The events of the last couple of months have been disheartening, but the last couple of days have been like a hammer. As an Afro-Rican man with a caucasian wife and bi-racial children, this past week has been challenging. It has been challenging because of my feelings and my children. They range in age from 16 to 1. I am blessed with five sons and a daughter. Georgia is the latest addition to our family.
As a man of color, I have recently had “the talk” with my eldest, and my wife. The talk consists of warnings about how to behave if stopped by police. Where white teenagers are learning the proper placement of their hands when driving, I am teaching him where to place his hands if stopped by a police officer. My day job consists of running this organization that feeds more than 5,000 families weekly. I feed everyone that needs it. Never caring where they are from but focusing on culturally specific foods. That endeavor has kept me very busy.
I am a child of the housing projects of New York City. My mother went to jail for manslaughter in 1986 and subsequently died there in 1992. My father was killed in 1977, in Rhode Island as a 25-year-old. I was shot at 17 years old and left for the Marine Corps in 1988. By the time I was 30, I was the COO of a 400 person company and CEO of another. My clients were all fortune 500 companies. I was homeless by 37 and founded this organization at 42. We started with 24 meals and a $48.50 investment (all the money I owned). To date, we are in three states and have served well over 1 Million meals with a funding mix that is 85% donor and 15% grants.
I have been to business school in California. I have been to school for video editing in NYC. I have been to bible college in Macon, Georgia. I have studied fundraising at Boston University. And spent an uninterrupted week with Disney executives in a shadowing program in Orlando. None of those accomplishments mean a thing if I decided to go to work in my sweats versus my suits.
I have been stopped 10 times in 8 years in my neighborhood for nothing more than walking down the street in a NY Yankees hat and nice sneakers. I am a leader. Have been all my life. Not a black leader. Not a Latino Leader. Just a leader. The best thing that you can do for people of color right now is to treat us like people. I am not special because of the color of my skin, nor am I inferior. I am outstanding because I have empathy. I am bright because my mother forced me to read instead of watching TV. I am a leader because I have a God-given gift of caring about the person next to me and involving them in my vision.
Smile, and thank you for your gifts.