raceAhead: July 6, 2016

July 6, 2016, 11:48 AM UTC

I’m just back from the Essence Festival in New Orleans, the annual extravaganza of music, empowerment, networking and, in many instances, utter joy. For the black professional women in the audience, there were a ton of peak moments.

Our panel, Leading with Purpose, was sandwiched in between rousing remarks from Reverend Al Sharpton and even more rousing remarks from Oprah Winfrey, who held the crowd rapt with stories from her own life’s journey while channeling Maya Angelou, her character Sophia from The Color Purple and encouraging everyone to embrace their divine path by letting go of the pre-conceived notions that limit our self-images, and the fears, injustices and resentment which hold us back. “Put it down, put it all down,” she said. And for a hot minute, we all did.

Essence will post a video of the panel soon, but here are some quick highlights:

I began with a one-on-one with Bernard Tyson, Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, who fielded this question from raceAhead reader Andre Blackman: “How do you see the next generation of innovators in health being developed with diversity in mind?”

Tyson’s answer was enthusiastic and optimistic. If you’re a health care innovator of color, head to the digital and wearable technologies space, currently the area of most rapid innovation in health care. And clearly implied, it’s a smart play for a entrepreneurs, funders or recruiters looking for diversity and diverse ideas, too.

Next up, we heard from Pamela Carlton, the Founder and President of Springboard, a research and consulting agency; Kimberly Blackwell, the Chief Executive Officer of the PMM Agency, an award-winning branding and marketing firm; and Deborah Elam, President of the GE Foundation and GE’s Chief Diversity Officer.

They began by discussing an important piece of research, conducted by Springboard on behalf of the Executive Leadership Council. Called The Black Women Executives Research Initiative Revisited, it is an update of in-depth interviews that Carlton conducted with black female executives in 2008.

The entire report is worth a read, but the big takeaway is this: There’s still not enough black women in leadership positions in corporate life, and the ones who have been successful have had no real blueprint to follow. Because they’re not making the career journey into executive ranks, America’s employers are losing much-needed talent.

But Carlton’s research revealed that black women were driving innovation within their teams and workplaces specifically because they needed to create their own opportunities.

The panel had three concrete tips for black female execs that I will dig into in more detail in upcoming raceAhead posts:

  • Take real risks early and often. Take on meaty assignments; be strategic about moving your team in new directions; and most importantly, look for ways to align company goals with your values.
  • Focus on your own leadership brand. Make sure your actions and reputation are aligned with both your values and your job. If they are out of sync, move on. Quickly.
  • Cultivate a rich and diverse network. Think about being “politically savvy” – not simply as self-serving, but as a way of operating that contributes to the goals of the company, and enriches the people around you.

On Point

Leading in times of violence, bigotry and strife

The race-based hatred fueled by Brexit and Trump have left many employees feeling vulnerable and frightened. Jennifer Porter turned a thoughtful conversation with a COO of a large, global and publicly-traded company into a primer on how to be a good leader when your employees feel under siege simply by virtue of their race or ethnicity. All of her excellent tips have one thing in common: Be transparent about the emotions that are in play. “Rather than retreat with this latest terrible event, [use it] as a springboard to re-engage [the] organization around the importance of diversity and inclusion.”

If you want a diverse workforce, pay your damn interns
Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, took to the opinion pages of the New York Times to remind employers that unpaid internships are significant barriers for overlooked and underserved diverse talent. “While some students take a summer job in food service to pay the bills, others can afford to accept unpaid jobs at high-profile organizations, setting them on a more lucrative path.”
New York Times

Fresh bigotry spoils a homeowner’s dream and a broker’s business
Turns out, hate is contagious. Petula Dvorak takes the rise of Islamophobia to a personal level, by sharing the story of a Muslim couple who were harassed out of a sale by well-heeled residents while shopping for a home in Frederick, MD. Their brokers, two brothers of Hispanic heritage who have been in business for 25 years, have recently, and for the first time, been the subject of racist vitriol from fellow agents.
Washington Post

The world’s largest gold miner under fire for ignoring rape complaints
Human rights activists are accusing Canadian mining firm Barrick Gold of ignoring disturbing allegations of rape and other violent assaults against women living near a mine in Porgera, Papua New Guinea. The Porgera Joint Venture mine, co-owned by Barrick and Chinese company Zijin Mining Group, fielded 805 such complaints in 2105 alone. About 70% of mining operations are based in Canada, yet the country does little to regulate their behaviors abroad.

Macy’s flagship store has a jail in the basement
Incidents with customers of color continue to plague Macy’s. A judge has ordered Macy’s to stop detaining suspected shoplifters in subterranean holding cells and “fining” them, which is the equivalent of forcing them to pay a ransom in order to leave. A class action suit describes two women on two separate occasions, one wearing a hijab, who were harassed, patted down and forced to pay up to $500, to be turned over to the police. Neither women were charged.
The Guardian

Missouri gubernatorial candidate offers ‘Isis Hunting Permit’
One of the four Republicans running for governor of Missouri has alarmed the local Muslim community by issuing an “ISIS Hunting Permit 2016' bumper sticker as a campaign fundraiser. Eric Greitens' campaign started selling the stickers for $10 in an email blast.  The sticker says it expires when "we defeat this evil." According to the campaign, the stickers have sold out. I need a hug. 
Fox 2 Now


The Woke Leader

Trump has been courting supremacists for awhile now
As the alarmingly racist messaging from the Trump campaign continues unabated, it’s worth revisiting this piece written by my colleague Dan Primack and freelance writer Ben Karakakh last March. In it, the pair used social media analytics software from Little Bird to determine which Twitter “influencers” were amplifying Trump’s racist messages. Turns out, the Trump campaign, and Trump himself, consistently retweeted users who follow the top 50 #whitegenocide influencers, virulent supremacists who believe that Trump is speaking to them. It’s a feature, not a bug.

The diary of a mad white woman
Last Friday, The Telegraph ran what should have been a typical, self-serving excerpt from a book by a young, Scottish white woman named Louise Linton and her disastrous gap year in Africa. Currently an actress in Los Angeles, the piece breathlessly describes her "naïve" hope of educating poor black children and how she accidentally wandered into the Congolese War. Turns out, virtually none of this was true. It took a village of African tweeters, including her host in Zambia, to set the record straight. Follow #LintonLies if the story about the story isn’t enough.
Okay Africa

How not to write about Africa
Binyavanga Wainaina, a Kenyan author, journalist and Caine Prize winner, lampooned the traditional “white person goes to Africa” narrative with a bitingly funny essay masquerading as writing advice. But read aloud by actor Djimon Hounsou, the advice is even more on point. “You must always include the starving African who wanders the refugee camp nearly naked, and waits for the benevolence of the West.” Sadly, Ms. Linton missed the memo.

Where the black elite 'summer'
The first African Americans on Martha’s Vineyard, says Ash Carter, were runaway slaves, whalers and indentured servants. Sprung from these humble beginnings, the community of Oak Bluffs has become the beloved summer home to the black elite, like Valerie Jarrett, Henry Louis Gates, and Vernon Jordan.
Town and Country


International correspondents with their long dictaphones, and dirty jeans, and five hundred words before whiskey, are slouched over the red velvet chairs, in the VIP section in the front, looking for the Story: the Most Macheteing Deathest, Most Treasury Corruptest, Most Entrail-Eating Civil Warest, Most Crocodile-Grinning Dictatorest, Most Heart-Wrenching and Genociding Pulitzerest, Most Black Big-Eyed Oxfam Child Starvingest, Most Wild African Savages Having AIDS-Ridden Sexest with Genetically Mutilatedest Girls...The Most Authentic Real Black Africanest story they can find...
—Binyavanga Wainaina