When I was living in Philadelphia, they said, “When things get back to normal.” Sound familiar?
The ‘they’ were the Philadelphia Fathers, who were adorned with power, money, prestige, and a semblance of control.
What ‘they’ were referring to was the emergence of Black leadership in the City Council, and significantly the Mayorship of the bellwether City.
This was shocking — and in what they admonished: ‘they’ were demonstrating that it was against their interests for such a transition, and they surely could engineer things back to ‘normal’ where their own empires had been built. But….
It was a very, very interesting time for me. My thought was — but this is the ‘normal,’ and it’s not going back. I was looking at it from the outside, and my interest at that time was not vested.
The first Black Mayors that I saw come into power in major cities were Harold Washington in Chicago in 1982, and Wilson Goode in Philadelphia in 1983.
Historically, the first black Mayor of a City was elected way back in 1868 when this change made history: Pierre Caliste Landry in Donaldsonville, Louisiana — he was a slave, an attorney, and an Episcopal Minister.
But Washington and Goode, who I met personally, made a big statement evoking big change in big Cities. And this produced talk, speculation and new order.
Why was this important to me? Let’s get into the Story.
When I heard the ‘Fathers’ claiming their version of ‘normal’ — it brought to mind a very funny image to me.
In Philadelphia, there was a paint store — MAB Paints — where I would often go to buy paint for a project in my home.
When I did, I would watch the proprietor mix the paint. The paint can sat on the machine on a grill below, and two knobs were above it that dispensed color into the paint. When the knobs turned and spilled out their intense pigment, the paint took on new hues.
Truly, if the knobs for color were moved, then the paint could only become the result of the change it was given. I got that. You couldn’t wish for green when the color combination was pink — you just couldn’t wish the change away.
So, back to the ‘Fathers’, those who wanted the result to be green, but something bigger than each of them, or them collectively, had turned the knobs — and now we had something entirely new.
I was really fascinated to see how the old days of doing things were so adamantly demanded back. You had to have been there, but there were fistfights in City Council meetings, political slandering, and all the rest that goes on when people resist change.
Some knew that we had a new ‘color’ for life, and others insisted that it be the ‘color’ that they wanted. I knew that it was different — because I surmised that something much bigger than all of us had turned the knobs and we were living in a different world.
Why am I telling you this Story? So I can tell you about these pivotal moments — and what I was able to do.
I innovated on the change.
Yes, some will embrace the new ‘color’ and fill their space lavishly, and others will insist upon remixing the paint — and delay, get defensive and protect. Some can ride out their lives this way — and for others, in the heart of life, a new dynamic requires new thinking.
This was so important to me because I could see this new era, and the implications that Black leadership in the Cities was fostering.
It wasn’t easy at first, but I had a vision that existed within the ‘normal’ that I now saw. Black representation was now going to be included in financings that were accomplished for City projects. This declaration of including Black-owned companies first came about with the Federal Transportation Act, which mandated that minorities be included in bids for government contracts.
Minorities — well, that meant Blacks — but how about Women, in this new color of normal? Were Women to be considered a minority as well for this work? This was my question.
So, I went to see the Treasurer of the City of Philadelphia, a Black man and asked him about Women being considered as a Minority and also falling under the mandate for inclusion in Government Contracts.
He said to me, “I don’t know if Women are included — but go set up your firm, and I will help you to bid for bond work in Philadelphia.” That was what I hoped to hear. There was no guarantee, but the door was open. This, in itself, was a big change.
The reason that I could see this as an opportunity is that I wasn’t expecting things to go back to the way they used to be. I readily accepted that things were radically changed, and my mission was for a leap forward.
Because here’s the quandary that I was in. I was at the time working for another brokerage firm. Let me describe it. There were 40 or so of us in a not-so-big room — and all of the desks were pushed tightly together. I was the only woman.
On Monday mornings, I would bring in a big bunch of tulips and put them on the corner of my desk. And, OMG, you would have thought that I shot someone! The tulips were a catalyst for disruption in this war room of men going to battle in the stock market.
Now I wanted to do well there. I needed to pay my rent. And I dreamed of safety and security for myself, even though I was surreptitiously doing battle with yellow tulips. Funny when I think about it now!
So, I was so proud because I’d sold a big block of bonds to a nice man in Philadelphia. This was a good thing when my job was to sell people stocks and bonds. But, the people that I was working with didn’t see it this way.
I was told that I couldn’t have the bonds, even though I had the piece of paper that confirmed that my Client would get the bonds. The situation I was in was holding me back, not promoting the real talents that I could offer, likely to continue to cause me stress and discomfort, and robbing my Self-Worth — I had to think of a new path for myself.
Safety and security were not going to appear in these conditions, and there was a world changing rapidly around me that I was watching intently.
Does this sound familiar to you? Life was one thing in January 2020, and now it appears big-time differently, right?
The way forward for me — was to innovate on the change.
That’s when I got up my Courage to go see the Treasurer of the City of Philadelphia and ask him if there was room for a Woman’s firm in the bond work of the City.
Now, this was me, and there can be all kinds of ways to innovate on the change. First, it requires seeing that the knobs have really changed the ‘color’ of the paint. And, with this change that there are opportunities to jump into.
This involves putting new pieces together that haven’t been put together before, creating things that were not known before, and accounting for the needs that will surface due to the new splash of color.
Here’s what I did.
Yes, I took the Philadelphia City Treasurer’s advice and created my own firm: the first female investment banking firm in the Country that underwrote municipal bonds. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. I knew how to do it from my experience. You know how to innovate on the changing world from your experience.
My firm was the first female firm ever to be included in a bond deal in the US, The Philadelphia School District. We went on to do bond financings for the Cities of Chicago and San Francisco, the State of California, and more.
But here is the kicker — now those same guys that wouldn’t give me the bonds that I’d sold to my Client way back when — they had to come to me to get the Philadelphia City bonds that they wanted! The tables were turned.
And the best was, I had innovated on the change, so that I was no longer the victim, but felt the Heroine. I was no longer complaining about the circumstances; I was riding swiftly with the wave of the world as it changed.
We are in these times. ‘Color’ has changed dramatically. The estimates are that 40million people have lost their jobs in the midst of the pandemic. There is big upheaval going on in industries and businesses that we knew to be one way, and now they are relics of the past.
‘Color’ has changed. Something very dramatic turned the knobs that bring the Color to a radically new brilliance.
These are marvelous times when you think that important questions are being asked, elephants are crawling out of under the rug, and systems and structures are letting loose. It’s a fragile time.
We finally have been thrust into asking and answering some huge questions. This requires new solutions.
Will you be like the Philadelphia Fathers who stood around and insisted that the ‘old normal’ would return? It didn’t.
Or, in your own unique way — will you Heroine-up and innovate on the change?
The world needs you, your uniquely, superbly, purposefully given set of experiences and talents. Your safety and security will be created by you. You are in the moment of change calling you.
It’s really clear to me that the new normal is already here: shifting, persistent color, illumination with ecstatic expression.
I want to do all I can to ensure the smoothest of transitions as you Journey onward. You may know that I am offering the 13 Steps of The Heroine’s Journey® as the universal path that women take to go forward. This will get you to your best life.
Please join me in this conversation — I will be so excited for you to join the Journey.
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