30 Days and Counting

by Valerie Merritt

How do you know when you've made a good decision?  I've asked myself that question a few times over the past 30 days. You see, I recently started a great new job in New York City—an area that I swore I would NEVER work, no matter what the situation. Well, my mom once told me that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans, so God is probably cracking up right about now.

As fate would have it, I was giving serious thought to taking a new direction in my career earlier this year, and a good friend turned me on to a very interesting position at the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA). Well, I’d never heard of CBMA at the time, but the opportunity really piqued my curiosity, so I got out of my own head about the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, and after a very long, yet thorough interview process, to my delight, I was selected for the position of executive assistant to Mr. Shawn Dove, the CEO of CBMA.

A little about me—my family is from Tallahassee, Florida so I’m a country girl at heart.  However, I was born and raised in the amazing city of Newark, New Jersey; went to school in Newark and East Orange; worship in East Orange; and currently live in Irvington, New Jersey.  I purposely mention these three urban inner cities, not only because they have contributed significantly to the woman I am today, but they all have the same challenges that CBMA works to improve amongst our young black men and boys throughout the country.  

CBMA, which I have grown to know and love in the last 30 days, has awakened in me this fire to want to do more for those same young black men and boys who were in the inner cities that I grew up in; the ones who are in my church; in my old schools, and in my neighborhood—the same people that CBMA work so tirelessly to positively impact.

Thirty days into my new role, and what a journey it has been. While I was becoming acclimated to the new job, my new colleagues, their energy, my commute, the culture, and everything in between—I’ve gotten a chance to travel to Louisville, Kentucky twice for two amazing events hosted by CBMA at the Muhammad Ali Center—a place I didn’t even know existed let alone ever visited. Having no expectations of the two events because I was new, both occasions blew me away because I got to experience the heart and soul of what CBMA is all about and see how they are changing the world one black boy at a time.  I got to witness first-hand the strength and vulnerability of these beautiful people whom I’ve never met before, but who I’ve now formed long-lasting relationships with.  And did I mention, I volunteered to help at CBMA’s 10-year gala before I was even on payroll.  Talk about hitting the ground running!

As for me, every new experience, is an opportunity to learn, grow, and share.  Here is what I’ve learned in my first thirty days at CBMA. First, I’ve learned there are so many incredibly talented, dedicated, passionate people who work tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of young black men and boys.  I am amazed at the diversity of compassionate individuals who give of their resources, expertise, and most importantly their time.   

I’ve grown to have a better understanding of what it takes to lead, inspire, coordinate, and execute a consistent effective effort that provides real hope for some of the most underserved in our community.  The fact that CBMA is celebrating a 10-year milestone, is a tribute to the organization, and its leadership, and encourages me that there are bigger and better things ahead.

Finally, every day is an amazing gift that gives each of us a chance to be better, to do better and to give our best.  When we’re willing to be honest with ourselves, be considerate of others, step boldly into the process, and do the hard work, nothing can stop us.

I opened with a question—how do you know when you’ve made a good decision?  It’s easy—when you can look around and see all the wonderful things God has blessed you with; the opportunities HE has introduced you to, and the amazing people HE has put in your path, and smile, then you know that a good decision has been made.

I am so glad I said yes to CBMA, and I hope to take what I’ve learned thus far and make my next 30 days even more amazing.