We started the 5th week of the Mandela Washington fellowship yesterday. Time flies indeed. This fellowship has been a roller coaster that was much needed on my journey. Overall, it is an enriching experience for me!
We have had a number of speakers share their personal stories and facilitate discussions on different topics. I would like to share some of those stories. I look forward to applying the many lessons I’m learning every day. I am like a sponge out here, I am absorbing a lot of information that I know will be useful on the path that I have chosen. Hope the brief stories and lessons inspire you too.
Mr. Sherman P. Lea
Mr Lea is the Mayor of Roanoke City. Mr Lea told us a story about an event that helped shape who he is today. When he was in college, Mr Lea played American football. He was good at it. He got drafted by a popular team, the Dallas Cowboys together with 150 other players from across the country. The team’s coach informed him that on the day of the trial game, he would get a call. If he didn’t get the call, that would be a sign that he had not qualified. (American football is Greek to me so Any errors therein are totally as a result of my ignorance & laziness to learn about it.)
Mr Lea didn’t get the call. A friend of his who he thought would not qualify made it and went on to play in the NFL.
This changed the course of his life. He spent 36 years with the Virginia Department of Corrections assisting people with criminal convictions as they re-entered the community upon release from incarceration.He was the first African American in Virginia to hold the position of Chief Probation and Parole Officer. Mr Lea is the founder and president of S.P Lea and Associates, a company that facilitates training sessions on topics including; leadership, management theories and practice.He was awarded the 2010 William L. Hastie Award by the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice and named the 2014 citizen of the year by the Gamma Alpha Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
Lessons from Mr Lea:
- In life, its not always about what YOU think. People have other perspectives and you must learn to respect that.
- There will be many times when you will get deflated,knocked down and your dreams will be frustrated. All those times remember that it is not about the knockdown, it is about the get up! Remind yourself that getting knocked down is not who you are, stand back up and keep going!
- There are some values that will help you succeed as a leader. The most important of them all are humility, integrity and honesty.
- Don’t be concerned about who gets credit. Work passionately. In your work, strive to change the mindset because “you can not legislate the heart.”
- Use what you learn and what you have been given to make things better for others.
Mr Lee and I 😆
At only 25, Justin is easily one of the most inspiring people I have ever met.
When he was 3 years old, Justin was napping one day when his babysitter woke him up. He tried to stand but could not. He was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis. He got his first wheel chair when he was 4 years old. Justin has refused to let the wheelchair define him. In fact, when you meet him you notice him first as an individual before you see that he gets around with a wheelchair. That is exactly how he wants it . His parents told him at an early age; “you can do anything you want to do, except you might have to do it differently.” He has been unstoppable since!
Justin completed an undergraduate degree in Sociology and a graduate degree in higher education in 2014, both from Virginia Tech. He currently works for the department of homeland security conducting policy analysis. Justin founded and owns a company; hesonwheels.com. He is a strong advocate for non-traditional leadership in multicultural and under-represented populations.
Lessons from Justin:
- “Life is all about what you have done for others.” This is the motto for his company(hesonwheels.com)
- Leave your mental door open. You don’t always have to do something big to make a difference. Remember, small acts might have bigger impact. Be open to new ideas and different ways of doing things.
- Open yourself up to community. Meet new people who are different from you. Community is enriching when people are diverse.
- Cognitive involvement and emotional enthusiasm are important in anything you do. Have the mental capacity to care about your community.Additionally, prepare,pay attention to detail and invest your heart and time in anything you embark on.
- Be consistent.
- You know nothing better than your own story!
Justin & I 😆
Devon Lee is a book on feet! From the moment he starts talking, he puts your brain to work! His conversations always demand critical thinking and an open mind. Devon is very passionate about pan-Africanism and tackling racial issues in America. I have had the opportunity to engage Devon outside the classroom a couple of times and all those times,I have been challenged to think critically and be unapologetic about my truth.
Devon Lee is a doctoral student at Virginia Tech in sociology, specializing in Africana studies in the college of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. He plans to develop a hybrid of “each one, reach one” mentor-ship model that calls on faculty to be resources in the academic, professional and social development of black graduate students. Devon is a member of the Diversity Scholars Initiative, a competitive program aimed at assisting students in advancing diversity and inclusion through a variety of events and programs.
Lessons from Devon
- A leader must be a reflection of innovation, creativity and challenging the status quo.
- Leadership is not about authority. Actually, don’t be afraid to question authoritative structures.
- Be open in communication, bringing important hard conversations to the surface.
- When advocating for people, give them the platform to speak for themselves. Should this fail, know their story so well to tell it from their perspective and not yours.
- Live your truth even when there is strong opposition.
- Be proud of your heritage.
Devon Lee & I 😡
Mike walked into our classroom casually and said “I am Mike.I help people figure out how to turn their ideas into business models.” Of course I was lost. For those who know me, my brain freezes when I hear anything that is connected to numbers. When I heard “business” , my brain waved a white flag in surrender.
But boy was I wrong…
Mike started by dismissing the myth that if you are in non-profit, you are not supposed to make money. How will you be able to help others if you are hungry yourself? He asked! Additionally, isn’t it much better to make money and use it for your programs than write proposals all the time? He had my attention from there on wards.
Lessons from Mike (Steps to innovation):
- Search for problem-solution fit. Identify the problem in your community and validate that people care about that problem. Talk to the people. Always talk to people!
- Find the product- market fit. Build and deliver your services that meet the need in your community. Those of us in the development field must keep in mind that it is is important to design interventions in the way that our beneficiaries want them. Always look for what you may be doing wrong as this allows you to be open minded and grow. Trying to prove you are right all the time is a barrier to learning. Knowing why your community must care about what you are doing is crucial to long-term success.
- Have a business model fit. Ensure that your beneficiaries get the most out of your service. Think differently- always look for the value of what you are offering. The “why” is the most important aspect in all you do!
- “Hope is not a good strategy.”
Mike Abbott & I (excuse my forehead in this picture and I don’t know why i look bald)
I hope you enjoyed reading and took away something that might work for you!
Side note: We have not had a significant number of women talk to us hence their absence in the post. We have two more weeks. I look forward to sharing more as our sessions continue.