FEBRUARY | 2018 | ESSENTIALS
B L A C K E X C E L L E N C E
Once upon a time there was a kid from Pallet Town in Kanto. His name was Ash Ketchum and he wanted nothing more than to be the best, the very best, like no one ever was. To catch them would be his real test and to train them would be his cause. He planned to achieve this goal by traveling across the world, searching far and wide, and with each Pokemon he’d grow to understand the power that was inside. Throughout his journey, Ash has encountered setbacks but he’s also experienced a boat load of victories. He’s tried, failed and made tons of friends along the way. If Ash were real, he’d be the perfect representation of this month’s topic.
There is not a black soul among those reading this who hasn’t been told that he, as a man of color, has to work twice as hard to get half as far as his white counterparts. We’ve all heard it and it’s the reason that many of us find that extra push in our efforts to be great. It’s not enough to simply be black, we have to be excellent as well.
Black excellence is defined as the ability to overcome racism, prejudice and injustice in such a way that it leaves white America both apetered and appalled. Its Barack Obama, Cory Booker, Derrick Gordon and Tiq Milan. It’s the unapologetically black-ass victory dance performed by lightening-quick Usain Bolt after completing the 100-meter event at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing, its King Johnson’s school journal entry and Issa Rae’s statement about her rooting for everyone black. Black excellence is Sharon Reed’s clap back, anything that Angela Rye has ever done and can be found in the entire cast of Marvel’s Black Panther.
Our efforts to attain greatness don’t come without a struggle. While we’ve made incredulous strides against racism, oppression and homophobia, we still have a way to go. Our aspirations of greatness are important because America as a whole doesn’t want us to achieve it, and this is the very reason why we must achieve it. They want to see us want to see us struggle, fumble and fail, and even among those who don’t, don’t want to see us doing better than them. Don’t believe us? Ask DJ Khaled- he’s always telling us what they don’t want us to have. So with all of this talk of black excellence and being great, the next question that follows should be how. How does one go about being great?
The journey to black excellence starts with a single step, and the first of those steps is to acknowledge that despite the obstacles we face, being black is absolutely lit. Once we overstand that, we’re well on our way to achieving black excellence. The remaining parts of this journey consists of us deciding how we plan to demonstrate our greatness, finding mentors to guide us along the way and trial and error.
Imagine that all the things you’re good at could be demonstrated as a super power. What would that super power look like and how could it be used to make you greater than you already are? How would you help people with it? If you can answer that question than you already know the ways in which you’ll demonstrate your greatness. Everyone is good at something and chances are (as previously mentioned) you’ve gone full throttle into whatever you’ve done because you know that you have to work twice as hard to get half as far. Finding what you’re good at isn’t much work. All it requires is identifying patterns of interest and success.
What is your sweet spot? What are the things that you’ve done and been good at, and what are the skills that you want to hone? What are your passions? Most importantly, what comes naturally for you? Taking the time to explore these things will open your mind to a universe of possibilities. While doing this its important to remember that being great is never about being selfish, its about using the talents you have for the benefit of others. Good writers don’t write for themselves, they write for others, just like good performers don't perform for themselves. Similarly, the things that make us great only make us great because they benefit and encourage others.
Being the best and demonstrating black excellence is about more than being braggadocios, its about intentionally and consistently toppling the barriers that America places in our paths- and this isn’t something that can always be done in solitude. It is for this reason that we encourage those interested in achieving excellency to find a mentor.
Having good mentors is extremely important when it comes to achieving black excellence. Barack wouldn’t have become Barack without his mentor Abner Mikva just like Oprah could have never become Oprah without the aid of her mentor, the late, great Dr. Mya Angelou. Mentors serve as our guides and our confidants. They give us directions and offer options while allowing us to make the decisions we feel are best. No quest in attaining greatness is complete without one. While having a mentor is imperative, its also important that you mentor the aspirants to follow in your footsteps.
The final leg of the journey to black excellence is through trial and error. Someone wise once said that “you don’t know what you don’t know until you know that you don’t know it.” Working towards excellency isn’t something that will come natural for everyone, as there are mistakes that we’ll have to make. Issa process. How many times did we stumble and fall before we actually learned to walk? Trial and error are important because they are our best teachers. In our quest towards excellence, we’ve got to remove the negativity we associate with failure. Despite the pain, guilt, regret and remorse we feel after a failure, there’s always a lesson. We learn from doing, and in the instances where we are less successful than anticipated we must remember that the we’ve only failed if we didn’t learn the lesson.
Being the best Beaux that you can be requires you to both challenge and channel your potential. Doing this makes you an asset to yourself and the communities you exist in. Much like everything else we do, putting our best foot forward in striving towards black excellence is a choice. None of us are above the feelings of uncertainty, inadequacy and doubt, but as we strive towards excellence we must always find a way to silence these voices.
We do this by acknowledging the things we’re good at, engaging in mentorships and in allowing ourselves to fail. If there is any truth in the saying that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander then we can surmise that if the fictional character of Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town can be the very best like no one ever was, then certainly we can too. If we keep in mind that confidence is key, failure is always an option and that there will almost always be someone willing to guide us on our way, the goal of achieving black excellence will not only be reached but surpassed.
Remember this, always.