Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dawn McCoy is grateful during Black History Month

It’s hard for me to introduce today’s blog guest without sounding like a gushing fool. The truth is I respect Dawn McCoy as a writer, I admire her as a leader and I love her like a sister. Last night I wrote an introduction for Dawn’s blog and then this morning she emailed me nearly an identical piece about how we met and how we built a friendship.

Dawn and I are friends but as a colleague I am inspired by her authorship of Leadership Building Blocks: An Insider’s Guide to Success, 7 fundamental principles for leadership success, a book that I have used myself to ensure I reach the goals I set.

Below you’ll read how Dawn and I met and the foundation of our friendship, but I also need to mention that we both wear Tiffany’s perfume and Dawn was one of my attendants when I married Elvis (that is another whole blog) just before we headed to see Aretha Franklin perform. And that day in Vegas is on my list of Top 10 memorable days.

Today, I am not only grateful to my dear tidda north of the equator, but also for her insightful blog of gratefulness below.

Dawn says:

Anita and I met in Tampa, Florida in 2008 at a writer's conference. At the time, we had no idea how much we are kindred spirits and all that we have in common. The following year at another conference in Las Vegas we solidified a lifelong friendship noting birthdays just a week apart, similar work styles and habits, aligned social convictions, complimentary wittiness, and an amazing list of mutual interests. We have laughed hysterically at an Aretha Franklin conference, joked endlessly, and have kept an ongoing friendship Skyping and catching up stateside whenever we can. I'm truly grateful for our friendship!

What I’m Grateful for in Black History Month
During Black History month, there are so many reasons to be grateful. With some freedom afforded in the U.S., we have the opportunity to reflect upon the accomplishments of many great heroes and sheroes.

Black History month should be a time to acknowledge the contributions of great African American leaders. That being said, there are five reasons I’m grateful for Black History month:

1.Reflecting upon legacy
– There are so many speeches, books, and recordings available for us to glean from the experiences of those who pave the way for us. Thankfully, many African American leaders understand the important of passing along the “how to’s” about the challenges and opportunities that they experienced. Often they take the time through lectures and forums to share their knowledge and we are all better for it. Just look at Poets like Sonia Sanchez, Maya Angelou, and Nikki Giovanni who are legacy-minded leaders in the literary world. They take pause from their work to pass along value and needed insight.

2.Honoring vision – Celebrating Black History month is not just about looking at what others have done but looking about how they set out to accomplish what they did. Specifically, this means taking time to acknowledge the bold action of Harriet Tubman, conductor of the underground railroad and master-strategist who brought so many from slavery north to freedom. And there is Benjamin Bennaker, designer of the city of Washington, DC with its fascinating round-about, grids, and logical layout. These African Americans should be celebrated for their vision, bold action, and willingness to put a plan in action.

3.Learning courage and fortitude – Who would not be grateful for the opportunity to learn from the great masters about how to be truly fearless? We all know of the tenacity of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. How thankful we should be to learn about the fortitude of the late Reginald Lewis, corporate executive and multi-million of Beatrice Foods. Or how about the extraordinary proclamations of Sojourner Truth who stood up and spoke out during an 1851 convention of all whites before her time claiming “Ain’t I a Woman?”

4.Welcoming dynamic creativity and collaboration – With every annual Black History month there is a chance for reflection about true collaboration and engagement. How do African Americans promote community? How do African American groups build upon mutual goals and objectives? We can look at the examples of the National Council of Negro Women, an advocacy organization for women of African descent in the U.S. and abroad, founded by Mary McLeod Bethune in 1935. Likewise, we can look at the umbrella collaborations and creativity under the leadership of The National Urban League with Marc Morial and Blanche Williams of the National Black Women’s Town Hall project.

5. Training from mentors and for protégés – In so many ways, Black History month is an opportunity to celebrate the remarkable forums for on-the-job-training. In short, this means that I’m thankful for the African American mentors who take time to show guidance and serve as advocates, teachers, and coaches. These include former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young and former secretary of labor Alexis Herman, and Essence Magazine executive Susan Taylor who have taken mentorship to another level. They work with protégés, the next generation of leaders to guide them formally and off-line. This is the beauty of Black History month, an opportunity to see history in action!

So, as we pause this month to reflect let’s all be truly grateful for all the ways we can acknowledge and honor our African American leaders

Pic above of Dawn and I in New York City, July 2010 for my launch of Manhattan Dreaming.

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