By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
When my friend, mentor, renaissance man and accomplished author Ralph Wiley passed away his obituary read, “The Key To Life Is The Ability To Adjust. You Must Do So Until You Die.” These words have come to personify survival of 2020.
Persistence, resilience, creativity and multiple revenue streams are what helped those who survived the most trying year of this century. Those who were able to remain steadfast to their ideals and creative enough to develop innovative personal and professional approaches to what has become known as the new normal, are those who are left standing as the world tries to throw its knockout blows throughout one of the toughest years of my life.
I did realize, however, that during the darkest of times, there is the promise of hope. Often when you establish the precedence of excellence and despite being undervalued and marginalized in social or professional environments, your game will speak for itself and that is priceless. Prior to 2020 the world was driven by social relationships leading to professional opportunities where many got paid, but their jobs were phased out.
Having watched many who played the game by pushing paperwork and counting beans lose their jobs, strengthened my personal resilience to create my own opportunities. My students at Prince George’s Community College taught me how the daunting task of being a technology-based content creator will lead to my sustainability as an effective communicator.
The lessons learned through the adversity of this year have brought moments of clarity. There was a time when you could ride or follow the curve and remain viable in the “game.” Now you have to play from ahead. Riding the curve is now the equivalent to being a hamster on a treadmill. You’ll find yourself running very hard and going nowhere fast, ultimately never being noticed despite the effort.
When Steph Curry donated $6 million to Howard University I had a conversation with Roland Martin. Martin, who may be the most influential Black journalist in America, shared the story with me of how he ventured into the world of entrepreneurial journalism. When he left Urban One Martin said, “I knew I would succeed because I bet on me.” So I launched my podcast “The SportsGroove 2.0” on Heritage Sports Radio Network banking on me.
I created the “Gray Area” segments to deal with news and other important issues. I now also have created a platform called “HBCU Conversations” where we talk to the movers and shakers in the Black College community about issues relevant to them. On a $0.00 investment I was able to launch, thanks to three Black businessmen who took a chance – and said “I believe in Mark Gray so make it happen.” Another offered me free office space allowing a place to create my virtual studio for production purposes.
Remaining “true to the game” has taken a whole new meaning because the rules of engagement are now different. The game now embraces technology and the recognition of just how important it is to not only be cyber literate, but to recognize how to use the multimedia platforms as profit making possibilities. Ironically, there are still those who are reluctant to embrace the revenue streams that are tied to technology.
After nearly a quarter century in radio at both network and major markets, I was reluctant to get back into that side of the business. However, the pandemic gave me the same chance to pause and recognize how to create a platform for conversation. I had done a podcast for a fairly prominent website, but was reluctant to revisit the medium that has been proliferated by professional imposters. But when you have credibility, you have a voice and when your fans embrace you from days gone, it restores your faith in yourself and it gives you hope.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the largest civil rights movement history will mark the remembrances of 2020. I will remember how this year has forced me to step out on faith and bet on me.