A Letter from the WorkFaith CEO Anthony Flynn
There is no denying the fact that our country is experiencing challenging times. As if the impact of COVID-19 wasn’t enough, the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have inspired tears, pain, divisiveness, protesting, looting and more. I have received calls, emails, text messages, etc. from people across the country asking about my stance. In response, I consider it a stewardship opportunity to share. While members of our board, staff, volunteers, etc. might potentially agree with my sentiments, I want to be very clear that this is my opinion, not theirs.
I have experienced explicit and overt racism on countless occasions in my life. Fortunately, after receiving an out-of-school suspension as a 6th grader in Memphis, Tennessee, for responding to racism by fist fighting, my black male principal (R.I.P. – Mr. Theodore Wells) pulled me aside and literally said, “Anthony, you won’t survive in this world if your response is always to fight racism with your hands. Use this (he pointed to his brain) and not these (he showed me his fists).”
That moment changed my life…for the rest of my life! Why? How? I was an inner city kid bused to this wealthy, predominantly white community to attend middle school. I had every bias imaginable instilled in me prior to arriving, and the behaviors of my peers substantiated many of them. However, the dialogue with Mr. Wells impressed upon me that he became the highest ranking authority figure at my school against the odds of racism and that he was appropriately using power to educate and edify.
I also decided to become “solution-oriented” vs. “problem-oriented.” I stopped whining. I stopped complaining. I stopped fighting, and I started studying. My vision was centered on my character becoming stronger than any excuse not to prosper in the face of adversity. I decided my behavior would be an example for every black, white, Asian, Indian, etc. person I ever encountered. I proactively looked for ways to share my voice as an influential figure in my school and community as a 6th grader! To this day, I am still doing the same. The pain is real for me! I am not ignoring it. In fact, it’s fuel! It’s the source of energy that keeps me going every single day…even on days when my emotions say otherwise.
If I allowed my emotions to control me, I would have quit a long time ago. Instead, I continue to fight…but in healthy ways. I fight through building bridges with people who are different from me even when it feels unnatural. Because I live a very privileged life, I fight to defer and share my privilege with others. I show up in classrooms at inner city schools, speak at commencements, write books, write articles, write curriculum and train emerging leaders. I now have the privilege of serving as a key leader at WorkFaith, where our mission is to build faith + career skills for the marketplace. I am incredibly grateful for every member of our board of trustees who unanimously decided to grant me the privilege of deferring power on behalf of lifting others up through our mission.
Matthew 23:11-12 says, “11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
If you are anything like me, I am sure it can sometimes feel overwhelming to find a starting point for making a difference. Jesus’ instruction to the masses and to the disciples was to defer our privilege, defer our power, humble ourselves and serve others. As you go forward on this journey and in the midst of all the chaos surrounding you, here is my advice for you:
Do for at least one what you wish you could do for everyone, humble yourself and continue to serve. Blessings and Godspeed!
CEO, The WorkFaith Connection