“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”Maya Angelou
When I lack the words, I rely on those that are much more practiced at weaving them together than I. This single line from, Maya Angelou, says so much with so little. The courage to take a step forward, courage to listen without judgement, courage to seek understanding even if it makes you emotionally raw. I personally realize that there are many things that I don’t know and don’t quite understand. Last week I was ready to let go of comfort and embrace a reality we rarely talk about or teach. I had to seek out this information if I wanted it to be part of my narrative, part of my being.
So, last week I went to Selma and Montgomery Alabama to visit as many Voting Rights and Civil Rights sites as I could. For my 40th birthday, I took time off for to explore what made my position in life comfortable. I immersed myself in the lives that fought before me, struggled before me, and died before me, so that I can better understand how I can take up the torch. My comfortable life doesn’t frequently push me into hard conversations or information, which has built a somewhat ignorant bubble around my life. Because of this, while in Alabama I continued reading Between the World and Me by, Ta-Nehisi Coates, watched short films at the Legacy Museum, visited historic sites like the Edmund Pettus bridge, ran my hands across the rough steel symbolic caskets at The National Museum of Peace and Justice, and looked at all that my teary eyes could handle. My throat ached in furious pain and my palms sweat while the trajectory of my reality shifted. Voting rights, Civil Rights, racial terror, lynching, Equal Rights, segregation, mass incarceration, and the continued politics supporting an old and broken world. The old world was built on the shoulders of giants that were standing atop the bodies of slaves. Some of those around us want to take us back to this. I will not let them.
The fact that there is blatant injustice then, now, and into our foreseeable future is amazingly tragic only if we allow it to continue. Knowledge of the past is necessary if we are to take action and improve the present and future. I must do something to continue the progress.
What am I doing with this knowledge?
I am going to challenge the comfort I’ve been provided as often as possible. Many suffered in order to give me my voice. Many suffer still without the voice, platform, and friends that I have. I must push, I will not break. I must share, many are waiting.
- I am going to share how I am challenging myself as often as possible.
- I am going to actively reduce my concern with how others view my actions and efforts.
- I am going to believe that my black body is beautiful and mine to control. I am not a token for someone else’s quota.
- Through Empathy Lab efforts, I am going to share my career experience, my voice, and myself as a successful black man with all those that are interested in listening.
- I am going to take brave and courageous people, including myself, into places we don’t talk about, don’t see, and try to ignore.
- I am going to focus Empathy Lab‘s efforts on those actively creating our future. I am going to talk directly to the those in the innovation trenches; the product researchers, designers, developers, and managers. I want to improve their empathy, their understanding, and their ability to ask why so that they can, “Do the right thing.” I want them to grow teams and communities that build the products that we need. While we often talk about racial injustice and gender inequality, we rarely focus our gaze on the products we consume daily that directly influence our social structure.