Last year I sat on my couch at home and soaked in the first installment of CNN’s special: Black in America, wondering what other people were thinking. I was craving open discussions, feedback, and the ability to put collaborative plans into action. Instead of the face to face socializing, I settled for the mass media outlet of blogging and commenting on blogs. Although I was able to connect with people of all races, some of them with opposing views, I realized the connection I was seeking was the cultural experience of talking over each other and voice raising due to uncontrollable urges to comment on controversial topics (which brings out the drama queen in me LOL). So, this time around when we (Future Executives, Inc.) got the opportunity to co-host with The Phenomenal Women’s Group , Inc. two evenings of discussing the segments with a varied group of African Americans (ages range 25-45), there was no hesitation. How would this varied group of people who would not otherwise be in the same space at the same time and very seldom meet and/or socialize outside of occupational and career settings relate to each other? The outcome was two great evenings with two very different results; Day one: comments from participants during commercial breaks, Day two: full group discussion for the entire two hours (and then some) with the program muted (yay! for re-runs).
I was pleasantly surprised to see how easily the ice was broken. We were fortunate to have great people who are talented and varied show up with open minds. What became apparent to me was that there are people who have the desire to spark conversations on topics that would not otherwise be discussed amongst strangers. The diverse age group naturally flowed in and out discussions about education, community service, racism, activism, politics, and mentoring. Many questions and potential remedies were raised around topics such as ” Why is there such a disproportionate amount of black and Latino males dropping out of school? Was desegregation the worst thing that happened to our communities and people? And, we who mentor and motivate need to create a circle that rejuvenates and further elevates us as well.
Last year in comparison to this year? Hmm last year allowed me to reflect virtually and nationally with several individuals, many were not of the African American race and did not share my opinions. I chatted online with some people who did not see the need for Black in America because there has been adequate progress. Really? I am not sure as I sit at home on the eve of Black in America 2 viewing as an image of Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates in handcuffs flashes across my TV. Is this progress? Should I be happy he was not beaten or murdered by a police officer because that doesn’t happen any more right?
This year, our viewing and discussion event brought out a mix of today’s pioneers and tomorrows leaders who were willing to share their experience’s thus broadening mentorship possibilities. Our intentions for this event was to offer an alternative to the virtual atmosphere of networking and socializing for people of color- -mission accomplished. However, some issues and questions will take more than two days to tackle : Does desegregation effect the progression of our people and our communities? Why does being black in America make it harder for me to create, plan, and put my dreams into action? And, because I am successful and many others are not, is that adequate progress?
Simone-Monet Wahls is looking forward to journaling and watching, “Black in America Reclaiming the Dream” from her couch next weekend.