I attended the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership annual luncheon last week. It's one of those affairs where the city's power players share a meal and listen to a speaker talk about how to move our city forward. Usually, it's someone from outside the city, charging a lot of money to tell us things that we've known for years. Still, a lot of business gets handled at these gatherings. If I want to stay informed they're necessary.
While there, I tweeted about how I wasn't seeing many black faces. A heavy feeling came over me, and I felt overwhelmed. At that moment, I got a text. Someone in the room felt compelled to reach out. "I belong wherever my feet take me," the text stated simply. "Keep showing up!"
It was one of those instances where the universe was trying to speak to me.
For two years, while I worked my behind off in "corporate America," I had to deal with crazy looks and hear snide comments from Jackson's business world saying I had no place in development. They gave no credit to my schooling, professional credentials, skill set or my ability to produce results. I had to deal with voices in my boss and colleagues' ears constantly, telling them that they could only be taken seriously if they got rid of the "rapper." I was laughed at, looked down on and slighted, all because I wanted to be more involved in my city.
I wanted to be the change I sought.
Those who knew "Kamikaze" wondered why I put up with it, why I tempered my tongue. Friends were telling me I'd sold out, that I was being used to get blacks to accept the projects developers wanted to push. They told me that once I had outlived my usefulness, the company would discard me like yesterday's bagels. When it happened, the "I told ya so's" came rolling in, even though I know I had done a good thing for Jackson.
I'm in the middle of a tug-of-war: Champion anything with a white face on it, and I'm a sell-out. Don't "kiss up" enough, and I'm not fit for the "elite" circles.
Then came the Best of Jackson Awards. A few folks are miffed that they didn't win awards. That's par for the course. But it's unfortunate that I have to almost be embarrassed to take home awards because some question the legitimacy of the process. In their opinion, my columns make me a shoo-in.
Listen, I have worked my ass off for everything I have or hope to achieve in this city. The Best of Jackson awards I've won were earned through hard work. The opportunities I've had were because I'm damn good at what I do. I'm no token, no lackey and no fall guy. I'm also no thug, idiot or an unqualified hack. The reason folks respect me is the same reason others are pensive about dealing with me. I speak my mind, I take no crap, and most importantly, I'm self confident, all off-putting to those who want "yes men" around—black or white.
If you lost faith in me or believe I damaged my reputation by going to work with "white folks," it's unfortunate you don't know me better and can't see the bigger picture. If you are one of those who have treated me like a pariah since I've left "corporate America," shame on you. Who I work for has never defined my skill set.
I'm going to keep showing up, asking questions, being involved and keep making a difference. And I'll do it with this earring, pulling up to the meeting or luncheon bumping T.I., and I'll probably be tweeting while I'm there, which will make some of them uncomfortable. That makes them no better or smarter than me. It just makes them closed-minded. And maybe that's why we keep hiring outside folks to tell us what we need to do to turn this city around.
And that's the truth ... sho-nuff.