For Black people across the nation, the past few weeks have been mentally and physically draining. COVID-19 has ravaged our communities and recent killings of unarmed black bodies have put a glaring lens on police brutality. We are tired. The lyrics of the late great, James Weldon Johnson, "...let us march on til' victory is won" seem to ring louder in our ears. As black corporate professionals and entrepreneurs navigate a pandemic and basic human rights, we are challenged with thinking forward. As I juggle being a wife, new mom, a demanding 9-5 and Lizzmore Womenswear, I challenge myself to remember what I do today in my community will have a direct correlation to what my community looks like 3-5 years down the road and beyond. In an effort to keep the faith, planning for the future is pivotal to how our legacy will live on. We must live purpose filled lives and remember our passions serve a need in our communities, nation and world.
Today I am challenging my customers, peers and allies to find their lane. There are endless methods to fight this fight, but here are 5 ways I’ve gathered that can contribute to the mission of making sure black lives are empowered. While getting out to the polls and changing political leadership is important, let’s consider making life worth living through mentorship, building wealth, educating and employing youth, initiating programs in the corporate space, and collaborating with each other.
Mentoring brings to life the posters that were plastered on our elementary school walls, “Each One, Teach One.” The essence of taking someone under your wing can be paramount to their future. I’ve mentored kids in K-12 and young adults in college. As a graduate student, I spent a lot of time with two young ladies. We bonded over our love of fashion and art. We shared glasses of wine and discussed heartbreak. But the most important aspects I took away from their relationship is the value they saw in me. When you know someone looks up to you, it implores you to strive for greatness. Seek out opportunities to mentor in your local community. Boys and Girls Clubs and most schools have great programs established. Young people are yearning to be heard. Exposing youth to experiences they may not get at home is a great way for them to learn valuable life lessons. If you cannot commit time to mentoring, then donate to organizations that do. I’ve donated funds to the amazing, Destination Liberation.
Destination Liberation is an organization dedicated to educating, exposing, and empowering young women of color through cultural exploration throughout the African Diaspora. While education in the classroom is important to make our children competitive in this global world, immersive experiences such as this one can give them a competitive advantage that just can’t be gained in the traditional classroom. The broadening of their world view can help them see what’s possible. For some of them, it's their first time leaving the state not just the country.
Let me add, adults need mentors too! It’s been challenging to find seasoned and successful professionals committed to building and developing professional/personal relationships. Oftentimes you meet them but they typically never follow through. Let’s fix that! Somebody is watching you, when you connect with them don’t flake!
You can only help others when you have something for yourself. Building wealth is a key component to establishing generational wealth. A major step in building wealth is eliminating debt! Save what you can, because a little goes a long way. Building wealth typically takes several streams of income. Dive deep into three major asset classes: Stock market, real estate and business. Take the time to read, Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice, by Dennis Kimbro. Remember, your talents and passion can make you money.
I understand everyone’s circumstances are different and reading about wealth building can be extremely daunting. No matter how much money you make, having a money manager walk you through ways to budget, is a great place to start. Once you get this knowledge and put it in practice, you will be well on your way to financial freedom, which allows you to help others in your family and community.
Employ Black Youth
If you have a viable business, remember that people in your community are looking up to you! Find a way to employ black youth and show them the ropes. Think about small tasks your company could use help with and employ a young person. So many of our youth are bored and often find trouble in idle time. In addition, youth aren’t aware of different career paths because they aren’t exposed to them. Reach out to schools, or even networks of teachers to see if they have students that would be willing to work or intern. You would simultaneously help #1 and #2 on this list come to fruition.
Create A Corporate Group
Diversity and Inclusion has been a hot topic in corporate conversations for a few years. If you can volunteer for a role on the board of diversity and inclusion at your company, go for it! Find out where companies are recruiting talent, work with employees to survey how people of color feel, and ensure representation company wide. Retention is a key metric, and the only way to calculate that, is to know who is hired. Small groups within large company structures are not foreign. Do not be afraid to speak up and make one if it doesn’t exist. Be visible when the new hire walks through the office. Welcome them to the team and make sure they know they have a special place to voice frustrations. We have to hold corporate America accountable, after all, we are making them a fortune. This is also something our allies can assist with.
Collaborate With Black Businesses
Collaboration is near and dear to my heart since I have a small business. I love collaborating with other businesses because it gives me a chance to not only expand my network but try new products. It’s lonely in entrepreneurship but when you cultivate genuine relationships, it fuels a deep desire to create. A large majority of my network consists of business owners that are in different fields, but with mastermind groups, I am able to get feedback on ideas, support their endeavors, and have accountability partners. With these relationships numbers 1-4 on this list can be attained. Below are Instagram handles to emerging and successful businesses in my network.
Black Lives Matter is a global movement that campaigns to end systemic racism. It is a daunting task dismantling a system that is intricately woven into American culture. What we can control is how we prepare ourselves, our families and communities for the type of future we want to have. Simply existing in your community is not enough. Be involved, be engaged, share your passions, and make our ancestors proud.
Support Black Business:
Angelique Michelle (Personal Shopper/ Closet Guru)- @Angelique_Iconiq
Amanda Spann (App Developer)-@TheAmandaSpann
Ashley Ryles (Mane Accesories Designer)-@Arryles
Brian Alexander (Men's Custom Suiting)-@BrianAlexanderBespoke
David Gibson (Sports Tech Software)-@Sportsmarkit
Ghost Note (Digital Creative Agency)-@GhostNote
Hadiyah Muhammad (Esthetician)-@FairyGlowMuva
Iris Mannings (Photographer)-@irismanings
Janette Ellis & Joi Adams (Publisher and Author)-@JoiJoi22
Jazmin Davis (Luxury Shoe Designer)-@JazminKionna
Kisha Jordan (Interior Design Stylist)-@KayJayStyle
Kisha Howell (Interior Design)-@BoldHues
Krystal Glass (Host/PR Consultant)-@Krystalglass_thehost
Ramiah Israel (Painter/ Jewelry Designer)- @Ramazinng
Reona (Vintage Clothing Curator)-@IeshaReona
Ron David (Handbag Designer)- @RonDavidStudio
Roxanne Paul (Interior Design Expert) @ParlourDesignHouse
Sheena Renee (Hair Salon in ATL)-@IamSheenaRenee
Tabitha Salomon (Children's Party Supplies)-@PartyDash_Official
Toni Settles-(Children's Book Author/Bookfair Curator)-@WellReadChildBookfair
Toya Cox (Etheral Beauty Salon DC)-@MrsDCStylist