We live in an age of influence and influencers. From the best beauty products and latest tech gadgets to the best hacks to lose weight, fold a fitted sheet or practice mindfulness. Seems like more and more people have something to share, teach, sell and ultimately influence. And we as consumers, can’t get enough. Between the follows, the shares, the downloads, the endless reel watching, we are here for it all.
The thing I noticed about influencers lately is their focus on the here and now. The next best product or service for you to buy. The next best trend to start. The next best challenge to record. The next best hack to try.
But what about those influencers who have had a steady, long-standing presence? Those who have been in the forefront as well as in the background, not convincing people what to do or buy next, but who have shared their past experiences, helped someone upskill, mentioned someone’s name when they’re not in the room for them to be considered for an opportunity, poured into someone’s development, or impacted someone’s career choices and trajectory?
Unlike the influencers of today who can be found on any and every platform, these enduring influencers don’t require a platform because the life they have led and continue to lead are evidence enough of being influential. In fact, dare I say, these individuals’ life choices and experiences woven together create a beautiful tapestry of not only influence but of legacy. This type of legacy was cultivated by intentionally investing their influence to affect positive change, community impact and the personal advancement of others.
It is these types of influencers and legacy wielders that were on full display and celebrated at the 25th Anniversary AACUC Annual Conference. And trust me, everyone present couldn’t get enough!
Legacy was infused in every aspect of the conference experience – from the 25th Anniversary Legacy Jingle sing-a-long to each precious Legacy Lesson served up by established and emerging legends like Maurice R. Smith, Beverly Anderson of BECU, John Bratsakis of MD|DC Credit Union Association, Ronaldo Hardy of NACUSO, Emma Hayes of SECU, and James Pogue of JP Enterprises.
I loved seeing the legacy connection between our first-time attendees – nearly 200 – and AACUC’s oral history – shared by co-founder Michael Hale, long-time ambassador Harold Holmes of PFP, and President/CEO Renée Sattiewhite – and AACUC’s visual history in the AACUC Legacy Museum prepared by Dawn White Brewer. The historical perspectives and charge to keep moving progress forward were articulated by AACUC co-founders and distinguished award recipients Sheilah Montgomery, Bert J. Hash, Jr., Goldie Randle, Louisiana Sanders and Latonya Allen.
And of course, in AACUC style to give people their flowers in due season, inducting seven new African American Credit Union Hall of Fame honorees (Marshall Boutwell, Delores Glover, Rodney E. Hood, Adrian S. Johnson, Jacqueline Moore, Gary A. Officer, Larry D. Sewell), celebrating four inaugural Maurice R. Smith DEI Leadership Award recipients (Juan Fernandez, Gigi Hyland, Diane Rector, Martin Eakes, and Self-Help Credit Union), and ACCOSCA honoring Renée Sattiewhite with its exclusive Distinguished Service Award, provided pivotal legacy moments during the multi-day affair.
Honoring our legacy members – those who have been part of AACUC for more than 20 years, including past board members – was the highlight of the event. It’s because of these members and founders that the vision for the organization was established and the organization survives and thrives today. Our sincerest gratitude to: Sandra DeVoe Bland, Pete Crear, Isaac Dickson, Michael Hale, Bert J. Hash Jr., Harold Holmes, Sheilah Montgomery, Frederick Pellum, Goldie Randle, Diane Rector, Girado Smith, David Sussman, Alonzo Swann, Calvin Tucker, Louisiana Wright Sanders.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Mr. William “Bill” Porter: retired President/CEO of Municipal Credit Union in New York, the first African-American CEO to build and lead a credit union with more than one billion dollars in assets, and 2021 African American Credit Union Hall of Fame Honoree. Mr. Porter’s legacy was impactful to AACUC in helping elevate the brand and professionalism of the organization and being a mentor to then AACUC Executive Director Renée Sattiewhite. The entire AACUC family is grateful for his sustaining service and support, his impeccable character, and his imperishable influence on the lives he touched.
Our aim was to “storm Stone Mountain” and see it from a different perspective of healing and power. Mission accomplished. Reading phrases like “inspirational,” “one of my favorite weeks of the year,” “priceless leadership nuggets,” “enlightening,” and “blessed my credit union soul” on social media reinforces why AACUC does what it does, the way it does.
AACUC’s legacy is one of celebrating – rather than tolerating – each other, commonalities and differences. It’s one of empowerment and joy. It’s one of putting in the hard work, the uncomfortable moments and sometimes the unpopular conversations. It’s one that’s crafted by every single member and supporter, no matter how long you’ve been with the organization.
I’ve surmised that influence can exist without legacy, but legacy can’t exist without influence. Influence doesn’t always have to be loud, seen and obvious. Influence can happen in the quietest spaces with the least known people, but it must be done with an intentional heart. The legacy throughline for me during the conference was sincerity, authenticity, family, perseverance, service, and something bigger than yourself. May we all be fortunate and blessed to leave a legacy worth admiring.