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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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His Name is Shiloh. He’s My Son.

 

Every day I think about race. Actually, racism. For the past 12 years, since my son was born, it’s top of mind on a daily basis. I was born to a white mother and black father long before the prevalence of bi-and multi-racial celebrities and public figures. I remember taking road trips with my parents and younger sisters to family gatherings in Arkansas. I remember being pulled over by police and my father harassed for being with a white woman. I remember my mother being called a nigger lover. I remember being taunted as a young person or being preyed upon by older men who considered me exotic. It was awful, and even my parents’ love couldn’t shield me from the ugliness of the world. 

Now, every day I think about what I, as a mother of a black boy, can do to shield him from the ugliness of the world. Often when speaking about racism and oppression to groups, I include an image of my son. I tell members of the audience to look at him, try to look at him with my...

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Gratitude

Uncategorized May 14, 2020

A participant in our online course on Well-Being and Morale asked me, “Is saying thank you the same as expressing gratitude?” I was immediately struck by the question, unable to provide an immediate response. I had to really think about a response that wouldn’t seem too knee-jerk and could capture what I believe to be the substantive difference between the two. In short, my answer was no. I don’t think that saying thank you is the same as expressing gratitude. 

The words  “thank you” are often uttered in autopilot mode, as an expression of our own desire to convey politeness. Not to say that we aren’t truly thankful when uttering those words, but gratitude is a bit more; it’s awareness of the actions of another person and deep appreciation for the effort they exerted on your behalf. When expressed, it’s often felt as “I see you. I appreciate what you did for me, but more importantly, who you are.”

Gratitude...

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Don’t Let Covid be An Excuse: Now’s the Time to Double Down on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

 

I’ve been doing work related to equity, diversity, and inclusion for nearly 30 years. I’ve seen the ebb and flow of interest and commitment by people in leadership roles, across organizations, and industries. The rationale has typically fallen into one of two categories: 1. “Our priorities have shifted. We have to focus on the immediate crisis at hand.” or 2. “We tried. We hired a person but didn’t get the results we expected.” As in the past, it may be tempting to table EDI “for now”, at least until after we get past Covid-19 and all its implications. I’m advocating here for exactly the opposite stance. Perhaps it's self-serving because I’ve spent my career educating and trying to advance EDI. I am a Black woman raising a Black son. So, I am not surprised but horrified by the disproportionate rates of Covid illness and death in Black and brown communities and where atrocities like the killing of Ahmaud Arbery...

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Sitting in Shoulds (with video)

#leadership #management May 04, 2020
 

Yesterday I was talking with a friend, just checking in on how they’re doing during quarantine. “How have you been spending your days?” I asked. “I haven’t been doing much of anything. There’s really nothing I can do right now,” they replied. Hmmm...I thought. They then asked about how I’m filling my time, that my experience was like their own. I reflected briefly then started, with energy that even surprised me, to name all sorts of things I’ve been doing to occupy my time. “I’ve been really great about meditating every day. Shiloh and I are going for walks and bike rides. I’m reading some interesting books. I designed and launched some new online courses, after of course, panicking like so many other small businesses about our viability. I’ve been working with friends in my community to sew masks and make face shields and get those to healthcare workers and people who are homeless. I’ve been doing...

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