How Would Dr. King Feel If He Came Back Today?

Photo shoot 1 017 (resized)Today we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. A day truly deserving of celebration. We will be inundated with an endless array of powerful quotes, facts about his life, and undoubtedly innumerable references to the movie “Selma”. All of which are due a man the caliber of Dr. King. But are we TRULY showing respect, or just giving in to the moment and making ubiquitous posts. I can not, nor do I desire to, judge the heart of any particular person posting what they choose on their chosen social media platform. But what I CAN do is make a observation of social trends and behaviors.

Let me preface by saying, I truly expect a backlash for this post. But, I’m ok with that. It won’t be the first, or the last, time. Here’s what I surmise. Today we’ll read EVERY powerful quote Martin Luther King ever made. Tomorrow, we’ll act like we’ve never heard of him. This is the unfortunate truth. Tomorrow we will go back to living our lives and doing the same things we always do. This is really sad. When I listen to the speeches of Dr. King and what he wanted from society, I look at today and I ask myself, “Would he be happy, or disappointed, if he could come back for one day?” I think both. America has made some incredible improvements since his assassination. Blacks can go to any school they want. We can sit, eat, pray, party, and work wherever we want. We are (at least on paper) equal as a society. Not only can little black boys and little white girls be friends; they can date, marry (or not) and produce bi-racial babies that can become President of the United States. On THAT front, I think he would not only be pleased. He would be overwhelmed! We have what he always wanted; a chance to be treated equal.

But I also think he would be beyond disappointed. The way we use “the N-word” to describe each other. The way we refer to women as “B”s and “H”s in music and television. The number of children raised in single family homes. The legislation that is engineered to create and maintain an invisible, but very real, ceiling on minorities. And the barely digestible trash we produce for ourselves on television (IE Real Housewives of LA, NJ AND ATL, Love and Hip Hop, Basketball Wives, The Bachelor/ Bachelorette and a host of others). I wonder how he would feel to know that parts of our society is completely fine with reality TV shows that depict African American women as catty, argumentative, and overly aggressive drama queens that are more likely to get into a fight at a fine dining establishment than pay the bill. Yet they are appalled and insulted once the SAME type of show involves their Greek letter organizations. What does it say when we are more upset to have our organizations demeaned, than our character as a people. What does that say about our pride as people. As Americans, and as Christians (or whatever faith you practice). If Dr. King spent a complete day with any one of us, at the end of the day would he say, “You make me proud.” or “You break my heart.”? I know many of us aren’t going to be honest with that question. But deep inside, you know the truth.

If we REALLY want to respect not only Dr. King, but ALL of the brave men and women, black and white, that fought, bled, cried and died ALL to have equal rights, we must be respectful to each other, as we want others to respect us. We need to stop bringing ourselves down as a nation, as a society and as a culture. We must stop being afraid of each other as blacks and whites, and start spending more time getting to know each other. Most fear doesn’t come from actual danger, it comes from lack of personal, first-hand encounters. We should stop striving to be better than the community, and make the community better. Just because we have a African American president DOES NOT make America “post-racial”. It’s ironic that I’ve never heard a person say that that actually VOTED for President Obama.

America has made amazing inroads towards racial relations. With each generation, race becomes less of an issue. Many of the racial obstacles that once hindered minorities from advancing have all but been eliminated. But some were placed onto others. We’ve now turned our hatred towards homosexuals, Muslims, and Hispanics. They deserve the same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the rest of us. We don’t have to always agree with each other’s opinions, religions, or politics. But we should, at least, respect them. And we cannot vilify an entire race or religion for the inhumane, and egregious, actions of a radical few. After all, when we look back out our own histories, EVERY race has had some radicals that we do not want to be connected to. Treat others as we would have them treat you. At the end of the day, that’s all Dr. King was dreaming about. Equality. It’s that simple. If you REALLY want to show respect to Dr. King on his day, get out of your comfort zone and talk to someone that isn’t like you. If you’re straight, talk to a homosexual. If your Christian go talk to a Muslim. Who knows, you may walk away with a new friend. And God would be pleased. Until next time….

God bless and dress well.

William Wilson, CEO

William Wilson Clothing

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Making Less Doesn’t Make YOU Less

Photo shoot 1 017 (resized)I’ve been blessed to live a life I never imagined. Just last weekend, I met the Ambassador of Switzerland. My life, through my business, has afforded me some great privileges. But the biggest privilege isn’t the money, the access or the networking. It’s information and clarity.

It amazes me just how highfalutin and pretentious people get when they get a little bit of money. Suddenly their stomachs can’t handle fast food, or Olive Garden. Wal-Mart is “too ghetto”. Outback is beneath them. Their coffee needs to have a 7 word name with a $6 price tag. Seriously! Who exactly are you? Who are you to look down on the lives of hard working people? When did you become better than your parents? Better yet, when did you forget where you came from?

I didn’t grow up with a lot of money. I never went hungry. I always got new school clothes, and I always got gifts for Christmas. I never went without the things I needed. But I didn’t have many of the “extras” other had. I bought my first pair of Nikes AND my first vehicle. I put myself through school. And  I’ve eaten so many packages of Ramen Noodles, that I could teach a culinary class at Johnson and Wales. I’ve worked since I was 12 years old. I mowed lawns, washed cars, I even sold candy in elementary school; anything I could to legally make money.

I looked forward to going to Searcy (a town in Arkansas about 30 mins from my house) because there was a chance we would stop at McDonalds or Pizza Hut! I LOVED McDonalds burgers and fries. And don’t even get me started on the shakes! When I joined the Navy, I was able to go to even more restaurants like Outback, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster; in addition to McDonalds and Pizza Hut. I was totally fine with that. And my friends were too. They didn’t come from money either, and they were as thankful as I was.

Since reaching a certain “level” of success, I meet a lot of people that turn their nose up at these places. Oddly, it’s not even the rich people that do it. It’s the people that are just starting to make a little money. Many of which are living check to check, or stay home while their spouse works. Somehow, THEY are “too good”. They weren’t “too good” when they were kids, but now they are. They roll their eyes when you mention Red Lobster, Longhorn or Waffle House. They make fun of Wal-Mart shoppers because Wal-Mart is “beneath them”. They  go to Target – which they arrogantly pronounce Tarjey (like that makes it different from any other big box department store selling cheap goods). And don’t be a woman wearing the wrong purse or shoes. If you don’t have “name brand”, or can’t afford to eat or shop at “nice places”, they treat you as less than. What’s even MORE ironic i the ones that have the MOST to say usually aren’t even the ones paying the bill. But we won’t discuss that today.

The Bible warns us not to despise humble beginnings. There is nothing wrong with eating at “chain restaurants”. Shopping at Wal-Mart doesn’t make you less than anyone else. There are “ghetto people” in Target, just like there are in Wal-Mart. (BTW the average product at Wal Mart is 4 cents MORE EXPENSIVE than Target (just saying). Just because your bank account is increasing doesn’t make you too good to eat, shop, stay, and drive the same places and things everyone else does. There’s nothing wrong with eating or shopping anywhere you choose to eat or shop. But when you look down on those places, or the patrons that shop there, that’s VERY wrong. Be careful looking down on those who have less than you. After all, that’s probably how others once looked at YOU.

William Wilson, CEO William Wilson Clothing

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Before I Got All I Have, I Lost All I Had

William Wilson ThinkingI’m a living success story. I have everything I need, and more than I dreamed of. Some would say I have it all.

But before I got all of this, I lost everything. Before William Wilson Clothing, I owned a residential framing company called Arka-Mex. We framed custom homes that were over 8,000 square feet. So you see, before I even knew it, God had me working in custom. Anyway, my construction company was very successful. I was playing 2 rounds of golf a day, 4 days a week, and I had plenty of cash. Things were good. Then 2008 hit, and the economy crashed. I had already been planning William Wilson Clothing, and had saved over $85,000.00 to launch it the right way. But when the market crashed, the bottom fell out fast.

One day, one of my employees called me and told me he couldn’t reach of the builder to order more lumber. I tried and couldn’t reach him either. So I drove up to their offices. No one was there. “No biggie”, I thought to myself. “Maybe they are having a company outing. I’ll try them tomorrow.” The next day, I drove to the office again; no one was there. I looked through the windows, and the computers are gone. Everything is gone. Without warning, notification or explanation. They just closed shop, without paying anyone. I obviously wasnt going to get paid. But I had 2 weeks payroll to cover. $$82,385 to be exact. What was I going to do? These guys had done everything I’d asked for the last 2 weeks, and they deserved to be paid. I only had one choice. I paid them out of my own pocket. I’d saved up $85,000.00 to start this company. But after paying every one, I had $2,616.00. Not to mention, a $1345 mortgage, utilities, gas and groceries to buy. I had no work to do. I had lost everything. I don’t come from a rich family, so I had no one to bail me out. I was stuck.

So-with the last money I had, I bought a website building program, printed some business cards, went to Panera Bread in Ballantyne Village and started planning William Wilson Clothing. I was there everyday from open to close, for weeks. Building my website, doing research, and meeting with everyone I could. I taught myself the clothing industry, PR, marketing, branding, sales, and infrastructure building. I couldn’t afford consultants, so I had to learn to do it myself. One day, my friend, former Carolina Panther, Al Wallace gave me the opportunity to make him 2 sport coats. This led to me making suits for Mike Minter. Over time, I began making suits for more and more celebrities and athletes. The brand started to grow. Since I was still new to the business, I figured I should work to my strength. I would focus first on selling to the black community. After all, these are “my people” right? I figured, white people didn’t know anything about me, but at least “my people” would give me a chance. Especially the ones that are always talking about “giving back to the community” and “supporting black business”. But that was not the case. Not by a long shot. I was doing some leadership consulting on the side to make ends meet, and had a nice little celebrity client list growing. Things were slowly turning around. I figured eventually “my people” would start buying from me. With the money I WAS making, I started reinvesting into the business; in hopes of growing. Then it happened again. For 2 months, I didn’t sell a single suit. Not one! I made NO money. Everything I had saved went to pay my bills. I was down to $13.77 in the bank. I had 2 choices. Get off my butt or sit on it. I made a decision. This was the last time I was going to have less in the bank than a 2 topping pizza costs.

So I got up. And I decided to take a chance and widen my net. I went to every networking event, business meeting, luncheon, or anything I could find where people wore suits. I couldn’t afford to keep living like I was. I passed out cards, shook hands and smiled in the daytime. And I prayed, worried and often cried myself to sleep at night. I couldn’t believe I was broke again! But I kept going. And things started to change.

White people started to hear about me. And they started to buy my suits. And they kept buying them. And they started sending me referrals. I know some of my black brothers and sisters may not like that I pointed that out, but it’s the truth. I have to give credit where it is due. God blesses us how He sees fit; not how we expect Him to. I thought selling to “my people” would be easy. Especially after I started to get some brand recognition. But that didn’t happen. That’s not to say that I didn’t have ANY black clients. I did. But the data spoke volumes. Less than 5% of my black clients were non-athletes. My bills were being paid by white people. To this day, that is still the case. Less than 10% of my black clients are non-athletes. And I appreciate them JUST as much as I appreciate the rest of my clients. No more-no less.

Anyway, my bank account started to grow. And I began to sleep better at night. I kept selling more suits. I began to get more press, more social media presence, and more speaking engagements. I built some strong strategic partnerships, and became a philanthropist. Life had finally  started getting better. I woke up one day, and I realized, I was living the exact life I was hoping for, when I moved to Charlotte. I have not reached the top, but I can honestly say, I have everything I need. A healthy relationship with God (though I could do much better), great friends that love and support me, respect in the community, my family is healthy, and the ability to eat bologna and Ramen noodles by choice, not by circumstance. I have everything I want. But before I got here, I lost everything I had. There is nothing special about me. There’s nothing I did, that you can’t do. Just don’t give up. And don’t think outside the box. Use the box to store memories while you build a better life for yourself.

A Veteran’s Day Letter From a Sailor

A letter from a Sailor,
My name is William Wilson. I don’t not call myself a former sailor. Because once a sailor, always a sailor. Today we show respect and honor to those that signed their names on the dotted line and said “I don’t know you. I may never get to know you. We may never be friends. I may never even meet you. But I promise to defend you with my life. I promise to lay my life on the line to protect you from enemies that may want to harm you. I do so knowing we may not agree politically. You may never invite you into your home because you hate me because of my race, my gender, my religion or my sexual orientation. All of these things may be true, but I will still die for you. I will die so you can live. I will lay down my life because you are worth it. I am a sailor, airman, soldier or marine. I will defend you . When look out into the ocean you may not see me, but I’m there. When you look into the sky, I will be there. When you look to the hills and valleys, I will be there. I will be there because that is where I need to be to keep you safe. And if I don’t make it back. Just honor my brothers and sisters that are still there protecting you. Pray for the one that took my fallen place. Pray for the next in line. I don’t need you to applaud me. Just respect me.”Veterans funeral

As a proud former member of the United States Navy, I ask no special privileges. I don’t need parades. And though I appreciate them, I don’t even need thank you’s. I only ask of you one thing. Respect the sacrifice that myself and my brothers and sisters and were willing to make; even though we didn’t know you. Please don’t disrespect our actions and circumstances by calling athletes “warriors” and “soldiers”. Playing a game IS NOT even similar to going to war. There are no referees, clocks and time outs on the battlefield. After we accomplish our mission we don’t simulate ripping open our shirt to portray we’re Superman, kiss our biceps, spin our weapons like a top, or flex our muscles. We don’t do a celebratory dance on field of battle, because chances are one of our brothers or sisters we laughed with this morning didn’t make it to see the night. If we do our job exceptionally well, we do not renegotiate our contracts. We just thank God we may it through the day, and hope we can do it again tomorrow. We go to sleep and wake up everyday just wanting to go to sleep and wake up again tomorrow. And we hope to repeat the process until we finally get to go home. And when we get home, we just ask that you not forget the ones that are still there. And we ask that you don’t forget that though you may turn your nose up at Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Atheists when you see them in your neighborhood, they are also the ones fighting, shooting, crying and dying while you’re safely at home in bed.

So I just ask,as a military man, as a service man, as a NAVY MAN. Save the military euphemisms for those who earned it. Save it for the proud members of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, the Coast Guard and the National Guards of all branches. And save it for the members of the Naval Academy, West Point, the Air Force Academy, and Coast Guard Academy. They are studying and counting down the days until they are in the air, in the field, or in the fleet.

Just respect them. Thank them. And remember them in your prayers.
Fair winds and following seas.
William Wilson