Watching the new Netflix series Rhythm + Flow, produced by Grammy award-winning singer John Legend, one of the very talented contestants a young black male who auditioned, cries with tears of joy and pain as he makes it to the next round of the competition. The young man tells his story of growing up in extreme poverty, abandoned by his dad at a early age, he watched ninety percent of his friends murdered, he states "opportunities like these don't happen for people like me". He was speaking of the opportunity to perform in a competition in front of renown artists like Chance "the Rapper", Cardi B, and other artists. What stuck out to me in this episode was this young mans ability to persevere through all he encountered as a child and his ability to recognize and seize opportunity. How was this young talented man able to persevere through hardship and tumultuous times...I would argue resilience.
Resilience is defined as "the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness" (Oxford Dictionary). Resilience is the ability to spring back and overcome deeply challenging situations and hardship. Resilience is what kept strong believers in the Christian faith still trusting and believing in their faith despite the harsh persecution they faced including being imprisoned, beaten, and even martyred for their faith and beliefs. Resilience has kept Blacks and African American people alive, united and hoping throughout the era of slavery, it is what pushed Jews to survive the inhumane conditions of the Holocaust, it is what pushed people of color during the Civil Rights Movement to persevere in the midst of Jim Crow Laws, segregation and racial oppression.
I would argue that resilience is innate and we all have all been created with some level of resilience. The capacity and measure of resilience is determined by individual traits such as psyche, mental ability, and temperament. Resilience is an internal psychological factor, not determined by DNA or genetic make up. Some cultures and groups of people are more resilient to hardship and I would argue that this is due to shared external cultural experiences such as racial oppression which has an impact on the psyche of the individual. I am not insinuating that some cultures are superior than others, rather that certain cultures, and/or groups of people are more prone to resiliency, because of their shared cultural experiences.
Have you ever wondered how groups of people such as Blacks were able to survive through years of brutal enslavement, genocide, racism, oppression and bondage for centuries yet creative inventors and impeccable leaders such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, George Carver, Benjamin Banneker and many others rose during times of great adversity.
Michelle Obama quotes "You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it's important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages."
Getting more personal in the article, I will share my own experience of resilience. When I was a young girl, I was a victim of child abuse which opened the door for trauma. In addition to this my parents were separated at the vulnerable age of 4 years old and divorced when I was in grade school. Violence and poverty was commonplace for me as a child and a teen. However, I did not allow where I came from and what happened to me to determine where I would end up in life. That's why I traveled to countries at 19 years of age, completed my Bachelors degree, Magna Cum Laude at the age of 21 and completed my Masters degree with honors from Ivy League school at the age of 23. By 25 years old, I started a Non Profit organization which serves hundreds of girls and boys in New York City. According to statistics, I should not be where I am today but my experiences were necessary for my journey.
One of my greatest role models, Dr. Cindy Trimm, a sought after empowerment speaker and strategist, she often tells her testimony of how she was born in extreme poverty, and abandoned by her father at a young age. Dr. Trimm became a Senator at the age of 18 years, she is a best selling author, world renown speaker and millionaire. Dr. Trimm story has transformed and touched millions of lives. Statistics states that she should be unsuccessful, struggling through the rest of her life but resilience allowed her to rise above her circumstances.
My words of advice to you reading this article, don't allow statistics to define where you are and where you will end up. You may have to struggle through much adversity and much hardship in life.....but resilience will allow you to see these as moments of opportunity.
The greatest leaders of our time were birthed out of the greatest obscurity and the greatest adversity.