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What do an athlete in an uncommon sport, a committed father and a successful young entrepreneur have in common? They are all inspiring catalysts for change.
In observance of Black History Month, and as an African-American woman myself, I’d like to share three inspiring stories of driven people who are making a difference for their communities and in the world. Read on and be inspired to follow the examples of these three changemakers for the black community, and recognize the importance of representation, inclusion and the reach-back mentality.
Nzingha has broken barriers in a combat sport and displayed an incredible drive to compete. As a two-time Olympian foil fencer, she was the first African-American woman to medal at the 2015 Senior World Championship.
(Quick background info: The word “foil” refers to the type of weapon Nzingha fights with—a long, skinny, flexible blade. Fencing means the sport of swordplay, in which the goal is to touch your opponent with your foil without getting hit first.)
When I thought about people who are driving positive change, Nzingha was a no-brainer. She uses her drive to show how much representation matters in spaces that may not have too many people who look like you.
Fencing is a specific and expensive sport. Nzingha wouldn’t have been able to participate without the influence of the Peter Westbrook Foundation, which makes fencing accessible to young people in underserved communities.
Nzingha says she wants to show kids that just because you're underrepresented and don't see someone who looks like you doesn't mean achievement is impossible.
There is so much power that comes with having representation for those who don't feel seen. You never know who is looking to you for inspiration, which helps us be better people, leaders, friends and colleagues who can create drive in others.
The next inspirational figure is also an athlete, but it’s his role as leader of the Wade family that really inspires me. Dwyane and his family have been speaking out and speaking up for their transgender daughter and sister, Zion Wade. All I can think about is how beautiful it is to see them shower her with love and support as a family.
Dwyane has shown uncommon compassion during interviews about parenting Zion and how he felt it was his job as a father to make sure she feels supported. The Wade family has always championed Zion. How many of us wish we had the support to help us get through something or wish we had someone championing for us? Using your voice to support other people can help propel their drive forward.
I found their story so compelling because it made me think of how often I use my voice to champion for someone else. Remember, using your voice to support other people can help propel their drive forward.
Businesswoman Morgan DeBaun is a 30-year-old African American entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Blavity, a portfolio of brands and websites created by and for black millennials. I love to watch small businesses grow over time because I actually get to see the hard work pay off. It makes me feel like we can all do it—and truthfully we can.
Morgan has acquired two platforms: TravelUR, a travel platform for black millennials, and Shadow and Act, a black entertainment news site. She’s so active in summits for entrepreneurs, it’s hard to believe she’s only 30.
What’s fascinating about Morgan is that she used her drive to invest in her community by being an open book and educating others through her knowledge and experiences. This is referred to as the reach-back mentality: You use your skills and gifts to reach back to build up your community. When you make yourself a resource, community members can walk away feeling fulfilled and inspired to use their own abilities.
Community means not just impacting the people you're inspiring, but also the team who helps make it happen. This reach-back mentality takes responsibility, mindfulness and thoughtful service. Morgan has all of these. In everything she has accomplished, she has used her platform as a way to reach back and help others feel confident. Using your drive to invest in your community can spark the drive of many others.
My hope is that these stories inspire you to keep pursuing your goals. Always consider how you can use your drive to invoke change in your communities, teams, organizations and yourself.