After reading my Facebook post from last week that I was going to begin mitigating my risk of potentially being targeted for standing, walking or shopping in areas I don’t live in, several people I love and trust asked me if I was also going to stop speaking around the country to caregivers and families dealing with dementia.
The answer is a resounding NO!! I am definitely not giving up my work of helping others. As soon as this pandemic is over, I’ll continue to go wherever I’m invited to speak. The difference between my being on the speaking circuit and the things I do in my personal life that bring me enjoyment is the fact that I’m contracted and invited to speak, not just showing up somewhere where someone may see me as a threat. I love the fact that when organizations advertise the events where I will be speaking, most of the time there is a photo of me in the ad. So in my mind people aren’t going to be surprised to learn that I am the speaker when they arrive at the venue. But every now and there, there is surprise and shock! A few have left the event once they learned I was the speaker.
As many of you know, since 2014 I’ve given more than 330 presentations and keynote addresses to thousands of people around the country. Being on the speaking circuit isn’t something that I actually chose to do, this is 100% the work that God has called me to do, and people say that I’m pretty good at it. I’m told that I bring energy, enthusiasm and hope to topics that are difficult, challenging and devastating. I can’t even put into words how rewarding this work has been for me. I hug, laugh and cry with people who attend these events and have become lifelong friends with some of them.
For the most part, these events have been full of love and bonding with others, but there have also been many more than a few instances where the fact that I am black have created some uncomfortable situations. I share just a few of them below.
- On multiple occasions I’ve been asked to deliver towels, fix attendees plates of food, told what they wanted in their coffee, and complained to that they didn’t receive their newspaper at their hotel door.
- People have demanded that I pick up the room service trays outside their door because it had already been sitting there for a long period of time.
- I’ve been the only person in the hotel breakfast area who was asked to produce their room key to prove I was a guest there before I was allowed to eat the free breakfast.
- The only hotel guest who was questioned in an accusatory tone by the fire department if I knew who may have pulled the false fire alarm at three in the morning that resulted in an evacuation.
- the most incredible event occurred in a huge ballroom where I was speaking about 8 minutes before I was supposed to start. I was talking to audience members as I always do when an attendee came up to me and said in a very nasty tone “instead of talking with the attendees, you need to do your job and clean up my spilled glass of iced tea before the event starts”. I took a few steps back and said I’d find someone for her. The people I was talking with looked very uncomfortable but said nothing. As I made my way toward the stage as I was being introduced I made eye contact with the woman who was slowly realizing that I was the speaker. The look on her face was Priceless! In my opinion, that day in that room of almost 800 people I gave one of the best presentations of my life! I got a rousing standing ovation. When I made eye contact with the woman who had talked to me so disrespectfully, she put her hand over her heart and nodded at me as if to apologize. I nodded back in acceptance and felt vindicated.
- The most hateful event by far came at the end of a conference when the event host and I were reading the evaluations from the more than 100 attendees. They were all fabulous… but there is always one that gets your attention. I heard the host gasp loudly and tears came to her eyes. I asked to see the evaluation. It said “I learned a lot of information. I have to confess she’s a pretty good speaker for a N……..! But in the end she and her Mama will always be just N…….” (which of course they spelled out in big letters.) It was almost 3 years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I try to make the best of everything so I thought to myself – at least they learned something from me.. But it still hurt like Hell!!
For the record, most black people have these stories – but many don’t always share them because sometimes it’s just too heartbreaking to. I’m only sharing them now because someone asked me. Some people who know of a few of these events have asked me in the past why I continue to travel and do this work. My answer is always the same. This calling of mine is important and I am a respected leader and public speaker. I won’t quit because then they win. To me, the information and inspiration I provide in my books and presentations are much more important than the few haters out there.
So look to see me out there again when it’s safe to gather in groups, and until then you can find me and my energy on Zoom! The love and support I have experienced in countless towns and cities inspires me, so I’ll be out there at least until they find a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. Hope to see you out on the road someday and that our meeting will be one that we all will remember fondly!
Mrs V. Your spirit, energy your life’s work is so inspiring. My heart broke when I heard some of the things you’ve dealt with. You are such a strong woman and as you said its Gods work your doing. I’m sure everyone you’ve presented to and knows you love and support you 110%. Please know that I love support you and if you ever need a LT COL GEN as your personal security, I’m only a phone call away.
Dude!! I have thought of that!! Especially after Tim died!! I’m gonna put Lt. Col. Gen on speed dial!! Thanks for always being there for me!!! You’re awesome!!
My words will fall short in the face of the enormity of what you have shared. But I also feel like this post deserves a million comments filled with gratitude to you for sharing. You are one of the most amazing people I have ever had the honor to know. We are blessed by your writing, your speaking and your work. -Lisa Ramish
Lisa thank you so much!! Quite the journey this is!! I’ve always told you how much I admire you as a person and a mother. Kids always remember what their Moms tell them and I pray that your kids remember the lessons you are teaching them. One of the things my Mom instilled in me was “hold my head up high, keep going and never give up”. That always keeps me going no matter what!!
My dearest Sister Loretta,
Your courage and your commitment to truth, generosity, and doing good are without parallel among the people I know. I also know how much courage and forthrightness it takes to share these examples of the unbelievable ignorance that sometimes goes hand-in-hand with the privilege that white skin bestows.
Thank you for your generosity in sharing moments that I know were deeply upsetting and angering to you, and for doing so with your usual clarity and grace. That you are using these stories to educate in this time when enlightenment regarding racial arrogance is so sorely needed is part and parcel of what I know is your practice of taking whatever life brings you and using it for good, as God has called you to do. Every time I see or hear of a new gift you are bringing the world, it brings such a smile to my face, and despite these devastating stories, I am smiling now.
I am so privileged to call you my friend, Loretta. I’m so glad you will never stop using your experience, your gift of optimism, and your boundless energy to help make the world more welcoming and loving for all people.
With much gratitude and love,
I’m thrilled that you’re my friend. My friends keep me focused and remind me that there are many more awesome people in this world than there are hateful people.
Two of the things I love about reading your words is that they are ALWAYS calming and loving. I feel embraced no matter what is happening. So even on the bad days I’m getting hugs from my friends and my Angel Tim. Hate can’t penetrate that! Thank you!!
It it sad I know the feeling . You are protected .Keep on doing what you do best. Cause you are the best.
Thanks Joey!!! I appreciate your support!!! Always!!!
Loretta, why am I continually, chronically and pitifully surprised by what you have reported? I hate all of it but I love you.
And I love you back!! It gets old at times discussing this stuff BUT since more than one person asked me about it I figured I’d address it. Hoping for change before my life ends!! It may be wishful thinking, BUT you know I’m an eternal optimist!!
Thanks as always my friend for your support!!
Loretta, I have always admired your energy and your smile, but right now am beyond stunned. No one has it perfect in life, but I know I cannot understand what you might face on a daily basis. If not today, then tomorrow. You help us so much by your relentless determination to put one foot in front of another and then some.
Thank you so much Anne!! It’s kinda always been like this, but if you let it get you down permanently then you accomplish nothing. My Mom taught me well… keep your head up high and don’t quit. We have to have coffee sometime. I’ll tell you the story of how I left Corporate America! That really was stunning!! I really appreciate your comments and support!!
Loretta, To everything there is a season & time. Thanks for sharing your experience . This is the time. Regarding that one instance, i am so glad you were able to heap coals onto that attendees head who just assumed you were the cleaning crew. You did it with class. She tried to minimize your reason for being there but then realized you were the Presenter /Speaker everyone came to hear. I wish you would post the cities where these incidents
Occurred. Some cities need to see it in writing & #DoSomething
Thank you my sister!! Great point about adding the locations where these incidents occurred. I chose not to because I didn’t want people to read and think “oh that didn’t happen in our town so we don’t have this issue and this doesn’t apply to use”…. I wanted everyone to think about it and reflect on it as it’s applicable to everyone in my opinion. I don’t want people to dismiss what we experience on a daily basis!! I can’t thank you enough for all of your love and support!!!
Dear one, I pray the world figures this out. We all need to do the work to root out the racism in ourselves. We have to make the lifetime commitment, much like faith to change who we are and to continue to see the face of God in everyone. It is work that we are called to, and so many think we are done. So we continue to do the work, I know that I love you so much for as always you put yourself out in the world and hopefully we see, we learn and we all do better. Thank you so much for this post.
Thank you Michele for reading my blog! I’m always going to put myself out there as this is my work I’m called to do. What keeps me out there is the fact that people do see and hear me and love me and really validates what I do. And it makes the people who don’t like me for who I am really insignificant. And yes indeed we still have so much work to do. I pray every day that we can and will get the work done!