During Black History Month, we naturally reflect on the remarkable achievements of black individuals throughout history – those who inspire us and those who paved the way for us. Yet we have our own stories, history, and our own legends to celebrate – right there in the branches of our family tree.
It’s important to acknowledge and celebrate the stories within your family, the hardships and the triumphs that enabled you to be here – exactly where you are – today. Our heritage is a part of us. It’s written into our DNA. Those generational experiences and the family folklore passed down from parent to child are powerful.
I see it in my work as I coach people of color. Our past shapes our present and our future, and if we let it, the resilience we inherit can strengthen our resolve and open new opportunities.
One of the truly incredible hallmarks of Black history is the resilience that generation after generation has demonstrated in the face of one adversity after another. Though we still have a long way to go to achieve equity and equality in this country, the distance we have traveled is utterly inspirational. Slavery. Segregation. Suffrage. Civil rights. Our people have consistently fought for a better life and to leave a better legacy for their children.
The work continues. So many of my clients draw power from their ancestors, where they came from, and what they lived through. The stories of survivors survive across centuries. Those immense challenges that our forefathers and foremothers faced can be transformed into inspiration as we navigate a new set of complexities in society and the workplace.
We all carry the resilience of the generations that came before us. We are the sum of their collective strength.
There’s more than resilience in those reserves. In every single generation, there were trailblazers. And those Black history-makers dared to go where no person of color had before. In so doing, they created new possibilities for work in every profession and influence in every seat of power.
Perhaps even in your lineage, there is someone who shattered a glass ceiling, was the first in their family to earn a degree, or became a successful entrepreneur against all the odds. Their triumphs pass to you as a legacy of possibilities, a call to dream big and dare even bigger.
As an individual, you also bear the responsibility to create a legacy through your success. You can also serve as a beacon of hope, a shining example of what is possible. Think about what you want to achieve, then visualize how your success will influence someone else. What torch will you pass on?
Black History Month reminds us that our history since coming to this continent has been ever marching forward, making strides, and creating lasting change. By understanding the momentum of the generational experiences in our families and communities, we can forge new ground and help turn those footpaths into highways.
Armed with these stories of resilience and achievements, we can navigate our careers with a unique perspective. The beauty of diversity is that we can use all those different viewpoints to create a more inclusive vision of the work we do. Own it and leverage it to break down barriers and challenge stereotypes. Forge new ground.
Going even further, we each are responsible for recognizing the sacrifices of generations before us. And to pay it forward to those coming after us. I urge you to share your gifts, experience, and wisdom through mentorship, sponsorship, and community engagement. By pooling our resilience, we create stronger generations and a society with abundant opportunities for all.
From generation to generation, we are making, sharing, celebrating, and facilitating Black history.