I truly believe that my mother did everything possible to prepare me for life without her prior to her death from lung cancer in November of 2013.
However, out of all the things that she taught me and warned me to be aware of, I’m sure that it never crossed her mind to talk to me about living through a global pandemic. Or, better yet, how to navigate the world’s largest civil rights movement that happened to take place in the middle of that same global pandemic.
The year 2020, figuratively and literally, changed my life as it forced me to focus on details that I had begun taking for granted. Things like the importance of family, my career, relationships, and ultimately what I one day want to be remembered for when my time to leave this earth comes.
Yes, 2020 walked into my life and forced me to start questioning everything about everything. As I continued to examine every aspect of my life, I realized that I wasn’t at all happy with some of the answers that I was coming back with.
I came to the conclusion that over the course of my life, a large number of the decisions I had been making were actually being made for the benefit and even the comfort of other people. Basically, there was no part of my life that had been untouched by this reality. From the way that I dressed, to how I carried myself, to the types of jobs that I applied for, and even the way that I spoke when I would find myself in the presence of particular people.
This reality brought me to the three questions that changed everything:
1. “Who is the REAL Jay English?”
2. “What did God equip me to accomplish?”
3. “What am I willing to do about it?”
Answering these questions led my wife (Sonia) and I to launch our non-profit organization PLAIN ENGLISH, where our mission is to do everything within our power to help people and organizations address issues of race and culture through honest conversations.
After the death of George Floyd, our work through PLAIN ENGLISH led us to launch KNEEL FOR NINE which became a national movement on Tuesday, June 2. On that day tens of thousands of people from all over the United States joined us by kneeling in solidarity for 9 minutes. This was done in protest against the nearly 9 minutes that a police officer kneeled on the neck of George Floyd on a public street in Minneapolis, MN.
The combination of success from PLAIN ENGLISH and KNEEL FOR NINE opened new doors, introduced us to new people, and began to present additional opportunities for bringing people together around cultural topics that were typically very divisive.
To help people continue to learn about cultural differences in a safe environment, I began creating our CROSS-CULTURAL LITERACY SESSIONS. These sessions were all designed to spark conversation, introspection, and even laughter from those who come to us for education on how they can begin building bridges over cultural divides in their own lives and organizations.
At this point, I nearly feel the need to say thank you to 2020 and COVID-19. Without the combination of these two, I don’t know if I would have found this path that has brought me so much joy.
I nearly feel the need to say thank you to 2020 and COVID-19.
In the back of my mind, I can literally hear my mother laughing and saying, “I knew you’d figure it out. I told you I don’t make stupid kids!” And you know what, she’s right, she definitely didn’t as I’m still celebrating my amazing sister who graduated with her Master’s Degree. (Get it, Tookie!!!)
So, with the release of my new e-book entitled “GOODER ENGLISH“, I want to transparently share a bit of my life-long struggle of living life in brown skin and encourage you to ask yourself the same three questions that I asked myself.
1. “Who is the REAL you?”
2. “What did God equip you to accomplish?”
3. “What are you willing to do about it?”
If you’ve ever felt like you didn’t fit in, or that you didn’t belong, or that there is something more that you should be doing with your life, then GOODER ENGLISH is for you! At the end of the day, we have but a brief amount of time to leave our mark on this world. It was with that in mind that I made the decision to stop wasting time getting better and chose to Be Gooder.
My prayer is that you’ll be ready to join me in doing the same by the time you finish reading my new e-book that is available now!!!