Saw the movie “Selma” last night. The events depicted formed the backdrop of my childhood, as I watched them unfold from the safety of our living room in Flint, Michigan. Watching the film, I was filled with a mixture of pride, sadness, inspiration, and determination.I was reminded about the source of the motivation, and the source of the opportunity, that drove me and my black co-founders, Steve Moore and Charles Simmons, to leave the security of corporate America and strike out on our own. I was also reminded of this passage from my book “Proving Ground,” that describes the gratefulness and euphoria I felt upon being able to finally reap the rewards of our hard work by selling the company. The folks depicted in “Selma,” and many others, clearly paved the way for our success, and those of us who have thus benefited bear a responsibility to continue the struggle.
Here is the passage from “Proving Ground:”
Oblivious of my surroundings, I didn’t care who was watching. With each scream, I exorcised the doubts and fears and uncertainty that had lurked inside since my Flint childhood. It was as if thirty years of pressure were released in a few moments. I had proved what I had set out to prove: that I, a black man, could establish and build a world-class technology business from scratch. I proved that the many sacrifices my parents made to enable my success were not in vain. I proved that the monumental civil rights struggle waged during my formative years made the difference between my father’s bitter frustration and my own sweet elation. So many people worked and endured and marched and suffered and died during that movement, and their images were burned into my young psyche. I proved that those people didn’t work and endure and march and suffer and die for nothing.
Their battleground became my proving ground.