I was born in Detroit, but my great-great-grandfather was a slave in Jackson, Mississippi. According to family history, he made a deal with his slave owner to purchase his freedom as well as a piece of the property. At the time, most black families in the area were still sharecroppers – so there was and still is a sense of pride about the ownership of that small bit of land in my family.
My grandfather, however, did not like the farm life. He only had a sixth-grade education, but he knew he wanted to make a different life for himself and his family. In the early 1950s, he heard in passing that the automobile industry in Detroit was hiring. So, he packed up, spent all his money on a train ticket from Jackson to Detroit and went straight from the train station onto a job on the line at Ford Motor Company, eventually sending for my grandmother and uncle. While continuing to work for Ford, my grandfather established a local church in Detroit where he was the pastor for 30 years. He was committed to community service and served in several leadership roles in the Southern Christian Leadership Counsel, alongside the likes of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rev. Jesse Jackson. More than 1,000 people showed up at his funeral – he just had that kind of impact.
The history of my family and experiences such as having civil rights leaders at the dinner table has had a profound impact on my life. I am innovative and determined because my ancestors were incredibly creative and steadfast people who didn’t take no for an answer. My grandfather, especially, was the biggest contributor to my fierce compassion for others. His character, determination, and teachings impacted, in a very real way, my day-to-day life, how I treat people, my moral code, and my sense of right and wrong. Working in People Operations is a natural fit as I enjoy finding creative solutions to business problems and helping others.
This story is featured as part of our Black History Month series "Black migrations: How our journeys shape us", which highlights black professionals at AlixPartners recounting how their family migrations have influenced their paths both professionally and personally.