The Only Woman in the Room,
Quotes and Wisdom for a Fearless Life.
Former advertising and public relations executive, Annette Merritt Cummings, has written a memoir about a career where she was often the only woman and only black person in the room. This book features quotes, wisdom and inspirational hymns and poems she collected over the years that motivated and encouraged her throughout her 30 year career "from the bottom to the top;" from unwed mother to a senior executive and diversity consultant. During the course of her career she was featured in magazine and newspaper articles, facilitated executive briefings, gave speeches, and conducted diversity training sessions for national organizations and Fortune 500 corporations.
Be Fearless, Our Family Motto
My very first childhood memory is sitting on the porch swing with my grandmother listening to her read a poem to me. I was born in the Deep South or Black Belt, in 1946, in Crenshaw County, Alabama, about thirty miles, from Montgomery. The all black community, Helicon, was founded by freed slaves, one was my great grandfather, Henry W. Merritt (known as Old Man Henry). We were isolated and somewhat insulated from Jim Crow Alabama, in our rural community. We did, of course, have to shop and take care of personal business in the cities near our home: Luverne, Troy and Montgomery, where the water fountains, stores, restaurants were segregated by “White” and “Colored.” We lived with my grandparents for a time. My grandmother was a kindergarten and first grade teacher for over forty years (and my first teacher); and my grandfather was a farmer and a respected community leader.
Even though I have traveled far from my “sweet home” Alabama, with its well-water, pecan and chinaberry trees, the smokehouse and yes, outhouse, I still cry when I leave…after every visit. I still remember the red dirt, dusty roads of my childhood and every bend and turn in the road is more familiar to me than any place I have lived since that long ago time.
But they that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength.
They shall mount up with wings as eagles.
They shall run, and not be weary.
They shall walk, and not be faint.
—Isaiah 40:31 (KJV), 8th Century BC, Hebrew Prophet
My favorite Bible verse.
I spent twelve years as a “diversity road warrior,” literally on the road most of the time, working as a consultant, speaker and diversity trainer. I kept this Bible verse framed on my desk and read it at least once a week, to give me strength and insight.
My faith in the power of this particular verse was confirmed by Joshua DuBois, who served as an informal spiritual advisor to President Barack Obama. When asked what is the one piece of advice he would give to would-be leaders? He said, “Read Isaiah 40:3l.”
On the 50th Anniversary of the Selma March and Bloody Sunday, President Obama closed his speech with Isaiah 40:31 and said: “when it feels that the road is too hard and the torch is too heavy, we will remember these early travelers and draw strength from their example and hold firmly to the words of the prophet Isaiah.”
If you take too long in deciding what to do with your life, you’ll find you’ve already done it.
—George Bernard Shaw (1856—1950) Irish dramatist and critic.
Author of Pygmalion (1913), which became the musical, “My Fair Lady”
One of the key inspirations in life is music. My Fair Lady, is one of my favorite musicals and film.
Yes, I love the songs and the story, but I particularly like the idea that with education you can change your life for the better.
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
—James Baldwin (1924—1987),
African-American essayist and novelist
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience which you must stop and look fear in the face...you must do the thing you think you cannot do.
—Eleanor Roosevelt (1894—1962), First Lady, 1933-45, Wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt,
32nd President of U.S., and United Nations Diplomat
Courage, ethical behavior and truth-telling are required in order to live a life that you can be proud of the “living,” during your career and later in life.
No person is your friend who demands your silence; or denies your right to grow.
—Alice Walker (b. 1944),
African-American writer and novelist, and wrote The Color Purple
A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.
—Albert Einstein (1879—1955), German-American, physicist,
and awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921
I have to constantly remind myself that my life has been enhanced by the “labors and sacrifices” of others. Some are living and many are dead. This reflection helps me to go on and push myself to honor those sacrifices.
Annette Merritt Cummings, founder and managing partner of Cummings and Company LLC, has over thirty years of experience in marketing and communications with leading U.S. companies and non-profits, including DuPont, Gannett, and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the Department of Defense. During her advertising and public relations career, clients have included U.S. Army Recruiting Command, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Ohio State University Athletics.
Prior to her retirement as Vice President and National Director of Diversity Services for Bernard Hodes Group, she advised clients on diversity branding, communications and recruitment and retention strategies for over twelve years. Annette served as a featured speaker and conducted numerous workshops and training sessions for many Federal agencies and Fortune 500 corporations. She was a contributing author to the book: On Staffing, Advice and Perspectives from HR Leaders. Annette's most recent workshop was, "The Best of Times, The Worst of Times," Cross-Cultural Communications for the Association of Training and Development (ASTD) South Carolina Midlands Chapter.
Based on her personal interest in history and the arts, Annette is a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Historic Columbia, Columbia Museum of Art and Americans for the Arts. She also volunteers at Historic Columbia and previously served as co-chair of membership for the American Association of University Women, South Carolina (AAUW-SC) and is a lifelong member of the Public Relations Society of America. Annette is an avid reader and belongs to the Richland County Library Sandhills Branch Thursday Book Club; enjoys historic travel; and the visual and performing arts. She recently joined in weekly Bible Study Fellowship sessions. She is a Civil War history buff and a devoted fan of the Cleveland Browns. Her husband, Iran worked as a General Motors district sales manager and is a gifted gardener and gourmet cook. Combined they have three children: Michael, Angela and Tahlia; seven grandchildren; and six great-grand's.