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raceAhead: Bryan Stevenson’s Call To Action for CEOs

The CEO Initiative wrapped last night. It was an extraordinary opportunity to support chief executives as they wrangled with the pressures of CEO activism, and the nuts and bolts of building more inclusive and innovative companies while creating healthier and more productive communities.

We also ended on a powerful high note, with a call to action for everyone in the room to expand their visions to include the very poor, and to reimagine a world shaped by justice.

I’ll let my colleague, Matt Heimer, take it from here:

At an event where business leaders devoted hours to discussing how they could lead with purpose, the last word went to an activist for whom purposeful action is often, literally, a matter of life and death. Occupying the closing speaker’s slot at Fortune‘s CEO Initiative in San Francisco on Tuesday, Bryan Stevenson, the law professor, anti-death-penalty advocate and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, called on a rapt crowd of executives to “find ways to get proximate to the poor and vulnerable,” the better to solve social problems.

“Many of us have been taught that if there’s a bad part of town, you don’t put your business there,” Stevenson said. “But I am persuaded that we need to do the opposite. We need to engage and invest and position ourselves in the places where there is despair.”

Click through for a video snippet, and I’ll be sure to let you all know when the full video is posted.

Thanks to all for following the CEOI via Twitter and live stream, we appreciate you. Tomorrow we resume our regularly scheduled raceAhead programming.

 

On Point

How big business is trying to innovate workplace cultureFacing down the mounting evidence that inclusive cultures and values-driven leadership can drive innovation, several CEOs and chief executives took to the floor at Fortune’s CEO Initiative yesterday to share the work they’ve done to help make their respective workplaces more welcoming. It’s a journey that’s taken time, effort and in many cases, significant investment. Michael Bush, CEO of Great Places to Work, an organization that surveys millions of employees around the world about workplace satisfaction, said that everyone needs to do more. His company’s data has found that 62% of working people report a negative experience with their leader. When it comes to culture, he says, “What we’re measuring is leadership.”Fortune

The march to diversify Capitol Hill
By now you’ve seen this charming video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic Congressional hopeful from New York district 14 reacting to her unlikely victory over her astonishingly well-funded and connected opponent, Joe Crowley. “We meet a machine with a movement,” she said. She is part of a loosely connected zeitgeist to bring greater representation to political life. Meet the Black Women’s Congressional Alliance, a group of minority Congressional staffers from all political perspectives who are banding together to address the lack of representation on Capitol Hill. It’s a workplace diversity issue, says co-founder Rhonda Foxx. The networking is essential to change attitudes. “In my boss’ office when we came in … the expectations weren’t high,” Foxx told Politico. “People were like, ‘If you want to be taken seriously, maybe you should hire a white man as your LD,” or legislative director.
Politico

Officer charged with criminal homicide in the shooting of 17-year-old Antwon Rose
The shooting occurred on June 19 in East Pittsburgh, after Officer Michael Rosfeld had pulled over a vehicle that matched the description of one leaving the scene of a nearby shooting incident. Rose, who was unarmed, was sitting in the passenger seat when he attempted to run. He’s also left behind a heartbreaking poem, that captured his hopes and fears of growing up black and male in America. Titled “I Am Not What You Think!” it had this line: “I see mothers bury their sons / I want my mom to never feel that pain.”
Pittsburgh CBS

Architecture tackles its legacy
Two tidbits worth highlighting today. The first – the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has elected Jane Frederick as their president for 2020, a long-time champion of diversity in architecture. And a new exhibit, 50 Years After Whitney Young, Jr.is now running at the Octagon Museum in Washington, D.C. Young was the director of the National Urban League, and gave a keynote speech to the AIA National Convention in 1968 that challenged architects to do more to address civil rights and other pressing issues. The exhibit explores the lasting impact of that extraordinary speech, which included an award series for architects who address relevant issues like affordable housing and inclusiveness, and scholarships for promising students of color. Click through to see a preview of the exhibit and a fascinating short video on the speech and its impact. And still, the work continues: There are still less than 1,000 registered black women architects.
50 Years After Whitney Young

The Woke Leader

After three decades of intersectionality, what’s next?
The term “intersectionality” is now 29 years old, coined by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw to help explain the nuanced oppressions experienced by black women. From her original paper, the Columbia professor created the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies and co-founded the African American Policy Forum in 1996, the think tank behind the #SayHerName hashtag about police violence. This interview with Crenshaw explores what her original intention behind the term and her views on how intersectionality operates in the world. “Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects,” she says, but not a grand theory of everything. “What’s most problematic about the contemporary conversation is the complete irrelevance of women of color,” she says. “[T]heir economic well-being has been most impacted by deindustrialization, and by the de-funding of the public sector,” she says. “Why is the intersection of maleness and whiteness driving our analysis and not the intersection of being a woman and a person of color?”
Columbia Law

An interactive map of the history of black professional athletes, racism, and their homes
Louis Moore, an associate professor of history at Grand Valley State University has created a fascinating story map that highlights the problems that elite black athletes from Jack Johnson to LeBron James have historically had with racism and their homes. All the stories are jarring, but Lenny Wilkens’s arrival in St. Louis in 1960 really stings. “For Sale” signs courtesy of the KKK pop up on the lawn of his home in Moline Acres, a city suburb. His neighbor exits his car backward for four years so he won’t have to look at him. “One evening the Wilkenses find their collie, Duchess, frothing at the mouth in their fenced-in yard. They rush her to the vet. Too late, the vet says. She has been poisoned.” Each node links to a local news account.
Knight Lab

On being black and a lawyer in Jim Crow’s America
Vernon Jordan begins this this essay, an adaptation from his remarks after winning an award from the Harvard Law Center, with a poignant memory of being a young boy living in the projects in 1940s Georgia. He was listening to the radio report on an upcoming gubernatorial election. “Governor Talmadge coming on WSB radio, describing the two planks of his platform, which, as I recall them, were ‘niggers’ and ‘roads.’ As I recall, he was against the first and for the second.” What follows is an extraordinary history of and tribute to the many African American lawyers who used legal means to right terrible wrongs. “The laws that defined and circumscribed life in the Jim Crow South were warped, but it was also the law—farsighted, fair-minded jurisprudence—that gave us the tools to dismantle segregation, piece by rotten piece,” he writes. Click through for an amazing photo of a young Thurgood Marshall. It will make your day.
New Yorker

Quote

You are most distinguished by your thunderous silence and your complete irrelevance.
Whitney M. Young, Jr.