Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reflections on the 5th Annual Leadership 500 Summit

Sunday morning marked the end of our 5th Annual NAACP Leadership 500 summit. This initiative, launched by Roslyn McCallister Brock some years ago, continues to grow and deepen with each passing year. The idea behind the summit is to call together young professionals from around the country who are between the ages of 20 and 50 to discuss the critical issues facing our community and to put together strategies for action. This year, we were joined by 6 of the 7 youth members of the NAACP's National Board of Directors and a host of other 20, 30, and 40 somethings, for a series of workshops and lectures dealing with economic development, political affairs, educations, military and veterans issues, and families.

I was honored to once again serve as a member of the planning committee, and as such I would personally like to commend and honor sister Rosyln, Paula Brown-Edme, Barbara Brown, Sabu, Mike, Tonya, Rose, Faith, Leon, Hilary, Mama Dukes, and EVERYONE else who worked so hard to make this event a sucess... Through your efforts, you are touching thousands of lives, and I feel blessed to have been a witness...

I was able to take down just a few notes from some of the sessions that I'd like to share with you here:

Family connectedness workshop
Maintaining Family Connectedness in tough economic times

Rev. Kenneth Cooper – Spoke about the loss of family connectedness many are experiencing and how it coincides with a more general loss in communication. He talked about how houses used to have front porches where families could congregate and get to know their neighbors, but how as of late, houses are more apt to have decks out back which we surround with privacy fences. He also spoke about how once routine conversations around the dinner table have been too often reduced to text messages and that it is incumbent upon all of us to work to maintain the space for our communities to communicate.

Dr. Lisa Loury –Dr. Loury spoke about how our lives have become increasingly busy and our connectedness is challenged by our time constraints. She also spoke about the need for fundamental honesty with our children during these economic times. And how we could take advantage of these current economic challenges and use them as an opportunity to serve as Role Models for our children about about how to make difficult and complex decisions.

Diana Morales MPD – Also spoke about Role Modeling, and she expounded on the growing sense of separation due to increased reliance on technology. But then she also spoke about the distance between our families that is both physical and symbolic. About how our families are spread further and further apart as opposed to the older extended family model. She spoke eloquently about the loss of hope in our community and the need for leaders to work on lifting people up. She shared her testimony about her personal family and their struggles as emblematic of how many family members have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet. She spoke specifically about changes we can make in our own lives like expanding our definition of “Family”; being better neighbors; getting more sleep; getting involved in community; maintaining physical activity; eating well; creating a gratitude Journal (writing three things down each day that you are thankful for), and taking care of our Mental Health and maintaining peace in our lives and families. She also suggested that if we have things we feel the need to worry about, that we should set a “worry time”. (Not worrying about issues during meetings or family activities, but rather determining a time that you would willingly set aside for worry – “I’m going to worry between 12 and 12:15 and that’s it).

Dr. Terri Kennedy – Spoke about embracing the concept of simplicity (knowing what you value and organizing your life around it). And the need to express and experience ‘Gratitude’ (and to articulate that gratitude). Spoke about the need for creating family rituals. Towards the end she summarized her presentation with the saying, “Success is an attitude not an event.”

Cpt. Richard Tatum – Spoke about the loss of morality. Also spoke about the need for discipline, love, and faith. Referenced that in recent times, our faith has been placed in our finances, and we must get back to placing our faith in God. Lastly, he spoke about the power of intention; the fact that change and manifestation do not come by accident – but by conscious intention. “If you have no faith, it’s hard to have courage in the midst of a storm”.

Economic Empowerment workshop
Resiliency 101: Professional survival tactics during an economic downturn

Facilitator: Dr. Randall Pinkett: Stated that a down economy can be the best time to start an entrepreneurial enterprise. Spoke about the myth that staring a business requires other people’s money. But 80% of companies are started with the founder’s money. All of the panelists were representative of the 80% who started their businesses with their own money. He also spoke about the power of networking and developing relationships. He cited a recent study which determined how people were connected with their current employment: Internet 7%, agencies 9%, advertisements 9 % Relationships 74%

Sirena C. Moore (President; Elohim Cleaning Contractors): They focus on Construction site cleaning. The business was started with her Father and no money. Business did 2million in sales last year with 83 employees, no debt, no lines, and no loans. She spoke about the need for businesses to go the extra mile to be successful. She also spoke about the importance of having empowering beliefs. She said that when she and her father started their company, they bought only what they could afford to purchase in cash, she didn’t get a regular salary until her 3rd year, and they only introduced one salaried employee per year until they were financially viable.

Armando Seay (Founder and Executive Vice President of Development; Ross Technologies): Ross Technologies has been doing fine during this economic downturn through its focus on facilitating the information needs of Public sector clients such as the CIA, FBI, and various defense agencies. Armando also spoke about the need for start-up businesses and employees to be exceptional and to learn to be indispensible. But he also warned about the possibility of ‘overplanning’ stating that “once you’ve done your research, once you’ve built your plan, at some point, you just have to start.” Once his company started receiving contracts, he paid out 8 payroll’s before he ever received a check from one of his contracts. “Know what you don’t know” – he spoke about identifying your weaknesses and finding people who are strong in those areas who can come in and assist you.

Tammy Edwards (Asst VP – Federal Reserve Bank of KC): Leads a team of economists who research the Financial needs of low and moderate income communities through community development efforts. Spoke about the Community Reinvestment Act. And as banks and organizations began to function under the CRA they began morphing into more community development type organizations. She spoke about doing the work that is most important to you – in her case it was working to find methods of closing the economic gap between our communities. She also spoke about the need to form your own personal Board of Directors (People with different strengths and different experiences who can help you find and take advantage of opportunities by clarifying your strengths, weaknesses, and abilities) This concept was not solely a ‘networking’ concept, but rather a call to find people who you care about and who care about you, who are willing to be real with you… Finding the intersection between passion and gifts.

James Lindsay (President/CEO; Rap Snacks): Company formed 15 years ago with $40,000.00. The company did $5million dollars in sales last year. Research your field beyond your business plan. Fully develop your marketing plan through market research, your operating strategy, and your exit strategy.

N. Scott Phillips (IBM Corp): Talked about leveraging corporate organizations to assist minority businesses. He also talked about exercising your influence over your environment. He discussed the concept of branding and that individuals need to “manage” their personal brand. (are you perceived as a problem-solver? Are you perceived as one who can understand change and adapt?). Spoke about the need to surround yourself with good people. (Bankers, accountants, insurers, etc… folks you should bring in to guide and assist you on your personal board). He also strongly suggested that people volunteer and work in the community to build relationships. Do your research on people, know who can help you, know who is going to be in a room, learn who you can access…

Civic Engagement Workshop:
Meeting New Challenges in the era of Change

Facilitator: Leon Russell; Office of Civil Rights
Paris Dennard (Senior field representative RNC): Worked at the White House with President Bush for 3 years. Talked about Social Conservatism. Asked the question, “are we best served by placing all of our trust in only one party?” Said the President should be held accountable for not considering any black people for the Supreme Court stating that he believed that a Republican President would be scrutinized for not doing so…

Allyn Brooks LaSure (Deputy Associate Administrator EPA): Talked about the lack of Diversity within the health care debate and the various other critical debates facing the community. Allyn also talked about having organizations like the NAACP stand at the guard to see who the folks are in the room after the meeting is over. He talked about the importance of knowing who is in the room when decisions are made to allocate the actual dollars.

Melanie Campbell (CEO and Executive Director National Coalition in Black Civic Participation):  Talked about the fact that HBCU’s stand to lose approximately 85 million dollars. She also talked about that fact that there is a push for African Americans to stop talking about or dealing with the issue of race, while at the same time, other communities are increasingly consolidating behind identity politics. She also talked about the need for us to push for more inclusion of African Americans in the administration.

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