The Rose That Grew from Concrete

Each February, the nation and the American Red Cross celebrate Black History Month. All this month here on the Red Cross Philly blog we honor our Black colleagues that are part of our local Red Cross team. We invited them to be guest bloggers to share their thoughts and stories as proud Red Crossers that make up our diverse team here in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Please note, the views expressed in this blog post are of the author and not necessarily those of the American Red Cross. To learn more about Diversity and Inclusion values at the Red Cross, please visit https://www.redcross.org/about-us/who-we-are/governance/corporate-diversity.html.

Today’s blog is written by Cherieta Early, Regional Volunteer Services Officer, American Red Cross.

After an unprecedented year of living in a “bubble,” I am looking forward to Black History Month. Why? Because I embody the success that comes from the African American struggle in America. Also, in line with our heritage, Black History Month is best celebrated through word of mouth communication like storytelling, song and now sharing on social platforms; finally, no FOMO on missing personal contact.

We were all front and center as the plagues of COVID-19 and Social Injustice ravaged our country, so there is no need to rehash it. Instead I would like to share why I felt like “The Rose That Grew from Concrete” here at Red Cross.

For over 20 years, my career seemed mediocre at best. I worked hard to establish a reputation as an intelligent, creative leader; however, I never really felt recognized for my efforts. Could I earn a living? Yes. Were my positions sometimes coveted by others? Yes. Was I satisfied? No. It seemed as if my limits were predetermined by others, and “average” or “just enough” would be my legacy. Metaphorically, this was concrete.

What I did not consider was that my “LEGACY” was undergoing revision. Our African American Resource Group at the American Red Cross, UMOJA, unveiled a mentor program called LEGACY (Listen. Excel. Grow. Aspire. Connect Yourself). This group became the crack in the concrete through which I would grow; who knew?

A resource of top-notch African American leaders with stories like many, giving of themselves to nurture talent when they could very well live within their success, seems like a novel idea in business, right? For most, yes; however, it’s a reality at the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross Black Executive Steering Committee acted on a vision and essentially became the gardener, allowing me and many others to flourish – to grow from a crack in the concrete.

Yes, I feel more celebratory than ever this Black History Month because my success is due, in part, to my community. Successful African Americans who have come before me paved the way. And a new generation of African Americans will not be silenced – whose voices and actions will demand social change.

Main image description: Photo of Cherieta Early

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