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Writing, learn-ing, jewelry, deconstructing t-shirts and reality - it's what I do. I live to be inspired, and to inspire.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Friends in Low Places

I recently graduated from Morgan State University where I’ve encountered many talented peers. I hear their music, I’ve read their writings, I’ve seen them clock long hours completing projects, I’ve seen them win races, I’ve seen them climb scaffolding to get the perfect photo, I’ve seen them hone their craft time and time again on and off campus, I’ve seen them combine their hearts, talents, uniqueness and beauty into what they do and what they dream of doing. And what I want to see is all of us succeed.

When we slam against a barrier to career success… or a career, we’re told, “It’s who you know.” Apparently the world runs on nepotism and favors. To get your foot in the door you need to know someone on the inside to unlock it for you. So what does this mean for those who don’t know people on the inside? Are we doomed to struggle until we’ve clawed our way up to success, bloodied and bruised from being kicked about then ignored by those at the top? And when we do get our feet in the door, do we have to put up with rankism and prove ourselves to those who decide to make it tough for us under the guise of preparing us for the “real world” ?

Hell-to-the-NO. Time for a new M.O. Our apathetic generation is finally rallying to stand up for themselves. It was the youth who came out in Arab nations to demand democracy. It is the youth who are gathering all across Europe to demand employment and a better future. (Read more here)

I’m ready for a revolution of mindset. If it’s about who we know, then I know many, many talented people, all of them hungry, like me, for success. Facebook, Twitter, we have hundreds of “friends” and “followers”. That is the power of our generation – a legion of friends, one click away.

What would happen if each of us committed to supporting and promoting each other? Someone needs a photographer: “Hey I know a couple of great photographers!” One friend wrote a screenplay, another is starting up a film production company, and yet another produces music… “Let me introduce you all!” Someone you know is starting up a website and needs help with content. You know someone who’s helped edit your essays – “I know just the person who can help you with that.” Christmas is coming and you want to give original gifts this year: “Oh my friend makes jewelry! Gotta hit her up.” Moved into a new place and the walls are bare: “I know this great artist!” …You get the picture.

Let’s stop passively being “friends” and “followers” and actively start looking out for each other. Let’s push each other up that ladder. In the words of science journalist Robert Krulwich to the Berkeley Journalism School graduating class of 2011:

“Instead, think about getting together with friends that you admire, or envy. Think about entrepreneuring. Think about NOT waiting for a company to call you up. Think about not giving your heart to a bunch of adults you don’t know. Think about horizontal loyalty. Think about turning to people you already know, who are your friends, or friends of their friends and making something that makes sense to you together, that is as beautiful or as true as you can make it… And maybe, for your generation, the Trojan Horse is what you’ve got, your talent, backed by a legion of friends. Not friends in high places. This is the era of Friends in Low Places. The ones you meet now, who will notice you, challenge you, work with you, and watch your back. Maybe they will be your strength.”

This is what I propose: a movement of Friends in Low Places committed to promoting and helping each other succeed. I propose friends share information, give each other feedback, strategize, brainstorm, challenge each other and make each other better. I propose that Friends in Low Places make it a point to celebrate each other’s achievements, without envy or backbiting, with a genuine brotherhood and sisterhood of friendship.

Then, when we achieve a measure of success, when we reach to our higher places, we reach back, and help those coming up behind us. Wave upon wave we can help each other along, closing the gap between the haves and have nots, never forgetting the low places we have come from.

Who is with me?

(Photographer Kalil KZak Zaky)


  1. I totally agree with you. I believe when your successful you should help the other person who seeks the same success.But I think one of the reason why successful people don't help others, due to an elitism attitude that has been the basis of American society. I'm encountering that same problem right now with my getting my investment business started with my brother. It seems that persistence and knowledge alone is ignored among the elite in my profession. But some way i'm going to work around it. I want to be different from the elites in my profession. For that I am more than willing to join you.

  2. on that note....I think there should b a guide to getting into grad school/getting assistantships/preparing for the GREs....that kinda stuff...to help those next in line ;)


  3. @Lionus: I'm behind you 100% with your investment business. As soon as I have money to invest I'm turning to you. When you get your business started let me know and I'll tell people "Hey I know this investor!"

    @Teneil Well from my experience the toughest part is just getting the applications done and in. I'd be glad to help you hone you personal statement essay so hit me up when you're ready. And did You know Morgan offers free GRE prep classes each semester? I think it's in the business department. Check that out.

  4. I certaintly will

  5. A good piece of writing can be chewed over and over again and you will discover new flavours. This was my experience with this piece.

    WE need that Critical Mass to bring about the long term dynamic changes of which we are in dire need.


  6. Thanks Kirt! I see by your actions that you already live by this philosphy - promoting and supporting your fellow writers. This is exactly what we need. A movement of people who help each other reach their various goals and destinations in mutual respect and admiration for each other's individual brilliance.

    And you're a brilliant writer so you know what I mean. :-)

  7. I'm definitely with you. This is a great post...inspiring.You make a great point. In this new global digital village many of us have contacts who have varied interests and professional backgrounds yet, generally speaking, there aren't the first people we think about or contact when we envisage the 'authority' on whatever matter is at hand.I agree with Lionus wrt his elitism point but perhaps we have also been complicit in this attitude just by virtue of our self perception...we are the change we've been looking for I believe were the words of President Obama. Horizontal loyalty can be a precursor to upward mobility and collective success for this generation.


  8. This is exactly it DJ. We know people with many skills, who are good at what they do, but our faith is always in some well-known stranger, we need an ad made we go to some big company and we pay for a product that our filmaker friend would have done for less and put more effort and creativity into. It's our mindset.

    If we can see ourselves as professionals we are able to recognize the other professionals among our peers. You said it perfectly:

    Horizontal loyalty = upward mobility & success for our generation.