Kirk Ray Smith: Getting Past the Past

One of the greatest lessons I have learned is not to dwell too heavily on the past instead of living life one day at a time.

I have advised others not to be hard on themselves by allowing past challenges and disappointments to frustrate them or control their future. While this remains an essential ethos of my value system, when it comes to societal history, however, we must remind ourselves of the past and have the courage to face the ugly truth, no matter how difficult.

When it comes to American history, we should not allow a pass. To advance and progress as a society, we must be aware of our past—acknowledge it, accept it, validate it—and come to terms with its impact on us as a nation.

This requires honesty, humility, empathy, sympathy and courage.

One of the best places to start is to understand that Black history is American history; the two should be communicated seamlessly. While it is important to highlight certain historical events with racial distinction, American history is just that, American history; the facts of our past should not be omitted.

In short, I believe that the best way to move beyond the past is to understand and learn from it.

In some cases, we should look at the past as a cautionary tale; in other cases, the past can be instructional and even a blueprint for the future.

But we will never get past the past by being in denial of the truth therein—whether it is honorable or dishonorable.

Answer the call: Resist the temptation to ignore or deny our history. Instead, embrace it so we can copiously embrace our future!


Kirk Ray Smith is the first CEO of color of Hope Villages of America, Inc. (formerly RCS Pinellas). Hope Villages serves more than 130,000 individuals and families annually throughout Pinellas County, Fla., as a leader in addressing hunger, homelessness and abuse through innovative programs and services with an operating budget of $11.5 million. Between 2017 and 2019, HVA grew by nearly $1.5 million. In 2018 Hope Villages of America was recognized as the Large Charity of the Year by the Clearwater Regional Chamber Commerce, and the Large Business of the Year by the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, for both its mission and business prowess. HVA was recognized as Nonprofit of the Year in 2020 after increasing its capacity in support of individuals and families impacted the COVID-19 pandemic and raising nearly $200,000 in less than 4 months. Kirk has been a motivational speaker and lecturer for more than 20 years. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor/Instructor for at the undergraduate and graduate levels.


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