When I started the Utah Black Chamber, I didn't fully understand the path that lied ahead for me. I planned on contributing to the social, well economic good, of the Black community. I wanted to prove to myself (and others) that I can be successful at growing a nonprofit organization. What I didn't expect, as the chamber grew, I grew; in maturity, personal and professional development, and as a leader. A leader in the diverse community and the community overall. It has been a fun and exhilarating road. As someone who is naturally an introvert, I have been stretching and being outside my comfort zone nearly every single day.
Sometimes I wonder where would I be if I just kept to myself and kept going the path I planned; growing in a company and focused on taking care of me. After work, the rest of my day was free to do whatever. Hang out on the weekends with friends. Go to church on Sunday, and then repeat the process over and over again.
However, I felt called. Called to change the perspective. During this process, I learned to understand is if I wanted to be treated and included as equal, I had to learn that I represent more than just myself. As a person of color, especially in a state that is not recognized as a diverse community, it's important to recognize that there are more eyes watching than you realize. Especially, if you have influence. It's not just your family, friends, co-workers, boss, and people at church, but it also those who see you on the street, in a social environment, and anywhere and everywhere there are eyes. These eyes are evaluating you, critiquing you, and judging you. Whatever you do, you don't get the privilege of just representing you. Whether they consciously do or not, they see you as a representation of your entire community. The African Proverb says, "It takes a village to raise a child." You are now a representation of how well that village raised you.
Whether you like it or not, if you are a person of a diverse background, the noise you make is louder than the noise of the majority. It's evident in the news we watch and read. Recently, actor Jussie Smollett, who is black and gay, was indicted on charges of falsifying a hate crime. He allegedly plotted his own attack. Apparently, this was out of frustration of not being compensated as he felt he should for is role in Empire. . . . . .
This was a selfish move. Actors have a huge spotlight. Black actors have even a larger spotlight. But Jussie is a Black gay actor. So the spotlight is massive. I understand if you are frustrated with your career. Many of us have been there. However, as a person of influence, he has to consider the consequences of the actions he decides to take. In the days of social media, what you say and do can be seen and heard almost immediately, and spread across the globe if you are of influence like Jussie Smollett. This is how stereotypes, perceptions, and judgements are developed. The worst part is the plot he used to gain attention; a hate crime. It is already difficult to know and feel that our country is still full of racism and hate crimes are still going on. Now, for those who are feel like they are being treated disproportionately, do they feel their trust is compromised with law enforcement now than before? It's already tough for victims of a hate crime. Now, will it be harder to prove that you were actually attacked?
Yes, celebrities and athletes have a lot bigger spotlight. However, that does not mean you don't have one on you. Your actions can affect your own community, and as you grow in influence, your impact can be much greater, positively or negatively. As a matter of fact, if you want increase your influence, just simply be aware of who you represent and take responsibility for your actions. You'll notice what you say, do, and even how you move. I have been humbled and humiliated, but I have also been elevated and motivated. It can be a blessing and a curse. You just have to decide. Do you want to bless your community or curse your community?
With the racial climate we have right now, it's more critical than I've seen in my lifetime we need more people of color to recognize who they represent. Just simply be aware of who they can influence and be the example of what we all can become. With all eyes on us, let's show them what we are capable of and how we can change the world.