Youlanda Adams Introduction Speech
I am honored to have the privilege of introducing our keynote speaker whose music has not only shaped a generation, but impacted me in such a major way even more so in the past year and a half.
When Nerika Burrows and I began discussing the Women’s Global Leadership Summit, we decided that we needed a keynote speaker. Although Accountants by profession, we enjoy thinking outside of the box so we enlisted the help of Leah Head Rigby, founder of Orlando based PR firm Media Mavens, to discuss her thoughts. Leah came back to us with a few names she thought we could possibly engage. When she discussed the possibility of engaging our next speaker, our mouths dropped and before she could go on I said, “Yes, say no more. Whatever it takes, we have to bring her!”
As a child I listened and enjoyed belting out gospel tunes and at one point long ago, even joined a church choir! (believe it or not) In the Gospel music world, you cannot get very far before one of our speakers songs would come up and listening to her sing with such emotion and meaning fills you with such hope and joy. She always seems to be speaking directly to you. Still I Rise, That Name, This Too Shall Pass, The Battle Is Not Yours, these songs carry within them a divine energy that have the power to heal.
2018 was an extremely difficult time for me. In April 2018 I lost my mother. She was my best friend and my biggest support. Shortly after, there was a very public effort to malign my character. This was disheartening because those who know me know that I have always held myself to the highest professional standards and have never done anything to bring my business or personal ethics into question.
It was during this time that Yolanda’s music took on greater meaning and became a source of deep comfort to me. I recall vividly one morning when Nerika sent me the audio of her song, Fragile Heart, it caused many tears to fall, however, it reminded me that God never gives us more than we can bare. Additionally, “Still I Rise” became my anthem, reassurance that within me was a deep wellspring of strength and resilience.
I also recall that when we were trying to determine dates for the conference, ideally Nerika and I were contemplating September or October. After a bit of back and forth, the AICPA came back the only date they could have it on was December 12th. I was stunned as December 12th is my mom's birthday. I reflected and felt a sense of peace overtake me as I believed then, and even more so now, that this was her way of saying, “Go For it Darnell, I’m with you.” Ironically, when I spoke with Yolanda yesterday and thanked her once again for accepting the invitation to come here to speak to us, she indicated that it was so strange that this day was actually available for her as she has been extremely busy. So I believe it is not by chance, but by fate that Yolanda is here today to bless us with her words of wisdom. So without further adue…….
Please stand and join me in welcoming world renowned singer, record producer, actress, entrepreneur, philanthropist and radio host of her own nationally syndicated morning gospel show and proud mother of daughter Taylor Ayanna Crawford. She has earned numerous accolades including the first American Music Award for Contemporary Gospel Artists, Four Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, Five Grammy Awards, Sixteen Stellar Gospel Music Awards, Seven NAACP Image Awards, Three Soul Train Music Awards and five BET Awards. A woman who is the epitome of humility, grace and perseverance, The First Lady of Gospel Music, Ms. Youlanda Yvette Adams.
Short Story - Aunt Bess
"Do you have any regrets in life aunt Bess?"
"Regrets?" she mused, "Oh heavens no why would anyone have time for those?"
She took another drag of her cigarette and gazed over the balcony at the huge expanse of green forest. I couldn't navigate the expression on her face. Perhaps one of appreciation or, resignation or simply just unfiltered awareness at some deep level of life, so I pushed.
"But haven't you ever done things and looked back wishing that perhaps you'd done it differently or maybe wishing it had turned out another way?"
She took her time. Aunt Bess was never afraid of silence like most people. She never rushed to fill a void, sometimes I felt she was almost more comfortable not saying anything at all. Yet when she spoke it seemed equally as effortless.
She looked at me, with her kind piercing eyes, a deep pool of wisdom that I was so unbelievably hungry to tap into, hoping to understand this mysterious goddess so close to me yet so out of my grasp. Maybe then I could also navigate my adolecense with some semblance of sanity because right now I felt like a lost puppy grasping at anything really.
"Regret, my darling, is for those who have never truly lived. If you have dared, each morning to wake up and live your life to the best of your abilities, then why on earth would you spend time wishing it was something it wasn't. Wishing you could go back, wishing the path was different. You have only to make a decision in a moment then walk that path. And if you one day wake up and find that you no longer desire the path that decision has taken you on, you have only to make another decision that takes you closer to the path you now wish to be on. Then you get up and you walk and you hope that it leads you to your desired destination.
So no darling, if there is one thing you must always have time for in life, that is hope. Hope is by far a much better use of energy than regret. Hope tells us that we can do things differently tomorrow. Always hope."
"What do you hope for aunt Bess?"
She smiled immediately, almost as if she anticipated my question.
"I hope to have many more conversations with my beautiful niece on days like this, when the sun is shining and the view is spectacular and the mimosa's are free flowing. I have lived enough for the both of us, and yet there is still so much living to be done."
With that note she outted her cigarette in a porcelain ash tray no doubt from one of her exotic adventures around the world. Just then her assistant opened the sliding door to remind her of her 9AM conference call.
She got up from her seat, strolled over to me bent down ever so slightly and gave me a kiss on the forehead.
"We'll talk more later puppy," one of her many nicknames for me. I gave her arm a squeeze and watched her walk into the house, the wind catching her blue and green caftan just before she disappeared.
Short Story - Simple Things
It was late. I was restless. too many thoughts to number as usual. So i found myself walking towards the kitchen looking for something to eat and nothing in particular. Just needing something to do. I opened the fridge. Cereal. Muesli and bannas. that seems healthy, oh but wait there's leftovers. hmmm. And then the novel idea that this was my house and my fridge and that was my food so I could eat both and not think anything of it. Besides, no one was there to judge my poor eating habits. My husband was asleep, at least I thought he was.
Until mid way through a mouthful of almond milk and mushy cereal he turned on the light and walked in.
"What're you doing up babe?"
"I couldn't sleep, too much thinking."
"What're you eating?"
"Sweden," I mused.
He chuckled. "How's it taste?"
I looked up, "like mushy uncooked oats."
"Why don't I fix you something with a little different flavor."
"America doesn't really have a taste, it's just a big cluster mess of other places so really how could you define, America in a dish?"
I loved the meaningless banter. Loved having someone here, who didn't intrude, who didn't judge they just existed with me.
"You can't get more American than grilled cheese with American cheese, I mean they spell it for us."
He rumaged through the fridge looking for ingredients even after he got the basics. Nothing this man ever made was basic. He could make chocolate milk taste like you were sipping an elixir from some exotic palace in a place with syllaballs you can't pronounce.
So he started mixing his magic, and I sat and watched in silence. They say sometimes, when you reach a certain depth of love, two people don't even have to speak audibly to understand each other, they're so close their hearts do the talking. That's me and James.
It was only 15 minutes or so before I had this masterpiece sitting in front of me waiting to be devoured. I looked at him, he looked content that I was content. He grabed his plate and pulled up the chair next to me and we sipped the glass of milk he poured while we waited for the sandwiches to cool. Then we ate. sometimes in silence, sometimes light banter. And in that moment this house felt so full, because there was so much love. So much camaraderie and a genuine pleasure from two people who actually thoroughly enjoyed each others company. When we were done, I collected the plates rinsed them out and put them in the dishwasher, then I sat back down to finish the last bit of my milk.
We talked some more, about everything and nothing in particular. Then, after time had passed and the food should be settled in our tummies, he looked over at me and said.
"How do you feel?" He said.
I looked at him, smiled in gratitude.
With that he got up, walked around to the front of my chair, scooped me up and said, alright princess, time for bed. I loved it when he called me princess, and he always knew just when I wanted to be a princess instead of a queen. Queens have responsibilities, duties, worries. Princesses are taken care of and having someone who lets me be the princess, someone who loves me like a princess when that's how I need to be loved. That is priceless.
He stopped for me to turn off the light and we headed back to our room. And like that, all those spinning thoughts in my head had calmed and all that was left was the quiet hum of my beating heart against his as we drifted back sleep.