This piece was originally posted by Jacqueline Adams on her Medium page, 1/21/2020.
A song in the 1954 holiday classic film, White Christmas, reminded me to “count my blessings.”
The title of my recently published book with Bonita Stewart used the term “A Blessing” in a different context. We wrote: “The dictionary defines a blessing as ‘a prayer,’ ‘a stroke of luck’ and ‘a seal of approval.’ A group of unicorns is called a ‘blessing.’ Myth has it that seeing a unicorn brings good luck and fortune to the observer. We are a blessing of Black unicorns, accomplished female leaders of color — rare yet highly visible — unmistakably increasing in number with the potential to wield significant influence around the world.”
As deadly and distressing as 2020 has been, it has finally come to an end. Feeling reflective, I decided to look back to see where other, new “blessings” became apparent, even in the midst of pandemics.
Take a look. Think deeply. What would you add to this list of 2020 blessings? What can we build upon in 2021?
The deaths, disease, protests and official incompetence in 2020 forced us to make a choice. Are we glass-half-full or glass-half-empty people? I have always tried to honor and reflect the strength and resilience of my ancestors, brought to America against their will, who survived so much worse over so many centuries. In years past, I have always chosen optimism. Despite faltering on occasion, I have chosen optimism again, and have been restored and reassured when I have seen the reactions to my optimism.
I have always been inspired by my young friends, men and women whom I describe as my “chicks,” because they cluster under my wings. Happily, in 2020, proprietary research for our book, “A Blessing,” our 2019 Women of Color in Business: Cross Generational Survey(c), confirmed why. Millennial and especially Gen Z Black and Latin women are mission driven, optimistic, ambitious, and first adopters of new technology. The young men share many of the same qualities. No wonder I adore them!
Chatting with friends, remotely, I have recognized how many have spent this year being reflective, finding ways to center themselves amid the chaos. Many have found joy in seemingly simple things: taking a walk (fully masked) in a park, hearing birds chirp, hearing neighbors celebrate hospital workers…or even turning off all the devices, now and then, to hear one’s inner voice.
It has been said that technology moved at warp speed in 2020. Innovations that might have taken two years were created, refined and widely adopted within two months. Thanks to these changes, I have been able to launch my and Bonita Stewart’s book, “A Blessing: Women of Color Teaming Up to Lead, Thrive and Empower,” all around the world from one room, my home office, in Manhattan. We never would have been able to reach as many readers as quickly if we had relied primarily on old fashioned, energy inefficient, in-person methods.
The Black Lives Matter movement became an international phenomenon in the aftermath of George Floyd’s tragic death. Activism led generations to #TeamUp and fight against racial injustice, in many instances with young Black female leaders at the helm. In this era of the twin Covid-19 and systemic racism pandemics, now more than ever, people of color need to blow away what WEB Dubois called “a poisonous fog of inferiority” that has been imposed on us by oppressors over the last 400 years.
Errin Haines, editor-at-large for The 19th News, said on MSNBC on December 30th that Black women saved democracy in 2020 by organizing and driving voter registration drives across America, especially in Georgia. I have now bookmarked The 19th News on my Kindle and would recommend that we all do that.
In the year of lock up, many have embraced their “inner introvert.” Yes, we have all worked as hard, if not harder, than ever before perhaps because those of us able to work from home didn’t have to spend hours commuting, or fly hither and yon, or get all dressed up just to participate in various meetings. Many of us have streamlined our lives. Yes, we may have enjoyed fancy restaurants or expensive gym memberships. But we’ve learned that we can be happy without that external stimulus, without status symbols that used to seem important.
The racial and social justice protests have prompted a re-thinking of many corporate and personal agendas. My co-author and I have launched the concept of Sisters as a Service (SaaS), a scalable proposition to drive professional advancement and to increase the camaraderie among women of color. Our goals are to increase the numbers of women of color in senior positions and thereby reduce the “only-ness” and loneliness of those already there. We have been overjoyed by the positive response. And we are also overjoyed by so many other, corollary efforts. There are too many to list accurately. I would like to note two: 1)The Black 100, an effort by the Harvard Business School Club of NY and the HBS African-American Alumni Association to place 100 Black executives on corporate boards over the next year; and 2) OneTen.org, the start up which has enlisted some 37 companies and raised $100 million to upskill, hire and advance one million Black Americans into family-sustaining jobs with opportunities for advancement over the next 10 years.
Covid 19 has not killed creativity. Arts organizations may have lost revenue and in-person audiences. But artists are still writing new music and novels and plays, choreographing new ballets, painting and sculpting and photographing. We are beginning to see the fruits of their labor, their processing of 2020’s isolation, pain and death. Slowly, the arts organizations that I support are beginning to charge again, perhaps too little, for programs conceived in and intended for small screens at home.
#TeamUp for allies of all races and genders, but especially for women of color, is real and its power grows every day. As authors of “A Blessing,” Bonita Stewart and I deliberately teamed up with women and a few good men of color: our publisher, our publicist, our photographer, makeup artist, social media advisor, graphic artist and speech coach. Almost every day, we have experienced the benefits of #TeamUp as old and new friends suggest and activate additional ways to share our messages of leading, thriving and empowering! Who knows what 2021 will bring!