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raceAhead: CEOs Convene On Diversity, MPW Next Gen Begins, Poland is Not Joking

On Friday I attended an off-the-record, closed-door session of the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, the first-ever convening of some 70 of the more than 330 CEOs who have taken a pledge to collectively address diversity within their companies and the business community at large.

Fortune has been covering CEO Action from its early inception, in the aftermath of the police shootings of July 2016, through its launch, some eleven months later.

In addition to the senior executives, there were some academics, publishers and other experts in the room, adding depth and richness to the roundtable discussions that followed the on-stage remarks.

While I was there to help put some shape to their thinking on data and the business case for diversity, it was particularly gratifying to see the work being done. It all felt like a promise kept.

“We said we’d meet this fall — within six months of the launch and we met the goal,” said Tim Ryan, PwC’s U.S. chairman, who helped start the initiative. He promised raceAhead more specific updates and announcements in the coming weeks. But what I heard was encouraging, particularly given the enormity of the issues facing a diverse workforce. The conversations were direct, informed and unflinching.

My colleague, Grace Donnelly, was there for the on-the-record portion. Here’s a snippet from her report:

“CEOs can get anything done,” [Tim Ryan] said. “You’ve now got hundreds of CEOs who’ve said ‘I’m going to get this done.’” He was excited at the number of executives who made time for the event and gave credit to CEOs who have joined the initiative despite knowing they’re lagging behind in their attempts to improve diversity at their companies.

Another focus during the Friday session was education. Ryan said he wants to get 100 universities involved with the CEO Action Initiative and the first step is a presidents’ roundtable with nine leaders from institutions of higher education.

The goal is both to help feed the pipeline with diverse young talent and to incorporate bias training and other inclusive concepts into curriculums.

“This is going to be some difficult work,” said Joe Ricks of Xavier University of Louisiana, the HBCU Business Dean President and a member of the CEO Action education roundtable.

He emphasized that even defining “diversity” is a challenge and echoed Ryan’s sentiment that while criticisms are being addressed, credit should also be given where it’s due.

In other news, I’m in beautiful Laguna Niguel, Calif. today, at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit, which kicks off today at 4:10pm Pacific time. The two-day conference will be welcoming speakers include Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe, Olympic soccer player Hope Solo, former U.S. CTO Megan Smith, and singer-songwriter Estelle.

You can watch the entire thing here.

I’ll be leading another conversation about the “black ceiling” that black women face in corporate life, tomorrow at 3:55 Pacific time. I’ll be talking with Jamie-Clare Flaherty, director of strategic initiatives, Obama Foundation; Tracey Patterson, senior manager, Accenture, and Bärí Williams, head of business operations, North America, StubHub. You’re not going to want to miss it.

On Point

700,000 farm workers say #MeTooIn this emotional open letter, Latina farm workers express solidarity for Hollywood actors who have come forward with stories of sexual harassment in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations. The letter had been published to amplify the issues of harassment at the heart of “The Take Back the Workplace” march in Los Angeles on Nov. 12. “We wish that we could say we’re shocked to learn that this is such a pervasive problem in your industry. Sadly, we’re not surprised because it’s a reality we know far too well,” it begins. “Even though we work in very different environments, we share a common experience of being preyed upon by individuals who have the power to hire, fire, blacklist and otherwise threaten our economic, physical and emotional security.”Time

A white supremacist march in Poland drew tens of thousands
They chanted “fatherland,” and carried banners that read “White Europe,” “Europe Will Be White” and “Clean Blood.” They came from across Europe on Saturday to participate in an independence day event, organized by a nationalist group called the National Radical Camp, that is pushing for an “ethnically pure” Poland, free of Muslims and Jews. “The Radical Camp presents itself as the heir to a 1930s fascist movement of the same name, which fought to rid Poland of Jews in the years just before the Holocaust,” explains the Wall Street Journal. Polish state television called the event a “great march of patriots.”
Wall Street Journal

Steph Curry: Silence is no longer an option, particularly on Veterans Day
On Veterans Day the Golden State Warrior point guard posted a clear-throated defense of peaceful protests to draw attention to inequality – including his refusal to attend a celebration at the White House. It is, he says, the opposite of disrespect toward veterans. One veteran he’d met recently shared his own struggles. “Michael told me that our veterans need real action. They need real help with medical services, and access to jobs, and readjusting to society,” says Curry. He also shared his philosophy of having a platform – even after being attacked on Twitter by the POTUS. “[I]f I’m going to use my platform … I don’t want to just be noise. I want to use it to talk about real issues, that are affecting real people. I want to use it to shine a spotlight on the things that I care about.”
The Players Tribune

It’s time to talk about Apu
For years, the cartoon character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, who manages the Kwik-E-Mart in the mythical Springfield of The Simpsons fame, was the only representation of anyone of South Asian descent on television. His portrayal remains one of the few unexamined stereotypes in popular culture, until now. Actor and comedian Hari Kondabolu created and is starring in a new film, The Problem With Apu, which will air on TruTV on November 19. Apu was funny and nice, a “soft stereotype”  that “gets to the insidiousness of racism, though, because you don’t even notice it when it’s right in front of you,” says Kondabolu. But growing up, the portrayal got under his skin. “After a while, you’d watch The Simpsons on a Sunday and you’d get a sense of how you’d be made fun of at school on Monday, based on what Apu did in the latest episode.”

The Woke Leader

Ta-Nehisi Coates explains why not everyone can say the n-word, and why all words are not for everyone
It was a normal question-and-answer session during a typical book tour. Except the author was Ta-Nehisi Coates, and the question, from a white high school student from Evanston Township High School in Illinois, was a thorny one: What do you do when white kids sing along with rap lyrics and use the n-word? Why can’t they say it? The four-minute response may be the clearest, most direct and humane answer to a question that seems to befuddle good people on both sides. Watch it, share it, bookmark it forever. He begins by explaining the power of context and words. “It’s normal for groups to use words that are derogatory in an ironic fashion,” says Coates. So the question that one must ask is, “why is there so much hand-wringing when black people do it?”

The wee drum majorettes of Cape Town
They’re known as “drummies,” young marching and dancing girls, who have been performing on the streets of Cape Town, South Africa, since the 1970s. If they’re lucky, they get tapped to be part of a squad starting in the first grade. But for the young drum majorettes of Dr Van Der Ross primary school, located in one of the more dangerous areas of  Cape Town, the drummies are thriving and winning under some very difficult circumstances. Click through for a great photo essay.

Inside James Baldwin’s FBI files
Baldwin has correctly emerged as a seminal thinker in today’s civil rights movement, particularly around criminal justice and the Movement for Black Lives. “He is a kind of queer father to those of us coming of age in the post-post-civil rights era, a symbol of the intersection of black art and black activism, and evidence that one can be confronted by years of state violence and still survive,” explains Charles Stephens, in this review of a new book by William J. Maxwell called  James Baldwin: The FBI File. Baldwin first came under FBI scrutiny in 1961, after he spoke at an African liberation event with an undercover agent in the audience. What followed were years of pursuit, yielding nothing. “The files read less as boring, bureaucratic, lifeless memos, and more as obsessive and paranoid recordings by Hoover and his underlings,” he says. And that is what is so instructive.


I want you to understand, it can happen to anyone. Today, it’s the Latinos. They have to go back. If this so-called president of ours wouldn’t have those, quote, illegals and the Muslim people, he would pick on the Jews. Because we would be next in line.
—Oskar Knoblauch