I got a dose of inspiration this week, right when I needed it. As we approach the inauguration of our 45th President, I think we all can agree that the events that led to this day were exhausting. Our country seems more divided and at odds with itself than at any other time in modern history. And yet, this is not the most tumultuous time our nation has seen. Not even close. We’ve seen much worse. But during difficult times, we’ve often witnessed beacons of hope that stubbornly and iconically presented themselves and inspired generations of people. Alas, in moments when light interrupts darkness, it gives us a glimpse of the path forward and (hopefully) wills us to move in that direction.
At our weekly Helpfest presentation, Kimberly Moore, PhD (V.P. of Marketing and External Relations at N.C. Mutual) reminded us of a period in Durham’s history that served as that sort of beacon. Her talk highlighted N.C. Mutual’s role in uplifting the African American community and economy in Durham, contributing to the legacy of Durham’s Black Wall Street. The life insurance company was founded during the turbulent Reconstruction era with the purpose of providing African Americans with respectable burials, and supporting orphans and widows. With the slogan “Merciful to All” and a philosophy of mutual aid, N.C. Mutual (the first black-owned insurance company) helped to create one of the most prominent African American communities in the country. The company supported social programs, created jobs, offered loans, invested in the community and supported other Black businesses. Durham’s African American community became an inspiration and model of success for Blacks across the nation. N.C. Mutual itself was the largest African American-led company in the country.
So what does that tell us? If a group of community-minded African Americans could achieve that kind of success in such an oppressive time, then surely we too can face our difficult days with similar resolve. Durham’s history teaches us that creating opportunity for disenfranchised groups doesn’t steal opportunity from other groups, but instead lifts up the community as a whole. It teaches us that a determined few, working together, can challenge the status quo and become beacons of hope for the masses.