Dear Black Entrepreneur: You Are Enough

I was sitting here drafting a Black History Fun Fact about the first black-owned TV and radio stations but as I read I noticed a disturbing trend. A trend we can still see present today. To start, I was researching WGPR-TV, first black-owned television station in the U.S. and W.E.R.D., first black-owned radio station in the U.S. WGPR-TV was run and operated in Detroit and W.E.R.D. was based in Atlanta. We’ll go deeper into their history in a separate post but both stations became a platform for black artists, from Jazz and Blues musicians to Dr. Martin Luther King Dr. using it to broadcast his sermons and later, Civil Rights announcements. There are two things I noticed associated with each of these companies as the inspiration to today’s post:

  • Jesse Blayton, founder of W.E.R.D., also taught accounting at Atlanta University and tried encouraging young black people to enter the field. He was unsuccessful because the students knew that no white-owned accounting firms would hire them and Blayton’s, the only black-owned firm in the South, was small and had few openings.

 

  • WGPR-TV was successful from my perspective but because it failed to reach a wider audience, it was eventually sold to CBS. WGPR-TV ran from 1975 to 1995 under its black leadership.

With, black-owned businesses, I notice a disturbing mindset among many of my people in the African-American community that success is synonymous with white support and that, without it, we aren’t as successful as we could be. Society has deceived many of us into thinking unless they have included us in the mainstream public eye, we are unsuccessful. I compare it to publishing in the sense that Traditional Publishing is still seen as a more successful route than Independent Publishing. It is still seen as a sign of prosperity to be signed to a publisher than to be your own publisher through the Self-publishing route because of the exposure. Although many Self-Publisher’s are making far more money, unless the Self-Publisher can look like a celebrity, he or she has not made it (whatever that means). This is flawed thinking and causes many to chase the temporary pleasures of money and fame over integrity.

The Oscars is a great example of this and for the record, I admire Spike Lee and Regina King most especially. The talent comprised in these two people is beyond words. However, the black community’s reaction to their Oscar win is a great example of how we do not often see ourselves as being enough. Spike Lee and Regina King are and have always been two powerful artists. What Spike Lee has done with Crooklyn, Four Little Girls, Mo Beta Blues, Do the Right Thing, He Got Game, Malcolm X and more is nothing short of genius work. That Regina King can simultaneously bring to life two characters in Huey and Riley Freeman is nothing short of genius work. Not only did she capture the personas of two little boys but two little black boys. Whether that is Poetic Justice, Boyz N the Hood, Friday, Enemy of the State or Down to Earth, King’s roles are always down to earth. She’s got this skill that allows her to be relatable in any role. She‘s hilarious and you feel she can easily be your sister.

My point here is this: Lee and King did not need to win Oscars for me to recognize their brilliance. Yet, as a community, we champion this as the official ceremony to which we have received a piece of the pie. We have a track record of doing this, in which we do not see ourselves as successful except that we are integrated into mainstream societies expectations of what that success is supposed to look like. Angela Basset does not need an Oscar to be great.

There is nothing wrong with receiving support across all nationalities and nations of people. However, it is important for the black entrepreneur to know and understand that to be young, gifted, and black is also a success by itself and on its own terms.

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My Biggest Lesson of 2018

This is the time of the year where we step back and analyze where we are and where we want to be. The time where we consider if the goals, we set at the beginning of the year have been realized and if there are any changes or improvements that need to be made. This is also the time of the year when I share with you the lessons I’ve learned from the year. Usually, I do this closer to the end of the month but my family is moving so things are busy around these parts. Last year, I had an entire list of lessons learned. This year, I only have one.

December is when I do a lot of reflection. An entire year has passed. What changed? What remained? What needs to be added onto or removed? 2018 has been filled with amazing growth for me personally as well as professionally. At the end of 2017, I was celebrating my move to Georgia and one of my books in a brick and mortar bookstore. At the end of 2018, four of my twelve books are in three bookstores and I’ve just purchased my first home. I attribute this to learning one valuable lesson. A lesson that I do not think we ever stop learning but that gets easier the more we love ourselves, a lesson that I’ve learned and that I will keep learning, a lesson that has changed my mentality and thus also, the way I do things. To further illustrate this point, let me first tell you about an experiment.

The Asch Conformity Experiment

Named after Solomon Asch, the Asch Conformity Study was meant to study conformity in people (how we behave according to other people’s desires and standards) and was conducted in the 1950s. The participants were shown three lines on a piece of paper and a fourth line. The participants had to simply match one of the three lines with the fourth line. Most of the people were accomplices in on the study with only one or two real participants. According to the study, 76% of participants picked the wrong line after the majority of the room picked the wrong line. The study was groundbreaking in studying conformity in groups and has been repeated many times throughout the years. (You can find examples of the study on YouTube.)

As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to fall into conformity by doing what everyone else is doing in an effort to achieve success. The problem is, entrepreneurship is about authenticity and there is nothing authentic about conformity. Everyone wants to be an influencer. The only question is, what are you influencing people to do? Who are you influencing people to be?

We talk about embracing being unique and different but at the same time, we secretly want a seat at the table. At the same time, we don’t really want to be different. We want to be like everyone else because not being like everyone else comes at a cost that we are not courageous enough to pay. It is the cost of standing out instead of standing in. It is the cost of rejection and being misunderstood. It is a beautiful sacrifice that many of us, despite what we say, are not willing to make.

But you can’t want to be like the world and be different from the world at the same time. Either stand for something or fall for anything.

In the midst of the Kevin Hart situation, I think it’s important for us to all remember how important it is to be ourselves and to stand on our own integrity. And if we must influence, I hope it is to influence others to be undeniably and unapologetically themselves.

I. The biggest lesson I learned 2018 is to be fully myself even when who I am is not accepted by others. There are people who will think I’m foolish about certain decisions but it is my decision to make and my lesson to learn. I’ve learned to trust Yah more and to trust his will for my life. To make decisions without explaining myself or feeling the need to defend my position.

…and I hope the same for you.

Tall Tales Book Shop. 11.30.18. Copyright©2018. Yecheilyah Ysrayl.

What I enjoy most about being an Independent artist is the freedom to produce work that speaks to who I am, to not have to pull back, slow down, or sugarcoat my beliefs because of someone else standard. The right and the freedom to live freely in every sense of the word. To be true to myself, to my authenticity and do not have to apologize for it. I don’t have to tap dance around the truth for a check, I don’t have to scratch my hair unless it itches, and I don’t have to laugh unless something is actually funny. I’ve never been part of the “cool kids table” and I am not about to start now. This is freedom.

I hope you walk into 2019 not afraid to shine or to fail, understanding that both experiences shape you. It can be liberating to choose yourself, armed with the power to move forward without guilt, without arrogance, and without pride but with a deep love for yourself that is so strong that you can quickly realize when anyone or anything devalues you, even if that someone is your own self. The biggest challenge is not the war we fight with others but the war we fight with ourselves. To quote the African proverb, “when there is no enemy within, the enemy outside cannot hurt you.” Kill the enemy within. Slay your demons, silence the doubt, and walk free.

 

 

 

Introduce Yourself – Introducing Guest Author Lynda McKinney Lambert

 

Today, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Lynda McKinney Lambert. Welcome to the PBS Blog! Let’s get started.

 

What is your name and where are you from?

I am an Indie Author and visual artist, Lynda McKinney Lambert. I live and work in The Village of Wurtemburg, located in western Pennsylvania.

What would your perfect writing / reading room look like?

First, after my sight loss, I wanted to share my experiences with others. Since it took me 2 years to be able to use a computer again, I thought that creating a blog would be a good achievement for me and I would use the blog as my way of connecting with other people. I wanted to share my experiences in sight loss and give encouragement and help to others. That is why I called the blog, Walking by Inner Vision. This, of course, led me to write the book almost 7 years later. I had no way of knowing when I started this blog in 2009 that I was beginning to write a book that would be published in 2017.

Miss Opal in my office, checking out the travel brochures. Photo by Lynda Lambert, 2018.

Visitors awwue. Sounds like you already have the perfect writing room! But tell Miss Opal I know she don’t like being around us humans but I’m gonna need her to smile or something. Sheesh lol. 

Lynda, are you employed outside of writing?

I am a retired professor of fine arts and humanities. I retired over 10 years ago after I suddenly lost most of my sight from Ischemic Optic Neuropathy. This new challenge opened the door for me to work full-time in my writing with the aid of adaptive technologies for the blind.

So sorry to hear you lost your sight, but what a blessing that came from it! Inspiring. What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?

My entire career has been an amazing adventure. At the age of forty-two, after raising our 5 children, I returned to the university to pursue a degree in fine art. Shortly after I started this program, I knew I wanted to “go all the way” with my academic education. I worked on the BFA degree in painting, for 4 years at Slippery Rock University of PA. Following that accomplishment, I earned an MA in English at the same university. I needed a terminal degree because my intention was to become a professor. This aspiration took me to West Virginia University where I earned the MFA degree in Painting. This combination of degrees was just what I needed to attain my dream career. I earned my 3 degrees over a period of 9 years which were the most intense years imaginable.

At Geneva College, I taught across disciplines in English, Fine Art, and Humanities. I created and taught a summer program in Austria. Each July, I took students on a month-long adventure in Europe in a course I called, “Drawing and Writing in Salzburg.” In this course, I could teach both art and writing, my two passions in my own life. It was the ideal job for me.  Teaching this course led to the publication of my first book, Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage. (Kota Press, 2003).

Lynda’s FIRST PLACE AWARD. “The Dragon’s Healing Breastplate” mixed media fiber art InSights 2107, Louisville, KY. October 2017. Lynda creates talismans and wall pieces using gemstones, beads, and fiber.

 

Wow. I bet it was intense indeed. It’s intense just reading about it lol. Your accomplishments are awesome. Does blogging help you to write?

I created 2 blogs.

First, after my sight loss, I wanted to share my experiences with others. Since it took me 2 years to be able to use a computer again, I thought that creating a blog would be a good achievement for me and I would use the blog as my way of connecting with other people. I wanted to share my experiences in sight loss and give encouragement and help to others. That is why I called the blog, Walking by Inner Vision. This, of course, led me to write the book almost 7 years later. I had no way of knowing when I started this blog in 2009 that I was beginning to write a book that would be published in 2017.

Second, in 2014 I created a second blog that covers a variety of topics.  I started SCAN in 2014 and it is a celebration of people, events, and places. Writing my blogs is one way I can share my own discoveries and give back to others.

What’s your favorite food?

I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian since I was in my late 20s.

What is a lacto-ovo vegetarian if you don’t mind me asking?

Lacto-Ovo means a vegetarian that eats milk and eggs. Not a Vegan who eats nothing from an animal.

Ahh. I see.

My personal favorite foods are Austrian desserts.

Ice Coffee, in Austria, is so delicious.  It comes in a large parfait-type of glass. Icy cold strong coffee is poured over scoops of delicious vanilla ice cream.  On top of this mixture is a heaping dollop of real fresh whipped cream.  I limited myself to only 1 a week when I was in the country because I didn’t want to come home with excess weight on my body. This way, it was always a special treat.  I also like the Austrian noodle dishes, with brown butter, and the fresh vegetables served on a dinner plate.

That. Sounds. Amazing!! I can’t even focus right now. Let’s get back to writing for a second. Who are your favorite writers?

Immediately two women come to mind: Annie Dillard and Louise Erdrich.

I have read, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek at least a half-dozen times. I am in awe of this magnificent writing. Another book by Dillard that I used in one of my English classes is, For the Time Being. It is a small book but one of the most beautiful pieces of literature I ever read. Erdrich’s book, The Painted Drum, is a masterpiece of story-telling.

For poetry: I discovered Robert Bly’s poetry in undergraduate school. I’ve lectured on his work in my humanities courses and in contemporary American Poetry courses and I did a conference presentation at The Robert Bly Colloquium at Kent State University in Ashtabula, Ohio. This paper appeared in the book, edited by Terry White. I enjoyed doing conference presentations on the work of writers and artists.

My latest book is Walking by Inner Vision: Stories & Poems, was published by DLD Books. My book is a collection of creative non-fiction essays, memoir, and poems. Available now on Amazon. CLICK HERE.

Awesome. When did you publish your first book? What was that like?

During my travels each summer for a month in Europe, I kept a journal. After a few years, I began to collect some of the poems and stories into a cohesive body of work that later became my first book.

Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage was published in January 2003 by Kota Press.

This full-length book consists of journal entries, poems, and creative non-fiction essays.

The book’s cover is a detail from a mixed-media painting I created in my studio in Austria.  Many writings in this book have been featured in a variety of literary magazines and anthologies. I also love the work of Yusef Komunyakaa; William Carlos Williams; John Donne; Louise Glück; and Irene McKinney. I also love Appalachian poetry and literature.

Lynda, married?

My husband is Bob Lambert. We met when I was fifteen years old.

When I was seventeen and he was twenty, we eloped to Indiana and got married. It was April 14, 1961.  We had 3 daughters, Salome’ Heather, Heidi Melinda, and Ilsa Hoelz.  After the 3 girls were born we adopted 2 more children. Robert Andrew came to us from Vung Tau, Vietnam in 1972 and Victoria Rebecca came to us in 1974 from Korea.

Bob and I celebrated our 57th anniversary this year. I am going to be seventy-five years old on August 27th, and Bob was seventy-seven last January. We live in the same village where my ancestors settled in the late 1700s after they came to America from Germany. Bob and I have always taken in displaced animals and currently, we have 2 indoor cats; 5 feral cats that we care for outside; and 2 rescued dogs.

Happy early birthday and anniversary! What a blessing. What small things makes your life easier? What makes it difficult?

Photo by Bob Lambert. Lynda walking in the Rain Forest, Puerto Rico, 2013. Lynda was part of a team of professors who taught a course on Puerto Rico Art & Culture at Geneva College. Here she navigates the steep downhill pathway to a waterfall with her mobility cane. Sight loss has not stopped Lynda from being active and engaged in the world. Her writings reflect the enthusiasm she has for different cultures and travels.

Of course, losing my vision made my life difficult. After almost eleven years, I will struggle with little things at times. The hardest thing is that I cannot drive any longer. While I do have some limitations, as always, I find ways to be creative and to continue to be the most important things I’ve always done. I still make art and I write. Last year, I wrote a poem to myself.  “To the Curator of Small Things.” Gives readers a little peek into my home and my heart.  You can listen to a recording of this poem by visiting Wordgathering Literary Magazine. Just click on this link and you will hear Melissa Coddon reading my poem.

As a writer and artist with profound sight loss, I am thankful for the latest adaptive technologies for the blind. This equipment enables me to create my poems and artworks. It also helps me do a variety of activities throughout each day. I am fortunate to have these expensive pieces of equipment provided by my state Bureau of Blindness Services.

The Acrobat is mainly for doing my award-winning mixed-media fiber art and bead working which is displayed in art exhibitions. The DaVinci Pro is used for everything I do on the computer. This sophisticated technology allows me to switch back and forth between a computer and a scanner mode – all on one screen. For everyday reading such as mail, writing checks, and looking at books or letters, I use the Merlin CCTV. Of course, I have a variety of other small, portable devices that help me, too.

Very nice. No limits over here ya’ll! Lynda, you are well prepared to keep writing despite your loss of sight. Why is writing important to you?

Writing and making art is at the core of my life. They give me a means of sharing my worldview and celebrating life. I focus on what is positive and joyous in my life and in the world as I know it. My writing and art show my interest in the world and my travel experience provides a depth of understanding of current events, cultures, and understanding. I strive to share what is beautiful in our lives and in the lives of others.

Beautiful. I feel like you’ve already answered this question but, what do you love about yourself?

What I like most about myself is my ability to turn negative experiences around and see what lessons I learned by the challenge.  I have TENACITY and I keep on going towards goals and dreams.

I’ve learned that there is nothing I can experience that will separate me from my Creator. I believe that the secret to understanding who we truly are is found in Genesis 1. We are handmade, carefully and lovingly created by God. We bear his likeness. His image on earth.  We are to be image bearers of God. That is my mission and my purpose in life.

Good understanding! What genre do you write in, why?

My focus is on poetry and creative non-fiction essays.  There is more material for me to find in my own experiences and life than in anything I could make up. I seldom read fiction. I like poetry best for its brevity. I like writing that is modern.  It gets to the core and does it immediately.  I dislike poetry that rhymes, and poetry that really should be an essay or short story told in a different medium.  Meter is not interesting to me. I live in the twenty-first century so why would I write like I am outdated manner? The poetry I like best combines elements from nature, intuition, imagination, and personal life experiences.

(EC: *cough* Outdated manner. Lol.)

One writer who was doing a book review of Walking by Inner Vision: Stories & Poems said to me:

“When I got to the end of the book, I was so sad.”

I asked why my book made her feel so sad. I felt confused for I did not think anyone would be left feeling sad after reading my stories & poems.

She replied, “I did not want this book to end. I felt sad when I came to the end of it.”

Thank you Lynda for spending this time with us. We truly enjoyed you!

 


Photo of Lynda McKinney Lambert. By bob Lambert.

Bio.

Lynda McKinney Lambert is the author of Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage, a full-length collection of poems, essays, and journal entries.  Published in 2003 by Kota Press.

Lynda’s second full-length book is, Walking by Inner Vision: Stories & Poems, published in 2017 by DLD Books.

Lynda Lambert was professor of fine arts and humanities at Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA.  She retired  in 2008, due to sudden sight loss caused by Ischemic Optic Neuropathy. This challenge really opened the door for her to write full-time from her western PA home. During the past year, Lynda’s poetry and non-fiction essays have appeared in over 140 publications, world-wide. Her work was nominated for the Skirt Best of the Net Award for 2016-17 by Spirit Fire Review. She was a winning poet and her poem is published in 2017-18 in Mingled Voices 2, by Proverse Hong Kong.

Lynda writes for Vision Aware Blog, which is a part of the American Foundation for the Blind website.She write articles on how to regain your life after sight loss, and gives tips and help to people who write in to AFB asking for help.

She is an award-winning visual artist and creates her art work using technologies for the blind. Lynda has just completed her next full-length book of poetry, Star Signs: New and Selected Poems.

Social Links:

www.lyndalambert.com

www.llambert363.blot

https://www.facebook.com/lyndamckinneylambert

https://www.facebook.com/SCAN-782814908467623/

https://www.facebook.com/walkingbyinnervision/


Are you an author? Looking for more exposure? Learn more about my Introduce Yourself Feature HERE!

You’re Invited

The inaugural  Atlanta African American Book Festival is FREE and OPEN to the PUBLIC and will take place on Saturday, July 14, 2018, at Georgia State University. Over 70 authors will convene in Atlanta to present their work to the Atlanta community. Author categories include fiction, non-fiction, romance, YA fiction, middle-grade fiction, and children’s picture books. Journalists, editors, publishers, literary critics, and scholars from various fields will be present. Panel discussions and workshops will engage festival attendees in topics concerning literary industry tips, civil disobedience, activism, emotional and spiritual well-being, restorative justice, and health and wealth. Children’s activities include a story corner and festival dance floor.

I will be one of many authors in attendance and I would be honored to have your support at my table. Since I did not have a launch signing or gathering for Revolution, I’d like to use this as an opportunity for a post-launch celebration. You will have the chance to purchase signed paperback copies of my two most recent books (and not just mine but other authors too), take pictures, take part in workshops, and meet industry professionals. Again, attendance at the festival is FREE so you’ll just need to make it here (food is not allowed inside the venue but there will be food trucks on the outside). This is not just an entertainment event but we also seek to implement community programming that promotes black literary arts and family sustainability within our community. To check out my AAA blog feature, click here.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Selma Burke

Welcome back to Black History Fun Facts where I am still not finished with my original article (lol), but I got you covered.

Now, we are familiar with Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and many of the writers and musicians of The Harlem Renaissance Movement. What we are not always familiar with are the painters, photographers, and sculptors. That is why when I find someone great, I like to highlight them.

Before we go on, take a moment and dig into your purse, wallet or coin jar (or coin purse….I know some of ya’ll still have them!) Wherever you keep your change, pick out a dime.

In the 1920s, Selma Burke became one of the African American women of the Harlem Renaissance through her relationship with the writer Claude McKay. The two shared a Manhattan apartment but McKay was mean, destroying her work when he didn’t like it, and the relationship was a strange one. Nonetheless, it was through Claude that Burke got introduced to the Harlem community. She studied under another black woman sculptor of the movement, Augusta Savage.

J0100403_1b
Selma Burke in her studio, Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum J0100403.

An educator, Burke later taught at the Harlem Community Art Center and founded the Selma Burke Art School in New York City and the Selma Burke Art Center in Pittsburgh. (This makes her one of my heroes since I do want to start my own school one day.) Burke is most famous for her 1944 sculpture of Franklin D. Roosevelt, which was the model for his image on the dime, though she never received credit for it. Only now are people starting to recognize that she was the inspiration behind the image.

Burke’s sculpting of the image came about as part of a contest, where she wrote the White House stating that she could not sculpt the image from a photo alone. The White House responded and granted her a sitting with the president. The credit for the plaque was given to U.S. Mint Chief Engraver John Sinnock but it was Burke who created the original design. Burke also sculpted Booker T. Washington and later, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Burke made sculpture by shaping white clay from her parents’ farm as a child. After being educated at what is now Winston-Salem State University and trained as a nurse at St. Agnes Hospital Nursing School in Raleigh, Burke moved to New York City to work as a private nurse.

“Selma Burke was born on December 31, 1900, in Mooresville, North Carolina, the seventh of 10 children of Neil and Mary Colfield Burke. Her father was an AME Church Minister who worked on the railroads for additional income. As a child, she attended a one-room segregated schoolhouse and often played with the riverbed clay found near her home. She would later describe the feeling of squeezing the clay through her fingers as the first encounter with sculpture, saying “It was there in 1907 that I discovered me.” – Wikipedia

After completing a Masters of Fine Arts at Columbia University in 1941, Burke began to teach art, first at the Harlem Community Art Center and later at schools she founded in New York and Pittsburgh.

Burke’s last monumental work, a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Marshall Park in Charlotte, was completed in 1980. Selma Burke died in 1995 in New Hope, Pennsylvania.

Writer’s Quote Wednesday Writing Challenge – Poetic Justice

Today I’m using one of my own quotes for Colleen and Ronovans weekly Writer’s Quote Wednesday Challenge. Today’s theme is Art or Artist:

I've always loved the look of wings on a pagethe way the wind blowswhen they flap against the airthe way they soartaking my mind with themThe wings are symbolic of freedom. To me writing is the most important kind of art because words live. To me, ink meets paper to create something spiritual. Not only can we see the beauty of words, but we can feel it. I would define my style of writing, poetry or otherwise, as poetic justice because I am always seeking to free people, to include myself, from the limited ways we tend to think and to feel. This is not always an easy task and so as I write, the keystrokes are heavy with the responsibility my purpose carries. The weight of the kinds of things that I write always looms in the background of the page as if daring me to go on. And this is always the moment when I know that I must.

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