Luther King, Jr. Day of 2018, I charge you to embrace these next few years as a resurrected Harlem Renaissance. Creatives, create. Business leaders, develop. Educators, educate. Investors, invest. But do all of this in our communities.

And, lastly, put your money where your mouth is. This past weekend, I placed a decent amount of money into Mechanics & Farmers Bank, a black-owned bank out of Durham, NC. When I look to secure my home loan, I will be doing so with a black-owned bank. I work out at a black-owned gym (Prime Athletic Training & Fitness Institute). My tailor shop is a black-owned tailor shop (Levi’s Tailor Shop). My graphic designer is black (Charity Coleman). My photographer is black (Reko Daye). My financial advisor is black (George Acheampong). My go to artist is black (Tatiana Camice). Sadly, my grocer is not (though I hope to start growing my own vegetables next year) and my black dentist recently retired and sold her practice but I’ll be back in the market soon.

Self-preservation is not racist. I’m not saying we need to segregate again. I’m saying reinvest in the growth of your own communities. Ironically, for those who think it’s unsafe, we know for a fact that, where money flows, safety becomes a priority. We can no longer return to the times of an untainted Black Wall Street. What has been done is done. But we can take what we’ve learned in these decades since realizing the watered down version of Dr. King’s dream and use it to build our own communities back up and to fortify them.

Feature image by Ernest Camel. Click here to follow him on Instagram.

 

Make a well-rounded community a priority.

The King in You

Today, I write in honor of Rev. Bro. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and I ask us all to look introspectively for the King in us. Search for the love, not the hate. Look for the integrity before the opportunity. Believe in the good in your fellow human being as opposed to pointing out the evil.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”

Do you see the selflessness in that language? He is a human who, like all humans, would love comfortable immortality. But he put himself in a position to sacrifice his own life for the betterment of the oppressed. These words were not just empty rhetoric. The day after Bro. King delivered this speech, his life was taken by an assassin’s bullet. He truly lived (and, as a result, died from) his selflessness. That’s a great way to loose your life isn’t it? In a selfless fashion? For a just cause? What is important enough that you would go to jail, or even die, for? Are you passionate about anything greater than you? I’m not saying you have to go out and get locked up but know there are causes that you should, as a human being, care about. People are being poisoned by the water supply in Flint, MI. Under-trained law enforcement officers are killing innocent people because their fear leads them to make rash decisions. Property tax hikes are forcing people out of the neighborhoods they have lived in their entire lives so that more money can be made. The prison industrial complex is forcing minority and impoverished people back to the slave class every day, many even before they are being convicted. These are issues we don’t have to die for to change. Or maybe we do. The Sioux tribe was ready to die for their water supply at Standing Rock. Those in the Black Lives Matter movement are ready to endure the billy clubs once experienced by our ancestors for equality under the law.

An established system will push back against radical change. Don’t believe me? Look at these recent elections on every level. People don’t like uncondoned, unforeseen change.  In 1998, Tupac Shakur said that “we ain’t ready to see a black president,” but, a decade later, one was elected. Like Martin, Barack received numerous death threats. But, instead of assassinating him, his opposition is looking to undo much of the progress made during his presidency. Either way, Barack believes this nation is important enough to put his life on the line for. Figure out what cause is as important to you and fight for it.

Believe so beautifully in something that you are willing to give up your freedom (or even your life) so the next generation can have it better. That beautiful belief, my friends, is the King in you.

 

Make a love of all humankind a priority.

For Brother Malcolm

On this day in history, a great man was born.  Many folks see Malcolm X as the direct opposite of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. but in all actuality, the two wanted the same thing but had different methods of achieving victory.  Neither advocated violence but both believed in self-preservation.  Malcolm X has gone down in mainstream American history as the angry black leader with the type of leader Americans should fear, while King is revered but let me say this: one would not be successful without the other and both knew this.  They worked together.  They offered one another support.  And, though neither lived to see their dreams unfold, both played a very prominent role in bringing us the America we see today.  So, if you haven’t yet, do some reading on Brother Malcolm.  You might find another historic hero to place upon a pedestal.  Happy birthday king.

(What does this have to do with professional development?  I’m glad you asked.  Before searching the web for Malcolm X, look up Malcolm Little.  You’ll see how much one can change if he truly cares about the changes he makes.)