In any given year, we spend most of our 'vacation' time with family. Unfortunately, most of our family is far away... in Washington, DC, Detroit, and Atlanta. Fortunately, for The Empowerment Experiment, most of our family is in Washington, DC, Detroit, and Atlanta - three of the most powerful Black business centers in America. What a coincidence! The year we dedicate to buying Black and trying to elevate the issues facing Black business; the economic, corporate, and commercial disparities we accept as a community; the stereotypes and systems that keep all that going... the year we commit to creating an honest and empowering dialogue between ourselves, the struggling and the successful, the rich and the poor, the hoodie and the suburbanite... that's the year my mother decides to beat pancreatic cancer.
She and my Papa live in Austell, a suburb of Atlanta. Everything I am or ever will be springs from her wisdom, guidance, courage and indominatable character and dignity. All those degrees don't mean a damn thang! I am Luisa's daughter. That's who I am. That's where EE comes from. Luisa, my mother, was supposed to die many times last year. She hangs on for us. She hangs on for EE. She knows we need her. And this is her dream too.
So as you can imagine, this year, the year of EE, I am spending a lot more time in Atlanta. It's my second home. And that means it's EE's second home.
My trips to Atlanta are very emotional now. Mima is frail. It saddens me. Mima is still here. That makes me happy and grateful. But now the trips are even more emotional because I've been talking to Atlanta about EE. I've been on the radio there, done some interviews, and met hundreds. EE hosted events at two Black-owned wine shoppes. People from all over the city came, just to meet me, just to talk about EE. All they know is that I am a woman who has pledged to support Black businesses. That's all. But you know what? For some folks, those who are starving for change, who are suffocated by the status quo, who are stifled and stranded by the hopelessness they fear is infinite... those folks think that anyone who would make that kind of commitment must be a superstar.
Who is this hero? Who is this brave soldier who would dare make small efforts to find and support quality Black businesses and then go out of her way to promote them? Is she a politician, a radical? Who is this heaven-sent champion spending her time, money, heart and mind on trying to prove and tell anyone who would listen that it is beautiful to buy Black? Who is paying her? Why would she do this? "Will you come back to Atlanta and run for Mayor or Governor of Georgia?" asked Frank of the famous "Frank and Wanda Morning Show."
They flooded our events contemplating these questions. They stood in line and on tippy-toes just to hear me speak or shake my hand or hug my neck. One man was ready to fight another man just for thinking he could disagree with the words coming out of my mouth. "We love you." "We got your back." "Thank you." "Thank you for doing this." "Thank you for standing up." Can you help me?" Could you talk to my son?" "Will you speak at my church?" "Keep going sister. We will help you." "Thank you."
What are you thanking me for? I'm just visiting my Mima! I'm just buying bananas and coffee. I'm just going out to eat. I'm just getting my nails done! I'm just talking about how proud I am to be Black and be able to support the wonderful talent coming out of my community. What the hell are you standing in line to talk to me for?!! I'm no hero.
Look, I'm just like all of you. I am a mother who worries about her babies, looking for more chances and ways to protect and love them. I am a wifey who takes good care of her husband, is proud when I look good for him, and lives for his smiles and kisses. I am a daughter who strives to represent all the strength, principles and wisdom my parents instilled in me. That's all I am.
I'm you. Just as you are me.
I went to Atlanta to see Mima. Before I left we had started our first EE affiliate chapter - The Empowerment Experiment of Atlanta. I went to sip on some fine African wines and I left with a movement at my back.
But I aint nobody special. You may feel that way. That's only because I got you thinking about a new kind of future for us. That's what's special. That's what's powerful. Those possibilities, that chance to taste the apple-pie, picket-fence dreams that so many Americans take for granted. That's the feel-good stuff that has your eyes welling...that new quality of life for a people that has suffered so much and given so much to America. And in return we ask for pies and fences. Pies and fences. PIES AND FENCES!!
So think about that. Not me. I'm just Luisa's daughter. Luisa. The Cuban immigrant who, regardless of her virtually white-skin, never abandoned, diminished, or negated her Blackness, her Africanness. The mother of three, who gave up everything she had, including the wedding ring she refuses to replace, so her family can have a better life in the land of opportunity. The laborer whose vacations were defined by her children's and grandchildren's weddings and graduations... who managed to send all of her children from the gang-infested streets of Liberty City to college and their individual success stories. That's me. I'm her daughter. That's all I ever will or ever want to be.
So think about the pies and fences. Think about all the Luisas who fight for us.
And don't think about me. I'm just Luisa's daughter.
Think about us. Think about what we all can do together.
Then who will the real hero be?