As we consider black history and the impact of great black leaders, we’re always reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King’s iconic “I have a Dream speech.” Hopefully, we’re also re-energized to examine and do something about how we make our own black history and fulfill our own dreams.
When we grow up as children with big dreams of becoming a firefighter or an actress or the president, we carry with us a sense of entitlement. An adult asks us what we want to become when we grow up, and in our pure innocence, we see no obstacles to becoming that doctor, lawyer, teacher, rapper or singer that we desire.
After all, we’ve seen these individuals on television, in our neighborhoods and hopefully in our families. Something about what they do or represent becomes attractive to us, therefore we want it and believe we should have it. This is particularly true if we have adults in our lives who encourage us to dream and tell us that if we believe it, we can achieve anything; the sky is the limit. In our naiveté, we often expect many of these same individuals to be as energized and willing to help us accomplish our dreams as we work to climb that American dream ladder along the way. How wonderful it would be if things were that simple.
When I lived in L.A., I sat on a panel once titled “After the Party, What’s the Plan?” This panel consisted of actress/comedienne Mo’Nique, a litany of other entertainers, community leaders and NFL and NBA players – and me. During the question and answer segment, a young Latino boy asked us a loaded question: “What do you do if people in your family do not support your dream?”
I took a long breath, realizing that this was a tough but very real question that needed to be addressed. I actually surprised myself when I blurted out, “It’s not your business how others feel about your dream, nor is it their responsibility to believe in your dreams. That is your job. If God has put a desire inside of you that you can see in your minds-eye and feel in the depths of your soul, then it is your responsibility to answer the call within.”
I wondered if I was too harsh, but I knew it was true. When we have a dream, we cannot expect others to see it and feel it the way we do. How many times have you heard great and successful people testify about how people in their family thought they were crazy for having a dream that eventually made them famous or renowned?
When Martin Luther King Jr. initially announced his dream of blacks and whites getting along as equals and everyone being judged by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin, considering the times of such inequality and racial divide, don’t you think many people thought his dream was crazy? But because he believed it and worked at it, people of all races were converted into believers and supporters of the dream. God gave him that dream; he literally died working to fulfill it. Imagine where we’d be today if he never pursued his dream because people doubted.
The reality is that today, we are living in a time of economic downturn. People are very skeptical and cynical, busy trying to survive and figure out their own stuff. When people do open themselves up for something new, they generally want to make an investment in what they perceive to be a sure thing, something already tested and proven. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the dreamer to create your own opportunity. Make your dream into a reality by doing something. People can only respond to what you give them. Create your own forum for others to experience you while in your element. If you sing, make a demo tape. If you have an idea, create a business plan and proposal. If you can’t get seen as an actor, develop a one-man show and invite agents, managers, family and friends. If you can’t find a job, use your skills, talents and abilities to start your own business. That’s an example of making your own opportunity.
There are always excuses. I too have been guilty of saying, “If only someone would give me a chance, they would see how good I am.” But I have come to realize that it’s my job to make people pay attention. I had already written at least 100 blogs before I was read on this website. But I’m pleased that now we have an opportunity to dialogue and engage about real life issues.
The point is when people see you “doing” your dream and doing it well, you make them into believers. Our days of child-like naiveté’ are gone. Nobody owes us anything. But how you present yourself – prepared and with passion – could make someone want to give you everything.