Living Room, Classroom, Board Room: Turning Promises & Plans into Progress

I vowed to make 2020 a year of progress. I felt my 2019 was stagnant in many ways and I didn’t feel that I had maximized opportunities. I promised to make this year different. In doing so, I wanted to map out, speak and practice all that I am expecting this year. I wanted to be intentional about my planning and to put it into action. I wanted to prioritize my wants and needs. I invited others to join me and I planned and hosted a #2020Vision Board Party ! Proceeds from the party went to the Queens Do Things Scholarship Fund. A week or so into the promotional period, I was frustrated that it hadn’t garnered the response I had hoped it would. Views were high, but RSVPs were low and slow. I set one evening, working on the event prep & started praying & a little voice inside of my head said, “Everyone who needs to be there, will be there.…” and they were. . . . I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to share space with such beautiful women!

We shared with one another, we laughed, we joked, we created space and gave way for conversations that we don’t feel comfortable having at work and aren’t quite ready to share with the world. In this safe space we discussed our intentions of self-care, work, goal manifestation and our rise from my warm, small and intimate living room, to the classrooms we teach in, lead in, and learn in to the board rooms we currently sit in & the ones we desire to step into. Above all, we discussed how to turn our vision board dreams, into our wildest realities. It was invigorating! I felt my introverted self finding comfort in the stories shared and the conversations being had. There’s something about positive energy, dreaming aloud and working with other women in an effort to connect and be accountable.

When I was a little girl I remember wanting to be an elementary teacher. I flipped the garage behind the house we lived in from a storage space, to a classroom. I took every learning activity my mother had purchased for me and my siblings, every glue stick I could find, every piece of unused furniture, pack of crayons, markers and notebooks and got to work! I knocked down spider webs, rinsed the walls off with a tattered water hose, begged my brother to help me hang up decals on the high walls and invited every kid in the neighborhood for what I had deemed: summer school. I left handwritten notes for parents on doors and in mailboxes, urging them to send their children to my house for school. I created permission slips, assigned homework and even created a process for suspension. My desire to pass on what I learn is not new. It is ingrained in who I am. It is so much a part of who I am & it all started in my living room.

Years before I would ever step foot in a classroom or board room for that matter, the living room of my childhood home, was a place for learning, lectures, movies, photos and guests of the opposite sex : ). I remember watching my mother teach my brother different concepts. She would yell when he couldn’t remember, smack the table when stuttered and stare as only she could, when he seemed to be working out an equation in the wrong direction. Soon after, it was my turn. In the living room I learned to read, write, spell, debate, sit up straight, cross my legs, give face, pose for photos, paint my nails and so much more. In the living room, of our home, I learned how to be all that I am. . . I simultaneously learned how to avoid what I didn’t want to become. The living room was also a place for adult parties and lectures. The living room taught me that too much alcohol can lead to abuse. It taught me that coming in past curfew came with a lecture that I couldn’t avoid. My mom would fall asleep on the couch until we were all home. The three of us learned that none of us were exempt from her swift and sharp tongue, her darting eyes or her wailing and wrinkly hands. I remember coming home from my boyfriend’s house one evening and she set there watching a movie she said, but waiting on me, I knew and she asked, “Hey! What’s up with your hair?” I replied quickly, “Nothing.” She turned to me and said, “If you’re just going to hang out, there’s no reason your feet should leave the floor.” She went to the kitchen for something and returned casually. . . I stood there, a little confused and unsure of what to say next. She went on, “Your hair is out of place because you’ve been lying down. I don’t remember us discussing your going over there to rest. . . . or anything more for that matter.” I stood there. Still. Afraid. I had been lying down. My thoughts were scattered. But how did she . . . when did I, wait. . huh? She ended the conversation in a way that is hard for me to ever forget, she stood and walked over to me. I braced myself. . . but she only spoke, almost whispered (and if you know my mother, you know whispering is not what she does), “I expect more from you, Marquisha.” and with that, she walked away and went into her bedroom. I just stood there, sobbing. I was embarrassed. I was disappointed in myself. I was pissed I got caught and I was angry I had let her down. The living room taught me about accountability, self-worth, self-respect and it was also the place of constant reinforcement of expectations.

When I finally went to school, my living room education served as a precursor to all that the teacher wanted me to know, do, achieve and consider. School was always easy. It was sometimes fun. It was sometimes challenging and sometimes, the classroom served as a place for me to test what I learned at home. It sometimes reinforced my blackness. It perpetuated systematic oppression and it provided me with a platform to learn, empower, teach, triumph, edify and repeat. I consider the classrooms I grew up in and the classrooms I create for the students I teach and learn with. The classroom was a place where I unlearned my bossy habits, cared for others who weren’t my family, learned about the gender differences and academic expectations. The classroom holds so many of the memories I cherish. It was in a classroom that I received my first love note. It was in a classroom that I first faced and recognized defeat–if you’ve ever played around the world, then you know what I’m referring to. It was in a classroom that I learned not about the systems of oppression, but how to dismantle them. It was in a classroom that I found the language I’d need to persuade, entice, debate, and quarrel with others. It was in a classroom that I met some of my closest friends, shared some of my deepest secrets, and dreamed some of my biggest dreams. It comes as no surprise to me that I select the classroom as one of my biggest platforms for the work that I feel so privileged to share. Sometimes as a Dean, Sometimes as a Professor, Sometimes as a Blogger, but always as a Black woman with the intention of leaving all things, in better condition than I found them.

I guess the board room, in my opinion, is a natural progression and/or it should be. For years, women of color have served as care-takers and nurturers….often times as at-home mamas and the living room is their domain. Other times as school-teachers and the classroom was their realm. We need more of them, more of us, in the board rooms. The very transferable skills they possess, the board rooms need. They know how to manage 100 things at once. Their level of empathy is unmatched and their ability to improve upon old systems and create new ways of doing and learning are undeniable. When you’ve learned it in the living room, practiced it in the classroom, you can walk into the board room and start to discuss the ways to enhance it, dismantle it, monetize it– etcetera.

I asked my vision board party guests to complete a few activities before they begin to decorate their vision boards. I asked them what their living rooms have taught them. I asked them what classrooms they have experienced and what those experiences taught them about themselves, about others, about the world. And then I asked them about their figurative board rooms. The spaces and places they aspired to be. What do they look like? Smell like? Include? Who’s there? What emotions does the space bring forth. . . and they shared. Though are living rooms and classrooms sometimes feel crowded, overwhelming, and daunting. . the figurative board room was described by my guests as: freeing, limitless, open, creative, warm, full of black and brown people, purposeful, fulfilling, fitting, serving others, impacting positive change, and reciprocal among so many other things. Board rooms, for the sake of this activity represented the rooms we haven’t been in yet, the rooms we want to create, the highest peak of our existence. It is the space that we’re striving to reach.

So now I’m asking you. What does your living room look like? What feelings, thoughts, emotions does it inspire? What memories does it hold? What about the classrooms you’ve set in? Taught in? or otherwise experienced? And the board rooms too. . . what board rooms do you want to enter into or lead in? What do they smell like? Feel like? Who is in them? More importantly, who is missing? The Vision Board Party really served as an opportunity to advance ideas, build systems, connect with other women and create a space for dreaming and accountability so that we could be our best selves, individually and collectively. It served an even greater purpose though, for me. It was a reminder that nothing is impossible when we have the desire to be better human beings. Mediocrity is a tool of inadequacy. Mediocrity is the sister of lack-luster contentment and the mother of stagnation. We are, in our most natural state, none of that.

When we consider the design for our lives, I think it is important to note that the thoughts that live inside of our minds inform our reality, which help to shape our perception, which determines our altitude. If we’re not willing to challenge and redirect those thoughts so that they are healthy, critical, warm, forgiving, calming and open (among other things), we run the risk of failing ourselves. We run the risk of being trapped in our metaphorical or literal living rooms. When that happens the classroom and boardroom–or whatever room you hope to one day enter or create–becomes smaller and smaller. And the detrimental thing about entering small, cramped, one-sided spaces, is that there is no room to go or grow. If you remember nothing else from all that I’ve shared, remember this: change is always an option, growth doesn’t always hurt, and if the space you want to be in does not exist, then YOU must create it. . . .

I pray that light and goodness outweigh the darkness this year. . . and that you may find peace in all that you’re connected to. May the desires of your heart manifest in the most beautiful way. . .

Marquisha β™‘

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