Date: June 12, 2020
Situation: The murder of George Floyd occurred on May 25th, 2020. Protests and civil unrest began on May 26, 2020. On the night of May 31, 2020 in the city of Philadelphia, angry citizens took to the streets for a violent display of rioting and looting which shook the City of Brotherly Love to the core. All hell had broken loose. The windows of small businesses were smashed, people stormed the streets to grab what they could and fights and violent attacks on any and everyone ensued. On the morning of June 1, 2020, I was scheduled to do a virtual presentation for a major organization in Ohio. However, as I started my "normal" wellness routine that morning, I quickly learned that nothing about that morning was normal.
I had missed the entire presentation...
About 11am, I realized what happened and felt horrible. The following was the email I sent to the organizer of the day's event:
I have to express my sincerest apologies for missing this morning's presentation.
My city, Philadelphia, is in complete turmoil. I have a lot going on mentally and quite honestly, my brain was on autopilot. I was driving to work out (as I usually do every day at 9am) and while my intention was to have a short workout, come home and begin the presentation, I became completely distracted. I had to drive through broken glass, business owners attempting to clean up the mess and and looters still out there taking everything in broad daylight.
I am heartbroken, confused and I feel completely horrible about missing the presentation.
Please let me know if it can be rescheduled or if there is anything that I can do to assist with adjusting.
Again, I pray that you accept my deepest apologies.
The following day, I received this response:
Thank you for this message, however, I want to express our team's disappointment in the lack of communication from you on the day's presentation. We understand that the current events have been stressful, upsetting and distracting, but we had over 180 participants waiting for your talk for over 20 minutes. We did not know what was going on, and we were unable to provide a clear reason to our participants on why our presenter was not available.
We do not intend to reschedule for the day's event and we cannot provide payment for the talk that was not provided as agreed upon.
Good luck with your future endeavors.
I cried for days as I struggled to comprehend what was going on. Between Covid, the tragic death of George Floyd, the fear, the overwhelming grief, on top of the depression I was already taking prescribed medication for, I wanted to stay in bed until everything was over. However, on June 12, 2020, I woke up with a fire inside of me and I knew I had to speak up for myself and for others who felt powerless.
Here was the message I sent to the entire organization:
I debated back and forth for the last few days about whether or not to send this email. Ultimately, I decided that as a public figure and an African American woman, it would be irresponsible for me to not reply.
Monday, June 1st (as I'm sure you've seen in the news) was a very traumatic day for the city of Philadelphia. Sunday evening's peaceful protests unfortunately turned into looting and violence all over the city. As Sunday night transitioned to Monday morning, gunshots, fights, explosions, sirens, helicopters and other non-calming sounds prevented me from falling asleep. Sometime, as the sun began rising, I drifted off to sleep. Because I have been waking up at 7:30am since February, my body is accustomed to it and that day was no different. I got up, did some spiritual and professional development, showered, got dressed for my workout and left my home.
As I drove, the images that I was seeing on the news and social media were right in my neighborhood. The streets that I drive through every day that were lined with retail stores (most of which my family shop from) were now in complete shambles. Broken glass from the huge windows of sneaker stores, delis, and jewelry stores crunched under my tires as tears streamed down my face from the heartache of my new vision. In that moment, I simply wanted to hurry and get to my workout session.
Last year, after being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I began attending weekly therapy sessions and I was also prescribed antidepressant medication. In February, I changed my eating habits and began exercising regularly. In March, after a discussion with my therapist, I decided to stop taking my medication since I was now managing my mental health with my new fitness lifestyle. I very rarely miss a morning. The only difference that morning was that I planned to have an abbreviated workout before the presentation.
As I stated in my original email to you, I felt absolutely horrible about missing the presentation. As a matter of fact, when I was told that it was cancelled, I cried for the second time that day. Not because I wouldn't receive "payment for the talk that was not provided as agreed upon" but because speaking and educating is my passion and I had missed an opportunity to do what I was assigned by God to do. I laid in my 17 year old son's bed (who just graduated High School and has not had a Senior Trip, Prom, Graduation, or anything else that Seniors usually have) and we cried together from the heaviness that we have been feeling from Covid-19 and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, just to name a few tragedies.
As I type this today, I still stand in need of some basic necessities. While finances aren't the main issue, I am completely overwhelmed with trying to figure out where I can go and get simple things like cat litter, toilet paper and batteries. Something that simple...something that I took for granted...something I would normally be able to get up and go to the local Family Dollar, Rite Aid or Walmart...has now been taken from me. For over a week, both supermarkets in my area were closed. The resources that my household of 10 (my husband, my sister, 7 school-aged children and myself) were inaccessible because of the events that took place in Philadelphia. Most of my community was destroyed during the riots and the looting that followed.
I don't expect you to understand the stress that comes from this but that is the precise reason I needed to send this email; to provide some insight. I decided to send this email in hopes it would provide you with just a tiny glimpse into a portion of what I was (and still am) experiencing.
Because I missed the presentation, it was not my assumption that I would still be paid; nor was that implied in my first email to you. As stated above, speaking and educating are my passion. It hurt my heart to not present more than it hurt my bank account so you mentioning that shows me even more I needed to express my emotions to you (as well as any of your colleagues who may feel the same way you do). I am more than willing to do the presentation free of charge. The slideshow is already completed and the information is vital to the community, as I'm sure you know. If you are able to reschedule, that offer still stands.
Our voices are powerful, necessary, and essential. If we don't have the courage to speak out, changes can't be made.