Last year, the murder of Terence Crutcher (a Tulsa man) shook me in a multitude of ways. During a daylong campus protest, I found myself exhausted as I code-switched between chanting “Black Lives Matter” and then sitting in classrooms that seemed to not hear me. Up until this point, I had kept justice and entrepreneurship – the two most important aspects of my life – pretty compartmentalized. During the day, I would work on social startups and in the evening I would organize and attend rallies. In my world, these two corners of my life could never, ever meet. In fact, I was often told that they couldn’t: that one wasn’t sustainable enough, and the other not doing enough.
But none of that mattered when my two worlds began to collide right in front of me. It was in between my frantic shouts and my frantic silence that I felt myself straddled, in between social acceptance and the inner peace that justice brings. The spiritual conflict that I experienced on this day, and the subsequent push to decide who I really wanted to be in this broken world, was the true wake-up call that I needed.
As women of color, we’re often taught to maneuver through spaces. To only show certain aspects of ourselves that are deemed safe – and to keep everything else a little quieter when need be. If the colliding of my two worlds taught me anything, it’s how important it is to always bring our full selves to the table and finally stop hiding.
Today, I consider myself a social entrepreneur who actually won’t stay in her lane! I aspire to continue tackling tough conversations through the technology that I build. And by accepting myself as a whole person (and not as a fragmented being) I have opened myself up to becoming a better person, creator, and – most of all – a better descendant to the ancestors.
Looking back now, I realize that I never had to choose between justice and building technology that matters. But what I did have to do was choose who I wanted to be at the end of the day. I think no matter what our profession is, that’s a life decision that we have to actively make. Our às̩e̩ (our spiritual path) is never a passive decision.
If Terence Crutcher’s life taught me anything, it’s that existence can be really short – and sometimes even cut short. His life taught me once again that maybe this world isn’t quite what it should or could be yet. His life also taught me that I still have a choice; and that I should think deeply and wisely of the mark that I want to leave behind.
Who do I want to be? What do I want to leave behind? So far, I’m feeling pretty at peace with my answers.