Sunday, January 18, 2009

Change of Plans & A Few Words from Susan Taylor

It's a major weekend this weekend. A turn in the road kind of day, today. Today there was a brunch in Philadelphia celebrating 20 years since I graduated from high school. My friends from the Philadelphia High School for Girls, b.k.a Girls' High, are coming out of the woodwork on Facebook and it's great seeing them virtually if not in person right now. They look great and since I was always the youngest in any class I was in (December babies usually are), we're talking about 38- and 39-year-old women here. I'm sure there was some talk about being so close to 40. I'm betting the cliques bonded again but that no one really felt left out since we were all in a more mature place in life. I wish I could have been there. But the plan was to be in D.C. for the next 3 days. The plans changed.

Instead, my friend and I mulled over the idea of being in potentially bone-chilling cold for hours before and during the event. We found out that food was not allowed to be brought in. Cameras can be but not camera bags. They are opening the Mall in anticiption of the crowds and if you've never been there, let's just say you do not want to be in the middle of there surrounded by hoards of people pressing around you and THEN need to go to the bathroom. Thankfully, my bladder knows how to behave and if I drink nothing in the morning, I'm cool for hours.

Then the questions became just how much would we be able to see? How long would the lines be in all the places we'd need to go or want to go? There was also my friend's father saying, "I wish you'd reconsider." He was worried about her safety. Neither she nor I are easily scared so that wouldn't have stopped us if this whole thing took place in, say, June. But the rest were factors we heavily weighed and when she hesitated the first time, I told her, it's OK. I don't mind NOT spending money. So she canceled the room. We're home to enjoy the whole thing from the best seat in the house - our homes.

But this is not only the week of President-Elect Obama's inauguration. Tomorrow is also the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday. I have NEVER been off for the holiday because no place I ever worked closes for that day. But I had taken off these 3 days to go to D.C. and decided to stay home Monday and Tuesday at least to take it all in without the disruption of the job. There is a program at my church tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. in celebration of Dr. King. It is sponsored by a local group and held at our church every year since our church is one of the largest here. The kids from Son's summer literacy program will recite the pledge they learned from the program, which means Son and I need be there. The keynote speaker is Susan L. Taylor, editor emerita of Essence magazine.

Earlier today, Bizzy Girl called me to tell me she got a free ticket to the meet and greet with Ms. Taylor that was taking place this evening. Could I go? Mr. T was out getting groceries but if he got home in time, heck yeah!

Why does Suan Taylor matter?
Susan Taylor's magazine is as old as I am so I grew up under the influence of this publication. I dared to dream about being a writer and even having my own magazine because of this woman's work. When people told me in college that I'd have to wear my hair straight for job interviews, I thought about Ms. Taylor and her ever present cornrows and I told them all, it's me as I am or it's nothing. After all, those people weren't going to be the ones doing my hair. (Yes, I've worn braids at every job I've had thus far.) One of my summer jobs in college was working as a cashier at a drug store in my neighborhood. When I was talking with some of the other employees about our dreams and goals, I mentioned wanting to write for Essence one day, or just being able to work there doing anything would be a great start, though I never relished the thought of being in New York. The white assistant manager of the drug store, Jerry Rice (yes, his real name. I don't care if I out him.) chuckled. "Essence? What's that?" I rolled my eyes at his naivete. Since he hadn't heard of the magazine it must not have been too big a deal right? Wrong, little man. Oh, how narrow your world must have been. It was a simple, dismissive statement, but thanks to him, I became even more resolute to do what I wanted to do.

So when I got the chance to meet Susan Taylor, I had to take it. Bizzy Girl and our other partner in the traditional greeting cards were going. We were going to give her one of our puzzles too. You never know where opportunity will strike so why not?

Ms. Taylor got up to speak and it was hard to catch everything she said. We did hear loud and clear that she was 62, turning 63 this week. You'd never guess it. She glowed.

I wanted to take it all in. The room was small and intimate and she had a mic but despite that, she spoke a little fast, not always clearly and we only caught snippets of what she said, but we got the whole message loud and clear. At this time of change in our country, here are some of the things she said:

  • "(Barack Obama) cannot save us. No one president can."

  • "Take care of you first."

  • "We have to embrace our own joy."

  • "Your responsibility is to you."

  • "It's a new day. Attend to your joy."

  • "We can get this right. It starts with us taking care of ourselves."

  • "Do what you have to do to keep moving forward."

  • "Hurt people hurt people." (Jerry Rice was most likely a hurt person.)

  • Afterward, we purchased her latest book and she signed them for each of us. "We have something for you," Bizzy Girl told her amidst all the chatter around us. "What's in that envelope she gave you," I pointed out, "we created it. That is what we do in our business." Ms. Taylor gave us an impressed look and hugged us for a picture. We waited until she was done hoping to get our own picture with her but she had already gone by the time we got back to her table. But it's OK. Bizzy Girl will see her tomorrow when she arrives at the church to speak. She'll have a private moment, more than likely and that's when she will see if she can mention us to her again.
    We noticed before Ms. Taylor left that she'd only gotten a few things from the people in attendance so maybe the chance was high that she'd open the puzzle tonight. We had written messages to her on the back of the puzzle. One of them encouraged her to email us if she enjoyed the puzzles.

    Wouldn't it be great if she did? If she does email a positive reaction, I will ask her if I can use it as a testimonial and add it into our marketing materials. Wouldn't it be great if she wanted some for herself and gave them out to her influential friends, including Oprah who decided it was one of her favorite things this year? Wouldn't it be great? This is the year of reaping, my friends. You just never know.

    Know what else would also be great? If you voted for us in Start Up Nation Leading Moms in Business 2009 Competition. Check it out here. We'd REALLY appreciate it if you vote and you can do it every day until March 31, 2009 PT. Thanks for your support!

    1 comment:

    Lisa Maria Carroll said...

    Susan L. Taylor is one of my sheroes. Her "In the Spirit" column encouraged me so much when she was with Essence. And, as a single mother, her story resonates with me.

    I'm going to the Essence Music Festival in July. I'm hoping I can meet her then.

    Wish me luck!