For the past 10 years, I have been hosting a gathering of the best and brightest cross-sector leaders focused on the intersection of impact and wealth-building on Martha’s Vineyard. If you have heard me tell the story, I never intended to turn this into a big gathering. As an introvert, this has been a stretch for me in more ways than one, but it is worth every moment.
I started the gathering because I was trying to find a solution for what I saw as a huge gap in connecting black leaders to access and opportunities that would take them closer to success. After spending way too much money going to conferences, I realized 10 years ago, there was no such space quite like this one. So, off I went on my journey and the impact, long-term relationships formed, and opportunities for entrepreneurs that I found, have brought me great joy. But I was still troubled by the core issue-proximity.
Last week, as I watched the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, like many others around the world, I was so inspired by Amanda Gorman. A few minutes after her poem, my family would lay to rest our matriarch. She was a second-generation HBCU graduate and educator of 30 years; following in the footsteps of my grandmother, 21 years her senior. Both of their lives gave me access to a world that allowed me to live my dreams. They made certain that success was in my proximity.
As Amanda recited her poem, all I could think about was who invited her to participate. I knew that she had been in the right place at the right time after years of preparation. That’s the typical journey for black and brown leaders — access after years of preparation. For far too many, they are prepared but lack the proximity to opportunities.
That’s why I continued to host the gathering because it brought genius within proximity of itself and others. Every now and then, genius needs a glimpse of genius to be reminded that black and brown people are brilliant and capable, but we also need access to opportunities.