A Focus on Dignity and Non-Violence at Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy

By Natasha L. Foreman, MBA

On April 15th I was honored to lead a Dignity Day session as a HOPE Corp Volunteer through Operation HOPE (HOPE) at the Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy (CSKYWLA) in Atlanta.

What is amazing is how the majority of this class of ninth graders were initially completely turned off to the idea of having to listen to yet another speaker that day as they were just returning to their classroom from an assembly that focused on the theme of 100 days of Non-Violence…so they were shifty and closed off. But about 15 minutes into our conversation some of the girls who had crossed arms were soon raising their hands and answering questions.

I started off by talking about the concept of legacy and that that day we were laying the foundation and road map for them to create and eventually leave behind a strong, dignified legacy. I had them define the term legacy in their own words and then share some of their dreams, goals and aspirations. Then as our conversation deepened I shared with them the history of how HOPE was founded, the services and programs that HOPE offers, and I started to weave a story where life included them and their legacy.


I think helping them share the names of empowered and dignified women they see in their family, community, and elsewhere who had similar or worse lives growing up helped them to see that they too could be those same type of women- that they are these women but in-training and with the potential to do more and help more in the long run because they are being equipped with the tools at a young age; and our adversity isn’t an excuse to let life pass us by or a crutch to coast through life doing and expecting the bare minimum, but a reason and motivation to excel and succeed.

These young ladies were shocked to hear that the civil rights movement as it pertained to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Ambassador Andrew Young was sparked, motivated, and pushed along due to their wives Coretta Scott King and Jean Childs Young- two women who endured and overcame adversity and strife. Hearing this information made many of these girls sit up straight in their chairs and listen intently.

                        

When I spoke about not holding grudges, and that forgiving people is not to benefit the person they were forgiving but to help themselves heal, grow, and overcome- some girls shifted in their seats their seats, a few others rolled their eyes in disbelief; but then when I mentioned Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Iyanla Vandzant and their ability to forgive their abusers and using strife as a launching pad towards success- some of the girls started naming other people like Fantasia and Tyler Perry who was sexually and physically abused and how he also overcame and pushed himself to success.

We discussed the concept of family and that it isn’t just our immediate family we need to be concerned about but our neighborhoods, cities, state, our country, and our global family. Because I know that girls can be equally as cutthroat as boys, I made sure that we had a heart-to-heart chat about trash-talking and “clowning” people and how although initially it can be lighthearted and funny, it can also be crippling and tear apart our “extended” family.

We discussed being relevant not only in this country but globally, and that true wealth (spiritual, financial, etc) can only be maintained long term by leading a dignified life, not by living up to the negative stereotypes that are projected globally about Black females. We discussed self-empowerment and not waiting on the government or specific programs to help us, that we have to help ourselves. That we shouldn’t be waiting for someone else to pick up trash on our sidewalks- we should pick it up ourselves.

We shouldn’t be waiting for someone else to cover the graffiti on our walls and buildings- we should paint over it ourselves; we shouldn’t wait for someone else to beautify our streets and parks with trees and flowers- we should plant them ourselves. I explained that they should be volunteering in their community through church or some other organization taking pride in restoring, building, maintaining, and beautifying their neighborhoods.

We had a pretty good time. We laughed and talked about boys and expectations of being respected by males and all people when you carry yourself with respect and dignity. We discussed the language of money and being financially literate, and how this literacy will empower them. It was refreshing to see that many of them have savings accounts and that two of the students had traveled abroad- one to London and the other to the Bahamas. Two young passport carriers living in an underserved and underrepresented area of Atlanta- doesn’t that give you hope? It gives me hope and encourages me to continue my work in the community, and my work through Operation HOPE.

I hope more men and women find it in their hearts to invest one hour of their time at least once per month to volunteer in a church, in a class room, or in a youth center through Operation HOPE. One person can make a difference!

Copyright 2011. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.
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>Natasha’s SWOT Analysis 9.2.10  

>Two weeks ago I proposed that we all participate in creating an individual personal SWOT Analysis to look at our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in our personal lives so that we can see how to build upon our ‘pluses’ and turn our ‘minuses’ into ‘pluses’. The goal was to list 10-20 traits in each category, but if we had less than 10 or more than 20… we wouldn’t worry one second! 

Below is my SWOT, as you can clearly see in some areas I have more than 20, and in other areas I’m right at 14 or less. These traits of course are not listed in any particular order; just whatever came to mind first. The ultimate goal is to leverage all four areas to my advantage and overall growth…sooner than later.

We have to be real with ourselves. Don’t hold back and don’t sugar coat this analysis, you will only be doing yourself a disservice. Many of your traits you may initially overlook or categorize incorrectly; but rest assure that family and friends are never far off the mark with their assessments about you. Be sure (if you haven’t already done so) to share your SWOT with me, and if you want you can post as a comment or simply request that I post yours for other readers to see, and find any commonalities. Also take time to share with a few family members and friends to get their insight. It will be interesting to see what they have to say. 

Natasha’s SWOT Analysis 9.2.10     

STRENGTHS

1. Results-driven
2. Efficient
3. Realist
4. Creative
5. Go-to person (get it done type)
6. Analytical
7. Sense of humor
8. Humility
9. Work well with people
10. Great vision
11. Insight
12. Live with multi-cultural perspective 
13. Gracious
14. Huge heart
15. Considerate
16. Loving
17. Organized
18. Trustworthy
19. Trusting
20. Common sense
21. Street smart
22. Can mix and mingle in any setting 
23. Can speak to anyone on any level (communicate with business professionals, academics and the layperson)
24. Effective teacher/instructor/trainer
25. When I’m told I can’t do something I focus my energy on proving that I can
26. Degrees in Black Studies, MBA with marketing specialization, and currently pursuing my Doctorate in Organization and Management with a management education specialization, and a certificate in college teaching

WEAKNESSES

1. Can let fear stop me in my tracks
2. Issues with asking for help (don’t ask enough)
3. Impatient
4. Procrastination
5. Not comfortable ‘networking’
6. Sometimes see the glass half empty
7. Don’t know how to say “no” enough
8. Sometimes struggle with disconnecting from ‘work’ to enjoy life
9. Stubborn
10. Opinionated
11. Don’t put ‘self’ first (second to God) enough 
12. Bite my tongue when I should speak up and speak out (in my personal and professional life)
13. Don’t charge clients what I’m worth
14. Don’t value my time enough
15. Miss opportunities that could propel me to my goals faster and sooner 
16. Sometimes doubt myself
17. May compromise myself into total dissatisfaction 
18. Lower my standards too often
19. Have issues with dealing with loss (never grieve in healthy way)
20. Carry around too much stress
21. Sometimes have difficulty delegating (“might as well do it myself if I want it done right the first time”)
22. In my past, gifts and favors from men came with a constant disclaimer “I got this for you…I did this for you” so I have issues/reservations with accepting gifts and favors from men. I’d rather get/do it myself or not have it
23. Not good with saving and investing money properly (inconsistent)
24. Don’t work out on a consistent basis with the intensity required to reach and maintain my desired goals
25. Not finishing everything I start
26. Control freak
 

OPPORTUNITIES

1. Opportunity to develop and grow my companies to the level where I have several employees handling multiple client accounts with limited or no supervision from me; and operations are so efficient that I can travel for pleasure at my leisure
2. College teaching position (teaching online, distance, and traditional on-campus business classes) 
3. Increasing my patience; notice a significant difference now than two years ago (and especially five years ago)
4. Marriage and family 
5. Regular vacations lasting 7 (+) days
6. Ability to travel more globally, even for business
7. Re-build global client base
8. Live life to its fullest; enjoying all the small wonders it has to offer that I currently overlook because I’m too overwhelmed with the nuances of life.
9. Re-build my nest egg
10. Finally get one of my books finished and published
11. Purchasing several family and income properties 
12. More speaking, mentoring and tutoring opportunities    
13. Meeting prospective clients through referrals
14. Gaining additional mentors and advisors to help guide me

THREATS

1. Other companies/consultants can have competitive advantage because they don’t delay making contact and sharing their services with prospective clients
2. Miss opportunities to excel in career because of my fears
3. By not adequately and efficiently leveraging my strengths and weaknesses towards a truly successful and rewarding career (with considerable financial gains) I risk overwhelming amounts of personal debt
4. My personal hang ups prevent me from having the life I desire (marriage and family; and financial security)
5. Too much planning and not enough action will result in great ideas that never amount to anything but great ideas
6. Losing focus and never getting one of my books finished and published 

Wow now that is quite a bit to reflect on. My next post we will do exactly that and I will explain how to take your SWOT and make it work for you. Until next time have an awesome day!

Copyright 2010. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

>Complexities of Relationships: Part Eight…Can You See Home Base?

>Today I sat back and reflected on the last seven parts of this series. I have received some incredible feedback over the past two weeks. What I want to make sure is that I bring things full circle, that our take away is complete, and not lacking. I’m not here to preach or stand on some soap box rambling about “the complexities of relationships”; I desire to explore with you the things that make each of us who we are today. 

Our circumstances don’t have to dictate our futures. You choose to be a testimony or a victim. You choose to be a leader or a follower; you choose to take counsel from those who are where you want to be, or you take the rocky roads and try to figure it out yourself. You choose to change for the better so that you can play an intricate part in a loving relationship, or you walk around professing to be “great the way I am” or ‘damaged goods’. I’m not sure which of those two are worse! 

We don’t need to walk around with invisible signs on us that say, “I’ve been hurt” or “I have trust issues”. 

In order to have healthy relationships both personal and professional we must look at ourselves first, not the other person…start with self. What are you really ‘bringing to the table’ and in what areas do you fall short of a ‘full deck’? What things about you do you acknowledge need changing, improving, or tweaking? What things are you adamant that don’t need adjusting? Reflect on the strengths and weaknesses you notice about yourself and then consider what your love ones see as your strengths and weaknesses. Have you ever sat down and written a list of your strengths and weaknesses? Have you ever included what loved ones had to say?

SWOT ANALYSIS
Those of you who know me, or at least spent two minutes reading my blog profile know that I am a Business Consultant; so it should not surprise you that I would find a way to sprinkle in business concepts into this series. A SWOT Analysis is a process performed in business to help an organization determine their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Strengths and Weaknesses may be easy enough for me not to have to elaborate, but let me briefly explain the Opportunities and Threats, and then explain how all of this ties in to today’s post and the series as a whole.

Opportunities are those things, areas, concepts that work as an advantage for the organization; what gives them that competitive advantage over another company, and potentially elevates them to levels of long-term success. Opportunities can also be broken down by sub-divisions  and departments within the organization.

Threats seems easy enough to figure out. Threats are all the possible ways the organization can mess up, lose or fail to gain a competitive advantage; all of the possible risks that could ultimately lead to the demise of a project, division, department, account, or the company as a whole.

PERSONAL SWOT ANALYSIS
This segment of the series we will draft our own SWOT Analysis and look at our personal Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities (for improvement, success personally and professionally, etc) and the Threats that put us at risk of not reaching our goals, overcoming fears and other obstacles, and having poor relationships with others, etc.

Here’s a quick example using one characteristic or trait in each category:

Natasha’s SWOT Analysis

STRENGTHS: “get it done right” person 
WEAKNESSES: procrastinator
OPPORTUNITIES: being mentored by great business and civic leaders
THREATS: my fear of failing could cause me not to act

The idea is to have several things in each category. Shoot for 10-20. Don’t worry if you have more or less. Allow yourself to let things flow from you. The moment you get out of your way and out of your head you will experience a surge of information flow!

Once we complete our Personal SWOT Analysis we need to step outside of our comfort zone and share it with others that we love and care for, and who love and care for us. This person or persons must also be objective, willing to be open and honest with you without fear or concern of reprisal; and you must be open for healthy dialogue and analysis. Because once you finish sharing, they are to provide you an analysis of what they see as your SWOT. See how many traits and areas that you all agree, and be sure to rationally, calmly, and lovingly discuss those traits and areas where you disagree. It should be interesting what you discover.

Now wait a minute…stop rolling your eyes and sucking your teeth. Don’t give up before you even get started. The only way you can effectively perform a SWOT Analysis is to have other people participating and providing healthy, grounded, well-thought out feedback. You see yourself from one angle and point of view, while friends and family see you from varying angles and viewpoints. The only way to see and appreciate the whole picture is to look at it from different angles. You have to step back, to either side, turn slowly, then quickly, look at it standing then sitting, then in a prone position. You have to look at it from below and up high.

If performing this exercise is too stressful, I want you to ask yourself “why?” 

We’re talking about growth through healing, growth through exploration, growth through experience, growth through proper nourishment. 

The goal is to leverage our strengths, strengthen our weaknesses, increase and take full advantage of our opportunities, and reduce and control our threats so that they don’t overpower (and eventually rule) us. 

How many of you plan to create your Personal SWOT Analysis? How many of you will go a step farther and perform the analysis with one or more loved ones? How many of you will then share with me how things played out, how it felt, and what you learned about yourself and how others truly view you?

This exercise can be completed and results shared anytime between today and next week, preferably next Monday. I’m excited about this exercise and can’t wait to share my analysis and to receive feedback about yours.

Have fun, dig deep, want more, and dream big!

Copyright 2010. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.