THE ROLE OF MENTORING 5 Tips for Mentors & Mentees during Challenging Times By Jeannette Gerald
Definitions for framing & discussion :
Mentor: an experienced and trusted adviser....
Mentoring: to advise or train someone, - especially a younger colleague, senior professional or experienced individual heading in a new or different career/growth-opportunity direction....
Mentee/Protege: someone who has identified a specific personal or professional goal and who believes that the guidance and help of a mentor - and being held accountable to the mentor - can help them achieve their goal....
Introduction/Background: 2020 has certainly been an extraordinarily challenging year for everyone. From the pandemic and the resulting economic turbulence to an overdue reckoning with racial inequality and justice, we’ve all had to face some hard truths about the challenges in front of us, about the treatment of ethnic and minority groups across this country, and about the changing demographic of the people we serve in our communities. These new and turbulent times have also meant taking a hard look at the need to develop a more diverse & inclusive cultural orientation to our strategy and action plans for mentoring approaches.
Priorities like these emphasize the need for focused training of mentors, mentees, staff, entrepreneurs, and others whose goals include leadership and talent development inside or outside of today’s organizations. We are in an exciting and unpredictable time for the public and private sectors, the performing & creative arts markets, and non-profits of all types. As a result, it’s finally being recognized now more than ever, how critically needed the role of mentoring is across this country.
Women, People of Color, LGBTQIA+ professionals, the unemployed, and internationals have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic; many turning to entrepreneurship out of passion and also out of incredible necessity. Clearly all of this and more has invoked a greater demand for retired executives, managers, educators, and consultants to step forward, pair with, and serve the emerging talent from this diverse pool. So the challenge is to support as many of these emerging entrepreneurs, rising minority talent mavens and young leaders as we can, as they strive to turn their dreams into businesses and/or creative successes with strong revenue and growth potential.
Mentoring Tips: Being a mentor involves making yourself available to support and advise someone when they need it, delivering that support in a way that makes sense to them, and always keeping that person's best interests in mind. Coaching is more performance driven, designed to improve the professional's on-the-job performance. Mentoring, however, is more development driven, looking not just at the professional's current job function, creative business, or artistic and entrepreneurial venture, but beyond. It means taking a more holistic approach to career, business, artistic or entrepreneurial skill development.
Mentor’s Role: Nowadays, with pandemic issues and concerns still raging, all “meetings” and “interactions” between mentor-mentee are being done through online platforms, or other virtual means. Mentors and mentees have been forced to become quite skilled and proficient at pivoting their relationships and interactions to creative and more interactive media. A mentor may share with a mentee (or protege) information about his or her own career path, as well as provide guidance, motivation, emotional support, and role modeling. S(He) may also help with exploring careers, setting goals, developing contacts, and identifying resources. Below are some key roles and tips I've learned over the years that are important to the success of the mentor-mentee relationship. It’s all about availability, acceptance and affirmation:
5 Tips On Being a Good Mentor:
Consultant (Ask Questions & Dig Deeper): -- One of the core actions a mentor can take is to ask their mentee questions. This is the most obvious role for the mentor to play ...
Share Ideas & Tell Stories: -- Mentees come to you because they value your opinion. ...
Counselor: -- Listen With Compassion. ...
Cheerleader: -- Offer Encouragement. ...
Make Introductions: Include sharing the history and culture of the organization/enterprise; expand the mentees’ connections to other corporate and external influencers.
Moving forward into 2021, the newer approaches to mentoring are more about commitment and learning than about chemistry and power. This is working as well for men and for women. Mentoring is becoming more about commitment. It’s about personal growth and development rather than about promotions and plums. And its more about learning than power. Its not about who you know; its about who is aware of what you know! You don’t have to be a woman to practice the new ways of mentoring. But if you want to see it in action, look at how women do it!
5 Tips for selecting a mentor:
In defining your mentoring needs/goals, it’s important to look critically at (and be clear about) your diversity and development priorities;
Ensure that at every level you connect with a mentor who reflects your personal and professional goals;
Your mentor should be committed to help you expand/advance your leadership and entrepreneurship talents to new heights, communities and audiences as quickly and directly as possible;
Your mentor’s priority must be to help minority talent, under-served entrepreneurs, junior managers/executives, and women and men who need mentoring programs now more than ever;
An effective mentor should help you develop the skills in communication, coaching and conflict resolution that you need to make progress.
It’s been an old rule to look for your mentor higher-up on the “food chain” in your field, industry, business or enterprise. The new rule that has been working quite effectively for emerging talents and entrepreneurs has been: A good mentor is anyone you can learn from. In today’s world, a good mentor is impossible to visualize - it could be anyone from anywhere inside or outside of your organization, business or field. Peers can even serve as handy mentors when you have no obvious senior role model to look up to. Mentoring also is not a waiting game. Seek out those who can show you how to get around/get going. Remember, - The old rule of thumb that mentors pick their proteges has dwindled. The new rule is that mentees/proteges pick their mentors; a revamped approach being embraced by young and old alike, with lots of enthusiasm and excitement this year.
Lastly, - Successful mentoring relationships go through four phases: preparation, negotiating, enabling growth, and closure. These sequential phases build on each other and vary in length based on the growth and priority goals established in the mentor-mentee relationship.
Throughout 2020, we just tried to help people get through—one day to the next. Now it’s time for people to take action - Be the message! This means coaching, advising and training a junior protege. It also requires a shift in mindset because, unfortunately, it’s simply not human nature for most people to focus first on developing others. Yet, reflecting on recent events and the sad milestones of 2020, - indeed, that’s exactly what we need to do to continue moving forward.
Jeannette Gerald, MBA
W.C Handy By Arnold Henderson
William Christopher Handy, more often known as W.C Handy, was born in Florence, Alabama in 1873. The Civil War had ended 8 years earlier and Handy's formerly enslaved parents Charles and Elizabeth Brewer Handy were among the multitudes of African Americans now struggling to sustain their families during Reconstruction.
Those who are familiar with the conditions and events that characterized Reconstruction and the decades after the Civil War are aware of the uncertainty, hope, subsequent horror and racial conflict of that time. It was in this environment that a young W.C. Handy began his education and developed his growing interest in and commitment to music. His ambition, talent and desire subsequently enabled him to become one of the prominent cultural figures of this age, the man known as "Father of The Blues."
According to his autobiography, young William Handy showed an early interest in music. He worked and saved money to purchase a guitar. His father a preacher and a disciplined, serious-minded man, did not approve of of this acquisition and called it "the devil's plaything." He wanted his son to prepare for the ministry and ordered him to return the guitar at once and exchange it for a good dictionary. However, his father did not discourage him from learning sacred music or preparing to play the harmonium in church. Young Handy, like many African American musicians over the ages, drew upon certain experiences and skills that he first became aware of and learned in church.
Young WC Handy remained determined to put aside enough money to own a musical instrument. He slowly saved his precious dollars to purchase a cornet. This time he concealed his desire to acquire the horn. However, he once again was seriously reprimanded by an elder when he expressed what his vocational intentions were for the future. The negative reaction came from one of his teachers who had asked his students what they aspired to study for their eventual profession:
"After a number of others had announced their ambitions to become doctors, lawyers, teachers and preachers, I whipped up my courage and suggested that I wanted to be a musician...That brought an abrupt end to the question. A bomb explosion could not have been more effective. With anger flaming in his eyes, the teacher rose, waved his long sinewy arms, and gave me his opinion of the musical profession. Musicians were idlers, dissipated characters, whisky drinkers and rounders. They were social pariahs...To drive the point home he wrote a note to my father and asked me to deliver it.’
Handy's father's reaction was even more disheartening. "Son," he said, "I'd rather see you in a hearse. I'd rather follow you to the graveyard than to hear that you had become a musician."
Above quote on page 11, Father of The Blues, W.C. Handy
Handy recalls that during his early years he rigorously continued to study music, using both formal and at times random opportunities to develop his knowledge whenever he could. He comments that there had been no piano or organ in his school but his teacher Professor Y.A. Wallace, a graduate of Fisk University, thoroughly drilled him and others and taught them how to determine beats, sound out notes and "to workout parts" for their singing groups. They also "became familiar with Wagner, Bizet, Verdi and other masters. " W.C had secretly continued to practice with his cornet and eventually became proficient enough to play with a small band and earn a few dollars.
Between his formal studies in school, his leadership experiences in church and his passion for learning as much as he could about the many aspects of music, young W.C. Handy eventually traveled to Birmingham, Alabama and sat for the teacher's exam. His score was among the highest of all of the applicants, black and white.
Although he had earnestly tried to maintain a decent relationship with his rigid teacher in Florence, Hendy’s efforts were not successful. There was an unfortunate barrier between them. He decided on taking another approach to pursue his goals. He found employment at a pipe works company but soon lost it when the business shut down because of the depressed economy. He gave music lessons to some students for a short period, and then traveled in a railroad boxcar (“hoboeing”) with some other musicians to the World’s Fair where they hoped to gain employment. Sadly, this seemingly attractive event had been canceled. Handy struggled through another bleak, fragile period but did manage to experience listening to the wealth of exciting new music in St. Louis, including the blues, which made a lasting impression on him. Handy appreciated marches, brass bands, ragtime and many kinds of music. He had acquired and mastered a reasonable degree of sophisticated training and music education by this time.
In August 1896 Handy had been taking on short-term jobs out on the road when he received a letter from a musician friend Elmore Dodd. Handy was offered a chance to play cornet with Sahara’s Minstrels. Although the pay was very modest, “…it would be a chance to travel and an opportunity to rub elbows with the best Negro musicians of the day.”
He comments in his autobiography:
"It goes without saying that minstrels were a disreputable lot in the eyes of a large section of upper-crust Negroes…but it was also true that all of the best talent of that generation came down the same drain. The composers, the singers, the musicians, the speakers, the stage performers—the minstrel shows got them all. For my part, there wasn’t a moment’s hesitation when I received Elmore Dodd’s letter. I took it for the break it was. The cards were running my way at last. (page 33)
He continues with this observation published in 1941:
“Encyclopedists and historians of the American stage have slighted the old Negro minstrels while making much of the burnt cork artists who imitated them. But the Negroes were the originators of this form of entertainment, and companies of them continued to perform as long as the vogue lasted. Mahara’s outfit, like the Georgia Minstrels, the McCabe and Young Minstrels, and the Hicks and Sawyer Colored minstrels, was the genuine article, a real Negro minstrel show. Our show, like most of the others of its type, was under white management. (page 34)
These quotes are disturbing but they provide uninitiated readers with a sharper sense of the harsh times and the peculiar atmosphere of minstrelsy and its troubling legacy. They also reflect the pervasive cultural and racial influences on an ambitious Negro professional who had struggled for success under the policy of Jim Crow.
Handy’s work with Mahara’s Minstrels provided him with a rare opportunity to develop his skills with seasoned Negro musicians, who were proven professionals. He became a more broadly experienced arranger and director. In addition to taking on demanding responsibilities, working with a proficient band compelled him to think more about composition. The band travelled widely and even performed in Cuba, which was a particularly stimulating cultural experience for a musician of that time. He remained with the group for four years.
In 1902 Handy settled in Clarksdale, Mississippi, which is across the river from Helena, Arkansas. This region is known by a range of individuals from various walks of life as the place of origin for Delta Blues singers: Charlie Patton, Fred McDowell, Bukka White, Mississippi John Hurt, Son House and many others. Handy, the self-proclaimed “Father of The Blues,” was not able to claim this title without worthy rivals issuing their protests. For example, the great Jelly Roll Morton, the man who stated that he “invented jazz” was an early skeptic. His argument against this claim can be easily found online. Morton was another richly talented and remarkable figure of this period. I am confident that there is enough room in the vast history of jazz and the blues to accommodate the reputations and greatness of both men.
Although Handy cites Alabama childhood recollections of hearing a black man singing the blues, one of his most colorful anecdotes was about being alone at a railroad station in Tutwiler, Mississippi and hearing a solitary Negro musician playing his slide guitar, rubbing a knife against the neck. He described it as: “The weirdest music I had ever heard.” Of course devoted country blues fans and the enthusiastic followers who attended the Newport Folk Festival for many years and eagerly flocked to the coffee houses in the early to mid 1960s would not consider Delta blues to be “weird. “ W.C. grew up in another part of the south and had not experienced this particular form of the blues until 1902.
“The Memphis Blues,” originally titled “Mr. Crump,” was written by Handy around 1912 and first played in a Beale Street political campaign. As Handy recounts in his autobiography, he needed to come up with something for his band to play that would excite the music loving voters and energize them when they heard it:
“Beale Street was expected to cast a lot of votes, and it was squarely up to us to get them. I began to wrack my brain, a song like Moody and Sankey’s “Pull For The Shore, “ while it might have expressed the mood and temper of Mr, Crump’s platform, would certainly not have pulled any votes for him in my opinion. Hot-cha music was the stuff we needed, and it had to be mellow. Where was it to be found? Certainly not in any existing files. I closed my eyes and tried to dream it. Let me see now—yes, that’s it. I could hear what I wanted.” It was a weird melody in much the same mood as the one that had been strummed on the guitar at Tutwiler.”
Quotes are from pages 98-99
Handy states that he subsequently changed the title “Mr. Crump” to “Memphis Blues.” He explains:
It “…was the first of the published blues compositions, the lyric that I have quoted demands an explanation. It was a five-line stanza, but the preceding strain and the strain that followed the refrain both called for three-line stanzas in the proper blues fashion (actually no words were written for these at this time.) The three line-stanza had twelve instead of sixteen measures to the strain, another blues characteristic. The final strain in this piece had a spot for James Osborne’s’ s tenor sax to do a haunting break just before the finish.”
Handy continues to describe what he perceives as some of the critical elements of this composition:
“The melody of “Mr. Crump” ( known today as “Memphis Blues”) was mine throughout. On the other hand, the twelve-bar, three-line form of the first and last strains, with it three-chord basic harmonic structure (tonic, subdominant, dominant seventh) was that already used by Negro roustabouts, honky-tonk piano players, wanderers and others of the underprivileged but undaunted class from Missouri to the Gulf might ?? express his personal feelings in a sort of musical soliloquy might express his personal feelings in a sort of musical soliloquy from the Missouri to the Gulf, and had become a common medium through which any such individual might express his personal feelings in a sort of musical soliloquy.”
It is noteworthy that W.C. Handy strongly and somewhat firmly ends this paragraph with his personal view of his work and its title: “My part in their history was to introduce this, the “blues” form to the GENERAL PUBLIC , as the medium for MY OWN feelings and MY OWN musical ideas. And the transitional flat thirds and sevenths in my melody, by which I was attempting to suggest the typical slurs of the Negro voice, were what have since become known as “blue notes.”
Quotes are from page 99
In 1914 W.C. Handy wrote his classic “The Saint Louis Blues.” According to him, he based it on an interaction that he had years before with a woman on a street in St. Louis. During their conversation, he was struck by her comment: “That man got a heart like a rock cast in the sea.” Ethel Waters is known as the first performer to sing this to an audience. When it was picked up and recorded by various musicians, it became a sensation and one of the best-selling recordings in the early decades of the 20th Century.
Saint Louis Blues has been recorded by a number of highly regarded musicians. However, vocalist Bessie Smith’s 1925 rendition is considered by many as the one that is the most stirring and memorable. She was accompanied by a band that included a young but already exceptionally proficient Louis Armstrong on cornet. Count Basie, Bing Crosby and Glenn Miller have also done popular versions of it.
Although Handy’s “The Memphis Blues” was greatly successful prior to “Saint Louis Blues,” Handy was struggling financially at the time but also failed to anticipate the complexities of race and sales potential. He reluctantly ended up selling the rights for one hundred dollars. Those rights made an appreciable sum for its next owner but Handy did get favorable acknowledgement for being the song’s author.
The life and career of W.C. Handy form a narrative that begins with a boy who was deeply committed to music. He overcame certain impediments that were both personal and social and became a successful musician. During the course of his development, he also discovered that he had a talent for writing music and composing songs. These accomplishments, achieved by a young man from a comparatively modest background and the son of formerly enslaved people, led or drew him into the world of business in early 1900s America.
Handy had originally planned to market “The Memphis Blues” on his own. He gives an account of arranging to have the work printed and taking 100 copies that he intended to sell at other music stores in Memphis. He pays his associate for printing 1000 copies and the copyright fee and states “…and I left with the promise of an advertisement in the newspaper space for Sunday.”
Around it were grouped copies of recent successes by such Negro composers as Cole and Johnson, Scott Joplin and the Williams and Walker musical comedies. So when he (the store’s owner) suggested that his trade wouldn’t stand for his selling my work, I pointed out as tactfully as I could that the majority of his musical hits of the moment had come from the Gotham-Attucks Company, a firm of Negro Publishers in New York.”
I’ll never forget his smile. “Yes” he said pleasantly. “I know that—but my customers don’t.”
Quote Page 108
WC Handy faced many challenges and setbacks during his career as a musician, composer, band director and businessman. He and Harry Pace formed Pace and Handy, a pioneering Negro owned music business active in Chicago, Memphis and New York. The company flourished for a sweet period until their competitors with greater assets and resources took on their rivals in a fight for dominance.
Professor Ann Douglas, author of “Terrible Honesty,” states:
Recording became serious business in the second decade of The 20th Century, and radios first marketed as a domestic utility in 1920, proliferated rapidly, in the next decade. Production went from 190,000 annually in 1923 to almost 5 million in 1929; by 1927, 6 million sets were in use nationwide. The boom in records and radio spelled the demise of the piano and its sheet-publishing outlets as the central power broker in the music industry. Although sheet-music sales did not become an altogether negligible market force until the 1950s…” pp. 419-420
Black Swan Records was the first popular music and recording company that was owned and managed by Negroes. It was named in honor of Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, an early black concert singer of the 1800s. Harry Pace was president and owner. He was joined by former business partner WC Handy, who served on the board of directors. (These men seemed to have frequently disagreed with each but understood the value of each other’s knowledge and skills.) Pace envisioned promoting many sub-genres of Negro Music, including jazz, sacred music, vaudeville tunes and the blues. He disliked the practice that white-owned music businesses implemented: They would sign Negro performers to acquire their music but not allow them to record. Pace signed Ethel Waters, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Blind Lemon Jefferson (“See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”) and Roosevelt Sykes.
As a musician as well as an interpreter of the blues throughout much of his life, WC Handy promoted its potential and lasting influence in American Music. He was comfortable with many aspects of this campaign. He worked to sustain its continuing development and potential. If he was not its “Father,” he was certainly a loving guardian. While Handy was one artist in a time of many talented and creative women and men from all backgrounds, he consistently advocated for its value and place in music during a time of great social and technological change. He could look back to his time performing in the Old South minstrelry and lived long enough to appear on an early television show with Ed Sullivan in 1949.
Handy’s mother and father had been enslaved people. They were active participants in the many changes that came before, during and after Reconstuction. They and their son struggled daily with the cruel indignities and frequent terror of Jim Crow. Young Handy rose from being a promising young musician to one who was also a respected composer and owner of a business with offices in Memphis, Chicago and New York. He wrote many songs and compositions, published 4 books, and led one of the bands at President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Inaugural Ball in 1953. He was the subject of a Hollywood film starring Nat King Cole, Pearl Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald and Ruby Dee in 1958.
WC Handy’s life and career are certainly worthy of a greater and more in-depth study by a new generation. Hopefully some biographers will give his legacy their consideration.