Saturday, March 21, 2009


In 1975, Motown founder and African-American business icon, Berry Gordy, produced and directed a movie “Mahogany” starring another African-American icon in the entertainment business, Diana Ross. Now some of you may not remember the names, nor the movie, but in this film, Diana portrays a poor African-American woman who rises to become a popular fashion model and designer in Rome.

The movie was popular among us, but not the box office smash hit, as we know them today. However, the movie’s theme song became a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1976, for one week. That popular song obviously resonated in the hearts and minds of many people, regardless of race or ethnicity, or the kind of movies you liked. The message in it's melody sang us all into serious introspection. That theme song was titled “Do You Know Where You’re Going To?”

Perhaps that question struck a sensitive chord in us back then, and even now, the question still challenges us with its sweet melody and rhythm, to question our direction, our determination and our destinies in life. The lyrics went like this:

Do you know where you’re going to?
Do you like the things that life is showing you?
Where are you going to?
Do you know…?

Do you get
What you are hoping for?
When you look behind you
There’s no open door
What are you hoping for?
Do you know?

Do you know? I am asking that question of you today, and I want you to ask yourself: Do you know where you’re going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going? Do you know?

I don’t know what you said to yourself in answer to that question, but if the answer was “I don’t know”, I am especially talking to you today.

How sad the answer to that question can be when it seems that there is no real reason to dream, to hope, to have faith, that you, too, can rise to those places that seem impossible, unbelievable, inconceivable to you right now.

Berry Gordy dreamed and created the most successful African-American enterprise in the United States, and made successful some of the most recognized talent in the world. Diana Ross was one of them, a girl from the projects, who dared to dream and became a superstar.

And, together they create this movie, and tell this made-up story of Mahogany, but who we know in reality, Mahogany could represent any of us who live with a big dream. In this movie, Mahogany dared to dream of where she wanted to go. She knew where she wanted to go, and got there. Here is the message that I want your heart and mind to grasp today: when you know where you’re going to, you’re going to get there

I am glad you asked. You start like Berry. You start like Diana. You start like Mahogany. You start like so many others have started, right where you are. Yes, right where you are. Right where you are may not be pretty. It may not be perfect. But that's where you start.

You probably don’t like a lot of the things that life is showing you where you are. A lot of us have been through a lot of crap in life, but we are still here. So many have had starting points even harder than yours.

You know what? None of the things I just mentioned are new challenges, but I am going to dare you, in fact, I'll double-dare you, to discover your direction today, because when you know where you are going to, you are going to get there!

"There is in this world no force as the force of a person determined to rise!"
-W.E.B. Dubois

Like many of you, I don’t like a lot of the things that life shows me. I hate it when problems arise and seem to get in my way. But that's when I have to remember that I am going someplace, and I am determined to get there!

Have you ever noticed the fierce determination of professional runners? Before the race they are warming up, jumping around, probably a little nervous. But then they face the finish line, eyes dead set on it, looking neither to the right or the left. Eyes on the finish line, they dash when the gun is fired, determined to be the first one to get there.

The wonderful and awesome thing about life's race is that it doesn't matter if you get to the finish line first. All that matters is that you get there. First or last, or in between, in life's race, you win!

“Faith is the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” -Martin Luther King

Some years ago, I visited New York and decided to make the climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty. It's a tall climb to say the least. Back in the day they allowed you to go to the top,and as you approached the higher levels, the stairways became narrower and narrower. You really could not see how much further you had to climb, but you knew with each step you were getting closer to the top.

It's the same way in life, with success. You may not always see the whole staircase, but take one step at a time. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, and before you know it, you reach the place you want to get to!

For some of us we'll take three steps, and we will have reached our goal. For others, it make take more steps, months and even years of climbing, before we reach that ultimate elevation in life. One thing is certain: you can, one step at a time, make the climb!

“I never ran my train off the track.” - Harriet Tubman

What a dream! She dreamed of freedom, and she was focused! Never ran her train off the track!
Just like Harriet, you have to stay on track. Don't lose focus. Have a crystal clear goal, not some blurry, fuzzy idea of what you want and where you want to go. Know where you want to go. When you know where you are going, you are going to get there!

Berry Gordy knew where he wanted to go. He started Motown with ONLY $700. John Johnson knew where he wanted to go. With a dream for Ebony and Jet, he launched his publishing company with ONLY $800.

There are numerous stories of dreamers who started with ONLY a dream, and ONLY a few dollars. All of them started out with determination, faith and focus. That's PRICELESS! All of them knew where they were going to, and they got there! You can, too!

There are no more impossible dreams. I don’t have to remind you, but I will, that we did not always have the freedom, privilege and opportunities that we do now. But I hear the countless voices and echoes of the dreams of our ancestors, in spite of the fear of impossibility, saying “we gonna be free someday.” I sense the Spirit of the strength and determination to be free: It was the dream of freedom, in spite of seemingly impossible odds that stirs up the theme song in all of us: WE SHALL OVERCOME!

Can you imagine what that must have felt like to dream of being free, and then being free? Harriet Tubman said, “It felt like Heaven.” What a wonderful exchange: Impossibility for Heaven!

Be a dreamer, see it, say it, sing it, and seek after it! If you dream about where you are going, you are going to get there!

Strive after it; sacrifice for it, and above all stay with it. Make it the thought you think when you first wake up, make it the first words you say to yourself when you look in the mirror.

Make your dream your chant all day long. Make your dream your theme. Make it your discussion. Make it your meditation. Let it be what you talk about all the time.

Become one with your dream, so that there is no separation between you and your dream. When I think of the movie “Mahogany”, the first thing that comes to mind is the theme song.

Be so tight with your dream that when people see you coming they say, “That’s Brittany, she’s going to be somebody. That’s Justin, he’s going to be a lawyer. That’s Jayden over there, he’s going to start his own business.

Make your dream so much your theme that you know where you’re going to, and so does everybody else!

Make your dream so much your theme that you are ever connected to its sweet harmony, melody, rhythm and repetition in your soul: I will become a doctor! I will become a lawyer, I will become a business owner…I will become…I will become…I dare you to dream, I dare you to fill in the blank with an answer to the question “Do you know where you are going to?”

There are no more impossible dreams. Dream and make your dream your theme. When you know where you are going to, you are going to get there!

You say: I don’t have any power. Oh yes, you do! Self-will is power. Education is power. Divine destiny is your privilege; it is at your possession; let it become your goal and purpose and passion. It is power. Claim it!

Now is the time to get it, while the getting is good. Take it while it is right here at your fingertips!

Claim this power that will absolutely connect you to other sources of power that will create your future.

Let’s investigate someone whose story I admire, Dr. Ben Carson, what it means to claim your power. His family was poor. His mother had only a third grade education. Tough times, tough growing up, maybe tough to dream. But dream he did.

After being told that you should drop out of medical school and pursue some other career, how, Dr. Ben Carson, did you become one of the world’s leading neurosurgeons?

He claimed his power to become what he wanted to become, to know where he was going to, decided his destiny, choose his direction, despite the odds and someone else’s opinion of the direction they thought he should take!

And how about this thing called “raw” power. You know who had it? A meek little lady named Rosa Parks. Let’s ask her about claiming your power: It was December 1, 1955. "Rosa Parks, girl what were you thinking when you took that seat on that bus?" Her answer might be something like this:

“I was thinking, Lord have mercy, I’m tired. Lord Jesus, my feet hurt so bad. Lord have mercy, I got to sit wherever I can sit right now. Here is a seat, Thank you, Jesus. So I sat down.”

“You cain’t sit there,” said the perturbed bus driver.

But Rosa took a stand while sitting down.

"I ain’t trying to cause no trouble, but I ain’t movin’. I deserves to sit here as much as anybody.”

Little did she know in that moment that by claiming her raw power, what she was really saying is “I am about to flip the script on this – all of us are more tired than you know!”

Your power just might be raw power like Rosa’s. Maybe something in you is telling you that you are going to be somebody who will make a difference in the lives of many. Maybe you will be a leader for the greater good of us all. Do it. Claim it. Claim your power to do it!

There is just one more person I would like to bring up, even though I know there are so many awesome stories to be remembered and told, but let’s ask Barack Obama just who do you think you are? Black men do not get elected President of the United States!

Can't you hear his answer? What’s that you say, Mr. President? I think he would tell us that education is power. Purpose has genius in it. That he had a dream. That he claimed his power to make it happen. And, oh yes, that he had a theme: YES WE CAN!
And here's more good news: doesn't matter who you are. Doesn't matter where you live or what color you are. Doesn't matter what age you are. Doesn't matter what you have been through. Doesn't matter how many times you have been knocked down or out. Doesn't matter if you have tried time and time again. Start again! Doesn't matter if you think it's too soon. Doesn't matter if you think it's too late.Start now! Decide your destiny. Know where you are going to. The journey begins now. You are at the starting line. When you look behind you there’s no open doors. That’s okay, you are not going backwards!

If you don’t like the things that life is showing you, then change it, for yourself, and just maybe you will change it for others, too.

Can you get what you are hoping for? Yes! There are no more impossible dreams. Claim that power to know where you are going, through education, through effort, through raw determination.

When you know where you are going to, you will get there! You can. Yes, you can, and yes, you will!

Do you believe that? Then don't waste another minute. Get going!


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