My Leap of Faith.
By: Nia Bryant, Grade 11
High School Division Winner
The success of a Black woman is a threat. Being an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and activist, are all seen as threats by many. Often targeted, I began to ask myself, "How have Black women persistently defeat the odds? How did the courage of Madam C.J Walker lead her to become America's first African-American self-made millionaire?" Self. Made. Millionaire.
Walker asserted, "Don't sit down and wait for opportunities to come. … Get up and make them". Walker's journey was to overcome the stereotype and perpetuation of fruitless Black women, incessantly disregarded, apprehensively dated centuries posterior, and fabricated into a mockery.
Becoming America's first African American self-made millionaire was not effortless. It wasn't given as a token for an exquisite 'American Dream'. Breaking those barriers in a male-dominated industry became a struggle. Walker's drive is what led her to well-deserved success.
Before Madam C.J Walker became who she is remembered today, she was born as Sarah Breedlove. Sarah was an enslaved African American, once an orphan, a teen mom, and a widow at 20. Against the odds, Sarah persevered, leading me to think "How have Black women persistently defeated the odds?" The simple answer would be the inevitable ability that Black women have, including myself, of supporting each other and recognizing lack of unity.
This, Madam C.J Walker, believed wholeheartedly, as the full ride of success wasn't free. From building her business from the ground up, community was always at heart. Specifically, catering to African Americans who suffered from hair loss, her products began business in 1906. Walker created a platform to teach African American women how to treat our hair, skin, and ourselves.
The perception of Black success is often ruled unattainable. The idea of a Black person succeeding in the early 1900s was game-changing. The misconception prevailed, creating a route of a superficial apprehension of an African-dominated society. Too often we see Black businesses struggling; in fact, over 41% of small Black-owned businesses say finances, debt, and health care doubled in 2022 alone, causing a halt to a Black business experiencing success.
However, these trials have not only taught us to become stronger but to strive and reach the climax of what seems to be unattainable. I understand firsthand as a young Black woman, entrepreneur, and student, pursuing a photography business how demanding it can be. I've come to a deep understanding with myself, believing that I can do anything I set my heart to, despite all of the reasons why I could fail. I took that leap of faith. I got up and made my own opportunities.
As I conclude, I ask my question again; How have Black women persistently defeated the odds? The answer is simple: under many folds of blood, sweat, and tears. The passion we hold in anything we do is truly indescribable. Many people will never have the patience, tenacity, and mindset that we hold. Believing and taking that leap of faith you've been contemplating will overcome stereotypes made against us.
For this I thank Madam C.J Walker.