Such an environment made us search for ways to make it more bearable or to get out completely. To my older brothers’ credit, they joined the military right after high school. Unfortunately, they did so at the height of the Vietnam War and were immediately sent to fight. Momma struggled with the thought of her boys fighting in an unpopular war. I could often hear her, in the middle of the night, crying and praying for them.
Although my mother was a strong and devout Christian woman, these struggles began to take their toll. Besides the stress of two sons in a war, her relationship with my dad deteriorated, resulting in vehement disagreements that, at times, led to physical abuse. Eventually, she resorted to alcohol, and before she knew it, she had become an alcoholic. As things continued to decline, our family endured great pain and public scorn during those difficult years.
As bad as the public scorn and ridicule from Momma’s alcoholism was, it paled in comparison to the daily attack my self-esteem endured. My stuttering was so acute that some of my childhood peers called me “Mumbles,” after the villain in the old Dick Tracy comic books. The accumulation of slights, nasty comments, and insensitivity ate at my self-worth.
Looking for some escape, I found acceptance and comfort from hanging out with some “hard heads” in the neighborhood. Looking back, I realize that they were not bad kids but, like me, kids looking for some self-worth. The alcohol, the drugs, the violence, and total dysfunction became a real part of my daily life. I was clearly, as the old folks used to say, on the broad but unforgiving path to hell.
At this point, rebellious and resentful of authority, I was hell-bent on doing what I wanted when I wanted—an attitude that soon landed me in the clutches of the criminal justice system. I was arrested on a trespassing charge. Thankfully, I was not prosecuted and, instead, was remanded to the custody of my parents, but any further infractions on my part would mean jail.
I made a promise that I would never do anything, ever again, that would bring shame, hurt, and dishonor to my mother, my father, or my family. I made up in my mind, that day, that I would pivot, change the direction that I was headed in, and turn my life around with God’s help.
My mom used God’s power to recover from alcoholism, raise five boys, provide hope to hundreds of Baltimore city children, transform a neighborhood, transition from janitor to a professional teacher, and earn an undergraduate and graduate degree. I learned from my mother how to unleash that same power in my life.
I outgrew my stuttering problem and have since become a celebrated public speaker. God has blessed me to have had the opportunity to address audiences around the world. Each year I touch thousands of people through lecturing and social media. When they told me that I was not smart enough to become an engineer, God proved them wrong by sending me to one of the most rigorous engineering schools in the world, an Ivy League university even, and a graduate degree from another Ivy League institution.
While I was in graduate school at Dartmouth College, God placed a burden on my heart to write about the challenges of becoming an entrepreneur, particularly for people of color and women. Under God’s guidance, I began studying and writing on this subject, and this research has led to the publication of six books, with two new ones coming.
With little money and zero experience, I left the comfort of a nice paying job at IBM. I launched numerous multi-million-dollar businesses that have provided jobs, professional opportunities, and economic security to many in our community.
I don’t share these accomplishments to brag; instead, I share these to illustrate, in a very personal and authentic way, the awesome and infinite power of God, who is able to transform your life, right now!