The story behind my passion for this work and the need for this work. Having come of age in the segregated south during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, I saw first-hand the deplorable attitudes and behaviors of groups of people toward other groups of people. These disgraceful interactions were rooted in fear—fear of the unknown, fear of differences and fear of loss—a zero sum mentality that believed one person’s gain would be another’s loss. This zero sum mentality resulted in a plethora of societal injustices and broken dreams.
I also saw first-hand the impact one person can have on a society that finds itself at a crossroads of “justice for all.” Specifically, my memories center on the work of one man, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was Dr. King’s commitment to leadership through his personal standards and public beliefs rooted in ethics, values, and integrity that compelled him to risk his life to come to my hometown, Birmingham, Alabama, in April 1963, a place he called “the most segregated city in the country.” Dr. King is quoted as saying, “I am in Birmingham, because injustice is here.”
I watched in awe as Dr. King executed a plan to achieve a goal not to desegregate the city, but to “awaken the moral conscience of America” and produce federal legislation that would force desegregation everywhere. In just a few weeks, Dr. King’s mastery in the leadership skills of visioning, strategic planning, team building, commitment, courage, and an unwavering dedication to the task at hand, focused the eyes of the world to the plight of the marginalized in my hometown, which included me. And by the end of 1963, Dr. King had achieved his goal—the Supreme Court ruled that the segregation laws of Birmingham, Alabama, were unconstitutional.
This ruling confirmed a basic human right that everyone, not just the privileged majority, had a right to live unencumbered by manmade laws put in place to justify the inhumanity of one group of people on other groups of people. No longer would I have to ask my parents why I could only go to the state fair one day of the week for spring break and the white kids could go four days or why the textbooks given by the public school system to my school were old and used and the problems in the arithmetic textbook were already solved.
Dr. King’s unselfish, courageous act of service changed my view of the world and my place in the world. I started to believe that maybe, just maybe, the world did care and just needed someone—a “super hero” to wake it up. And for me, Dr. King was my super hero and super heroes have special power. I decided at age nine I wanted to be someone’s super hero and use my special power to change the world of all little kids like me—the “other” in the eyes of the powerful.
It was this early, personal encounter with the power of ethical, moral leadership that sparked the defining moment in my life that lead me to my unquenchable thirst for helping others all over the world find their special power. I believe that somewhere in the dreams of all human beings is to be a great human being by serving in an even greater human race, where all men and women are created equal. I believe all dreams should come true. I believe everybody has a special power, a divine gift, uniquely given to them to make their dreams and others come true. And that’s my mission, vision and goal for BuildingLeaders LLC. I’m building leaders to “build a better humanity because all dreams should come true.”