By Natasha L. Foreman, MBA

This article is so delayed it’s not even funny. My first draft was ready on May 3rd but I had technical difficulties with posting. But today is still an awesome day to share an amazing story no matter how many weeks ago it took place.

A few weekends ago I had the honor and privilege to spend time with and share a moment in history with Ambassador Andrew Young and his family and friends, and Martin Luther King III and his wife Arndrea King.

It was the weekend of April 29th to May 1st and I arrived a day early (on the 28th) so I could be well-rested and prepared for the events and activities that were awaiting me.

To hear Ambassador Young speak Friday, the night before the unveiling of his portrait (at the Smithsonian) about his life, his friendship with Dr. King, how the late Jean Childs Young and Coretta Scott King knew each other long before their husbands met, and grew up in the same small town was so moving. I have heard that story before but this night had a different impact on all of us. This was a very special weekend.

Ambassador Andrew Young April 29, 2011 at pre-unveiling reception at Smithsonian. Photo Source: Natasha L. Foreman

To hear Ambassador Young speak of his beloved second wife Carolyn and all that she has done to help him, his family, and his mission since they married touched my heart. To hear about the struggle in the 1960s and to stop and reflect on how detailed his memory truly is had me very humble and honored for all the moments that I have shared with him and his family.

Quote at Dr. King Memorial Park April 30, 2011 Photo Source: Natasha L. Foreman

We visited the memorial site for the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and we honored the work, dedication, sacrifice, and contributions made by our beloved Ambassador Andrew Young as his oil on canvas portrait was revealed at the Smithsonian on Saturday.

Words cannot describe how I felt to see Dr. King’s memorial in all of its glory. We were only allowed to take pictures of the park and periphery so that no one revealed the wondrous creation to the world before the official reveal date. That set in deep in my heart to know that I was about to witness something for the first time, and that I would witness it with members of both the King and Young family.

At Dr. King Memorial Park in Washington DC April 30, 2011. Photo Source: Natasha L. Foreman
Men doing God's work around the world. April 30, 2011. Photo Source: Natasha L. Foreman

To later see Ambassador Young’s portrait unveiled and to be in the presence of other Civil Rights leaders, influencers, and their children was awesome. Tears filled many eyes including mine as they reflected on the past and the journey to today (and their hope for the future). To see Mayor Kasim Reed’s eyes as he looked to the man he calls a mentor and one of the reasons he ran for office in Atlanta, made me proud and reinforced my belief in mentoring and volunteering in the community.

Ambassador Andrew Young's portrait unveiled April 30, 2011.
Ambassador Young with beloved wife Carolyn Young and friends- Photo Source: Natasha L. Foreman

To spend time with friends Martin and Arndrea King is always a pleasure, but spending three days in DC with them for this momentous occasion took on a different feel altogether.

With friends Martin Luther King III and wife Arndrea King at Smithsonian unveiling April 30, 2011. Photo Source: Natasha L. Foreman
Martin Luther King III and Jerry Clark at Dr. King Memorial Park April 30, 2011 Photo Source: Natasha L. Foreman

How does it feel to see a beautiful and powerful memorial erected in your father’s honor and memory? If it were me, it would require a second visit within weeks of the first. To know that Martin and Arndrea’s daughter, Yolanda will one day carry the torch that was lit by her great grandparents, passed down to Dr. and Mrs. King her grandparents, then to her father, aunts, and uncle makes me pause and smile brightly. This is what a legacy is all about.

I’m honored to have taken part in this weekend, in this historical moment, and with people who I consider friends, mentors, and angels!

Copyright 2011. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.
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By Natasha L. Foreman, MBA

On April 15th I was honored to lead a Dignity Day session as a HOPE Corp Volunteer through Operation HOPE (HOPE) at the Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy (CSKYWLA) in Atlanta.


What is amazing is how the majority of this class of ninth graders were initially completely turned off to the idea of having to listen to yet another speaker that day as they were just returning to their classroom from an assembly that focused on the theme of 100 days of Non-Violence…so they were shifty and closed off. But about 15 minutes into our conversation some of the girls who had crossed arms were soon raising their hands and answering questions.

I started off by talking about the concept of legacy and that that day we were laying the foundation and road map for them to create and eventually leave behind a strong, dignified legacy. I had them define the term legacy in their own words and then share some of their dreams, goals and aspirations. Then as our conversation deepened I shared with them the history of how HOPE was founded, the services and programs that HOPE offers, and I started to weave a story where life included them and their legacy.


I think helping them share the names of empowered and dignified women they see in their family, community, and elsewhere who had similar or worse lives growing up helped them to see that they too could be those same type of women- that they are these women but in-training and with the potential to do more and help more in the long run because they are being equipped with the tools at a young age; and our adversity isn’t an excuse to let life pass us by or a crutch to coast through life doing and expecting the bare minimum, but a reason and motivation to excel and succeed.

These young ladies were shocked to hear that the civil rights movement as it pertained to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Ambassador Andrew Young was sparked, motivated, and pushed along due to their wives Coretta Scott King and Jean Childs Young- two women who endured and overcame adversity and strife. Hearing this information made many of these girls sit up straight in their chairs and listen intently.

                           

When I spoke about not holding grudges, and that forgiving people is not to benefit the person they were forgiving but to help themselves heal, grow, and overcome- some girls shifted in their seats their seats, a few others rolled their eyes in disbelief; but then when I mentioned Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Iyanla Vandzant and their ability to forgive their abusers and using strife as a launching pad towards success- some of the girls started naming other people like Fantasia and Tyler Perry who was sexually and physically abused and how he also overcame and pushed himself to success.

We discussed the concept of family and that it isn’t just our immediate family we need to be concerned about but our neighborhoods, cities, state, our country, and our global family. Because I know that girls can be equally as cutthroat as boys, I made sure that we had a heart-to-heart chat about trash-talking and “clowning” people and how although initially it can be lighthearted and funny, it can also be crippling and tear apart our “extended” family.

We discussed being relevant not only in this country but globally, and that true wealth (spiritual, financial, etc) can only be maintained long term by leading a dignified life, not by living up to the negative stereotypes that are projected globally about Black females. We discussed self-empowerment and not waiting on the government or specific programs to help us, that we have to help ourselves. That we shouldn’t be waiting for someone else to pick up trash on our sidewalks- we should pick it up ourselves.

We shouldn’t be waiting for someone else to cover the graffiti on our walls and buildings- we should paint over it ourselves; we shouldn’t wait for someone else to beautify our streets and parks with trees and flowers- we should plant them ourselves. I explained that they should be volunteering in their community through church or some other organization taking pride in restoring, building, maintaining, and beautifying their neighborhoods.

We had a pretty good time. We laughed and talked about boys and expectations of being respected by males and all people when you carry yourself with respect and dignity. We discussed the language of money and being financially literate, and how this literacy will empower them. It was refreshing to see that many of them have savings accounts and that two of the students had traveled abroad- one to London and the other to the Bahamas. Two young passport carriers living in an underserved and underrepresented area of Atlanta- doesn’t that give you hope? It gives me hope and encourages me to continue my work in the community, and my work through Operation HOPE.

I hope more men and women find it in their hearts to invest one hour of their time at least once per month to volunteer in a church, in a class room, or in a youth center through Operation HOPE. One person can make a difference!

Copyright 2011. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.
natashaforeman.com
natashaforeman.info
paradigmlife.blogspot.com
theparadigmlife.wordpress.com