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Women Combat Veterans Share Their Stories

Last night we celebrated our 100 Best Companies To Work For list, and I wish you could have all been there. The big takeaway: The human stuff is what makes the difference. Leadership is about courage, openness, transparency and the heart. It was an inspiring night.

It was particularly wonderful to meet so many of you and learn more about how you use the work we do at raceAhead to make your own companies better. I want you to know that I see you, and think about how you’re doing every time I press send.

As we go into a well-deserved weekend, I wanted to share this short video that describes an interactive theater program starring a diverse group of women combat veterans. It’s helping them to work through their experiences with war, trauma, and their treatment while serving in the military. As I watched, I was reminded that there are extraordinary stories inside the people we encounter every day.

Jasmine Johnson, a U.S. Navy veteran, is one of the performers. She served on an aircraft carrier, flying F-18 jets, dropping bombs on people daily, a fact she shares with an air of casual sadness. She talks about feeling isolated. She has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic trauma and bipolar disorder, and the stigma worries her. But it’s been a treat, she says, to connect with other women veterans. “In the military, there’s like a reverse camaraderie when it comes to women,” an unspoken understanding that since men were the power, sticking together was counter-productive. “We want to assimilate and integrate with the men, so that they don’t look at us like ‘oh look at those girls over there,’” she says. Working together, they’re finding peace through sharing their stories.

The women also express some anger over familiar workplace issues: being overlooked for promotions, ignored in decision-making, rendered invisible. Although I’m not sure that interactive theater could really take off at business conferences, it might not be a bad thing if it did. Sometimes art is the only way we can stand difficult truths. More art, better life.

Have an artful weekend. I’m grateful for all you do.

On Point

A door to door campaign aims to make friends out of neighborsCanada’s largest Muslim youth group has launched #IslamUnderstood a door-to-door campaign to answer questions and dispel myths about their religion. Qasid Chaudhry, a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, said that he wanted people to understand that his Islamic values are not in conflict with his Canadian ones. “There’s a lot of misconceptions people have been getting about Islam. We’re trying to give people the idea that Isis is not Islam. It is a religion of peace,” he told the local news. As-salam-u-alaykum everyone.Independent

Four Atlanta-based ad agencies unite to promote inclusion in their own backyard
The four agencies, JWT Atlanta, 22squared, Fitzgerald & Co. and Moxie, have united to form the Advertising for Change coalition, which aims to promote inclusion as a business practice, and to help Atlanta attract more diverse creative talent. Their first initiative is an expansion of 4A’s Multicultural Advertising Intern Program or MAIP. Ten interns will rotate between the four agencies, giving them exposure to more than one agency culture. Other plans include low-cost advertising courses and “portfolio bootcamps,” all designed to help change the industry’s dismal diversity numbers. By working together, they say “our agencies can help drive the entire industry toward the type of change that can break down the systemic challenges of our past.”

A diversity guidebook for startups and scaleups
If I could pick one person who has helped shaped my thinking about diversity and inclusion, it’s Saadia Muzaffar, tech entrepreneur and founder of #TechGirls Canada. She and her team have put together a new report called Change Together, an extraordinary resource for anyone who wants to help a company (or a division, frankly) to be more inclusive and productive. “Lack of diversity does not have a “turn-key” solution like “hire more women.” Diversity and inclusion require a cultural shift in the entire organization.” It’s not just theory: The good people at TWG, a software firm in Toronto, offered themselves as subjects in a pilot program called Project Change Together, which tested the strategies in the report. Now that’s transparency. Click through for a free download.  
Change Together

More Canadian women in tech to follow
There’s a whole lot of talent in Canada, many of whom are working hard to shape the world in interesting and intersectional ways. Click through to find entrepreneurs, advocates for women in tech, STEM education, experts in issues related to indigenous peoples and more. Follow them on Twitter and put them on your short list for panelists and keynotes.

Issa Rae’s latest YouTube production, “Giants” goes deep on the big issues
Issa Rae continues to amaze with her ability to craft and launch projects. Case in point: Giants, an excellent digital series produced by Rae and directed by James Bland, starring Vanessa Baden, William Catlett and himself. It’s a drama about three friends on the verge of 30, struggling to get by, and how they battle the emotional “giants” in their lives. The series tackles issues like mental health, homophobia in the black church, and the specific kinds of judgments black men face about their sexuality. Click through for a terrific interview with Bland. Find the series on YouTube here.
The Root

Two television shows that are changing the way people with disabilities are represented
Television is a powerful amplifier of attitudes and ideas, which is why breakthrough shows like Speechless, starring Minnie Driver as a feisty mom of a disabled kid and Switched at Birth, which is…wait for it…casting actors with actual disabilities to play characters with disabilities, are such refreshing additions to the scene. “On TV, disability is played for laughs, for horror (such as with the “evil cripple” trope), or ignored even by shows otherwise committed to diversity,” explains writer David M. Perry. And there is even a disgusting term for the erasure of disabled performers: To “crip up” is when an able-bodied actor plays a disabled character, as studies have shown they do in some 95% of cases.
Open Culture

The Woke Leader

From the archives: How truly creative financing can help underserved communities build good, sustainable homes
I learned a lot reporting this story back in the day. It’s a profile of Community Enterprise Partners, a fascinating profit/non-profit hybrid, and how they use equity capital and a sophisticated mix of mortgage financing and development grants to help build sustainable housing for low and middle-income communities. It taught me that despite the complications of finance and government regulations, there is always a way to make a deal that changes communities for the better. How do you compete for a customer with no money? It’s a matter of having the will and doing the math. Bonus: Edward Norton’s in the mix, too. (Dana, this one’s for you.)
Fast Company

Twenty years ago we lost Christopher Wallace and the pain is still big
Wallace, better known as The Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie Smalls, was murdered twenty years ago in Los Angeles, in a drive-by shooting that is still unsolved today. Justin Tinsley has put together a glorious tribute to the man he describes as “ordained with a flow as soulful to black, post-Reaganomics America as Louis Armstrong’s trumpet during the days of the civil rights movement... Other people were supposed to be there that fateful night, people like Shaquille O’Neal, who accidentally napped through a planned rendezvous. Shaq can’t shake the loss. “Just a year earlier he and Biggie recorded together, laughed, joked and talked about business ventures in and out of their day jobs,” Tinsley reports. “I don’t say I could’ve prevented it,” said Shaq. “I was just saying … if I was out there by the car, would they still have fired? That’s the only thing I would say to myself.”
The Undefeated

We should stop with “business case” for diversity talk
This is the strong opinion of Matthew C. Whitaker, Ph.D., author, diversity expert and consultant. We ignore the moral imperative associated with an inclusive workplace and society at our peril, he says. “The frustrating aspect of this ‘make the business case’ merry-go-round, as I alluded to at the outset, is that it reflects, at worst, an amoral approach to capital development.” But to truly examine the implications of exclusion, we need to understand the human barriers. “[M]any leaders view them as threats to their comfort zones, autonomy, privilege, and power, not as opportunities to…embrace their civic and principled duty to ‘fully realize’ all of the ‘potential’ in our midst.” You’re going to want to sit up straight when you read this.
Huffington Post


Yeah, this album is dedicated/ To all the teachers that told me I’d never amount to nothin’/ To all the people that lived above the buildings that I was hustlin’ in front of/ Called the police on me when I was just tryin’ to make some money to feed my daughter/ And all the niggas in the struggle/ You know what I’m sayin’? It’s all good, baby baby 
—Biggie Smalls