“To whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48). This has always been one of my favorite passages in the Bible, because it constantly reminds me that I am blessed and that God expects me to give back. God doesn’t care HOW you give back, only THAT you give back.
In church last week, the pastor’s message was simply that our talents are not given solely for our use, but they are God’s gifts to us so we may bless others. Without circulation, we are stagnant. The Pastor drew a comparison of the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. Although both contain high salt concentrations, the Dead Sea doesn’t circulate, so it has no life. The Red Sea however circulates, so it is vibrant with abundant life. Circulation is the key to life and increased blessings.
Growing up, my mother instilled in me the importance of volunteering which is still part of my moral fabric. From volunteering as a candy striper in high school, to starting a mentoring program at Dorsey High School in South Central Los Angeles after college, I have always aligned myself with projects that I believe in and used my gifts in that regard.
In a previous column, I disclosed that I was the victim of domestic dating violence shortly after college. So when Break The Cycle, the nation’s largest nonprofit foundation focused on teen dating violence, serendipitously approached me about serving on their Board of Directors, I jumped at the chance to serve. I lend my time, ideas and legal services to the organization. It is a lot of work, but I when I see our programs impacting Congressional change, I know that I am making a difference.
Law is my passion, and God has allowed me to shatter the glass ceiling in my field. I have an amazing practice and have sustained my own firm for over 11 years, so I realize that it is incumbent on me to circulate those blessings. When I began my career in this industry over 15 years ago, there weren’t many black women to lift us up, so I give back by mentoring women in law school who are interested in Entertainment Law.
About five years ago, a few female lawyers and I were at a legal conference discussing our paths to our success. We didn’t have it easy, but with hard work and determination we got here. We vowed to pave a smoother road for those women who were interested in our field. A few weeks later, I got a call from the same 3 lawyers about implementing a mentoring program. We reached out to every black female entertainment lawyer we knew, and several rose to the occasion. We set up a conference call, tossed around names and a mission statement and Black Women in Entertainment Law Organization was founded.
We pooled our own resources to fund scholarships, mentoring programs and networking events. As our numbers increased, so did our desire to increase our outreach. We could only seek sponsorships and donations as a non-profit foundation, but that meant spending what little money we had to hire a non-profit attorney. But just as we circulated our blessings, our blessings came right back in the form of a non-profit attorney who believed in our mission. She offered her services pro-bono so we formed a board, got busy with formal logistics and we formalized Black Women in Entertainment Law (BWEL) Foundation.
Three years later, we are a thriving non-profit. Since its inception, I have served as Executive Director and more often than not as the Scholarship Chair. As we started from the ground up, it requires an extraordinary amount of dedication from me, the other officers and all of our members.
Last week, we held our annual fundraiser honoring Louise West, a legend in our industry and Bethann Haridison, a trailblazer in the fashion industry. I called upon friends and colleagues to purchase tickets, donate money and gift bag swag, to ensure that we raised enough funds to continue our mission. It was a success but after months of planning and co -chairing the event, I was exhausted.
On the heels of the event, I traveled to DC and Houston to speak on legal panels, roundtables and mentor law students in furtherance of our mission. When the whirlwind was over, I collapsed in my bed and watched hours of mindless television, wondering why I continue to run myself ragged.
When I doubt whether I am making a difference, I look back at my youngest cousin Kelcey, a freshman at Spelman and an aspiring attorney, who unknowingly answered that question. She was visiting for Spring Break, and I reviewed our agenda for the weekend, which was unusually full of client activities. I would take her to see Brian McKnight in a play, attend our BWEL fundraiser and finally take her to Lupe Fiasco’s album release concert. Like any 18 year old, she is not easily moved, but she looked at me in earnest and said, “Lisa, when I grow up, I want to be just like you.”
And with those few words, the flood of thank you notes I’d received from the mentees, and the success of our fundraiser, I continue to know, in spite of the hard work, it is most certainly worth it.