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raceAhead: May 23, 2016

“Anyone can call themselves a developer, anyone,” says Boaz Gilead of Brookland Capital, a mid-market development firm with some $4 billion under management. Gilead was one of the experts interviewed for There Goes The Neighborhood, a deeply researched and compelling podcast series created by The Nation and WNYC Studios. It wrapped a few weeks ago and is well worth your time.

The series focuses on neighborhoods in Brooklyn that are undergoing rapid gentrification, the kind of transformation that takes a matter of years, not decades. These land grabs can have disastrous effects on underserved black and brown communities, inspire aggressive and fraudulent tactics from developers, and turn neighbors against each other. The short-term pain felt by people who are forced to leave their homes is devastating. But it’s the long-term erosion of the wealth of black and brown families that may be the hardest to overcome.

“We wanted to be able to tell the history of a certain place, while showcasing the current anxiety of being displaced,” producer Rebecca Carroll told me recently. But now, so many neighborhoods are fair game: this backgrounder from Mic breaks down how rapid gentrification has changed seven U.S. cities.

Gilead was one of the few developers willing speak to the producers of the podcast on the record and under his own name. “There has been a complete lack of transparency of how development business gets done,” he told me, a reality that he hopes will change as more information becomes available online. Yet, there is no Yelp for real estate magnates; nothing that would help residents, lawmakers, and voters better understand who they are dealing with or lobby for real reform. “Things take place behind the scenes.”

Perhaps this explains the pass that Donald Trump, America’s most famous real estate developer, is getting from many voters. We simply don’t know what he does all day. But we do know that he came up in an era where racial animus was an open part of doing business. One of the New York neighborhoods profiled in the podcast was once home to an organization called SPONGE, which stands for The Society for the Prevention of Negroes Getting Everything.

The real estate business may be complex. But, says Carroll, a year of research showed her that the math of gentrification is quite simple. “The value of neighborhoods directly corresponds to how many white people are in them. Black people aren’t valuable. It’s just that clear,” Carroll said.

On Point

Xerox turns a page.
Ursula Burns, the first black woman to run a Fortune 500 company, will not be CEO at Xerox after the company splits in two later this year. She will become the chairwoman of a newly formed document company, which includes Xerox’s printer and copier business. It’s been a remarkable run for the Xerox lifer, who started at the company as an intern in 1980. In commentary to Fortune last year, she described her growth as a leader as directly related to the contributions of the people around her. “Trusting and listening to my team has been a key to my success and has helped me become a more effective leader. I am still learning.”
New York Times

Leading to diversity.
Building a diverse company means being conscious and deliberate in your actions, says Sonja Gittens-Ottley, who runs diversity efforts for the collaboration software firm Asana. Her tips: Put someone in charge, empower them, and think long term.
The Well

Tim Cook makes history.
With his visit to India, Cook has become the first openly gay CEO to be hosted by an Indian head of state. In India, homosexuality is a crime, punishable by extended prison stays. It remains a hot-button issue for Indian lawmakers, and a recent survey shows that 98% of Indian companies have made no efforts to become more welcoming to the LGBT community. Would an Apple investment in India make a difference?

Oh gente, mi gente.
America Ferrara’s latest project, a web series called Gente-fied, explores the gentrification of Los Angeles’s Boyle Heights neighborhood through the experiences of seven characters. The tension is real—the neighborhood has seen soaring rents and property values, as “chipsters,” Chicano hipsters, have returned to the traditionally low-income neighborhood to start tony businesses and openly wear flannel. The trailer shows promise, while the project itself puts on display another thorny issue: Latina filmmakers make up less than 2% of the industry. No release date yet, so follow @gentefied for news.

Don’t call me that.
On Friday, President Obama signed the bill H.R. 4238, which takes racially offensive words such as negro, Oriental, and American Indian out of all Federal laws, replacing them with terms like Asian American, African American, Pacific Islander, Native American, etc. The bill was sponsored by Congresswoman Grace Meng and co-sponsored by all 51 members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
The Root

Your network doing work.
Rod Robinson, the CEO of ConnXus, a supplier diversity tech platform specializing in supply chain analytics, has announced that the company has closed $5 million in Series A funding, led by Techstars Ventures and Impact America Fund. The company has raised $10 million to date from a variety of investors, including angels. “This round of funding will significantly accelerate ConnXus’ long-term impact on generating sustainable and diverse supply chains,” he said.
Chicago Citizen

The Woke Leader

We were here first?
New York Magazine dug deep into their archives and republished a devastating read from 1969 by the legendary Pete Hamill on the plight of the people formerly known as the working class: The white lower middle class, “the ethnics, the blue collar types,” who have been pushed to the point of desperation and violence. Come for the sepia-toned language on race and class, stay for the realization that what is vexing the people at Trump rallies is nothing new.
New York Magazine

What’s in a rhyme?
Estelle Caswell gives rap artists a chance to talk about their craft in ways that are both insightful and surprising. Headphones on. 

Fix it good.
Do you believe that your personality, character, strengths, and weaknesses are set in stone? Or do you believe that, through experience and failure, you can grow and change? Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s body of work explores the issues of a fixed versus growth mindset, and how the way we think about ourselves affects our relationship with risk, failure, and happiness. What happens when we apply a fixed standard to others of different racial or ethnic groups?
Brain Pickings


We can’t walk by a homeless man without asking why a society as wealthy as ours allows that state of affairs to occur. We can’t just lock up a low-level dealer without asking why this boy, barely out of childhood, felt he had no other options. We have cousins and uncles and brothers and sisters who we remember were just as smart and just as talented as we were, but somehow got ground down by structures that are unfair and unjust.
—President Barack Obama