SNELLVILLE, Ga.–Credit union leaders have been offered one personal tale of overcoming obstacles, three examples of people who have shown leadership, and six words to live by.
Speaking to the opening session of the African American Credit Union Coalition’s virtual annual meeting, Dr. Adeline Nukuna urged her audience to adhere to these six words: “Be bold, be mindful, be brave.”
“These are not new words for any of you,” said Nukuna. “As people of color our lives have been defined and defended by being bold and mindful and brave. We get tired sometimes feeling we have to prove ourselves every day and seemingly every way. Even as an MD, I still get second-guessed because of the color of my skin and my accent. I am here, however,
to tell you you are not alone in this trouble. Even when you are tired from the fight, there is still the hands of others besides you who can lift you into that beautiful sky above you, where the wind is always at your back carrying you.”
Nukuna, who received her medical degree and Ph.D. in medical microbiology from the Creighton University School of Medicine and who is now employed by Beebe Medical Group in Rehoboth Beach, Md., is also author of the book, “From Low to Glow: Shaping the Rhythm of Creation by Self Gift.” The book is described as a “practical roadmap around and above the self-limiting challenges of life.”
According to Nukuna, boldness, mindfulness and bravery all have unique characteristics.
“Boldness is deciding to take ownership of who you are,” said Nukuna. “It’s the recognition of the authentic you.”
Mindfulness, she said, is about being “fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing at all times. In this loud and distraction-filled world, mindfulness can be a superpower on its own. It calls for us to minimize the distractions that cause us to forget who we are.”
Finally, said Nukuna, bravery is not about bravado, bullying or arrogance.
“It is the wisdom to ask for help, guidance and direction when life is unclear or unkind,” she told the AACUC meeting. “Bravery is humility in action, because humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but instead thinking of ourselves less. Bravery has no use for pride and selfishness. Bravery accepts the help and wisdom of others. Bravery helps us give that help and wisdom to others without the expectation of reward or recognition.”
Moreover, added Nukuna, bravery “calls out injustice wherever it may be, in our hearts, our homes and even in our credit unions.”
Becoming bold, mindful and brave helps to overcome what Nukuna described as the “chorus of negative emotions” heard in life and at work and even inside one’s head, such as “Nobody would listen to this,” and “My idea is not good enough.”
Nukuna offered three “real-life” examples of the six words to live by, two of which she drew from credit unions. The examples included:
Boldness: Andy Janning
Janning is well-known to many in credit unions for his work with the National Credit Union Foundation and as host of the annual Herb Wegner Awards.
Nukuna pointed to Janning’s experience in 2019 when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and they experienced the “emotional and financial trauma such a diagnosis brings.”
As a result, as reported here, the experience led Janning to launch what Nukuna called a “once-in-a-lifetime assignment” to create a program called “Side Effects” for the Foundation that highlights in videos and podcasts the financial crisis caused by cancer in the United States.
“Along the way Andy’s heart broke, not just for the financial crisis cancer causes, but also for the significant racial disparities in outcomes and death rates in the country,” said Nukuna, noting African Americans have the highest death rates from most cancers.
Janning has also created an initiative called “End Terminal Debt,” a non-profit seeking to pay off up to $50,000 in loans held by terminal cancer patients across the country. At least half of the patients served by End Terminal Debt are African Americans, Nukuna said, saying she has been so inspired by Janning’s work she is providing seed money to the AACUC to help kickstart the initiative.
Mindful: Renée Sattiewhite Sattiewhite Sattiewhite is president/CEO of the African American Credit Union Coalition and has overseen much of the organization’s growth.
“Renée personifies the dictum of being mindful,” said Nukuna. “She leads with great mental presence and is present without forgetting the past. By combining that past and the present, she knows how to begin the future. She identifies opportunities that beckon her to her set goals. She embodies the spirit of people helping people.”
Bravery: Godfrey Madukwe
Madukwe is Nukuna’s husband.
“Godfrey’s bravery is executed right at home,” she said. “He has a full-time job and is very good at what he does. For him, bravery means that to be strong in no way requires (him to) be weak.
He gives me a shoulder to lean on always. I would be more accurate to say his full-time employment is ensuring that all my endeavors come to fruition. He is that trusted shoulder and I let him take on some of the responsibilities that are supposed to be mine as the woman of the house. Godfrey does not consider the enormous sacrifices he is making for me and family as a weakness. He ensures my white coat is clean and ironed always. He does all this in spite of his own full-time job and imperatives…Godfrey lets me be who I want to be, my authentic self, (and does) all this at the expense of being called weak or saying I control him.”
One Young Woman’s Example
All of the examples, said Nukuna, remind her of the story of a young lady she once knew.
That young woman, she recalled, was newly graduated with a master’s degree and was entering a doctorate program. At the same time, she had to have emergency surgery for a cancer that thankfully turned out to be benign. She was also facing a lack of funds to continue her education.
“Mindful that blocks may well be stepping stones, her financial pinch became a springboard,” said Nukuna.
Nukuna further shared how the young woman’s dream was to study in the United States. That led her to spending countless hours in the library with a copy of a guide to medical programs in the U.S., a list she narrowed to 60. She then hand-wrote letters to the five-dozen programs and described her circumstances and her interest in doing research on HIV/AIDS.
“Weeks went by without any response to many of the posts,” Nukuna shared. “The few responses that came included expressions of regret, that they did not have money to support her. Stipends were going to be her lifeline. After more days of fruitless waiting, a gentleman in the U.S. called to say he was going to find some money in his grant for a small stipend for her, but she had to be accepted into a graduate program. She was accepted.
“She flew across the Atlantic with $1,000 to start life,” Nukuna continued. “The young lady and the gentleman met in the campus parking lot…where he pointed to the sky and said, ‘Look, up there, what do you see?’
It’s Time to Fly
“And I responded, ‘The sky,’” Nukuna said, revealing the young lady of the story was her. “That’s when he said to me, ‘As long as you work hard, the sky is the limit.’ That 24-year-old woman who dreamt of a career in medicine sent stacks of letters to strangers to bring that dream to life. He believed in me when no one else would. He invested in me when no one else would. He helped me see the sky and my unique place i