It was two years ago in New Orleans during the Bayou Classic – Grambling University vs. Southern University, two historically black colleges. For years, my parents had attended this game and the festivities that go along with it. It gave them an opportunity to visit their home state of Louisiana, which they both left separately right after World War II. Both my parents settled in the San Francisco Bay area where they met, married, and raised my brother, my sister, and me. As one might imagine, coming to San Francisco during that time was far better than living and working under the conditions of Jim Crow. To a great extent, San Francisco was not much better, though on the surface and to the outside observer, California was a thousand times better than living in Louisiana.
I received an invitation to sponsor a cocktail kick-off party in New Orleans during the Bayou Classic. It had been a couple of years since my mom had attended, and my father had passed away about five years prior, so for her, it wasn’t the same going without him. I invited her out from California to visit with me, have Thanksgiving dinner, and attend the Classic. I travel considerably for work, and with that comes some perks within the Marriott Hotel chain. With my wife’s blessing, Mom and I met in New Orleans and, with my frequent traveler points, stayed at the Ritz-Carleton in a very nice suite. At the hotel, there was a constant and steady amount of food and beverage selections, which for my 86-year-old mother was a delight. Each night I would accompany her and we would get a bit to eat and mingle and talk with other guests. She would hold court and I would sit back and quietly observe, something that is a real joy in my life.
Mom was a recruiter, too…
One couple from Virginia as well as a number of attorneys I knew from Atlanta took a great liking to my mom while I was completely ignored. They all found her delightful, especially in talking about stories concerning my life and some adventures I had before I became a “head-hunter.” The couple from Virginia pretty much ignored me and became fast friends with my mom. Upon our leaving, they made it a point to stay in touch, which they have ever since. During our drive to the airport, Mom informed me that the couple’s daughter was seeking a new job at a law firm. Now, I had been in those folks’ company for three days and not once did they even approach me with this opportunity. I was befuddled and kind of taken aback. What I didn’t realize is that my mom, while simply being herself – that charming and disarming “Queen” from Louisiana – brought me a new candidate and an eventual placement. I have since paid her the customary 15% ‘finder’s fee’ and I am glad and grateful to have done it.
My company, Carter-White & Shaw LLC, specializes in the placement of diverse attorneys, the majority being black attorneys of African descent and Hispanic/Latin American lawyers. I started my business in 1991 on the back porch of my parents’ home in Berkeley, California. My now 88-year-old mother was my major inspiration, both then and now. Mom is without a doubt a “Queen”— she is personable and charming, all the qualities that have assisted me in bringing both passive and current legal professionals to my company, the firms and in-house corporate legal departments for which I work.
Foundations in faith
Her life lessons have left an indelible mark on me as well as the business I run here in Maryland. I am successful by all measures – I have a lovely home, a beautiful wife, and wonderful friends. My mom has shown me by virtue of her untiring devotion to helping others that money and material riches are not the end game. This is what I maintain as the foundation of how I run my business and in dealing with all those that seek my help.
My brother, sister, and I were church-goers, even though my dad wasn’t. I asked my mom on many occasions why Dad didn’t go to church and I was told many times, “One day he will have the faith to go.” I understand far better today than I did as a young boy what my mom had instilled in me: a simple word, “faith.”
My mom told me when I was old enough to understand that my father had lost his faith in God, and her belief was that he would find his faith in God and mankind once again. I have thought often of when I too have been confronted with some people who either don’t believe in my recruiting services or more so, in me, as a black man. The church environment that Mom brought me into provided an environment that, coupled with faith, has guided me during some pretty tumultuous times. I know without her taking us to that safe sanctuary, I would not have faith – not just in God, but in myself. She helped build up my self-esteem – something that many children today are missing. She made me “feel good about being me.” That is so empowering for a young black man to have the support that you can conquer the world just by being who you are.
Thank-you just isn’t enough…
A few years after my dad passed away, my wife and I invited Mom to come visit us on Maryland’s eastern shore where I work and reside. We have a little hobby farm of about 30 acres – we don’t “farm,” but we still have a few farm animals – geese, chickens, and the like, I was happy she came to visit, and I invited her to the Black Caucus events that my wife and I attend each year in D.C.
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We picked her up at the Thurgood Marshall BWI Airport near Baltimore and made our way into our nation’s capital and to our hotel. We were going to be there three nights, staying at the Helmsley Hotel. One of the candidates I assisted in getting a public policy job is well-known and vested into the Democratic Party, as both my wife and my mother are. She got tickets for us to attend the Black Caucus dinner, where the keynote speaker was going to be the first black Senator from the state of Illinois, Barack Obama. A special treat that night came from the Senator’s departure line for all the Congressmen and women and the Senators and their wives. Mom had a chance, unknown to anyone that evening, to shake hands with the next President of the United States and the first lady. She was thrilled and overwhelmed with joy the night he won the election, as were most Americans that voted for him.
My Mother’s Day present for Mom this year is a real dinner with the President of the United States, as I have been invited to have dinner with him and one of the many former candidates I have helped over the years.
To think back to that back porch in Berkeley in 1991 to this year 2011, Sue Jordan and her boy will be having dinner with the President. Yet none of this good fortune or goodwill, would have occurred if Emma Lou “ Sue “ Jordan had not taught me to be myself, have faith, be kind, and inspired me to who I have become. It is through her that I receive the greatest joy each day: her love.
Thanks, Mom – I hope I’ve made you proud.