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God Willing and The Creek Don’t Rise

Photo Credit: Shelah Marie

 

Late last Friday afternoon, I joined a Zoom call. Several DJA team members were there as was a client in Detroit. In all, three Black women, similar in age, were present. The obligatory, “How are you doing?” started the conversation. Our client pausedwe’ve developed wonderful rapportaverted her eyes, and said “You know, God willing and the creek don’t rise.” All three Black women in the meeting burst into familiar laughter. We were in a space in which we fully belonged, able to experience and share a mutual sense of exhaustion in a way that reinforced sisterhood and support. I haven’t stopped smiling since. 

The saying “God willing and the creek don’t rise” has been around for a long time, but it was likely popularized in Johnny Nash’s song “If the Lord’s Willing.” Most folks I know attribute it to our Big Mamas. Wikipedia describes it as an...

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Getting Past Politics: Living Our Shared Values

I do not love politics. Much of this year, and all of last week, captures my why: people are forced to find and accentuate the worst in each other (during the primaries, even attacking people who are mostly ideologically aligned) and no matter the outcome, there are a lot of people who feel that they lose. As a person who’s spent my entire life fighting to expand access, only having two options has always felt limiting to me. At a DJA team meeting last Friday, three days into ballot counting, and with us all in an uncertainty-filled fog, I broached the elephant in the room. One of our team members said “we are up” and held up a “fingers crossed” symbol with their hand. Torn but needing to stand in my values I said, “I know that we are all watching with anticipation as the election results come in. I also want you to know that I am not assuming we all voted the same, and that’s ok. I didn’t ask to see your voter registration card as...

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Talking about Values and Politics: Something’s Gotta Give

Image Credit: Palo Alto City Library

Four years ago, the day after the election, I walked into the offices of a company that is an international powerhouse in the communications industry. Several months before, I had been scheduled to be onsite, offering anti-bias workshops for executives who had flown in from various regional offices across the U.S. A long planning process had occurred but not one of the creative teams had prepared communications in the event  Donald Trump became the newly elected president. Not one. Everyone was running in circles trying to figure out what to do. Everything seemed blurry and surreal. Regardless of political stance, most people were shocked by the outcome. That day was a mess, an incredibly unproductive, emotion, and confusion-filled mess. 

We can’t know what additional surprises this election will hold, but we can learn from recent experience. Today is, with so much attention on the attributes and expectations of leaders, also a...

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My Connection to LGBTQ+ History and the Road Traveled

In October 1998, Matthew Shepard was found nearly dead, hanging from a fence just outside of Laramie, Wyoming. Matthew was 21 years old. His murderers said that he made sexual advances toward them. They robbed and brutally beat him. Matthew died of his wounds six days later in a Fort Collins, Colorado hospital.

Just two years before, I was living in Fort Collins, CO. I was pursuing a master’s degree, had a full-time assistantship as coordinator of multicultural education and training, and had an internship in the Human Rights Advocacy and Education Office, a department of the City of Fort Collins. My work involved listening to complaints of discrimination in public accommodation, housing, and employment. There was also a huge amount of listening, educating, and advocacy. I was given, early in my life and career, a window into others’ realities in ways that helped broaden my awareness and perspective. I learned that many LGBTQ+ people had been living with threats and...

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Indigenous Peoples Day and Finding My Voice

Photo Credit: Smithsonian Institution

I want to take a moment to commemorate Indigenous Peoples' Day. In addition to a growing national recognition, this day for me is personal.

At 19 years old I was a student leader on my campus. As part of the student government, my role was specifically focused on multicultural student programming and collective action. Along with the President and VP of the student government (who are both staunch allies to this day), we wrote a resolution that Colorado State University recognize, rather than Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples. We, of course, enlisted the wisdom of student, staff, and faculty leaders affiliated with what is now the Native American Cultural Center.

I remember this so vividly:

In the research and writing of the resolution, we also socialized the idea with a number of the University senators who would actually be voting on it. OMG, we got no love. There was not a glimmer of hope in sight.

I  met with students, staff, and...

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What's Your Change Agenda?

 

The time is here! EVERYONE is ready to make progress on equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism. Different than in the past, leaders are ready to move beyond a one-off training or charge a diversity committee with doing the heavy lifting alone. Most of what we’re hearing are requests for 1) EDIAR Strategy, 2) strategic planning that integrates EDIAR throughout the organization’s core business operations, and 3) enterprise-wide competence development for leaders and managers on what EDIAR means for them, their practices, and their accountability for advancing the organization’s values and goals.  

For those who are interested in strategy, we often work with clients on the importance of not jumping too quickly into implementation. A lot of well-intended leaders and managers want to quickly solve problems that have either been pervasive or are the focus of recent attention. Most tempting are those nagging itches that we have never been able to...

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Black Girl Magic

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, and National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman.

You’ve probably seen or heard of “Black Girl Magic”. It’s a movement that was popularized by CaShawn Thompson as a way to recognize women around the world who are persevering, despite adversity, and to celebrate their accomplishments. It’s such a powerful sentiment that Michelle Obama references it, as well as singers, athletes, and journalists. As a Black woman, I definitely believe in it, witness it daily, and think I have a healthy dose of my own Black Girl Magic that I bring into the world. One thing I’ve always yearned for is more collective Black Girl Magic. Wouldn’t that be the natural extension? 

I spent the early years of my life exploring ideas of culture. How does culture work? Why do cultural groups behave in certain ways? As part of my reflection, I often observed other cultures--Jewish, Italian, Mexican,...

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How do you find your leadership voice in the face of racial injustice?

Over the past 6 weeks, we have been in conversation with thousands of Black, Indigenous and People of Color as well as managers and leaders. We have shared in trauma-filled spaces with other Black folks. We have facilitated sessions for allies–those who are trying to act to end injustice–even though that injustice that has (arguably) not had a direct negative impact on them. We’ve also coached managers and leaders who are committed to action but cautious about their own level of understanding and not wanting to misstep. 

The question that has come up over and over when talking with managers and leaders boils down to this: 

How do we find our leadership voice in the face of racial injustice? 

My first suggestion is not to begin with what you will say. Many leaders immediately believe that we have to say something, do something, fix it. Trust me, 400 years of racial injustice is not going to be undone by the great speech you make now or ever....

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For Those Who Give a Damn, But Don’t Know What To Do

When I was 18 years old, I met a white woman who changed my life. Her name is Barb. She reached out to me as a person, and at a point in my life when I wasn’t yet my best self. She saw my potential, but never treated me like a project--like a black girl to polish up and help be successful in this big university system. She asked for my opinion. She listened when I gave it. Often that opinion was filled with rage against men, white people… She never flinched, and she never left. She heard me and cared about a reality that was not her own lived experience. This is called being an ally

Barb modeled for me what I have come to expect from all others who are my friends: a commitment to ending racism and other forms of oppression where they exist, and not just when yet another black person being murdered is the headline. It means that you understand that racism is not about you “feeling like” you're a racist. If you grew up in the United States (and...

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We Stand in Solidarity

Dear Colleagues and Friends, 

We are at a moment of reckoning, a reckoning about a history that is built on institutionalized racism and that has benefited those in privilege while disenfranchising Black, Indigenous, and People of Color for hundreds of years. We understand that people with individual and institutional privilege have a responsibility to actively work to end racism and oppression wherever they exist. 

We are deeply impacted by the violent and senseless killing of Black people and stand in strong solidarity against systemic racism, police brutality, and the deep-seated oppression of Black people in the United States. We understand that our community — clients, friends, families — are hurting deeply. This hurt is our hurt, and it must stop. 

To our Black colleagues and friends: We see you, we honor your voices. We are eager to continue to find ways to center your voices--our voices--as we create a more equity-rich world. 

To our clients:...

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