The fuel that frames my life is a quote by Nobel Laureate and Holocaust Survivor, Elie Wiesel, “When you survive what others in the same situation did not, you, the survivor, have the responsibility to serve.”
Dr. King’s character clarification that, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy” is a clarion call for me to stand up, share my experiences and serve as never before.
Last Summer I travelled to the beautiful city of Charleston, SC on a media research assignment and to advance a veterans advocacy project.
At hotel check-in, my last name inspired the front desk agent to ask if I was connected to the “McLeod Plantation”. This was my first time in Charleston, and I planned to visit some the local historic sites, immediately, the McLeod Plantation was added to my ‘must-go’ list.
On Saturday, June 29, 2019, the site’s historian and director, Sean Halifax personally narrated and navigated me through an hours-long guided tour. I listened intently and learned immensely about the McLeod slaves who persevered in their hopes to achieve freedom, equity, and justice.
This life-shifting experience awakened my acceptance that I was now responsible for the insights I gained. Leaving the plantation grounds, I opened my heart to carry with me the resilience and resolve that forever saturates the soil and soul of this historically complex place.
When I returned to the hotel, my presidential suite that overlooks the Port of Charleston, (which was the largest slave port in the United States), the contrasting realities overwhelmed me with gratitude. In awe of all the sacrifice, service and suffering it took to bring me/us this far, I vowed that my lifelong commitment and efforts toward achieving nonviolent social justice would be even more reflective of the depths of my gratitude.
After visiting Charleston, immediately upon my return to Savannah I founded VAL U Life More, LLC to expand my work with organizations around the country to strengthen growth, engagement and transformation. Never dreaming that the Summer of 2020 would present an extraordinary opening for me to keep my promise to McLeod ancestors. In this “do it now” moment, I must ACT.
Since 1993, I’ve been a certified trainer and practitioner of Kingian nonviolent conflict management. In 1999, I became one of the King Center’s first Level 2 certified trainers in the world. When much is given, much more is required.
I was also afforded the honor of being personally mentored, by American Poet, Dr. Maya Angelou. One of her most memorial teaching points was, “In order to grow, you cannot be afraid to face what you think you already know.” Like eagles, building stronger organizational and community relationships, cooperation and trust requires keen vision and a bold, courageous spirit.
In this monumentally pivotal moment, with honesty, respect and robust engagement, we must have a willingness to strengthen our ability to more fully listen, learn and seek to better understand one another.
TOGETHER, we can DO MORE, BE BETTER and GO FURTHER. I stand willing and able to join forces to create inclusive approaches that continually, consistently and comprehensively exemplify our shared principles and unifying purposes.
We survived and UNITED, WE (can) STAND!
At this greatest inflection point of our time, doing so, is my responsibility!