Re-Framing History & Possibility — Jerusha Stewart

4 min readJun 24, 2022
Jerusha Stewart speaking at TEDx Vero Beach

“Remember, you have been bought and paid for. All those many years ago when the ships crossed the seas and brought us here. You survived. Many thousands died. You come from the best of the best. You don’t have anything to prove, honey. You are the best. Don’t you forget that.”

These were the words that Maya Angelou spoke to me as we exited the stage from a panel conversation. I don’t remember the topic of our onstage discussion — I know it was motivational as was the subject of most conferences back then — but her private words to me became engrained in my very soul. At the time, I was a young Black professional and this amazing woman, this beloved cultural icon, gave me the rarest gift: she validated my experience as a valued member of the human race.

Over the years since, I have come to realize that Maya’s words were meant to reassure me that I didn’t need to prove myself or my self-worth. That I was enough. This idea flew in the face of all of the prevalent beliefs passed down by the parents of my generation: that we needed to work twice as hard as everyone else to get ahead. That we needed to be chess moves ahead of our colleagues and that we couldn’t take situations at face value. That there is always another agenda.

Maya turned those notions on their head. “You have been bought and paid for.” I had value. The economic largesse, the wealth and power of America is linked to its legacy of enslavement. With her words, Maya took the greatest atrocity perpetuated on my ancestors and transformed it into a birthright of invisible privilege. I no longer felt that I had to apologize for my Ivy League school education or the corporate leadership positions I held or the success of my business coaching. I owned my sense of self-worth. As Maya walked away from me, she turned and looked at me and said, “You are so beautiful.” Then she walked off into the crowd, leaving me to carry her legacy forward.

My moment of meeting Maya was one of those instances in your life that covers you like a second skin. It has protected me when things were not going the way I thought they should. Moreover, Maya’s words inspired a clear vision of my purpose. I couldn’t hold back my own gifts of empowering others. I needed to join her in motivating the masses to discover their own greatness. This is what I mean when I say I am an Equity Accelerator. To impart Maya’s lesson that I am enough. That we are enough.

To watch my full TEDx Vero Beach talk, click here

About Jerusha Stewart: Jerusha is a mission-focused entrepreneur creating opportunities for a more equitable future. With a vast background in law, sales, public relations and marketing, Jerusha is well-versed in creating innovative problem solving initiatives and implementing successful communication strategies. Most recently, Jerusha has dedicated herself to her latest mission, Take Your Seat, a Public Benefit corporation focused on recognizing the wealth of global Black talent and accelerating inclusivity in corporate boardrooms to maximize corporate performance.




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