By Sharetta Howze, Bounce program coordinator
In celebration of Black History Month, Sharetta, who is also an entrepreneur, reflects on what history means to her and how it affects her life and her work.
History. A word that causes many African Americans to feel disdain when they hear it. It tends to remind us of the of the experiences of our ancestors, who were abused, treated unfairly and forced to work as slaves. Many historical accounts also carry the connotation that they were not intelligent, but belligerent, and were not capable of running their own businesses.
However, when I hear those same stories, I also hear strength, dedication and creativity. I think of heroes, innovators and problem solvers. My own existence reflects an ancestry of beautifully capable and competent people. They are people who fought for the right to receive an adequate education; who fought for equality! The fountains we drink from, the lines we stand in and the very seat I sit in as I ride to work – these are all because of the foundation set before me by the warriors of Black History, and for that…I will forever be grateful.
Yes, times have changed, but it also feels as if parts of our history are repeating. But that doesn’t mean we have to let it – it is also currently being written by us. We can help change the narrative. There are intelligent black creators realizing their worth. Black minds so gifted, that with just a bit of support and mentorship, they could change the world. We now see black nurses and doctors saving lives. There are black chefs in training – perfecting foods that will unify nations. Black professionals solidifying their greatness. Black techs in a lane of their own, breaking barriers and making us forget there were boundaries set in the first place. We are gaining the tools we need to succeed, and making our ancestors proud. We are inventors, like Thomas Edison. And there are writers becoming change agents, just like Zora Neale Hurston and Mya Angelou, who expressed how they felt and changed the world through creative expression.
As well, there are organizations that play a part in black progression; that step in and help provide education, support and resources to ensure succession. They understand the unlimited capabilities of minorities. Through their programs, they prove that with the right tools, growth is possible with endless possibilities! I am proud to work for such an organization – Bounce Innovation Hub – where tech and non-tech entrepreneurs can get the assistance they need to make their dreams of entrepreneurship a reality! I am honored to do my part assisting in the journeys of everyone, especially minorities. I will use my voice, hard work, dedication and intellect to help others that look like me become successful entrepreneurs and owners in a world that once made us slaves that worked for free.
As part of the Bounce GROW Team, I am excited to know that we are helping everyone…from established entrepreneurs to those just starting out. No matter where someone is in their journey, we can help. Our Aspiring Entrepreneur program is entry-level into the world of entrepreneurship; MORTAR is an accelerator for growing non-tech businesses and our Next Level Incubator is for established small businesses looking to scale up their operations. (Read more about our programs here.)
Most of my work will focus on MORTAR and I can’t be more excited. MORTAR is an organization and program that knows what it feels like to be denied because of the color of your skin and I’m proud to help bring it to Bounce. They found the freedom to not only fund themselves, but provide opportunities to fellow minorities to gain access to freedom through entrepreneurship. With preparation from training, workshops, access to capital, personal coaching, assistance with marketing, accounting and financial literacy, it feels great to work in a space that positions entrepreneurs for success, shifts poverty mindset, and teaches tools that if used, guarantees increase.
I can’t express the overwhelming feeling of gratitude I get when we celebrate an idea that came from the beautiful mind that the roots of nature resemble or the joy I get when I see the presentation of another from the lineage I proudly represent. There is love I feel when witnessing the beauty of men and women of all ethnicities celebrating incredible efforts of minorities…. truly living out what it means to celebrate black history!
So as an African American woman, celebrating Black History Month and writing on behalf of entrepreneurs that look like me, I say thank you to everyone who shares a vested interest in increasing opportunities for minorities. And to Bounce Innovation Hub, thank you for doing your part in helping black entrepreneurs continue to write our own history!