Updated: Jan 15
Today, I leave the agency I have worked for after almost 8 years. Yes, this is bittersweet because unbeknownst to me, I had no idea of my influence on leadership, peers, and colleagues agency-wide. I’m forever indebted to PBGC for trusting me to lead and advise. This opportunity has allowed me to work in my purpose.
I mostly will miss the fabulous team of talented creative professionals I guided and managed throughout the years, including those who may have gone on to other endeavors. As a leader, there are a few things that, no matter your status, you must recognize and practice.
Never forget where you came from and where you started. We all started at some point.
Listen…if someone has something to say, likely it’s important enough to share, so be kind enough to listen – attentively.
Learn to read the room. You should ‘listen’ with your eyes as well as your ears.
Thoughtfulness and a little thank you can brighten someone’s day.
When I received my bachelor’s degree, my grandmother shared something that I appreciate more now than then. “…you will be able to do good things. Things I wish I could have done when I was growing up. You have a chance to do things I wasn’t even given a chance to do.”
During my Grandma’s time – which let me remind you has not been too long ago –
not a lot of blacks were given educational opportunities or opportunities for advancement. If you ever saw the movie or read the book “The Help,” many black women, including my grandmother, worked in those situations to provide for their families. Cooking, cleaning, sewing, and raising children were just a few talents innate to black women. Lack of education and lack of opportunities were driving factors.
But that didn’t stop my Grandma and other matriarchs in my family. Grandma was one of the smartest, quick-witted people I knew. She was also beautiful and oh, so elegant. She wore her charcoal-colored hair swept upward in a messy twist that I used to envy. Oh, how I wanted to be just like her.
It wasn’t until years later, I received validation of Grandma’s approval of the choices I made. This happened long after she had passed away. I worked for Mecklenburg County as a (Public Information Officer) PIO that worked in many communities throughout Mecklenburg County. One of the community leaders, Ms. Bette Rae Thomas, always treated me with kindness and was incredibly nurturing. I never paid much attention until I stopped by her house to drop off some materials for an upcoming event. “Come on in, Niecey, and have a seat.” Did she just call me “Niecey,” I was thinking to myself? I’m really thinking…okay, this lady KNOWS me. Like, REALLY knows me.
She returned to the sitting area with a photo album. In the album were pictures of her and Grandma in the house of my grandmother’s long-term employer. She even had photos of me, my siblings, and my cousins. Talk about a jaw-dropping moment. I'm sure you all can guess by now that Ms. Bette Rae was white. Her hands were frail and showed signs of aging as well as many years of work.
WHO KNEW? Ms. Bette Rae and Grandma were employed by the same people. Ms. Bette Rae was the nurse and caretaker for the most elderly person in the home. She went on to talk about how fond Grandma was of her grandchildren. How she was so proud of our accomplishments. That day, Ms. Bette Rae shared with me that Grandma always told her, “Niecey is smart. You know she’s going to be somebody.” As I sat in her living room, I continued to attentively listen to the fun stories she shared about knowing Grandma. The times they would both get angry with their boss and scheme up something crazy – that they never followed through on. They talked on the phone every day for hours when they retired. Even up to the day, Grandma went to the hospital but never came home.
That day Ms. Bette Rae validated that I was on the right path and that if she was still alive, I was achieving all the things Grandma wanted to do but couldn’t.
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech.
It’s so appropriate for me to post this today. It’s the start of the celebration weekend of one of the most incredible civil rights activists of our time, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s also the start of a new chapter for me as I continue to work in my purpose.
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