From Chicken Soup for the African American Soul


I pray each day, that I not stand in my way, so that I can do what I have been created to do . . . I keep remembering it isn’t just about me, it’s about who I touch.

Lisa Nichols

When I was first asked to submit a proposal to coauthor Chicken Soup for the African American Soul, I had two challenges that needed to be resolved before I could move forward with this awesome project and opportunity. First, I had a challenge with considering myself a writer. I believed my college English professor when she failed me in her class, saying, “Lisa, you are the weakest writer I have ever met in my entire life.” I promptly began a career in speaking and successfully avoided any profound writing. Therefore, the thought of being a coauthor for Chicken Soup for the African American Soul—to be read by the millions of people who love and respect the series—did not ring possible in my mind. During six months of procrastinating, a close friend repeatedly said, “Lisa, if you can speak powerfully, then you can write powerfully.” I finally chose to break through my self-doubt and self-dialogue and pursue the opportunity. I started by writing my own stories and, much to my relief, I discovered that my English teacher had inaccurately assessed me.

I now know who I am to be responsible for this project:
Education, preparation, motivation,
With a dedication to my community.
Public speaking is my occupation,
School of hard knocks is my certification.
People of color are my orientation,
Yes, folks, you can speak to me later for clarification.

I speak bold, I speak strong, I am three wrapped in one
Malcolm X’s desire for cultural cultivation,
Martin Luther King’s yearning for total liberation,
And I do it all with a smile, with God’s motivation.
There is a great mother figure wrapped around my tongue,
She helps clarify the three-n-one,
She leads me, she guides me,
She lets me know which way to go
Beside my three-n-one sits Mrs. Maya Angelou.
I’m Lisa Nichols and I am on my way.
Listen closely, you will hear me another day,
For I represent the strong people of color that are here to stay.

My second challenge was that I needed to know this wasn’t just “another book” for Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen and that these men (both white guys) had an authentic emotional or heart connection to what this book offered to African Americans. I needed to know that the production of this book offered something significant in terms of celebration, healing and the opportunity to share our culture, and that it would contribute to our children, literacy, economics and other areas of systemic change and advancement. My life has been about personal and cultural empowerment, so before I could enter into a contractual agreement to dedicate every free moment and several years of my life to this project, I had to look Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen in the eyes and personally understand their intentions.

After meeting several times with Jack, his conviction and personal passion for this project were clear to me. His amazing fight to teach African American children their history and worth started over twenty years ago when he was a teacher in an all-black school in Chicago. His eyes clearly said that though his commitment to stand for change had returned to him some great personal pains and hurt, he would do it all again to make a difference—as would we. Then I met Mark and saw firsthand, that through his life of celebrating, learning and spiritual growth, he understands our cultural differences but chooses to focus on our human similarities. I could comfortably say I saw character, integrity, authentic compassion and respect in both of my soon-to-be colleagues. Knowing a percentage of the proceeds from book sales would be given to the Tom Joyner Foundation to financially assist African American college students, I had what I needed to move forward. The result is this phenomenal collection of stories—in our words—celebrating and sharing our culture.

Chicken Soup for the African American Soul is a tribute to a culture that prides itself on survival, resiliency, healing, prayer and perseverance. These stories offer an opportunity for African Americans and our friends of other cultures to understand who we are. This book is not only a tribute to what has been in our history, but also to what still can be in our future. This volume of Chicken Soup is filled with stories of transitioning from the test to the testimony and from the battles to the victories.

Lisa Nichols

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