—I walked out of the corner conference room feeling cornered but not defeated.
When I was young all I wanted to be was a writer. In my late thirties I looked at my résumé and balled; tears of shame and guilt of having years of jobs I hated and periods of short stints in corporate America that left me with sever Post Traumatic Stress.
Nevertheless, my career plans sent me on the journey of a preschool teacher, career coach, child development specialist, educator, trainer, state-wide officer, administrative assistant, associate director, grants manager, and probably so many more. One of my last interviews was for a non-profit ministry that served minority students in a predominantly black part of town.
The position was a high-level administrative position. I didn’t get the job however, I was told in an email by the Dean of the school and interview team that I was one of the most qualified candidates who interviewed but they chose to go in a different direction.
Rejection happens to us all and employers can choose whom they feel is a best fit for their organization at their will. Recently browsing online I saw the outfit I interviewed for win an award pictured was the new person who filled the position I interviewed for.
The picture consisted of smart, beautiful, confident, black young children in matching school uniforms holding hands while white administrators and school officials surrounded them in a classroom.
When I interviewed for the position with their board and team I was asked what I valued the most? I answered myself. I value my truth and my story and not a false narrative of what society believes about me or believes about black women in their 40’s who grew up in a poor rural part of Alabama.
BE YOURSELF EVERYONE IS ALREADY TAKEN
I value the truth that I know to be true about black girls like me. My ideas of worthiness was formed watching black women teachers in their high heels with matter of fact smiles teach black young girls and boys from what some deemed as “low income homes” how to read and dream.
Representation is a defining truth that matters to black children and for black children. Visibly being able to see, touch, and hear someone who looks, sounds, and has cultural messages like the ones you may have gives authentic meaning towards one’s worthiness.
“This is what I intend to teach, display, and encourage as a leader within this organization if I am accepted in this position, I concluded”. Immediately after repeating this mantra in a room full of very nice proper people who didn’t look like me I knew by the phony smiles, perplexed eyes looking away from my eyes, and loud silence I had said something that did not go over very well.
I walked out of the corner conference room feeling cornered but not defeated.
Even though I wished at the time to take this message to this particularly organization, I quickly realized I am the message and it goes with me no matter where I go. That message includes not allowing or accepting definitions of my worth, the worthiness of blackness, or the perceptions of ‘me” that are constructed from false narratives.
Similarly, where people live or what their economic status is doesn’t define their worthiness or the value of their ability to learn and become successful. And the great white hope of saving “us” is an anti-blackness ritual that is an aggression and affront towards real change and genuine concern.
Questions I am pondering…
- Who or what are you allowing to define your worth?
- Are you an activist for yourself and the self-worth of your people?
- How do your values match up with your belief about your worthiness?
Character is defined by what we do when no one else is looking therefore when we are true to ourselves our character is refined. A picture is worth a thousand words and that picture that caused me to write out my worth is something I had to sit with some thousand times over.
Moreover, I didn’t want to become bitter— but maybe bitterness set in for awhile. There is nothing sweet about determining the worth of others through the lens of one’s own judgment. Bitterness is then the catalyst perhaps that has provoked me towards conversations around personal messaging, virtues, and values.
–Don’t pretend to love me by superficial servitude, for your hands have no power to save no matter how mighty and glossy the photo-op appears to be! NO, NO, NO, … I am fine and worthy just by being me—my, yours, and our worthiness is defined by our damn self!