My big sister, Mara Lamont Hoskins, who is a Master Fitness Instructor (or a fitness instructor's instructor), and a former award winning female body builder as well, protected me as a youth growing up in Compton, California, and continues to educate and teach me to this day.
Below I have shared a cute, loving little note she sent to me right before my last birthday, recounting our time together, growing up in Compton, California. And my sister is absolutely correct -- we lived amidst poverty and struggle, but thanks to our enterprising and hard working mother, Ms. Juanita Smith, and later my dad Mr. Jonnie Will Smith, we and I really did not want for much. Most of all, we had their amazing, undying love and support.
My mother told me she loved me every single day I can remember. Do you know how powerfu it is to be told that you are "loved" as a child, by your mother or father? Amazing and empowering. My dad showed me everyday through his own example as a small business owner, that I could do anything.
And so, from my mother I got a powerful sense of "yes I am," and from my father, I got a powerful sense of "yes I can."
And both of them worked from morning to night, to make sure that my brother Dave Darnell Harris (Donnie), my sister Mara Lamont Hoskins (Montie), and I all had everything we needed to both dream big dreams, and then when we ready to act -- to live them.
This is partly why I feel so responsible today for all of my childhood friends (and childhood communities) who did not enjoy the same emotional and physical priviledges, amidst the backdrop of poverty and economic indifference we found ourselves in as children. It is also the reason for the underscoring Operation HOPE quote I use so much today; "there is a difference between being broke and being poor. Being broke is an economic condition, but being poor is a disabling frame of mind, and a depressed condition of our spirit, and we must vow to never, ever be poor again."
Here is the actual note from my amazing sister, pictured next to me in this family photo, which also includes our mother Juanita Smith, and my sister's fiancee Billy Stanley.
I know since you are about to turn 45, your memory of our childhood eludes you. :)
And, you were so young, there are many things you just didnt know.
I hear what you are saying about being poor versus being broke, i get it..
But seriously, what 16 year old in Compton did you know got a BRAND new Volkswagon, and it was paid in CASH! Yep, Mr. Richard did that for me for graduation.
At age 9, you were handed a $50 or $100 bill just for getting good grades. I tried to take it, but your tail would always tell on me; always was a snitch!
You and I had every luxury available to us then, as children of a working single parent mother; piano lessons, dance lessons, etc.
We had a mom that wanted us to have it all, and we did. We got beat up for having things other kids didn't have. YOU, had your own room and didnt have to share it with anyone!
Don't get me wrong, I wanted to go to a University, versus Long Beach City College, but I went to college and not on a student loan -- mom had us covered, and she worked a regular hourly job!
Your friends, WISH they could be a boy scout, but it cost money for uniforms, badges, outings.
Nope, we were not broke or poor, we were privilaged in the hood. Whenever I wanted to go to a movie, hang out with friends, buy a new record (yep, a record, not a CD) or an 8 track, mom would give us money to do whatever we wanted.
She would even give us money for whatever venture we wanted; remember Silver Satin, our singing group for outfts, shoes, etc.
We had a life like none of my friends could comprehend. BUT we lived in what ended up being the hood, but when we moved in, it was an upscale middle class residental area with mostly whites and very few blacks, but then the whites started moving out when more blacks moved in. The neigborhoods all changed...
Just updating on things you didnt know, or were too young to know. Much love.
Your sis Mont
I am sure you agree -- what an incredible sister I have. Really, what an incredible family. And this is the real story of John Hope Bryant. I am me, because of my family, and specifically, because of my mother, and later on the influence of my father.
This is no different for any other child. We are, for better or for worse, the products of our (childhood) environment. We can change this -- and this is why I do what I do, through Operation HOPE.
John Hope Bryant is a thought leader, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), and a Member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for President Barack Obama. Mr. Bryant is a co-founder of Global Dignity with HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Professor Pekka Himanen of Finland. Global Dignity is affiliated with the Forum of Young Global Leaders and the World Economic Forum.