DO YOUR PART:
I’m working to stay level, but the past month has made it really difficult for a variety of reasons. Everyone doesn’t have the same role to play. I know a number of brothers and sisters who will not be posting anything or marching anywhere today, tomorrow or in the near future. Not because they are not "woke," but because they’ve been fighting consistently over the past few years and they will continue to fight, since they do this for a living, not to maintain their woke (Starwood) status points. What unsettles me is a strain of type A, competitive, exceptionalism, that in the wake of real discrimination and marginalization that begs for people to humble themselves roll up their sleeves and courageously do the work, still, yearns to want to be special and use activism as a means to elevate their public persona as “the most” woke one.
I love the spirit of social media activism of today, it can and has brought awareness in real, practical ways. However, the fire that warms you is the same fire that burns you. There are many “activists” calling people out for inaction who will post a status / photo to a profile which is private and self-filtered for people who already agree with them, yet would not even dare to challenge the same bigotry in a conversation with a partner of their firm or brand sponsor who currently writes their checks. Will call out others for not deleting Uber off their phone, but will moonwalk and “cognitive disso-dance” around any conversation about trading in their Apple products because deleting Uber doesn’t really come at a cost to their lifestyle when you got comparable alternatives.
As I’ve shared before, I truly believe in the spirit of word that we are one body with many parts, all of us having a unique function. Not everyone will march, not everyone will post eloquent statuses, not everyone will write the big checks, not everyone can break down immigration law in masterful tweets, but everyone, within their sphere of influence can do something and humbly, courageously and graciously challenge someone where there is something at stake. And if there is any check on actions, the best place to start is with you because if you truly believe in the divine definition of love, which is sacrificial and your actions to serve really don’t come at a material cost to you, then you have to question whether the real person you are serving is yourself.
There are some people who truly believe in the spirit of Matthew 6:3, which is “when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” so they are under no compulsion to prove to you that they are working or telegraph their passes on the internet. I used to view the fall of man as simply an issue of sin and while it is, I see the implications of the fall more and more in the chords of division and alienation at all levels of the human experience, from people wanting to separate themselves as the most woke of them all, to those who consider themselves the default, de facto citizens who made America, forgetting, we too were foreigners. Let’s fight together family.
A TALE OF TWO KINGS:
This was the title of a @theharvardcrimson op-ed my @harvard classmate and elder statesmen brother, Brandon Michael Terry, wrote about the man, born Michael King on Jan 15, 1929, who we've known as Martin Luther King. I read it in April of 2005 and until that point, I knew "what I was supposed to know" about the commercial version of King. Brandon didn't know that op-ed lit a real fire in me to learn the truth, so I did and it floored me. We'd love to think we would embrace King today, especially those of us who would say we are for freedom, liberation and love. He was demonized by his own people in his latter year(s), cast out like a leper because he started speaking a truth, a vision that was a bit too uncomfortable for the (black) church, "liberal activists" and "more" self-appointed intellectuals and activists of the time. Let alone, carrying the title of "Uncle Tom," "coward" and "coon" for agreeing to meet with and negotiate with racist white leaders. We would like to believe we would embrace him now.
He was spoke an uncomfortable truth, he was an known adulterer, and spoke with racists. He was a man broken by his own sin, his own country and worse, his own people - those he gave his life to serve. He was the type of person God uses, the broken. He was despondent and depressed in his final days. He was one of those faithful echo'ed in Hebrews 11:13, who were still living by faith when they died and did not receive things promised in their lifetimes. It's fitting it's Sunday today. The truth is it's really A Tale of 3 Kings. Deep down inside, we all want a king, that sacrifices His life for His people and is completely blameless. We try to find and anoint people everyday to be that but the truth is, to attempt to do that they have to deny their humanity or the truth because inevitably all men and women will disappoint you and real truth will cut you. Men and women on earth were never created to carry the weight of our God shaped desires. Salute to Brandon Terry for the fire, Rashad @rashaddrakeford for the reminder and trigger and Dr. King for his life. #happybirthday #mlk
BROTHER MALCOLM: On February 21, 1965, 52 years ago today, our brother, Malcolm X lost his life. This is one of my two favorite photos of him. In this one he's pictured with the two eldest of his six daughters, Qubilah Shabazz and Attallah Shabazz (Ilyasah was one of my longtime crushes, but my heart was equally crushed when I learned that the way my faith (and I guess, my age) is setup we could never be, but that's an aside...) and the other during his trip to Mecca. I've called him "Brother Malcolm" ever since I finished reading Alex Haley's autobiography, before Spike brought it to life and before I ever understood the references and quotes in those iconic posters we all see. At a surface level glance, for many Malcolm is this "controversial" figure, who's reduced to soundbites of "By Any Means Necessary," a muse (or nightmare to many) of black militancy, or more a divisive force, than an unapologetic agent of change. After reading the autobiography, in my curiousity, I read just about everything ever written about Brother Malcolm and watched perhaps every documentary made and scoured just about every interview I could watch. I often left each piece unsettled, with sadness, motivation and more often than not, a righteous (and sometimes, not so righteous) anger. Still, no matter the work, I left with a deeper respect for Brother Malcolm's journey, mind, heart and love for his people.
If there is anything I've learned from counseling is the importance of validation in an intimate relationship. This is not to say that I'm an expert in implementing this wisdom, but it is to recognize that it's nearly impossible for someone receive you if you are unable to acknowledge and validate their experiences. Brother Malcolm acknowledged and validated the pain and suffering of black men and women in a way that made his love clear. He was a masterful verbal illustrator, who was as much accessible as he was academic, as much unapologetic as he was magnetic. Still, he was fully human and flawed which is why this picture is one of my favorites because it's him as a dedicated father.
While I do not share his faith, I will always affirm, applaud and admire his focus, his fellowship (in the Harlem community and beyond) and his fire. When many (not all) of our brothers and sisters unintentionally restricted the gospel to Sunday morning piety, preaching “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving those "poorly clothed and lacking in daily food" the things needed for the body, he represented the embodiment of "the works" (James 2:14-17) speaking to the Monday to Saturday practical realities of the people. As Baldwin so eloquently stated, he "corroborated their pain."
He couldn't speak the truth, if he didn't establish the love (Eph 4:15) and as such, he was able to deliver hard truths about morality, accountability and responsibility, without it being dismissed as fruitless respectability. He was a man in every sense of the word and his fearless life gave so many men and women inspiration. I'm that much more grateful to be a #Harlem resident because of him and that much more motivated to do my part in our collective struggle towards justice. Along our arc of freedom Malcolm symbolized a free man who was completely disinterested in mediating freedom through the (dis)comfort of the free. For that reason and so much more, he's loved. My hope is that if you do have a surface level understanding of him based on miseducation or bites, that you go and learn about our Brother Malcolm #byanymeansnecessary
Please join me in wishing my Dad, my namesake, aka "The Blueprint" a #HappyBirthday
Thank you for giving me my #billiegenes (as evidenced by the photo) my laugh, my smile (minus my gap!) and my wear wolf 🐺 beard game among other things. Thank you for embodying true biblical manhood that was and is SACRED: Submitted to God and sacrificially loving to mom and all of us, Accountable, Considerate, Responsible, Emotionally Healthy, and Disciplined. I know it's by grace that you have been in my life. Thank you for always holding your word and always telling me you loved me, every single day as far back as I can remember. Every day you woke up at the crack of dawn, put your knees down in prayer and were out the door to provide for us - thank you. As an entrepreneur who knew few in this country in '79, you did the impossible. The fear from Mom's "Wait 'till your Father gets home" 🙆🏿♂️ (lol) when I acted like I forgot what roof I lived under or the blood 🇳🇬 that ran in my veins, helped shape me into the man I am today. You are the perfect balance of fun and focus, discipline and delight. The original top chef 👨🏾🍳 and best cook in our home 👀 - "don't tell mom."
A lifelong learner that would give @charlierose a run for his money on past and present knowledge. So much more I could say, but do know I'm thankful to God to have you in my life and thank you for giving us all you had and more. You are the man and I love you @lawofa #happybirthday
Black Enterprise: ‘OUR FAMILY DINNER’ UNITES YOUNG PROFESSIONALS FOR SOCIAL GATHERING AND FAMILY-STYLE DINNERS
‘OUR FAMILY DINNER’ UNITES YOUNG PROFESSIONALS FOR SOCIAL GATHERING AND FAMILY-STYLE DINNERS
By Kandia Johnson | August 21, 2015
For Lawrence E. Adjah, food is the bond that unites us all. As founder of Our Family Dinner, he’s on a mission to facilitate loving social interactions in major cities around the world by hosting community-based family-style dinners for young adults. The rules are simple: make people feel at home and create an environment where people can connect and build—sans networking, swapping of business cards, and discussion about work roles or titles.
What makes Our Family Dinner so appealing is how the organization has used the traditional family-style dinner theme to attract at least 150 attendees per dinner, throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America.
Before Adja found success as the founder of Our Family Dinner, he worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Co. “As a manager, I was traveling pretty heavily, working 80 hours a week and leading teams on a project, while trying to manage the “Family Dinner,” which was growing in 20 different cities. At some point, you hit a reflection point and you have to make a choice on which way you should go in your career. I had financial stability, but I was at the point in life where I wanted more, and I wanted to build my own family. So I listened to the little voice in my head and stepped out on faith to devote my time fully to growing Our Family Dinner.”
BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Adja, an M.B.A. graduate, to learn more about his career journey.
BlackEnterprise.com: Tell us about the moment that inspired you to organize your first family-style dinner theme for friends and strangers?
Adja: In 2008, I was living in New York but working and traveling pretty heavily. When I would return home, I would get together for dinner with a number of friends who were doing very well professionally, but felt alone because the only opportunity they had to build relationships was either at networking events, which could be exhausting, or in the clubs. This was a consistent challenge for all of us.
So one day I said to my friends, “Hey let’s just get together and meet at Carmine’s restaurant in New York.” The only rule is invite friends, let’s not discuss titles or talk about work. About 30 people attended the first dinner and we stayed at the restaurant until closing. At that point I realized, there’s a time and place for networking as well as dating but everyone needs to have a separate space that feels like home—a space that whether you’re married or single you can feel safe and renewed. So we created that space.
When did you realize you could transform this concept into a business?
“Our Family Dinner” didn’t have a title until 2012 because we wanted to keep it organic. We realized that it’s hard to determine people’s motives for promoting an opportunity, when you attach names. During that time, I moved to the Bay Area for business school. The Bay Area dinners were also thriving and growing faster than dinners in New York. I started receiving inquiries from people saying they needed the family-style dinners in Dallas and Washington D.C. At first, I thought the momentum would die down. But I trusted God, to really create this tradition.
I formed the Family Dinner as a 501 3C because it’s counter cultural—we want people to take ownership. However, last year I realized my business model needed to change because it comes with several expenses.
Describe your team and the basic elements of a “Family Dinner.”
There’s two level of support. We have about 150 hosts around the world, and five hosts in each city who help the ambassadors. We also have a dedicated team of people including a head of international operations and city relations, marketing relations, digital awareness and digital reach support staff.
When it comes to the family dinners, we have hosts that are trained to treat you like family and make you feel at home. We do a formal welcome, which gives people the mission of the Family Dinner. Then when people sit down, we encourage them to get to know one another, without discussing the traditional thing such as running downing your résumé. There’s no standard topic, but we may suggest some family oriented discussion points.
Our Family Dinner meets every six months in cities across the nation.
Since launching Our Family Dinner, what have you been most surprised to learn about yourself?
This experience redefined my view of “security.” Before I left my job, I thought security was just about money. But now, security is about freedom. Security is about living the way you were called to live. I feel more secure doing work that is not in a traditional sense financially secure, but, I feel secure because I know I’m where I am supposed to be, doing the work I’m supposed to do and serving people. Doing work like this is humbling because you have to ask for help and put yourself out there.
You also have to be comfortable telling a story that 90% of people probably won’t get. If everyone got it, then everyone would be doing it. So you have to be comfortable with sitting alone. I also wasn’t prepared that the journey would feel incredibly lonely. Sure you could have people around you but you’re lonely in your spirit because you feel like you’re the only one who understands this journey.
Tell us about your long-terms goals for Our Family Dinner?
My goal is to ensure we are financially sustainable and make sure we are in every continent by 2017. I want to continue to make sure that people feel like they’re at home, no matter who they are or where they live.
We are looking forward to rolling out a neighborhood-based dinner for smaller groups of 10 people, this would occur on every Thursday and Sunday. We’re also working on another program “Family Recommended”—similar to Yelp, it would provide resources local to the area for families. Bringing on partners is another goal. We want the tradition everywhere. We want people to value families and dinners in a deep, transformative way.
'We're not built to do life alone,' says Our Family Dinner founder