Voices

Freedom Center Voices

Thursday, November 14, 2013 - 4:36pm

"I Shouldn't Be Telling You This..."

In recently reading Kate White’s book of the same title, I was struck by her tips for “masterfully managing your boss.” Who doesn’t want to know how to do that? And, as a boss, I realize that it may not be such a bad thing to be masterfully managed.

Many places have a 60 or 90-day performance review when a new person steps into a position; I recommend this. People need feedback; they also need to show that they are meeting expectations (and you need to know that your expectations have been made clear!). Take the time to make this happen. It will be good for you, your organization, and the new person on the block!

With that being said, it only takes days of starting to work with someone to have a pretty good sense of whether that person is a good boss or a bad one. If you’ve snagged a good one – good for you! If you’ve snagged a bad one – the situation still has potential! Of course, if your boss is really incompetent or is creating a toxic environment, then starting working on your exit strategy. Otherwise, make sure that your boss sees your strengths so that he or she can turn over various projects that will lead to the advancement of your skills, reputation and goals. With opportunities and credit you can shoot for the stars!

Let’s get to Kate’s tips, shall we?

  • Your boss has both sweet spots and hot spots, and you need to determine what they are. A really good suggestion is that you play scientist – make your office a lab and your boss the focus of your experiment. One key is to listen; listen to the gossip around your workplace about your boss (make sure to listen between the lines as well); also, listen to comments that your boss makes about others; and, finally, make an effort to pay special attention to when your boss is pleased and displeased. What are the triggers? Once you’ve found the sweet spots and hot spots, base your behavior on what you’ve observed. Always remember, your boss isn’t you and no two bosses are the same. You can’t deal with your boss the way that you would want things to go or the way that you dealt with your previous boss – it takes effort to get ahead!
  • Bosses really want to be heard. Bosses want to know that you are on board with their mission and that you are willing to execute what they ask. Again, listen. Take notes. Seem enthusiastic (genuinely though!). Follow up on suggestions that your boss makes. Reply with a thank you note when your boss does something nice for you. When you disagree, ask yourself if you think there is really a chance that you can change your boss’s mind – if not, maybe it’s not worth the effort or the potential hot spot you might find yourself in! Choose your words carefully; don’t be blunt in saying that you disagree or suggesting that your boss is wrong. That won’t get you far – bosses are human and get defensive just as much as everyone else. 
  • Bosses want your loyalty. Don’t gossip about your boss to co-workers; don’t even look like your gossiping as your boss may make assumptions (remember -human!). Never go around your boss or over your boss’s head. That will cause distrust and discontent and may very well affect your future even months or years down the road. Do not, under any circumstances, violate a confidence. Don’t think you won’t get caught; people always get caught sooner or later! 
  • Bosses like to have their butts kissed. What? It’s true. Let your boss know that you like his or her ideas, that you appreciate the support you’re given and that you’re happy (and excited!) to be in the presence of your boss. Remember, you can always learn something – even from bad bosses. Be sincere! Superficial comments and being disingenuous are noticed just as much as sincerity and positivity. 

Bonus time! Listen up because this is SO IMPORTANT.

“Employees sometimes make the mistake of thinking that since they’re already established in the company, the new boss is the one who has to prove herself [or himself], and that they’re fairly well protected. Wrong. New bosses frequently have carte blanche to overhaul the department and get rid of anyone who doesn’t appear to be on board.” Be on board people! Let your boss know that you are excited about the possibilities he or she brings, that you are willing to do what you are asked, that you are thoughtful and that you are more than happy to take a lead role during transition/change. Above all, remember, it takes effort to get ahead (or even to stay where you are!).

Dina Bailey - @NURFCdina

Director of Museum Experiences

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Thursday, November 14, 2013 - 4:30pm

And Still We Rise: Aviator Bessie Colman

Bessie Coleman or "Queen Bess" became the first African American woman to hold an international pilot license. In 1915, Coleman moved to Chicago, Illinois and found work as a manicurist. She was enthralled by stories she overheard from pilots returning home from WWI and decided to pursue her dream of becoming a pilot.

Coleman was unable to find a school or a pilot that would train an African American woman in the U.S. It wasn't until 1920 that she finally gained financial backing from banker Jesse Binga and the African American newspaper, the Chicago Defender, to study abroad at the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) in France.

On June 15, 1921, Coleman became the first woman and the first African American woman to earn a pilot's license from the FAI and returned to the United States a media darling. Soon after, Coleman made a name for herself as a stunt flyer and had aspirations of establishing a school for African American aviators before her untimely death in April of 1926 at the age of 34.

See the courageous and daring story of Bessie Coleman in And Still We Rise: Race, Culture and Visual Conversations open now through Sept. 1 #AndStillWeRise

-Assia Johnson, Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator

Thursday, November 14, 2013 - 4:21pm

Called to Arms: A Veterans Day Program

Honoring Heroes of Military Service

On Nov. 11, 2013 at 6 p.m. the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will host a public program honoring the contributions of African Americans in the military.  Called to Arms is a Veterans Day program that will explore the legacies of military service from the lens of African Americans.  In celebrating Veterans Day, there are a number of African Americans who are deserving of praise and acknowledgement.  My father, who served in the U.S. Navy, would often tell me the story of Dorie Miller when I was a child.  When my father spoke of Dorie Miller, he had nothing but pride in his voice. 

Following training at the Naval Training Station in Norfolk, Va., Dorie Miller was assigned to the ammunition ship USS Pyro (AE-1) where he served as a Mess Attendant, and then was transferred to the USS West Virginia (BB-48), where he became the ship's heavyweight boxing champion. In July of 1940 he had temporary duty aboard the USS Nevada (BB-36) at Secondary Battery Gunnery School. He returned to West Virginia and on 3 August, and was serving in that battleship when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Miller had arisen at 6 a.m., and was collecting laundry when the alarm for general quarters sounded. He headed for his battle station only to discover that torpedo damage had wrecked it, so he went on deck. Because of his physical prowess, he was assigned to carry wounded fellow Sailors to places of greater safety. Then an officer ordered him to the bridge to aid the mortally wounded Captain of the ship. He subsequently manned a 50 caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun until he ran out of ammunition and was ordered to abandon ship. Of the 1,541 men on the West Virginia during the attack, 130 were killed and 52 wounded.  Dorie Miller was commended by the Secretary of the Navy and he received the Navy Cross for his extraordinary courage in battle.

The story of Dorie Miller is one of many among the legacy of African Americans serving in the military.  Stories like the Dorie Miller symbolizes the cornerstones of freedom, courage, cooperation and perseverance.  Join us on Nov. 11, 2013 at 6 p.m. for Called to Arms and celebrate the legacies of African American’s military service.  

- Christopher Miller, Manager of Program Initiatives

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 - 11:22am

Tobacco on the Chesapeake

Twelve years after the British colony of Jamestown was founded in Virginia, the first Dutch ship brought several African men and women to the colony in 1619.  These people may have been indentured servants, but they were probably sold as slaves.  Over the next two centuries, the colonies expanded along the eastern coast from Georgia to Canada.  In the Chesapeake colonies of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, slavery was the predominant way of organizing labor.  By 1790, nearly forty percent of the population in the British colonies were enslaved.

Tobacco was a major cash crop in the Chesapeake colonies.  During the 1700s, many plantation owners were able to increase their fortunes by selling tobacco to Europeans and Africans.  The vast majority of tobacco during the late 16th century was cultivated by slave labor.  Slaves planted, harvested, cured and packaged tobacco in an extremely labor intensive process.  You can learn more about the colonial cultivation methods of tobacco here.  Between 1619 and 1775, generations of enslaved people labored in the American colonies to create wealth for their owners. 

You can learn about tobacco and other cash crops like sugar cane, rice and cotton in the From Slavery to Freedom exhibition at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

— Cori Sisler, Manager of Exhibitions and Collections

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