Habit No.6 is about the importance of legacy building. Paying full respect to what has gone before that has nourished and brought us to our full power. To build a legacy that supports and empowers all who depend on us and those whom we chose to support, interact with and collaborate.
I recently went to see the film ‘I Am Not your Negro’. It was a powerful reminder for me of some the people who have helped me, as a young adult, come to consciousness, who shaped my world view and helped me find my voice.
And others not featured in the film
- James Baldwin
- Malcolm X
- Martin Luther King
And some more, that may surprise you
- Steve Beko
- Maya Angelou
- Alice Walker
- Toni Morrison
- D H Lawrence
- Jane Austin
- Charlotte Bronte
The list could go on, and it's diverse, international, as well as being complex and contradictory.
But then that is what I am-- complex and contradictory. My inheritance reflects the same contradictory diversity which is the foundation of the legacy I am daily trying to build.
Family history and socio/political history intersect. While my list of influences reflects the choices I have made as a teenager and young adult there is also the legacy passed down to me through my bloodline.
My father died of prostate cancer in March 2014. The time I spent with him during his last months was a bittersweet delight. I had already felt the legacy of his work ethic throughout my life. But I also learned something of the long song of independence and fighting spirit handed down through the family from distant ancestors.
Of the many memories, he shared with me for the first time were recollections of his great grandfather who was a Jamaican Maroon. The Maroons were African slaves who escaped from slavery upon their arrival on the island, to establish refugee communities in the mountainous interior. They fought a historic battle against the British with whom a treaty was signed after their defeat of the British forces seeking to take them back into slavery. Since this victory in 1738, the Maroons have existed as a free nation, on the lands they were granted as compensation for their enslavement and forced transportation to Jamaica: a nation within a nation.
This story of legacy is further complicated by the fact that my father had a welsh name – Phillips. A name bequeathed by slave owners with the real likelihood that they passed on more than just a name. We know that children were born of the sexual abuse of slaves by their owners.
It has taken a lifetime to for me to reconcile these contradictory but mutually defining parts of myself. I was born into a name derived from a slave owner with the spirit of independence and rebellion carried forward from Maroons!
It inspires me to think of this spirit living on through me and my children. It reinforces for me the futility of racism and xenophobia. History and the movement of people have connected us in myriad, visible and invisible and sometimes terrible, ways. This is, for me, a cause for celebration.
In support of legacy building, then, as a daily habit:
- I practice gratitude for this complexity.
- I celebrate and collaborate with like-minded people.
- I support causes the help people to believe in and accept themselves in all their rich contradictoriness and diversity. My business is also founded on this principle.
- I support people to make the changes they aspire to in order to live more fully.
- I strive to be a champion and role model for progressive change.
In this, I work to give legacy building its true power.
Self- Leadership Challenge
What is your daily contribution to legacy building? How do you celebrate the legacy that sustains you?