Doing The Good Work

May 3, 2018, 7:02 PM UTC
A woman faces away from the camera. She has her arms raised and rainbow strands shoot out of her fingertips.
Woman holding her arms up, rays made of multi colored threads spreading from her hands.Vandal Photography—Getty Images
Vandal Photography—Getty Images

There is a lot of crazy in the air these days. Sometimes it seems like things are only getting worse.

Besides all the obvious drama of markets, geopolitical (and political) brinksmanship, and racial strife, someone keeps charging Kanye’s phone and now it feels like we’re all walking around clutching our stomachs like we’re on the bad romaine.

On a lark, and because I’m always stressing about columns, I threw out a Twitter request looking for something uplifting.

“Hallo! I’m collecting good news, good works, important projects you want to amplify for a special feel-good #raceahead,”I said, now feeling weird about quoting myself. “Who are you proud of? What’s working in inclusion and humanity? Let me know. #gracias”

RaceAhead readers immediately began to lift each other up. (And you still are!)

Here you go:

Kendall Jones (and others) amplified the work of Minda Harts, the founder of My Weekly Memo, a women-centered professional development group helping women of color thrive in work and life. She’s also got a book coming out, so get ready.

Edda Collins Coleman applauds Woodford Reserve for finally including an artist of color on one of the special Kentucky Derby commemorative bourbon bottles. The history is real: Most of the riders who participated in the first Derby in 1875 were black. “The erasure of African Americans from the Kentucky Derby falls right in line with today’s concern for diversity and inclusion in all industries, including the bourbon industry,” says the Black Bourbon Society, which we all must immediately join.

Start-up adviser Elisabeth Rosario heads the Latinx Collective, which is creating dialog within the Latinx community. (Her newsletter is here.) “I’ve shouted out a few awesome Latinx small biz/creators in my newsletter such as @JamilaRowser of Washday Comix[it’s about black hair!] & Woke Foods,” dedicated to the healing traditions of Dominican cuisine.

Mandy N. Murphy loves her work with @peaceplayers, for “uniting people from different communities through hoops.”

Jen Minarik wants everyone to know about Shayna Atkins, founder of both Atkco, a Lean-Agile product management company, and The Queens Brunch, a busy and diverse community for millennial businesswomen. “She’s always doing something awesome!,” says Jen.

Anyone in Raleigh, North Carolina? Several of you point to Love Wins Community Engagement Center, a day shelter offering peer-support and good meals for people experiencing homelessness. “@lovewins is one of the most amazing places that I have ever encountered,” says Robert Fischer.

Marlena Hartz chose to highlight the ENLACE Project, an “awesome community-led nonprofit in Puerto Rico is building its own #HurricaneMaria solutions and forging a path for others facing disasters.” In addition to providing aid, they’re also promoting civic leadership in the Caño Martín Peña region.

“Pretty much anything that @ablegamers and @stevenspohn do,” says Mario Kroll, and it looks like he’s on to something. Ablegamers is a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of gamers with disabilities #SoEveryoneCanGame, and future Ironman Stephen Spohn is their COO. (I spent two minutes on his feed and I’m better for it.) He Twitches here.

Company founder and angel investor Kwame Ulmer reports “making great progress in bringing 100 #MedTech Leaders of Color together this fall,” a group that aims to help achieve racial disparities at device firms. Share with the med tech of color in your life.

On a similar mission is raceAhead brother-adviser Andre Blackman, who is building Onboard Health to bring much needed diversity to sustainable health innovation. The community is growing, check out their job board here.

RaceAhead lifer Hugh Weber amplified Antionette Carrol, who runs @CreativeRxlab, “who is educating and deploying youth leadership to address racial inequities impacting Black and Latinx populations.” Support the training of these young“Equity Designers” here.

Tiffany F. Southerland, career coach and podcaster, wants you to know about “@stephenahart of @tbpod [Trailblazers.Fm]. Stephen highlights powerful stories of black professionals and leaders across sectors and industries,” she says.

Writer and editor Katie Sanders came prepared with receipts. Here are two of her faves: TONL, the truly inspiring diverse stock photo company and co-founders Joshua Kissi and Karen Okonkwo; and Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon, the tea-spilling founder and CEO of Founder Gym, the online training center for underrepresented tech company founders.

Dixon is also a @KaporCenter alum. Their annual “Impact Awards honoring game-changers in tech working to diversify the industry is May 17 in Oakland! Actor/activist Jesse Williams is our keynote #impactawards18,” Ashleigh Richelle wants you to know.

Tahir Duckett is correctly proud of his work on engaging boys and men to end sexual violence as the founder of Here’s an inspiring look at how he’s using public health strategies to get the message across.

Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, a champion in her own right, says@ColorOfChange is doing great work getting Hollywood to mend its ways. My union, @WGAEast, has lobbied hard for years to get New York to include diverse writers in the state film and tax credit.” We know who you are, Lisa.

Toni Lee loves Spotify’s “Black History is Happening Now” program, which extends the spirit of Black History month all year long, and includes opportunities for development for aspiring professionals of color in the music and entertainment industries. It’s a Saturday Morning production, an organization I love.

Chloé D. Kerr wants you to know about the fifth annual convening of the ColorComm conference on June 4-7, the essential gathering of women in color who work in communications. “Truly inspirational!” she says. Check out the all-star lineup, including Soledad O’Brien and Sophia Amoruso, here.

Miranda Cleland came to celebrate the work of her friend Fatuma Abdulkadir, who lives and works in Marsabit, Kenya. “Fatuma, the only female lawyer from Marsabit, founded Horn of Africa Development Initiative (HODI) in 2003 to focus on peacebuilding and education in northern Kenya,” says Cleland. “These days, her work is almost exclusively focused on drought relief.”

There are more stories still pouring in, and even more good news below.

We see and appreciate all of you. Let’s do this as a semi-regular feature, and not just on my birthday. (Surprise!) Turns out, you are the gift. The work you’re doing is a vital reminder that hope is all around.

Special Good-News-Thursday shoutout to raceAhead editor Grace Donnelly, who always believes. I am grateful for you.

On Point

Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson take us to reparations schoolRobinson and Nelson, better known as “the two black men arrested for waiting for a friend at a Philadelphia Starbucks,” settled with the coffee-giant for an undisclosed sum and an offer to complete their bachelor’s degrees for free through a Starbucks partnership with Arizona State University. But they reached a separate deal with the city of Philadelphia for $1 each and a pledge from the city to set up a $200,000 program geared to young entrepreneurs from Philadelphia high schools. “We thought long and hard about it and we feel like this is the best way to see that change we want to see,” said Robinson.AP News

Pinterest just made search more inclusive 
Hey, remember when Pinterest hired Candice Morgan in 2016 to be their first-ever head of diversity and we were pretty excited about it? Well, it turns out she’s been busy. Last week, the company took an important step toward creating a more diverse online community by launching a new search tool that will help users of color more quickly find the images they’re looking for. If you’ve ever been a woman of color searching for braided hairstyles and only got photos of a white model in pigtails, you already get it. Click through to see how they’re trying to help everyone find what they need with dignity and efficiency.
Refinery 29

A company that makes beautiful, natural hair dolls has won an important start-up competition
Many of you are rooting for Healthy Roots, a Cleveland-based start-up which manufactures natural hair dolls and gorgeous books designed to reinforce a positive self-image in young girls of color. Two days ago, they won the Startup Stampede, a competition run by a Durham-based consumer product incubator worth $100,000. “We will be working with the McKinney agency to spread our brand to reach and empower more kids of color with toys designed for them!” says @RootsDolls, founder Yelitsa Jean-Charles. Watch her extraordinary TEDx talk below. Really.

National treasure Michael Twitty wins the James Beard Award book of the year
Last week Twitty, identified by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as an “African-American Jew-by-choice,” won both the Book of the Year and the Best Writing awards his autobiographical work, “The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South.” The book explores Twitty’s ancestry through food, a true African American story that spans from Africa to America and enslavement, to his quest to reclaim his stolen cultural identity. It is a poignant story, painstakingly researched. Twitty is a raceAhead reader favorite for his work as a chef, writer and cultural explainer. (And also because he gives us recipes.) Now, he’s the first African American author ever to win a James Beard Award for Book of the Year. His personal site is below.

An employee-led diversity program shines a light at Microsoft
“Two years ago a few of us at Microsoft decided to stand up and create a group called BlackLight with the purpose to shine a light on the things you can’t see,” says Ronell Hugh, who answered my call. “Today it flourishes with the support of Microsoft CMO,” he says. “I’m no longer at the company, but it’s a great story.” It sure looks like it. Last month, the BlackLight team launched its first large-scale employee learning event designed to share insights about the black consumer and how a more inclusive environment can lead to better storytelling. But the conversation itself, which naturally touched on uncomfortable subjects, was the real gift, says CMO Chris Capossela, talking like a true ally. “I’ve found that one of BlackLight’s greatest contributions to the culture we are building at Microsoft is creating a safe environment for embracing that discomfort, as a way to learn, stretch and grow,” he said in a LinkedIn post.

The Woke Leader

Our favorite aliebn was on Seth Myers’s show!
I’ve been a Jonny Sun (@JomnySun) fan for so long, that I almost forgot he was real. His persona as a sweetly befuddled alien who comes to earth and tries to figure things out began as a chatty Twitter stream long before the cool kids were threading things. The character, in the course of trying to figure out who we are, teaches us about ourselves in a funny and loving way. The Twitter character became a best-selling book – "Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too," which Sun wrote while getting his PhD at MIT. “The common thread throughout the story is that it’s okay to be imperfect,” he says. His success has turned his fans into a legion of aliebns dedicated to acceptance, inclusion, whimsy and joy. Sun is also a multi-hyphenate talent: Humorist, playwright, engineer, writer, internet and identity researcher, illustrator, academic, architect, Earthling. Enjoy.

Can Portland, Oregon reverse gentrification, displacement and racial strife?
Reporter Deonna Anderson wrote about Albina Vision, an ambitious effort in Portland, Oregon “to undo the harm of urban renewal and heal the wounds of a community,” she says. It's a long-term plan — 50-years! — to revitalize the Rose Quarter, a 94-acre area in the city's Northeast that is ideal for sustainable and inclusive redevelopment. “[T]he Albina Vision is not prescriptive, but rather is a framework to foster the growth of a diverse, sustainable, urban district—on par with great neighborhoods of the world.” Among other things, they’re looking to connect cultural life with natural beauty and are studying Elbe Philharmonic Hall in Hamburg, Germany and Millennium Park in Chicago for inspiration.
Oregon Humanities

Yesterday was College Signing Day and Michelle Obama has a speech you need to hear
College Signing Day was launched in 2014 and was part of the then First Lady’s Reach Higher program, designed to encourage students to continue with their education past high school. While it’s now an annual celebration for incoming freshpersons, her message is one that everyone needs to hear. Yes, it's a scary, big step. Bottom line, don’t believe the doubters, ask for help when you need it, and know your struggles will be worth it. “We need you all to be successful,” calling herself their forever First Lady. “We need you to strive and to reach these heights that you can imagine for yourselves. We love you so much.” We do, indeed. Bring tissues and follow #CollegeSigningDay for more stories of excellence.
Huffington Post


This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.
Toni Morrison

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