Last night at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump shared a dark, terrifying vision of an America in decline, with hordes of “illegal immigrants with criminal records” who were “tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens.” This was a law and order manifesto short on specifics but long on declarative statements. “I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon, and I mean very soon, come to an end,” he said.
But also last night, a young voter heard a different sort of message: That he was smart, valuable, and most importantly, employable.
“I’m good with people, from all walks of life,” Chris Johnson, 18, told me. “I’m a really good communicator and I’m very ambitious.”
Johnson was one of hundreds of young men of color, ages 18-29 mostly, who had visited a unique job fair called the BMOC Summit, in Oakland, CA yesterday. It was the first in a series of similar events supported by the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBKA), which is an independent, corporate sponsored, non-profit group that looks to find creative ways to remove barriers for African American and Hispanic boys and young men. (It’s independent from the federal initiative called My Brother’s Keeper that was launched by President Obama in 2014.)
Blair Taylor, former senior vice president and chief community officer at Starbucks, joined MBKA in April 2016 as its first CEO. He says that one of the most important things the organization can do is help recruiters and leaders understand the hidden strengths that are buried inside complicated lives.
“When you get these young men to tell you their story – ‘I watched my brother die in my arms, I take care of my younger sister, I work two jobs after school, my mother is in prison,’ whatever – you see what they’ve gone through to get to that point.” A typical recruiter sees these stories as a lack of success. Taylor says these are stories of ambition, achievement, and resilience. “We help recruiters, who don’t usually know people like this, to ‘shift their prisms’ from the deficit model,” seeing only what is missing from resumes, “to the asset model.”
Johnson has lived mostly in foster care and hasn’t finished high school. In fact, he hasn’t been enrolled in a while. “I move around a lot,” he says. “Foster care … it’s hard to keep up with your transcripts.” But at the Summit, he was coached in interview techniques, got a free tie (and tying lesson) at the tie bar, a quick style check, and opportunities to talk to mentors and recruiters. “They told me to smile more,” he says of the best advice he got.
I’ll be posting a longer story about the confluence of forces that made this event possible on Fortune – with photos of Johnson and his new, gray tie – later today.
But if you can’t stand the suspense, here’s the good news: He got two job offers, one from Macy’s and one from Starbucks and he’s thinking of taking them both. “I love fashion,” he says. “I love clothes and I love to draw.” Plus, he gets people. “I’m really excited.”
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|The Daily Beast|
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The Woke Leader
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|The New Yorker|
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