I’m Aware: 100 Years of Vision

FullSizeRenderMadalyn Mae and Adele Reed, 1958

Where there is no vision, the people perish

Proverbs 29:18

The year was 1958 when Madalyn Mae, a 43-year-old beautician, and her daughter, Clarabell, 27 years old, arrived to 440 S. 60th Street, a predominantly white upper middle class Jewish business corridor. Sponsored by a scholarship to Adele Reed’s School of Cosmetology, Mama, as she was affectionately known, was in pursuit of the American Dream and a vision of generational wealth for her family.

Hailing from Coxsackie, NY, Mama left her home at age 12 to work in Albany, NY for monies to care for her younger siblings and her mentally ill mother. As a domestic worker, she eventually made enough money to go into business for herself as a hairdresser. She was pretty established in Albany, but a once in a lifetime chance would soon change her stars forever.

Prior to the family’s arrival in Philadelphia, Mama had been on a TV show called, “Strike It Rich.” She did not win, but when asked what she would do with her earnings, She stated that she wanted to travel to Philadelphia to study under Adele Reed, one of the few, if not only, Black hair school owners. This statement garnered Ms. Reed more press and demand than she could have ever paid for. As a show of her appreciation, she extended Mama free tuition, and our family left Albany.

Mama’s vision was for our family to set sails into a land of entrepreneurship, real estate, and health/wellbeing. However, My family, like most African American families with slave lineage, would struggle to live the dream in a post civil rights movement America that refused to value our wellbeing socially and economically in addition to politically. The white upper middle class Jewish community fled the city, war veterans came home with untreated PTSD, and alcohol/drug addictions became the therapy of choice for the suffering of generations to come.

The evidence — not final, but powerfully persuasive — is that the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling. A middle-class group has managed to save itself, but for vast numbers of the unskilled, poorly educated city working class the fabric of conventional social relationships has all but disintegrated. There are indications that the situation may have been arrested in the past few years, but the general post-war trend is unmistakable. So long as this situation persists, the cycle of poverty and disadvantage will continue to repeat itself.”

–The Moynihan Report 1965

By the time I was born in 1987, West Philadelphia had become a full -blown Ghetto. Surrounded by the love of my family, I would fail to see the role poverty, drug-addiction, and mental illness played in the stagnation of Mama’s vision for love and generational wealth until her death in November of 2009.

In her last days, Mama wrote a prayer that stands testament to the true vision she held for her family:


“In the name of Jesus, help me to help others. When my mouth opens you speak for me. Lord, bless the unwanted children. Bless all the children of the world. Bless my family. Grant me the wisdom to be grateful. God loves you and me. God answers prayer. Tell the devil to turn me loose. Satan be gone, be gone, be gone!”

Madalyn Mae


It is this vision that made me feel very uncomfortable working in traditional finance without an avenue to share my impact with my community. I left Philadelphia in 2005 to study finance, because the world told me money was value and how you measured your worth. I soon found out that the wellbeing of people, human capital, is what really matters, and by the grace of God we are to measure our worth!

Black and Brown people everywhere, especially in America, are undervalued because for centuries we have been measuring ourselves wrong! It is time for us to see ourselves in truth. For too long, we have measured our worth by foreign standards, the white majority unfamiliar with our true history. Instead, we should see ourselves in the strength of our ancestors, like Mama, who fought for our freedom, and the vision of grace, God birthed us into.

Today, August 13, 2015, in honor of Mama’s 100th birthday, I launch The Be.ing Academy, an e-learning and digital coaching platform transforming lives one scripture at a time. Through our spiritual development framework, The Five Pillars of Be.ing, we teach believers in Christ practical application of the Word of God. We are a movement of love empowering each other to be like Christ and live happy on purpose regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or socio-economic background.

The Be.ing Academy is the next evolution of The Clarissa Joan Experience. In the midst of all I’ve been through, my practical application of faith has enabled me to stand unmoved on the vision of excellence set by my ancestors. Seeing my identity in Christ, as a child of God, I am now able to live on purpose according to God’s wisdom, love, and Word. This process of spiritual transformation made available to the 27M self-identified African American Christians plus, I believe, will empower the enhancement of their wellbeing here in America and the world!

I am excited about the next 12-months. I am anticipating a radical shift in social consciousness, and cheers to the next 100 years. Happy Birthday Mama!


For more information about The Be.ing Academy, contact me here cjm@clarissajoan.com



Be. Well,

Clarissa Joan