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The woman I needed to be

I’ve been working to make sure all of my projects, relationships,and contracts align with my personal and professional values. What I’ve learned is that they may not always line up with every single one…sometimes it’s just one.

I take that one…work with it and mold it until I decide I want something different. It’s okay to change courses and it’s okay to want new things.

I’ve been working for and with an arts nonprofit organization since my early 20s. The organization and my commitment to its mission has both praised and drained me. Now, 6 months from 30, I wonder what it means to let things grow without you. Have I reached the end of my time?

I have always been convinced that the reason I was still here…is for the one child that needed to SEE me. The brown child who needed to know that possibilities were endless…the brown child who needed to know that their hair is beautiful just the way it grows out of their head…for the child who needed an adult to smile at them today…for the child who will always remember that black woman who walked past in heels and a warm “Hi!” on a Tuesday afternoon. I often wondered though…is that my arrogance radiating through my frustrations?

Today, Saturday, June 17th, I was doing what I always did. Standing in a room full of predominantly white professionals, families and children…waiting…for the one child who needed to see me. I consider myself a kid magnent, so I did what I do best…customer experience. I smiled and small talked with the families and children I thought needed to see me…to have their curiosity scratched and their heart warmed by a welcoming experience.

A family stopped to chat and tell me about their daughters' experiences…and what I heard although I know it is not what the parent said, is that I still hadn’t done enough. Standing here…just being here…would never be enough for the girls who looked like me. So I contemplated and challenged myself to think about what could I do…even if just for today.

A couple of hours later an older family passed me by (possibly grandparents), I smiled as I always did with a gentle “Enjoy the Show!” In between shows we had condensed the tables so I stood on a different side of the room. After the show, the woman approached me and said “Excuse me, there was an African American woman standing on the other side of the tables at the start of the show. Can you tell her something for me?” With a smirk I said “Sure”. The woman: “ Tell her I said thank you for being the person my daughter needed to see.” I smiled as though I had been rewarded an honor. With a subtle plea, she said: “Honestly, please tell her”. With another smile of reassurance I said: “I absolutely will”.

And just like that, I knew I was who I needed to be.

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