Bridget “Biddy” Mason was a slave born in either Georgia or Mississippi (historians differ on this). As a slave, she had no rights, no formal education and no voice. What she did have was patience, a strategic mindset and a knack for capitalizing on situations at the right time.
As a slave, Biddy moved several times with her master. One of those moves led her to California. At the time, California was a free state, so slavery was forbidden. Biddy made friends in Los Angeles (LA) who helped her petition the court for her freedom and she won. She also won freedom for her daughters.
Biddy then moved to LA and found work as a nurse and midwife using the skills she learned on the plantation. Biddy was prudent with her money. After about 10-years, she became one of the first black women to own land in LA.
She sold a small piece of that land for $1,500. She then built a commercial building, that she used to rent space. Due to wise business decisions, Biddy amassed a fortune worth $300,000. The work she did as a midwife and nurse enabled her to become financially independent. She also became a founding member of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles in 1872.
Why are we talking about Biddy Mason, you ask? Well, she represents activism, hard work, determination, encouragement, personal accountability and power. She was tactical, intentional and smart. She acted when the time was right and it served her best interests. I learned a lot from Biddy.
Biddy represents personal accountability. She didn’t allow her physical enslavement to enslave her mind or hinder her progress. She wasn’t deterred by her situation. She capitalized on it. She worked hard using the skills she learned from midwifery and herbal medicine to earn money. She saved that money, bought property and used that property to make a profit. Biddy taught me personal accountability. If I want more money, I have to have an abundance mindset and be a better steward over the money I have - spend less, save and invest more.
Use Your Power Wisely
Power can be complicated and deceptive. In its simplest form, power is having the capacity to influence the behavior of another person or course of events. It can be the power of leaders over their employees, coaches over players and even police officers over citizens.
When used in the interest of others, power can be a positive, building energy. Think of using your influence to help those in your community by supporting the elderly, advocating for the mentally ill or improving the education of our children. Using your influence in these ways is beneficial to everyone involved.
The adverse effect of power is seen when people use it to rule, muscle and dominate. It has a damaging effect on the person in power and the people around them. It’s destructive, forceful and sets negative events in motion.
Find Your Voice
As a slave, Biddy didn’t have a voice. She couldn’t express what or how she felt. A part of the restlessness that we see today is due to people feeling frustrated, powerless and not having a voice. I remember being in relationships and jobs, where I felt like what I said didn’t matter. I internalized my emotions. Most times when I did express them, a flood gate broke and not necessarily on the intended target.
Because I felt like my voice didn’t matter, over time I stopped using it. It was subtle in the beginning. I wouldn’t share my opinions on small matters, but then it spiraled into something greater – feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. This helplessness and hopelessness gave way to victim and combative thinking.
I now know that the reason I felt powerless was because of me. No one took my voice. I gave it away. I chose to suffer in silence. I chose to internalize my feelings, be wounded and then get mad because I felt weak and defenseless. I assigned values of good, bad, right and wrong to my situations.
When I learned to take the emotions out of my situations and look at the facts, I saw things more clearly. It took a long time for me to get here. A long time to accept that whatever state my life is in is because I chose it. It’s a hard pill to swallow because then the responsibility of my life, fell solely on me. I can't make excuses and play the blame game anymore. I am the blame.
I got my voice back by learning to empower myself and be accountable for my emotions. Biddy didn’t have a voice, but I do. How I choose to exercise it (or not) is up to me.
Be Determined and Undeterred
Biddy was determined and undeterred. I have those qualities too. I don’t just complain about things. I change them. I work in my passion, learn new skills and further develop the ones I have. I don’t give up. I reassess, recalibrate and restart, but giving up is not optional!
Capitalize on Opportunities
Biddy capitalized on situations. She learned to be a nurse and midwife. She petitioned for her freedom and her daughters. She saved her money and invested in real estate. She sold part of that real estate for a profit. Everything was done at the right time, because she capitalized on opportunities when they came her way.
I look for opportunities to capitalize on. I take free classes. Listen to podcasts. Heed the advice of others. I look at situations as ways to learn and grow myself, my business and my money. Key questions I ask myself: What can I learn from this situation? Who can I leverage for help? How can I look at this differently?
“If you hold your hand closed, nothing good can come in. The open hand is blessed, for it gives in abundance, even as it receives.”
Take your hand and close it. What do you notice? It’s rigid and tight. There’s little room for anything to get in or out. Now open your hand. It feels soft and subtle. It’s relaxed, free and open, so you can receive things.
Life is a lot like your open and closed hand. When you close yourself off from the world, you close yourself off from opportunity. When you open yourself up to the world, it allows abundance to flow freely.
Biddy is right. The open hand is blessed and it gives way to an open heart where friendship and love, joy and peace and riches and wealth beyond measure are found. I'd "Bet on Biddy" every time!
Latarsha Horne is a Certified Professional Coach with a strong background in learning and development. Her coaching style is open-minded, straight-forward, instinctive, creative and caring. If you want to be challenged and grow, she's the coach for you.