As a young African American man, I was moved to tears as I witnessed a black man become president of the United States. Even though our community has made tremendous strides in many areas, there are many areas that still require a great deal of improvement. This assessment made it difficult for me to see an african american winning the presidency in my lifetime. But, I am glad to see that I was wrong.

What does this victory mean to me?

As a young child of immigrant Jamaica parents, I experienced firsthand the struggles of poverty, which was and still is endemic to much of the world's minority community. I witnessed drug dealers and drug users on my block's corner. I witnessed violence in my schoolyard and on the trains as I made my daily commute to within the concrete jungle of New York City. I witnessed my mother struggle to raise three children in section-8 housing. Struggle was my worldview, my reality. Being treated as less than an equal citizen in this great country was commonplace to me as a young adult, as black men were often vilified in the media. However, I chose not to simply accept the status quo attributed to young black boys from the hood. Instead, I dared to dream and strive to be someone unlike anyone I had ever seen in my neighborhood. I wanted to be someone for which there was no blueprint, no role model. Maybe my will to succeed came from my learning, understanding, and appreciating the struggles, leadership, and achievements of my ancestors.

Throughout my life, I have studied, watched footage, and heard about the struggles of blacks from the slave trade, to life on the plantation, to segregation, to the fight for equality during the Civil Rights movement. I have always admired the struggle, courage, hope, sacrifice, and leadership of my people, and have always been amazed at those that access their inner strength when faced with great adversity. This knowledge of my ancestors' inner strength brought forth an awareness of my inner strength and a great sense of pride for all who have stood up in the face of adversity. For this gift, I must say thank you.

· Thank you, Harriet.
· Thank you, Fredrick.
· Thank you, Martin.
· Thank you, Nelson.
· Thank you, Jesse.
· And now, thank you, Barack.
· Thank you to all my ancestors as well as all of those who crusaded for equality and justice.
· Thank you for paving the road for me, as well as all of those that will come after me.
· Thank you for your sustained fight against oppression.
· Thank you for fighting for your dignity, which is what gives me mine.
· Thank you for teaching me that life is not always a pretty road, but amazing things can be achieved if you keep working towards a worthwhile goal.
· Thank you for sacrificing your life (in some cases) for that of future generations, so that we eventually witness something as amazing a black man rising to the most powerful office in the world.

I realize that it is now on our generation to keep pushing, just as you did. It is on us to redefine the perceptions that the world has about our community's desires and dreams. I would like to conclude by saying that even though there is still much work to be done, I hope that Barack Obama's election has allowed some of your souls to rest in peace, as you as well as President-elect Obama have shown the world that through courage and leadership we can all do amazing things.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Barrett has an earned PhD in applied management and decision sciences, with a specialization in leadership and organizational change. He also holds a MS in organizational leadership and a BS in organizational management. In addition to these degrees, Dr. Barrett has completed several executive certificates focusing on various areas of management and leadership development.

Dr. Barrett is proud of his academic accomplishments, as they are the product of his long and sometimes difficult journey out of poverty. Along his journey, Dr. Barrett served honorably in the U.S. Air Force, participating in several vital overseas operations in the Middle East and Europe. He has also taught organizational leadership courses at the graduate degree level at Mercy College. This desire to develop leadership whether it be in myself or others is what drives Dr. Barrett. Dr. Barrett currently lives in NYC, where he runs The Barrett Center for Leadership Development, LLC and produces The Barrett Leadership Blog.