Home » Blog » “Art is the closest we can come to understanding how a stranger really feels.”

Roger Ebert

“Art is the closest we can come to understanding how a stranger really feels.”

Roger Ebert

Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker

Madam C.J. Walker, a 19th-century African American entrepreneur, who became the first female self-made millionaire in the U.S. exemplified courage, inspiration, and persistence as she grappled with adversity and many hardships to become a strong leader and spokeswoman for African American entrepreneurs and businesswomen.

In the Netflix miniseries Self-Made, we witness the qualities it took for her to face prejudice, personal hardship, jealousy, and even sabatoge to become the first female self-made millionaire. Despite fictionalization of some details of C.J.’s life story, the emotions evoked portray the strength of character and tenacity she employed to blaze the trail for others to follow.

“I had to make my own living and make my own opportunity. But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.” Madam C.J. Walker

In contrast, “When They Saw Us” is a gripping and intense retelling of five black and latino youths who were wrongfully accused and savagely coerced into confessing to a horrific and brutal Central Park rape in 1989. Ava DuVernay’s powerful drama compels us to witness how the police, news media, and lawyers failed to protect and offer justice to all under the Constitution of the United States and our flag.

The boys, aged 14 to 16, were railroaded into false confessions by police and the prosecutor during 18 plus hours long interrogations that included physical and psychological abuse while isolating the boys from their parents and guardians.

Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise were convicted and served six to 13 years in prison. In 2002, a serial rapist and murderer Matias Reyes confessed that he alone raped Trisha Meili and DNA evidence found at the scene validated the truth. The five men were exonerated of all crime in 2002 and awarded $41 million in a Civil Rights lawsuit in 2014.

“The criminal justice system says that you’re innocent until proven guilty. But if you’re black or brown, you are guilty and have to prove yourself innocent. And I think that is the difference, that two Americas that is often talked about.” Yusef Salaam

Bridging the divide in society, our culture, and the institutions that provide the structure of American life requires us to listen and learn about different cultures and viewpoints. Contact me to start the conversation regarding what you can do as a leader in bridging the divide. Start your change journey NOW! karen@haleyallenassociates.com


Karen Haley Allen, M.A., is an international leadership coach and retreat facilitator. A former leadership and global business instructor at UC Berkeley, Dominican University and ITU, she founded HALEY ALLEN ASSOCIATES – “Our mission is to challenge and empower leaders and their teams to align their deepest values with business results.”