If you asked SallyAnn Garvey-Lumumba about the most formative decisions that she has made over the last eighteen years, she would reply that one of them was as simple as deciding to hail a cab.
SallyAnn was raised in West Memphis, Arkansas, a land that owes its fertility to the mighty Mississippi. She never foresaw that a passion for Korean language and culture would take her half way around the world to the Republic of South Korea for a six-month exchange sponsored by the State Department.
One night in particular, SallyAnn found herself, soaked through and independent, on a street corner in Seoul at ten p.m., trying her best to make it back to her host-family in one piece. Usually, Sally would not have been alone; it would have been someone else’s job to get her home. Not anymore. The rain was pouring like milk from a carton and she was drenched. The neon signs blurred, mirrored in the massive puddles around her. Her umbrella had committed suicide and she was no closer to getting home. SallyAnn timidly raised her arm not even sure if the fast approaching vehicle was a taxi with rain muddying her sight. Either way it zoomed by her.
This was a moment when Sally wished that she had lived in a big city before. Or that she could whistle, which seemed a surefire method of hailing a cab in that downpour. But she hadn’t, and when she had been to cities she had been too nervous to try. Sally wasn’t generally timid but something seemed so skillful about hailing a cab. She had seen it performed successfully, and to her it had the same grace as a cellist’s hands or her mother’s as she bakes bread, a sense of fluidity, of art. Seeing the yellow cab in the distance, she took a deep breath. “택시” “Taxi!” It slowed it stopped and SallyAnn slid in. “내 관악구 지하철 역 소요됩니다. 감사합니다” “Take me to Gwankgu Subway Station. Thank you” she told the driver. In that moment, she got a rush of confidence no one could take away.
SallyAnn’s exchange in South Korea was full of discovered weaknesses that she hadn’t needed to fix until she was on her own; she embarked to fix them one at a time. Since she was the first African American most of her Korean classmates had ever met, SallyAnn made it her mission to serve as a cultural role model. Soon her Korean included as many words to describe her southern upbringing as she could learn.
Looking back, SallyAnn would tell you that that decision to hail the cab was the moment when she stopped letting her fears interfere with her ability to thrive and she would thank the skies for raining and her umbrella for breaking. When she returned, her new confidence and independence prompted her to continue to take the initiative. She was elected editor of her school newspaper for which she was awarded a prestigious leadership award. She ramped up her volunteering and mentoring with Inner-City Outings and Peace Jam Northeast. She also became a legislative intern to focus on her career goal to shape international policy in order to help create a generation of students more culturally aware of the world around them. If you asked her how she became the confident person she is today, Sally would tell you it was as simple as hailing a cab.