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The essential workers hoping to survive

April 17, 2020, 7:50 PM UTC

This is the web version of raceAhead, Fortune’s daily newsletter on race, culture, and inclusive leadership. To get it delivered daily to your inbox, sign up here.

Freddie Gray’s former Baltimore home is demolished, Kelly Rowland serves up some hot “Coffee,” and a band of Chief Human Resource Officers are teaming up to keep us all employed.

But first, here’s your week in review, in Haiku.

Maybe now would be
a good time to turn away
from television

doctors, quarantine
truthers, and pointless briefings.
Instead, consider

intrepid colleagues:
Dispensing severance
tips like Kleenex, and

the people—through no
fault of their own—who need them.
The custodians,

clerks, transit workers
hoping to survive their now
essential service,

the teachers who
just learned to say, “can everyone mute?”
through their silent tears.

It’s the weekend, right? So hard to tell. Try to have one. There is goodness around if you drown out the noise.

Ellen McGirt
@ellmcgirt
Ellen.McGirt@fortune.com

On point

The controversial West Baltimore public housing project is being demolished The Gilmor Homes became the epicenter of a national conversation about policing, race, and systemic barriers after the arrest and subsequent death of Freddie Gray. The project (and the lack of services they received) was a blight on the community, but residents are worried that too few affordable homes are replacing them. “I’m glad that they’re gonna tear them down,” Tia Shaw, 35, told the Baltimore Sun. “But I would like them to replace them with something that would help us all.”
Baltimore Sun

Kelly Rowland serves the "Coffee" And yes, it is hot. Rowland released her latest single and music video exclusively with Essence, and it is a jolt of beauty in a time of darkness. “I want to celebrate the women in video—every shade, every coffee color, every curve, every essence, and what they gave me,” Rowland says. “My intention I set for the video was to take the light in yourself and your sexuality [and put it in] a God perspective, in a way where you don’t have to get any approval from anybody else."
Essence

Read the new Grist 50 list and know hope The now fifth-annual list of emerging environmental leaders is notable for many reasons. First, it’s filled with young, highly trained, and dedicated professionals employing an impressive array of skills in the service of climate change action and beyond. And, not a one is from central casting. Case in point: Cecilia Aldarondo, whose feature documentary Landfall came about when she kept her eye on Puerto Rico after the Hurricane Maria coverage dried up. “Puerto Rico is a place that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough, and yet it’s a really important case study for understanding the social experiments that happen after a natural disaster—or an unnatural disaster,” she says.
Grist

CHROs unite to keep people working Expect more reporting on this, I literally just got off the phone with Service Now’s Chief Talent Officer Pat Wadors, but this post from Accenture’s Ellyn Shook will get you started. People+Work Connect is a new platform that helps furloughed or laid-off employees find open positions as quickly as possible. (One smart idea: Agreeing that a background check from one company will be honored by another. Right?) Click through for the long list of companies who are signing on, and how this collaboration came together. “With unemployment around the globe rising at unprecedented rates, my peers and I were discussing that at times like this it is important that we not only take time to understand the opportunity, but take seriously our obligation as responsible leaders,” writes Shook. They got it done in 14 days. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Ellyn Shook on LinkedIn

Coronavirus in the community

  • Florida is blocking attempts to find out which nursing and elder care facilities are experiencing coronavirus outbreaks. Is this what transparency looks like?
  • No, this is.
  • Why aren’t tribal governments getting the $8 billion in federal aid they were promised?
  • Four scenarios on how the coronavirus pandemic might play out. Some are better than others, but you knew that.
  • We are not going to make it without paid sick leave.
  • Worried about discriminatory rationing of care in corona-whelmed hospitals? Here’s what you need to know.
  • It’s time to re-imagine what "school learning" can be.
  • A second wave of coronavirus in China creates a wave of attacks on Guangzhou’s African immigrant population.

On background

Newly revealed documents shed light on the lives of enslaved people It is truly a trove worthy of a feature film opener: Stacks of business documents, customer correspondence, and other records found dusty and abandoned in a West Virginia attic. The attic is owned by the descendants of a salt mine magnate named William Dickinson, who operated in the early 1800s. That trove, combined with another, paints a deeply chilling picture of the Dickinson family’s robust trade in buying, leasing, and selling enslaved people. It’s not the cotton fields we’re used to. “We don’t appreciate often how much slavery was worked into the very fabric of American society,” says a curator of the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. You’re going to want to put on your do-not-disturb for this one.
Los Angeles Times

A nearly forgotten documentary of James Baldwin is back Access to James Baldwin is at an all-time high, thanks to a documentary about his life, and the return of his collected works to the Schomburg Center in Harlem. But a largely forgotten feature-length documentary has also reappeared, and it’s well worth your time. I Heard It Through the Grapevine chronicles Baldwin’s return 20 years later to key sites of the civil rights movement—Atlanta, Newark, Selma, and beyond—and spending time in deep conversation with luminaries like Lonnie King, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, and Amiri Baraka. “It was 1957 when I left Paris for Little Rock. This is 1980.  How many years is that? Nearly a quarter of a century,” he begins “What has happened to all those people, children, I knew then? What happened to this country? And what does this mean for the world? What does this mean for me?” The lack of progress is palpable and Baldwin’s disappointment is keen. The project was executive produced by Baldwin and co-directed by Dick Fontaine and Pat Hartley. Trailer below, available for rental via public libraries.
I Heard It Through The Grapevine

Confront bias and still stay friends When confronting bias, it’s better not to call people names, tempting as it may be to explain to someone how racist or sexist they sound. For one thing, science shows it won’t change their minds. Name-calling and shaming people will “automatically put them on the defensive,” says Alexis McGill Johnson, the co-founder and director of Perception Institute. So what to do? Start by evaluating your relationship with the person, and assessing opportunity costs, risks, and goals. If the person is important to you, remember that “you're coming from a place of shared values” and it’s an “opportunity to build a bridge rather than break it,” says Johnson. Listen, ask questions, and don’t attempt to fight facts with facts. To move forward, Johnson says we need to learn to “reset conversations so that people aren’t worried about being perceived as biased, but are instead focused on growing...”
Fast Company

Tamara El-Waylly produces raceAhead and manages the op-ed program.

The big number

2x

Black Americans are almost twice as likely as white Americans to live in the 566 counties at the highest risk of economic and public health disruption from the coronavirus pandemic.

Black Americans will experience a disproportionate share of the disruption from COVID-19—from health and mortality to unemployment and bankruptcy. While 30% of the overall population lives in these high-risk counties, for instance, 43% of the Black population (17.6 million) live there. 

—From "COVID-19: Investing in Black lives and livelihoods," a new McKinsey report by Jason Wright and Shelley Stewart.

Today's mood board

Ting Mong scarecrow for ra mood
A Ting Mong scarecrow standing guard in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Ting Mong are an ancient part of Khmer culture; the effigies were traditionally used to protect against disease and death. They’re making a comeback during the coronavirus pandemic.
Courtesy of raceAhead reader Ginny Wolfe