#SWAAYthenarrative
6 min read
Culture

I've had a lot of time to think and process my perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement and the world finally waking up to the injustice that has caused many Black lives to be lost within the shadow of white supremacy.

At first, I found it kind of insulting to see that everyone all of a sudden had this deep care for Black lives.

As if it just started the other day. The injustice, the pain and the murder of our people.

I felt like it was a trend that companies, brands and people that profit off of the Black community were joining to stay in good standing with us.

I'm still not sure who really cares about Black lives, but I've decided that doesn't matter any more. What's happening is a beautiful thing, though there's been a lot of pain and suffering to our community, the world can no longer pretend that they don't see what's going on. Our plight is gaining international attention.

At first, I found it kind of insulting to see that everyone all of a sudden had this deep care for Black lives.

It's no longer just our problem.

Although I'm still a bit weary on who's really empathetic and understanding, I can't help but feel like this is the start of something new.

As a Black woman living in Canada, I've had the privilege of being given many opportunities regardless of my race. Though I still have countless stories where I have experienced racial discrimination.

Going on social media the last couple of days has been very triggering for me and my mental health.

This sort of weariness and heaviness has come over me due to seeing so many people talk about the pain and suffering my community has faced. It's caused me to have to go back to the many situations where I was treated differently and unjustly due to being a dark-skinned Black woman.

My mother was a light-skinned Black woman born in Montreal, Quebec, if you know anything about Montreal you'll know that it has an aggressively racist history. My mother told me stories about growing up there and the way she was treated by her classmates. On my mother's side, I have an older sister who's the same complexion as her; I am literally the black sheep of the family.

What's happening is a beautiful thing, though there's been a lot of pain and suffering to our community, the world can no longer pretend that they don't see what's going on.

But I never realized the weight my skin color would hold within my own community and in the world. Luckily due to what my mother experienced in Quebec, she was more than ready to take on this challenge of having a dark-skinned Black daughter. From a very young age I was exposed to strong representation.

My mother made sure that I had mostly Black dolls to play with as a child.

She would constantly point out little Black cartoon characters or drawings wherever she'd see them making sure that I knew that I was seen and heard in the world.

She'd say things to me like, "You know your skin color is very beautiful right?" or "You have a very special type of complexion." These words have stuck with me until this day.

The very first time I can remember experiencing racism must have been in grade five. I was living in Durham, Ontario and went outside to the yard during recess. A little white boy referred to me as "that Black girl."

I don't know if it was the tone in his voice or the fact that I was being called out of name and singled out by color, but something inside of me grew strong with rage and without a second thought I grabbed him by his hair and smashed his head into the portable wall. He started to cry and I was sent to the office. When I explained to the principal what had happened she sort of had this look of agreeance with me but nonetheless disregarded the real issue that was at hand.

Now that I'm older and I look back at that situation, I know that little boy was too young to understand the weight that his words held. He probably didn't know that situation would stay with me into my adult years. But now that I've grown and I understand the underlying roots to racism I realize that little boy must have been taught by his parents or someone around him that it was okay to call me out of my name. He must have heard someone refer to "Black Women" in that tone and thought that was okay.

The second time I can remember experiencing racism was when I was a little girl maybe eight or nine years old. I was living with a white Foster family again in Durham, Ontario. They had many other children in their home who were all white.

They would sometimes refer to me as a "little chocolate drop" in the most insincere way. As if it was a prize or a cool challenge to be a white family taking care of a Black child.

The very first time I can remember experiencing racism must have been in grade five. I was living in Durham, Ontario and went outside to the yard during recess. A little white boy referred to me as "that Black girl."

I didn't feel like the rest of the kids in their home. I definitely didn't feel like family. The mother of that home often attempted to take care of my coily hair. At this time there wasn't much knowledge about taking care of Black hair especially not in the white community when there weren't any YouTube videos to reference or Black Beauty Supply stores to go to — definitely not in Durham.

She always ended up blow drying my hair out and putting enough grease in it to be able to brush it into a ponytail. After leaving it like that for the week she would take it out and do it all over again with palpable frustration and impatience. One day she saw a bald Black model on Breakfast Television. She called me downstairs and told me, "You would look so beautiful with your hair like that." A few days later she got her husband to grab his clippers and shave all my hair off. I remember feeling very distraught, and I started to cry when I saw how I looked in the mirror. She then proceeded to call her son downstairs and convince me that I looked beautiful.

These are just a few of the things Black women have to experience in our childhood.

Though the world is in an uncertain place and things seem less than joyous, I can somehow see the silver lining. The conversations that needed to be had are finally being spoken.

Throughout my teenage years it only got worse but this time it was from a different oppressor. I first realized it in middle school. Boys would say things like, "Oh she's too dark" and "I don't like dark skin girls." I would shrug it off, but it never really sat right with me. As if a skin tone was something you couldn't like in a girl. This was my first time really experiencing colorism. Now that I'm older I realized this is a story as old as time. It's what makes Black women strong but it shouldn't be the reason why we are.

This strength that we carry is a testament to our ancestors. It's the same strength that Harriet Tubman used to bring 300 slaves to freedom. Though the world is in an uncertain place and things seem less than joyous, I can somehow see the silver lining. The conversations that needed to be had are finally being spoken. Finally, people are willing to listen, and Black women like me are finally being heard.

I hope that one day little Black girls who grow up to be strong Black women will not have to go through the same struggles and pain that I've experienced. They will be free from the standards the world sets in place for them. I pray that the world will appreciate them for who they truly are.

3 Min Read
Business

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.

Find A Need And Fill It

I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.

Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.

Have Working Capital And Credit

There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.

I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.

Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.

My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.

Know Your Product Thoroughly

I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?

My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.

My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!

More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.

Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth

I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.

I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.

Delegate From The Bottom Up

I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.

In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.